The Elqui Valley.....stars and stars...and more joys of camping

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March 20th 2018
Published: March 23rd 2018
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We left Santiago bus station so that it could recover from our visit, and continued on a different whizz bang bus to La Serena, where a lovely German lady rescued us from the large road by the bus station and helped us find our hostel. We enjoyed the pavement cafes of Serena but it was a bit busy for us and we just stayed a couple of days.

We had read about the beautiful and mystical Elqui Valley, where communities have been established believing that the magnetic centre of the earth is here rather than in the Himalayas, where apparently everyone else thinks it is. I have to say that the location of the magnetic centre of the earth has never, not once, been the subject of my thinking so I am happy to believe anyone. The valley is also very far away from any light pollution so is very dark which means that there are many swish observatories some of which are open to the public. So we set off up the Mystical Valley to find our magnetic centre, to look at the stars and possibly to find ourselves.

It will come as no surprise to most that we did not find ourselves. But we had a good (if slightly sedentary) time. We stayed in a museum for a couple of nights before moving to a hostel that was in the middle of a vineyard and where we were the only guests. Finally pushed on to Pisco Elqui where we are currently camping. We did a 54 km cycle ride (the man gave us a lift to the top and we rode down, the perfect option), except that the roads are unpaved so very bumpy and 54 km is a lot of bumps. We visited Pisco distilleries, more vineyards, a brewery and saw lots of pomegranate bushes, avocado trees and more miles of vineyards. Very beautiful.

And we saw millions and millions of stars. Just by lying down looking at the sky, and in two very different sorts of astronomy tours. We sussed out the Southern Cross and Orion’s dagger (his belt being old hat to us) as well as loads of other stuff, including that the Sun’s magnetic field swaps over every 11 years. All totally amazing and available to the naked eye simply because it was so dark.

We pushed on further up the valley from Vicuna to Pisco Elqui to camp in a magical and wonderful campsite with little bridges over the river between sites and the sound of rushing water running through it. A lovely location BUT we decided at 0400hrs this morning that TT just has to go. He is too small, too low and much though we love him, he needs to be replaced before we head off on another jaunt. In our hearts we knew this before leaving home..... but once we had discovered TT in Jamie’s room we became physically incapable of spending money on another tent. We had been planning on buying a natty little MSR two-man expedition tent which we will invest in when we get home (when there is a sale....).

Camping brings so many joys. I have spoken about a few of them before but one of the joys that is sometimes not discussed is of course the wee in the middle of the night joy. For those of our friends and family who have had the pleasure (?) of camping with us, you will know that we firmly believe in the wee bucket. Quick to use, easy to sort in the morning and generally the perfect solution. However our packing list for this trip could not run to a bucket. We have a small plastic box for our oxo cubes but that is just not up to the job, and an empty water bottle is too complicated, so we decided that as long as we were a long way from others (and a long way from the toilet block) it would be OK to go al fresco. We did not take this decision lightly, as you will know, as we are environmentally conscientious but needs must.....

In our present campsite we are miles from anyone else and there are probably only three other tents on the whole site. However last night for some reason, Pete decided to go to the toilet block, so off he went for the half a mile walk required. “Oh that’s ridiculous” thought I, “I’ll nip out of my sleeping bag, have a wee by the tree and be tucked up by the time he gets back”. Unfortunately, as I went calmly about my business, I almost immediately saw an approaching torch coming directly towards me. “Oh heck” I thought, as I was at the time dressed only in Pete’s walking boots that were at hand when I nipped out of the tent, “this could be tricky”. But I am a quick-thinking English woman and so decided that the best course of action was to seize the initiative and ignore my current rather awkward state of deshabille. “HOLA SIGNORr”, I shouted, “BUENAS NOCHES”..........“What on earth are you doing?” said the approaching torch, “it’s me”.....

As we lay in the tent laughing, Pete reckoned that if challenged I could have claimed to have fallen out of bed, or have been sleepwalking, but both of these options are currently were outside my Spanish vocabulary.... must get back to those language classes.

Tomorrow is our last day in Chile as we take the night bus over the Andes from La Serena to Mendoza. We are both really sorry to say Adios to such a lovely country.


23rd March 2018

I will never go campling, Ever.
1. I'm very sorry you didn't find yourselves - you must have been somewhere else at the time. Happens increasingly as you get older. So I'm told. 2 'We stayed in a museum for couple of nights'. I'm sorry - WHAT? 3. I'm astonished you couldn't find room in your capacious rucksacks for something as easily-packable as a bucket. It would, after all, have meant you could have continued to keep your Oxo cubes in their small plastic box (again - I'm sorry - OXO CUBES??) without attempting to drench them in what could have gone into the bucket. 4. Famtastic picture of the Southern Cross (Rich - did you not tell them about the lens cap?) 5. RIP TT 6. I simply cannot believe you, Jan, went for an al fresco wee wearing only a pair of Pete's boots. Your mother would not have been impressed. And quite possibly - not surprised either. 7. Way too much scatalogical (or wee equivalent) detail in this blog. Bring back the food photos I say. Enjoy the night bus to Mendoza. Pxx
24th March 2018

Great comments
We love your comments Pat. WHEN is your book coming out, it will be a best seller! Xxxc
24th March 2018

Star photography...
Is very hard! It famously sparked the 'moon landing hoax' theory since nasa's kit couldn't capture them either. You'll need a good 2kg of camera kit to do star photography! Makes you appreciate what good cameras your eyes are..
25th March 2018

Thanks Rich...
For encouraging our fledgling photography skills...xx

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