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Published: November 12th 2013
Vines, vines everywhere!
... but not a pisco to drink?
My next destination was La Serena, situated about 500km to the north of Santiago. It's the capital of the Coquimbo region and is the second oldest city in Chile. I planned to use it as a stepping off point before heading to the Valle de Elqui- an important area for the production of pisco (grape brandy), the base for the very popular pisco sour, national drink of Chile- and Peru. In addition, I'd hoped to do a trip to see the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve about 130km further to the north, but unfortunately the trip is weather dependent and the weather gods were not being cooperative during my short stay. I have other opportunities later in my trip to see penguins, so no real drama or disappointment.
So, I grabbed a bus and headed east to the small village of Pisco Elqui , a beautiful place in the heart of the Elqui Valley. The name Pisco Elqui is a fairly recent thing as the village was renamed from La Union to capitalize on the tourist potential attached to the famous brew! The climate is much warmer here (it was really chilly in La Serena)-and there's lots more sun!! This place
Lots of renewable energy along the windy coast. Also lots of solar energy in the desert.
is well known for its clear, starlit night skies, green valleys and spiritual atmosphere. So I spent a relaxing few days enjoying the feel of the place before the long haul bus trip to San Pedro de Atacama.
During my time here I stayed at two places, El Tesoro de Elqui and Hostal San Pedro- very different styles of places but equally enjoyable. It intrigued me that every little accomodation place had their own pool. I couldn't understand why, as this is the desert and water is so precious, right? One of the locals explained. Very simple- it's a very popular place, especially in summer and everyone used to go to the river to swim- leaving piles of garbage to pollute the beautiful valley. Solution- not education about conserving natural areas and responsible disposal of rubbish-but encouraging local hostelries to build private pools. Apparently, problem solved??
I also met some great travellers: my roommates Miri (from Switzerland) and Sergi (from Spain- specifically Catalonia- not exactly the same thing so I believe!) and also, the lovely Isabel and Lucy (mother and daughter) from Paris who made it possible for Miri and I to go horse trekking because I think
Small plaza in the town centre. An interesting mix of modern fun with older buildings.
we were the only foreigners in town and minimum numbers were required for many of the arranged activities around the area. One disadvantage of travelling solo.
The horse trekking was great and Leo, our guide for the trip was very informative- really having to work hard to express himself in English for my benefit. It was difficult to realize that he wasn't a local, but from Vaparaiso. He was so connected to the spiritual and cultural aspects of the area. Apparently he'd only relocated here a couple of years ago after working as a lighting & explosions technician for a circus!! He had come here many times as a younger person and felt this was the perfect place for him to restore his energy after 8 years of being on the road.
It was a great little place. Really laid back, friendly locals and fantastic scenery, with a wonderful energy about the place. I'm really glad I made the effort to do this side trip and highly recommend this to other travellers. However, try arriving mid week as I did, as it's an incredibly popular weekend getaway for La Serena residents- not to mention those from further afield.
I really timed it well.
Tot: 1.631s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 12; qc: 35; dbt: 0.0278s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.3mb