The journey to Vicuna only took about an hour. It was earlier than we'd said we would arrive, giving us time for lunch before checking in. In the main plaza we spotted a vegetarian restaurant called Govinda offering a meal and drink for C$2500 (about £3). Wanting something a little more healthy, we decided to give it a go. We both went for pakoras. The meal came with salad and rice. It was very tasty, especially enhanced with the hot sauce I'm still carrying. It was tasty home cooked food at a good price.
By this time we could check in to our hostel, Las Delicias, about 5 minutes from the main square. We were greeted by a friendly gentleman (who spoke no English) and his even friendlier dog. It turned out to be a cheap and comfortable stay, with a surprisingly good breakfast and a nice patio area. We'd already decided to stay an extra day in Vicuna, but Las Delicias was fully booked. We chose another hotel and decided to go out and book it in person. We also needed to return to the bus station to book onward travel to Valpariaso, as the online
payment system wasn't working.
Back at the bus terminal we managed to book the last 2 seats together on the bus. Our next stop was the hotel. However when we got there we found it all locked up with no way of knocking or ringing. It was also part of a musuem, which was also shut up. As we walked round, we spotted another place that looked alright and remembered the name for later. We then headed to the observatory office intending to book a tour for the following evening. We had come to Vicuna for 2 reasons; to sample pisco in the area it is made and to take advantage of the Chilean clear skies to do an observatory tour. We were about to book when Suzanne pointed out that it was overcast and maybe we should check the weather forecast first.
After a little wander round the town and relaxing in the main plaza we went back to the room to check out the reviews for the second hotel and to check the weather. The second hotel looked nice and was in our price range so we booked for our 3rd night. Not such good news
on the observatory tour. The weather looked mixed, but even worse, we realised that we had not taken into account the lunar cycle. We were there right at the time of the full moon, meaning you do not see that much. We decided against booking it in the end in the hope we may get on another tour elsewhere in Chile.
That evening we ended up at Frida cafe for food, and opted for a shared plate of meat, chips and cheese, expecting something like we had at Viejo Norte in Pica. It was nothing like it at all. Basically a pile of quite nice chips and small chunks of chicken, beef and cheese on top. It was all a bit bland. We opted not to drink alcohol to keep up the illusion of a healthy day. It was then back to the hostel for an earlyish night.
After breakfast the next day, we headed back to the bus terminal. We were off to Pisco Elqui, the home of some of the pisco makers where we were hoping to do a tour. We got on to a bus after a 10 minute wait and were soon heading deeper
into Valle de Elqui. The scenery was lovely, with hills and snow capped mountains around every corner. The journey took about an hour and we were dropped off next to the small main plaza. The Mistral distillery was also on the main square and we discovered they were doing a tour in English at 15:00, 3 hours away. To pass some time we walked from one end of town to the other, taking in the scenery.
Then it was then lunch at El Durmiente Elquino. I had steak and Suzanne had Salmon, both very nice meals. These were washed down with 2 pisco sours each, all in the name of research of course. This took us to 14:30, so made our way back to Mistral, paid for the tour (C$8000 each) and waited for it to start. The group was small, with us and 7 Americans, 3 of which we got chatting to after the tour, which was nice. The tour was alright, much like the wine tours we've been on. To be honest, we're only there for the tasting. We got to try a younger pisco made for mixing, which was harsh and left a burning in the
throat, pretty tasty though. The second pisco had been matured for 3 years and tasted like a Taiwanese whiskey we'd had in the past, very smooth and tasty. At the end of the tour we were each given a Pisco Ice flavoured bottle, which was nowhere near as nice as the neat pisco or a pisco sour. Overall though, we enjoyed the tour and tasting.
We jumped on a bus outside the distillery and were soon back in Vicuna. We stopped off at the supermarket and bought some supplies for later. We'd decided to have chicken again seeing as it was so nice and cheap in Iquique. We got everything but the chicken as we wanted to get that later so it was still warm.
After some relaxing in the room, we headed back to the supermarket at 20:00 to pick up a chicken in a bag. Earlier there were loads but when we got there, the shelves were bare except for one chicken in a plastic dish with chili on it, so we had that. Fortunately, it was very tasty and we were very full after the meal. We were sat on the patio and had the
company of the 2 hostel dogs, even after we'd finished the meal. We then spent the evening drinking beer and ready mixed pisco cocktails until it was time for bed.
The next day started with us lugging our packs to the second hotel, Valle Hermoso, where we chose a room and dropped off our bags. It was a beautiful sunny day so we headed out to the first of the 2 viewpoints we were planning on visiting to get a clear view of the town and surrounding valley.
The first viewpoint was easy to get to but had phone masts all over it. You could also drive up, which we felt was cheating. Still, it did give a nice view of the town. The second viewpoint was over an hour away and much harder to reach. It was a tiring walk but we made it and had the place to ourselves, with a stunning view of the valley and snow capped mountains. By the time we got back to town we had been walking for about 4 hours and our legs were aching. We stopped off in the main square with a soft drink each before heading back
to the hotel
We'd noticed that a festival was starting in town that night. It was to celebrate the work and life of the Nobel prize winning poet Gabriela Mistral who came from the region. The festival began with book and poetry readings, in Spanish so no good to us. We got to the square at the time the music was due to start to find a book reading still going on. So we popped to the supermarket and bought a small £1 carton of wine. You are not really supposed to drink in public spaces, so we got a coke, gulped it down, and decanted the wine into the bottle. Then the music started, a guitar group playing Chilean music. It was pretty good, but there must've been less than 50 people there. We enjoyed it so much, we even bought a second carton of wine.
Once the music finished we went for some food at Tupananchis. We were the only people there. Seriously, this was a Friday night, what do the people of Vicuna do at the weekend? Free music and nice restaurants yet no one out. Anyway we both had steak, red wine and 2
pisco sours each. It was a lovely way to end our time in Vicuna.
After a very comfortable sleep, we rushed a tasty breakfast, said our goodbyes, and got to the bus station and onto a bus going to La Serena, which left as soon as we sat down. We were soon waiting for our 10:40 bus to Valpariaso for a 7 hour journey further south. Vicuna could've been a washout as we couldn't do the observatory tour. Thankfully our trip to Pisco Elqui, the walk in the sunshine to the viewpoints and the music in the square made it a worthwhile trip in the end.
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