We are off to our trip through South America, first stop: Valle de Elqui, Chile

One day after my last exam in the University Santa Maria and a last dinner & party in Valpo we left with a nightbus to La Serena (where we arrived after a very short night at 5 am on the 7th oh July). So we went to visit the city a bit in the middle of the night but then went back to the bus terminal to take the first bus at 9am to Pisco Elqui (which was 1h late, a very unusual experience for the chilien buses which are usually perfectly on time).

In Pisco Elqui a hostal was quickly found and we swopped our jackets for t-shirts and hitchhicked to a small distillery called “Los Nichos”:

“Los Nichos” originated out of a family tradition and at the beginning only produced for family and friends. Also nowadays they only produce about 55.000 bottles of Pisco a year (that is about the amount which big distilleries like Mistral or Altos del Carmen produce in a day).

The original group of people who called themselfs “Los Nichos” (to become a member you had to drink three days in a row; each evening entering the room vertically and leaving it horizontally) wanted to bury their bones in the walls of the distillery but couldn’t because this might contaminate the production of wine and pisco. So instead they each stored bottles of wine in little compartments in the wall, most of which are still there:

After trying their Pisco and wine we hitched another ride to Horcón, along the beatiful Valle Elqui:

In Horcón we found a nice little restaurant with a great view, awesome spare ribs and the best pineapple juice/smoothy we every had!

After lunch we also went to the Pueblo Artesanal de Horcón, which was nice but probably more interesting for handycraft-shoppers. At night we cooked in the outside kitchen next to our campfire and drank some Pisco in the backyard of our hostal. But we didn’t go to bed without stargazing in one of the clearest skys on this planet!

Hitchhicking the next day took a while, so we started walking down the valley and eventually a nice Chilean from La Serena brought us all the way to the center of Vicuña. There we found a residence which let us camp in their backyard.

In Vicuña we unluckily had one of the three rainy days of the region per year; which meant cloudy sky and a few single drops of rain. For that reason it didn’t make sense to visit the observatory of the stars that night. We spent the afternoon going up the Cerro de la Virgen, visiting the city and the natural history museum.

The night we spent drinking a couple of bottles of Pisco with two workers from the south of chile who constructed a new part of the residence, they wanted to go out but not a single bar was open on a monday night in Vicuña.

Interesting and nicely done was also the museum of Gabriela Mistral and after visiting it in the morning we  took a bus back to La Serena, where we had a look at some of it’s famous churches.

There is also an “Amusement Park” in La Serena but it was more like a lonely, sad place with only a handfull of visitors and basically nothing happening there.

Before we took the 12h nightbus to Antofagasta, we went over to the neighboring city of Coquimbo and it’s gigantic cross. It was constructed to celebrate the year 2000 and has a viewing platform on top (it closes early in winter though). After we were warned by several people that this hill can be dangerous at night it was time to go for dinner and then to catch the bus.

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