La Serena, Chile`s premier beach resort, some 500km North of scorching hot Santiago, we were expecting it to get a tad warm and with it being shown as having almost cloudless skies we were hoping to get in a few hours of relaxing time on the beach...
The first 3 days were almost 100% grey cloud and temperatures struggled to get much above 16 degrees so the warm jackets were retreived from the depths of the rucksacks to prevent us from hypothermia.
Apart from the beaches the other main attraction to this area is the Star gazing. The nearby Mamalluca Observatory takes visitors nightly for a few hours of Astronomy. The night we went it was fantastic.
We had great views of the moon and parts of the Orion Nebula closed cluster ! and later a look at the very bright Sirius. The evening lasted well into the small hours and we eventually got back to our hostel around 2 a.m
More moon pics.
Eventually the sun did manage to wake up and we had a chance to see what La Serena was all about, nice old buildings, Churches and plazza´s
The Elqui Valley runs due East from La Serena and is a hub of Pisco production, Pisco being a fermented and distilled grape juice which smells like whisky and tastes just as bad.
Pisco in the making.
The Valley is dammed about 20 km from La Serena, we were told that annual rainfall can be between 6 mm to 400 mm so it is very unpredictable. Hence why it was constructed.
The valley is a strange place, all barren but for the valley floor which is lush and green and mostly full of vineyards which are growing grapes for either Pisco or for eating.
The small Town of Vincuna ( same name as the llama type animal ) lies about 65 km from La Serena and is famouse for Pisco and Gabriella Mistral, a Chilean Poet who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1945.
Because there is so much sunlight in the valley, some of the local restaurants has capitalised on this and have created an ingineous way of cooking, just using the power of the sun..
Solar cooking Elqui valley style.
Numerous small villages fill the valley and it is easy to lose count of the many quaint tiny churches you pass.
Gabriella Mistral Murals and a few windows .
There is also a small archeological museum in La Serena which houses a genuine Moai from Easter Island. The Moai is about 3 metres high and gives an idea of what the rest must look like on Easter Island. There are also loads of other local archelogical stuff to ponder over if you are into broken pots and jars.