For once I couldn’t make up my mind. Should I go to La Serena or not. I was tired of cities and wanted to be back in the nature. The Elqui valley looked quite beautiful but is it worth a day trip from La Serena? Everyone says something else about La Serena but my dad enjoyed the trip to Elqui. After almost buying the direct bus ticket to Atacama, the friendly receptionist at La Joya hostel in Valparaiso tells me that Elqui is one of her favourite places to stay and shows me pics. But most importantly, she tells me I can directly go to the valley and stay over night in Pisco Elqui, she even recommends a very nice hostel. The only drawback are the bus timings but it’s decided, I am going there. I take the bus at 10.30pm in Valparaiso with the more expensive “cama” option. Not really worth it, the seats are wider but still not possible to recline the seat to a lying position.
I sleep a bit but not enough as we already arrive at 5.45am in La Serena. The next bus to Pisco Elqui leaves at 6.50am, so I have time for a coffee. I try to sleep a bit more in the next bus, it’s anyway still dark outside. After Vicuna, the sun is rising and I enjoy the view of the valley despite the crazy fast bus driver.
At 9am we arrive in Pisco Elqui. The streets are abandoned and there is no one except me. I hope the hostel is already open. Triskel hostel is just some 5 minutes away by foot and yes, it’s open. I am offered a coffee and try to talk in Spanish with the owner and the 2 chilean guests from Santiago. Difficult. Luckily I can already access my dorm bed and quickly wash myself before going out for a walk through town.
Back in the hostel I sleep for two hours, then pack some lunch and head for the hills. There’s a dirtroad going up but soon I just follow some horse trails, going up higher and higher. It’s really hot now in the sun but sandals weren’t a good choice! I cannot believe I was snowed in just recently further down south! The view of the green valley and the arid hills is amazing. It must be even better in spring or early summer when the valley is even greener.
I find a good spot with some shade for a late lunch before walking back down, trying to find and remember an easy way up for the night. Elqui is famous for a few things: the pisco and distilleries, the “energetic” field that is very strong according to spiritual people coming here, Gabriela Mistral a famous chilean writer, the incredible clear night sky with many observatories and finally it’s known for the extra terrestial activities with ufo sightings. Not to forget the natural beauty though 😉
Back in town I head to the distillery but the only guided tour in English just finished. So I have some ice-cream instead and buy a bracelet for just 200 pesos from three nice little school girls who made it themselves.
In my room, Maria from the Netherlands has arrived and we go for a drink. There aren’t Man tourists around but as we are two it doesn’t matter and I enjoy two Pisco Sour in a wonderful outdoor bar. We then end up for a very delicious dinner at a close by restaurant, sitting outside close to a fire (warm and cozy in my down jacket). The salmon baked with capers, tomatoes, onions and cheese, accompanied by potatoes is one of the best dinners I had so far in South America! I am very happy about that wonderful day and coming to Elqui, just the night sky is a bit disappointing, not many stars to see.
The next day I sleep in, have a late breakfast, pack up and take the 11.30am bus back to La Serena. The view from the bus is so beautiful! In la Serena, I will take another bus to San Pedro de Atacama, another 16hours night bus into new adventures.