Sun, sea, sand, stars and PISCO!- La Serena, Chile

We’re still blogging on about Chile! Just one more after this then it’s Bolivia Baby!

Sarah here again for a quick summary of La Serena. It was a stop off on the way north from Santiago and Valparaiso to the Atacama Dessert.

The first thing that made me smile was the sunshine! At last a whisper of the heat that we thought we were coming to when we planned this whole trip- I could finally wear a dress!

La Serena is a lovely little seaside city with about 210k inhabitants.

We turned up at the bus station in the evening and after a wrong turn and a correcting turn found the hostel.  Finding somewhere to eat when it’s dark, you’ve just got off a 7 hour bus journey into a city you have no clue about and you’re tired and hungry is a test of a relationship when you have no emergency food stash. After an unnecessary tour of the town we settled on a menu we could understand on a chalkboard outside the “restaurant”. The first problem we encountered with this place was that they only had 2 options left on the menu- 1/2 fried chicken or sandwiches. At least they had Enchanted playing on a big TV screen in Spanish, which all of the dirty and tired looking clientele (not just us!) was watching. The food filled us up and tasted good, until we saw a cockroach scuttled under the table! Things began to make more sense as we inspected the other patrons and the unusual bull costume in the corner. The group next to us was a group of street buskers who entertain the traffic at the red lights. Ah well, we didn’t get sick!

La Serena was a pretty place to hang out during the day, there were artisan stalls in the town square, pretty old buildings, a nice big avenue leading to the beach with Grecian statues and sunshine!

In the evening we joined a tour of an observatory. About an hour away, the Elqui Valley has amazingly clear nights and suffers very little light pollution.  The nearby town of Vicuna even has special street lights to minimize light pollution. The sky was stunning and the milky was was clear with the naked eye. Unfortunately Chris and I couldn’t identify any constellations as most of the northern hemisphere ones cannot be seen from here. We used the 40cm diameter telescope to view some nebula, which i found a bit underwhelming, but really enjoyed the stargazing outside of the dome, following the laser pen in the sky to see galaxies and constellations we’ve never seen before from north of the equator such as the Southern Cross and Scorpio. The EELT (European Extra Large Telescope) is being built in the north of Chile and will have ~40 metre diameter mirror!

The next day we explored the Elqui Valley in the superb heat! Highlights were the Papaya groves, going to a restaurant that cooks the food using solar power, seeing a great big dam and of course tasting (although it was rank) the Pisco. It was interesting to see how the grapevines for the production of Pisco is different to that of grapes for wine.

FYI-Wine grapes are in rows and receive more sunlight, and pisco grapes grow as they hang under a canopy of vines meaning the grapes are sweeter…..

I said this would be short and sweet so I’ll sign off now, but it shouldn’t be long until our next update as we try to catch up to Bolivia!

One last thing though- I bought a replacement camera (as well as a few other bits!) from Falabella (see Chiloe post for camera breakage)- happy days!

happy shoppers!

Hasta pronto chicos!

Sarah

xx

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