Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elqui Valley

After one of the best sleeps that we've experienced in a long, long time we had breakfast and drove out of La Serena and headed due east in to the Elqui Valley. First though, we had to let 4 of the hotel staff fawn all over Kirsi and Aidan, the vigor of which put shy Kirsi between my legs.

The Elqui Valley is known for many things: grapes for pisco sour (a popular, traditional alcohol here in Chile), fruit such as papaya, astronomical observatories because of the clear skies and a magnetic energy because some believe that this is the magnetic center of the world (it used to be in Tibet but apparently moved here on a whim).

The Elqui River itself is quite small this time of year but has been dammed up further upstream to genereate electricity for the area. The drive itself, from La Serena to Pisco Elqui is a little over 100 km but it passes some beautiful scenery and several quaint little towns.

At first, the day started out very cloudy but it cleared up as we headed inland. The valley narrows and the mountains become steeper as you head away from the Pacific Ocean. Up the dry mountains, vineyards have been planted every where but past the vines, it is nothing but short brush and cacti. It is the land of a million cacti, easily.

We first stopped to get a view of the dam. Nothing like Manitoban dams but it was big enough. Then we made our first stop in Vicuna, a small city with a beautiful Plaza de Armas. We stopped and walked around there for an hour or so. By walking, I mean Dana feeding Aidan and Kirsi running every where...the girl is like Forrest Gump: she likes to run. Run Forrest, Run!

We stopped at some small artisan booths around the plaza and ended up picking up some nice artwork of a couple of the aboriginal gods. The region here is known for their interesting gods as they all look very UFO alien like.

Then we continued our drive inland climbing higher and higher into the mountains. All of the towns were small and centered around the Plaza de Armas and the town church. Most houses were small and made out of brick, plastered and painted bright oranges, yellows, blues or greens.

We went as far as Pisco Elqui before returning to La Serena. Kirsi had her nap in the car so the rest of the afternoon was a driving tour!
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