Monday, 17 February 2014

La Serena and the Elqui Valley, pisco factories and towers of candyfloss

We took the night bus from Valparaiso to La Serena, giving us enough time to catch a local Valparaiso bus one more time. I loved these buses, the drivers were so friendly, it was more like hitch hiking in someone's car instead of taking a bus. The drivers would stop for anyone, where ever they were on the road, and whilst running errands, like hopping off the bus and quickly grabbing some groceries.

We arrived in sleepy La Serena at 6 in the morning, and sat in the bus station until the hostel opened. We decided to stay in El Punto as it was the most recommended in the Lonely Planet. I had mixed feelings about this place. The grounds were really nice, with a nice garden area, and the rooms were clean. BUT as the hostel offered food, they wouldn't let us use the kitchen, and didn't tell us this until we'd gone and bought groceries and I asked where the kitchen was. The owner was very apologetic and offered us sandwiches to say sorry which was kind of her. I felt that the hostel lacked atmosphere and it was hard to meet other people. It was the most business minded hostel we've stayed in so far and lacked a little.
La Serena
La Serena
La Serena
The first day we arrived we were like zombies, wandering around the little town, looking at the few sites, before we headed to the beach with a picnic and the intentions of having a nap. The beach was pretty empty and the waves were huge and crashing against the shore. I loved the man who walked the beach with his tower of candy floss.
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
The next day we went on a tour of the Elqui Valley. This is the place where they gore the grapes to make my favourite Chilean drink, Pisco. We started at a papaya farm where the guide told us that papayas are actually weeds. We bought some juice from the shop, papaya is definitely tasty to say it's a weed!
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Next we drove through the mountains of the valley. It was strange to see how dry the mountains were and how green and luscious the base of the mountain was. We stopped at a shop at the side of the road to but some local grapes, and wandered around the local market in Vicuña.
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
The best stop of the day was definitely the restaurant. It was a solar restaurant, in the middle of the dry mountains. Outside they had lots of metal boxes that were placed to face the sun. The food was put in the boxes and the heat of the sun would cook the food. We had a feast of empanadas, chicken and flan. I have noticed how much I've started to talk about food since I started travelling! I promise to try and pull it in a little!
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Feeling a little sleepy, we headed to the Pisco factory and tried some mango sour, that definitely woke us up, just in time to drop us home after viewing the huge dam of the valley.
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Valley de Elqui and Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
I´ve tried to be as enthusiastic as possible about La Serena, but looking back over my post I feel it's pretty clear that it wasn't the best leg of our travels, and a place that I wouldn´t really recommend for others to go.