Viña del Mar and La Serena, Chile
Our route North from Valparaíso was always going to end up with us in San Pedro de Atacama however instead of incurring a 29 hour bus journey all in one blow we made a couple of stops along the way.
The first stop was a bit of a cop out as you can basically see Viña del Mar from Valparaíso, it is simply a public bus trip 20 minutes up the road but ended up being worth it as it was a great night spent. Our hostel was a bit of a ghost town and we ended up with a room of 8 double bunks for the two of us. The whole town was rather quiet however I can totally see Viña being a hive of activity in the summer, and probably even livelier on the winter weekends, since we visited on a Monday afternoon we couldn’t expect much. Nonetheless we had a great lunch at a local restaurant, one of our favs again that has already been featured, Portos con longaniza and a brief encounter at the enormous casino looking over the beach and then wine and burgers at the Glasgow Pub, yes the Glasgow pub, in a little town in Chile! It was nice to just relax and not have to be any where, or particularly be looking at anything.
We caught a Turbus the next day and arrived in La Serena seven hours later, we arrived around 6pm and straight away booked ourselves on to a Elqui Valley tour for the next morning – we were only in Serena for one full day and visiting the Elqui Valley was said to be the highlight and not to be missed. We went with a company called EcoTourism, the tour including a full day of sightseeing, pick-up and drop-off at our hostel and lunch. We set off early visiting a papaya farm (which was really just a gift shop) a pisco winery (which was interesting to compare notes with the now very familiar wine winery), a very large (and low) dam where I bought some dried figs and then we finally made it to the enchanting town of Pisco Elqui, a definite one horse town but completely perfect for a lazy lunch. This started with complementary Pisco Sours, the Chilean “national drink” (apparently the Peruvian people claim it to be theirs too – how very pavlova of them) and ended with enormous glasses of red wine for all. Lets just say the next and final stop on our tour at the famous Chilean poet Gabiela Mistral’s childhood home didn’t conjure up much excitement from us nor our new drinking friends and we instead made haste back to La Serena to enjoy our recently purchased bottle of Pisco with our new acquaintances.
The tour was fun, and we felt it was a great day assisted by the fact we had a very merry Chilean tour guide Alan to add to the humor of it all. The scenery was ONCE AGAIN breathtaking and I was completely taken with how progressive and forward thinking the agricultural industry is here, the mountains are beautifully planted with several different varieties of grapes, oranges, lemons, avocados, papayas to name a few – no piece of land is wasted and no lack of water will stop this industry.
Our final day in La Serena before we hopped aboard another overnight bus to San Pedro de Atacama was spent eating, and buying food to eat on the bus. We visited an amazing organic restaurant Ayawasi for a set menu lunch that included a cauliflower soup, a vegetarian quiche and stewed quince for dessert, all organic, all delicious and all for CH$3800, AU$7, what a surprising find.
And of course, as I always do I spotted a frozen yoghurt shop so we had to indulge in this too.
I got one final run in on our last morning too, as for the next 2-3 weeks we will be too high altitude for me to do much training, at least for the first week and a half until my body has really adjusted to the lack of oxygen and the extra work it has to do. Eeeeeeeeeek!!!