Valle de Elqui

It's Sunday morning. I've spent the last 5 days in a small beach town north of Santiago, called Pichidangui. Very beautiful town with an incredible energy. I head for a restaurant owned by a man I met earlier in the week. To say my good-byes. I wait for my friend Lina who I met almost a month earlier in Mendoza. We had plans to hitchhike north to La Serena.

We finally find one another that afternoon. We eat a brief lunch, well I ate two large shrimp and cheese empanadas because she doesn't eat fish. Then begin walking out of town to hitchhike north. We string together a couple of rides north. Not much more than 40kms. When we get picked up by a guy who has 'yo amor canela'(I love cinnamon) stickered across the top of the windshield. He's an older man, with tough weathered skin. He's holding fake flowers. I ask if they're for his wife. He responds with complaining about Japanese cars versus American cars. After this line of talk for a bit he gets around to telling me that the flowers are for the grave of someone close to him and that real flowers die too quickly under the strong sun. The exact relationship to him was lost through my weak Spanish skills combined with the difficult Chile accent.

He leaves drops us off. Our next ride, a trucker ,takes us to La Serena. During this ride he informs us that it's very expensive for truckers if they get caught speeding and that he never goes more than 100km/hr. Not too long after this explaination I look over the highest number on the dash is 140km/hr. He's got the needle buried past that I'd have to guess we were going 160km/hr. For all of you who don't know what kms are 160km is 100 miles. In an 18 semi truck!!

We safely arrive in La Serena. Overall Pichidangui to La Serena took about 5 hours. We go for a beer. Book a hostel and intend on having a relaxing evening in the hostel. Upon arriving at the hostel it's a fun group we have some dinner. The receptionist tells us some of her friends are coming for a party that night. Ended up having some drinks and smoke. I wake up pretty late next morning and see Lina with an eye patch on. After some pirate jokes I learn she got bitten by a mosquito on her eye over night and her eye is swollen shut. What a great start to the day.

Walk to the highway to begin hitchhiking. One guy stops us while we walk telling us that the next area is extremely dangerous due to drugs. We don't think much of it and keep walking. Not too long after someone stops to give us a ride explaining that the next area is super dangerous and we'll get robbed. When driving through it I don't see the danger. But I never argue with a ride while hitchhiking. As we're unloading someone else stops takes us to Vicuña.

There's a observatory there Lina wanted to check out. But after hanging out in the city for a while looking for an information center. We learn it's a holiday and most Places of that nature are closed. We catch a ride to Pisco Elqui in the heart of the Elqui valley. The guy we rode with was full of great information and spoke beautiful English. Told us where to go, what to do and even told us where we could camp for free.

We walked around a bit looking for a pisco distillery. Realized we were in the wrong place. It's getting late in the day. So we walked to the area we were told we could camp for free. We walked up this dirt road into the mountains for what felt like far too long. Finally deciding that we've gotten to a good spot. I see a woman outside who's doing some work on the yard. I ask if we can camp near her property. She invites us to camp on her property shares a meal with us. She's a sweet older woman, very spiritual, and radiating great energy. We just hung out in the patio area outside the house that evening.

When night fell over the valley we learned what was so legendary about this area of the world. I've never seen so many stars in my life. It was unbelievable clear. I saw 5 shooting stars in less than an hour. When the moon came up I was woken up by how bright it was. It was 4 nights after the full moon. Still lit up the whole valley.

The next morning we wake up to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains with birds chirping. After getting things ready and packed back up we made for the Pisco distillery. It's the oldest in Chile. Built in 1868. I buy a bottle of Pisco After the tour then we head for Cochiguaz. Another town in the next valley to the east of Pisco Elqui.

We were told that free camping would be much easier in this town. After sitting a campsite waiting for the owner to come round for an hour and beginning to drink the Pisco. We decide to go search for some food and a place to sleep. We find a restaurant/cabaña. Begin chatting with the guy negotiate for two beds for 15,000 pesos each night. (22 USD per night for the two of us.)

Another beautiful morning to wake up to. I go outside chat with a couple guys who tell me about different plants and places to see in Chile. I stretch and practice yoga. Hike up to a viewpoint. Spend some time enjoying the sites. I realize in this moment that the blueness of the sky here is different than anywhere else I've been. It's super windy the sun feels strong against my skin. But the wind makes it feel very fresh and comfortable.

We decided to stay a second night. It's just too peaceful to not spend another night there. After the night crept in and it was very dark we decided to walk back up to the viewpoint. This time Lina didn't have her eye patch, her eye had healed enough. She was much more able to appreciate the twinkling of the stars. It seemed to me that there were literally millions of them to see from this valley.

While packing to head back to La Serena I realized I’ve lost my Rod Stewart shirt, the shirt my dad gave me. I think it’s in the hostel from Sunday night. It was a pretty uneventful trip back to La Serena, 3 rides pretty smooth. I get checked into a hostel for the night. Make a trip back to the one from Sunday. Luckily they still had shirt!!

I happily received the Rod Stewart shirt from the hostel! My next post will include a picture with it.