Some Pisco and stars — La Serena
After the scenic Pan de Azucar, we headed down south to the coastal city of La Serena and the Elqui valley. Fridays at school end at 1 PM, which makes it convenient to take a Friday afternoon bus out of Copiapo.
The Elqui valley is to the east of La Serena and one of the most popular village there is Pisco Elqui. It’s a small touristy place surrounded by mountains and like Valaparaiso, has some wall paintings.
Pisco is a liquor very popular in Chile and Peru. Although partly a desert, the Elqui valley enjoys the perfect weather needed for growing the right grapes needed for Pisco. We took a tour of the Pisco Mistral destilería (distellery) where one can see the different steps through which Pisco is made (fermentation -> distillation -> aging) and also got to do taste premium Pisco. The best is the one which is aged around 10 years.
I’ve had few good Pisco sours, which is the national drink of Chile. Some people say that the Peruvian Pisco is better and there’s an ongoing Pisco battle between Chile and Peru!
Northern Chile is one of the best places in the world to stargaze. Astronomers around the world seek the Chilean skies and apparently one night in the best observatory here costs 50000 USD. There are a few observatories where the general public can also get a taste of these clearest skies with simpler telescopes. We went for a tour at Mamalluca observatory which was on the way from Elqui to La Serena. We were lucky that it was a night close to new moon. The tour guide spoke pretty good English and using the telescope, we saw Jupiter (and 4 of its biggest moons), Alpha Centauri stars, small Magellanic cloud and couple of other constellations. The sight of the Milkyway with the naked eye itself is so good!
On Sunday, we just saw a bit of La Serena — walked along the beach and went to the Jardín Japones (Japanese garden), which was pretty good.
Also met Abby and Alison (couple of fellow volunteers) there who are working at schools in La Serena.
We’ll be back to La Serena in a few weeks as there are couple more interesting places — Punta Choros and Parque Nacional Fray Jorge.