Mamalluca Observatory - Elqui Valley

Trip Start Jan 08, 2014
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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What I did
Mamalluca Observatory La Serena
Read my review - 5/5 stars

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Friday, January 10, 2014

I have to make this quick so I can get to bed for an early morning tomorrow.  We are trying to squeeze in as much as we can. 

So we got up before 6 am so we could walk to the bus station.  We made it.  It wasn't too bad all loaded with backback on back, daypack on front & the little red tote bag in hand.  Oh, we had to take the metro to get to the bus station.  But it all went well.  In fact we were 45 minutes early.  We boarded our bus in our assigned seats.  I found mine unaccountably uncomfortable.  There was something about how the back sloped that made it give me no support in my lower back.  If I put my feet up, it was better.  At most times I didn't notice because I was asleep.  I missed most of the scenery because I was sleeping.  Alas.

Around noon, or it must have been after, we arrived at La Serena, a fairly large city on the Pacific Ocean.  We walked to the hostel we will be staying at several days from now and talked to them about a car rental.  They called their usual rental agency and spoke to the man - or did they get them after we had lunch down the street.  Don't remember.  I had a special corn & bean soup but it was missing the corn I think and Astrid had another local specialty - a sort of beef soup with a chunk of corn.  We had fruit drinks - mixed orange and carrot - quite good.

When we were back at the hostel, we arranged the car rental and  waited for the little car to be delivered.  The man went over all the dings and scrapes and we got the keys, loaded up the car and were off.  I should say that the staff at this hostel were so friendly and helpful, it was a delight and we looked forward to staying there in a few days.

We drove off through the Elqui Valley to Vicuna amid the wide u-shaped valley with its cactus plants covering the otherwise bare mountains and the grape vines growing in the floor of the valley.  It was very scenic.

When we arrived in Vicuna, we found our hostel for the next two nights.  It is in an old family house converted into a hostel and it has been run as such for the last 4 years.  We have a nice room - bright and airy with a window opening onto the street.  We then went out to get some supplies for a simple supper after first having some ice cream.  I had two scoops - one of the fruit of the local cactus - copai - and something else that started with 'f' that was another local fruit.  It was very good.  We bought some lovely goat cheese at a local artisan's shop and then we finally stopped at the cafe next door (Cafe de Frida, Gabriela Mistral No 683).  Oh, we also checked out the craft booths along the Plaza de Armas.  We had some quesadillas with pisco sours at the cafe next door.  Very nice.

Astrid had arranged with our hostel hostess for us to go the the observatory this night because the sky was relatively clear and the moon was only getting bigger so tonight was probably the best night to go.  We walked to the tour office with a young Russian couple who had also booked an observatory tour.  From there we got a truck ride up the windy, dirt road to the observatory.  We had a fantastic guide.  I was very excited to see the moon through the indoor telescope, as well as Jupiter with 3 of the 4 visible moons and the stripes on Jupiter.  Then we went outside where we looked at the stars and our guide pointed out the constellations and the different stars in them.  The highlight was that our guide took photos with our cameras of the moon through the telescope and the photos he took for me turned out very well - with my Lumix because that was all I brought.

It was after 1-30 am by the time we got back - so it was a long day.
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