Stars and Pisco

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostel Aldea de Elqui

Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, April 11, 2011

Vicuņa is just an hour away from La Serena and is a quiet town full of bicycles, Pisco, observatories and cute boutiques. We made a good choice to stopover for the Mamalluca Observatory and Elqui Valley Pisco tasting at Capel.
The bus from La Serena to Vicuņa with Valle de Elqui bus was only $3.60 and was on time with excellent service. On the way there were beautiful landscapes of the valleys and of uvas piscaņas. Just before Vicuņa is the large Puclaro Dam with a crystal blue mandmade lake. After the hour ride we reached the pueblo of Vicuņa and walked across the Plaza de Armas to Hostel Aldea de Elqui which was $40 with a nice garden and lazy river pool and it included breakfast. This is a very nice boutique hostel that you can tell puts a lot of effort into their artistic vision and personal service. Since everything is a little more expensive in this town it was well worth it. Lunch could not come soon enough and we noticed a sign on the plaza for Costa Colonial restaurant for the menu de casa. The meal was very good especially for $5. Our reservation for the observatory tour said to register/pay with Mamalluca at the tour office but they didn't want our money when we visited the office in the afternoon. Just down the street, the tourist information told us the Capel Pisco had a tour at 6pm so after walking the wrong way for quite a while we turned back to arrive at 6:05 just as they were closing the doors at 6pm. We must have misunderstood the guy at the office (open until 6pm) but it was a nice walk anyways.

So of course we proceeded back to town to buy some Pisco to have with our chips and salsa dinner before our Mamalluca tour to the observatory. Unfortunately, the night that we came to see the stars there were some clouds but they gave us a discount so it was just $3 for the tour and $3 for the transportation. We had an English-speaking tour and learned about the sky in the Southern Hemispere like the South Star and how it looks like a kite, as well as planets don't twinkle but stars do. Also did you know that the Suns' light takes 8 minutes to reach earth yet the Moons reflected light only takes 1 second to reach earth? We also had chances to look at the Moon and Saturn thru large telescopes as well as other clusters of stars. Too bad it was a little cloudy but the 3 hour tour was still a great deal. Definitely do this tour.

Vicuņa day 2

Since we missed the Capel Pisco Tour the day before, we planned to wake up early to do the tour before our 11:45am bus. The breakfast at the hostel was outstanding! Eggs, fruit, cafe/tea, bread, cheese and juices. What a great start before our walk to Capel. We were running a little late yet even after walking for a brisk 20 minutes we didn't arrive at Capel until 10:30am. The girl at the door was kind enough to take us on a quick tour of the factory and the museum even though she wasn't a tour guide. The grapes used at Capel to make Pisco are locally grown muscat because of the quality and the sweetness of the grape in the region. It is a huge company (as evident by the massive operation which was one of several they have in Chile) yet they still have local farmers bringing truck beds full of ripened green grapes. It didn't appear as if there was testing to make sure the grapes were okay as the farmers drop them off since they were immediately dumped into a bin and processed. We didn't have much time for tastings but of course we made the most of it and bought a bottle of Alta Carmen transperante pisco reservado. Definitely a must stop in Vicuņa to enjoy their patio and tasting lounge. We were sad we didn’t have more time to relax on the beautiful grounds.

It was a somewhat frantic rush back to town to claim our luggage but we made the bus and off to Valparaiso.
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