After La Serena I made my way into a small town in the heart of the Elqui Valley- called Vicuña. I stayed with a lovely lady called Teresa who is running a hotel in her family home. It looks small but inside its huge! And so beautiful. Here is the "living room" - with access to the sky:
Vicuña turned out to be a beautiful small town, dedicated to their hero and much loved poet, Gabriela Mistral. There is a very comprehensive museum that talks in detail about her life and work. Although the museum is not big, it is thorough - I learned a lot. Like many others, I always thought that Gabriela Mistral was a poet that received the Nobel prize in Literature. That's it. Well.... I can't express how behind I was. She was a traveler, a diplomat, a writer, and, most importantly, a teacher! She lived and worked in many different countries, including the United States. She reformed Mexico's and Nicaragua's education systems; she was a prolific writer that wrote both prose and poems. She had Pablo Neruda es her student. And yes, she did receive the Nobel prize in Literature.
Vicuña also offers a lot of outdoor activities: trekking, biking, and star gazing (remember, the skies are super clear). Around Vicuna there are dozens of observatories. I did go on an Astro-tour to Mamalluca Observatory and it was breathtaking. Saw the Milky Way, Sirius, Orion, and other stars and planets. Tried taking pictures of the nigh sky, well, you know how that went. All black!
On my second day in Vicuña I took a self guided bike tour. I was given a very detailed map of the area with the designated route and places I can find along the way. I did 18 km in 3.5 hours. The ride itself was very easy and flat, but there were ascents where I had to get off the bike and walk.
Just the scenery alone is worth taking this tour! Mountains, vineyards, trails, small pisco plants, and cacti. Isolation, mysticism, strong energy, clean air. Will remember this ride for the rest of my life.
After returning the bike, I rested for a bit and made my way into Vicuna's downtown. I really lucked out coming to this area this week because they are having the Gabriela Mistral and Astronomical festivals! I didn't see much of the astronomical activities but the Gabriela Mistral festival was awesome. In the main plaza, there were talks, presentations, and musical performances. Free of charge and very interesting. A rock band honoring Gabriela Mistral! It's like Guns'n Roses honoring Maya Angelou.
The next day I took a bus ride to visit a small town located even deeper in the Valley-Pisco Elqui. The bus ride was very inexpensive (2,000CLP one way) yet it offered some breathtaking scenery! The mountains with cacti on them, the blue sky, and the valley below looked really magical. In fact, people say, that Elqui Valley does possess strong healing energy. It certainly healed me-I was ready to stare at the sky and mountains for the whole day! My plan for next time is to bypass La Serena and Vicuna and go straight to Pisco Elqui to spend more quality time with local population and scenery. Below are just some of the images I took in the valley.