05.04.2012 - 11.04.2012 20 °C
After spending a few days in the Chilean capital we got back on the bus. This time we headed north to La Serena. After Santiago it is Chile's oldest city, founded in 1544.
The city is popular with tourists, especially in summer when hordes flock to the beaches. Unfortunately we arrived a little late for the beach weather, still there are plenty of things to do in the area.
La Serena has a grand total of 39 churches! We didn't make it to all of them, there is a limit to how many churches you can actually enjoy in a limited amount of time.
We arrived in La Serena just in time for Easter. This is a holiday that's taken very seriously in South America, and people tend to travel more than usual. For us this meant staying an extra three days in La Serena because we couldn't get bus tickets to our next destination. Despite all the churches there's not that much to do in the city, therefore we ended up booking a bunch of tours to fill the days.
Our first trip was to the Mama Lluca Observatory. La Serena and the surrounding area is famous for star gazing. It's no coincidence that three of the world's most important scientific observatories are located in the region.
We were very lucky with the weather the night we went, there were almost no clouds and even though there was a full moon there wasn't too much light pollution. Looking through different telescope we could see star clusters and even Saturn Looking through the telescope Saturn looked just like one of those glow-in-the-dark stickers from the 90's. I'm not even sure it was real.
We were lucky to have a great guide who pointed out countless constellations and rattled off the names of half of the stars in the sky like it was nothing.
The following day it was time for another organized trip, we were heading to the Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve a couple of hours outside of La Serena. Here you can spot sea lions, bottlenose dolphins and of course Humboldt penguins.
Ran in to some vicuñas on the way
Once we arrived in Choros, a small fishing village, we got in the boat and were ready to see some wildlife
Humpback whale. We cruised right over top of this big thing! I was terrified!
After cruising around looking at wildlife we moored at Damas island, where we wandered around for a while.
We didn't go swimming, it was too cold But I'm sure it would be really nice in summer.
After a late lunch we headed back to La Serena. It was an early night fro us, as we had to get up early again the next morning to go on yet another tour.
On our last day in La Serena we went on a tour to the Elqui Valley, which among other things is famous for it's pisco distilleries.
First stop was at an Elqui valley baker, well known for his delicious pastries.
Notes from former costumer. This guy is popular.
We made a few stops that were more or less interesting before arriving at a pisco distillery.
River of wine?!
Pisco is a grape spirit produced in Chile and Peru. Both countries claim having invented the drink, they even have different stories explaining the origin of the name. Apparently Chilean and Peruvian pisco differ in taste as much as rum and vodka and can be considered different spirits. Our guide was pretty passionate about this, so I'll take his word for it.
After some generous tastings of different types of pisco, it was time for lunch. Our guide took us to a restaurant were all the food was cooked in solar ovens, it was pretty cool;
After a hearty lunch we were all pretty tired and after a quick stop at a rather boring museum we headed back to La Serena. Back at the hostel we drank the last of our fancy pisco and got packed. The next day we were finally going to San Pedro de Atacama, our last stop before entering Bolivia