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We seem to be developing an affinity with buses along our South American adventure!

Our journey northwards, from Viña del Mar to La Serena, took us on a 7-hour Pullman bus. We’re fat becoming connoisseurs of these relatively luxurious transportation options! It was the new level of comfort – curtains – on this bus that made us smile!

Arriving late afternoon in La Serena, we picked up a hire car to drive 2 hours into the Elqui Valley.

As we drove further along the valley, we noticed the contrast between the arid mountains and the fertile valley floor.

Approaching Pisco Elqui, the village we were to lay our hats for a few days, the mellow tones, colourful murals and friendly locals painted a laidback and creative picture.

 

Deciding to stay at the friendly Elqui Domos (see the photos below and check out their website: http://www.elquidomos.cl) fitted the village’s quirky nature and its claim to be one the best places in the world to stargaze, given its perfectly dry climate to deliver clear night skies.

The domes we stayed in were super cool, with a mezzanine level and double bed where the roof even opened up to reveal brilliantly starry nights (or clear sunny skies depending on the time of day obviously!). Lola and Albie snuggled into single beds downstairs. Despite the cold night temperatures (around 1-2 degrees!), we were cosy and warm.

Pisco Elqui is also the cradle of the famous Pisco, the national drink of Chile. Of course, we had to sample the local Pisco Sour cocktail – pretty yummy!

It was here that Jake had his first ever horse riding experience! As those of you who know him will appreciate, he belongs with these clip clopping animals due to his particularly strange high-instepped feet!! He’s often teased about his hooves!

Off we went with some local huaso (Chilean cowboys), to explore the valley. Across rivers, up steep rocky slopes and along dusty tracks, we all enjoyed the calm nature of our horses and the tranquil environment. Luckily for us, a French family, who spoke English, joined us, so were able to help translate! We are learning some Spanish but not fast enough!

Wanting to make the most of our position under the clear skies, we experienced an astronomy tour in the observatory belonging to Elqui Domos. Our guide blew us away with his scientific knowledge and left us wondering how you can learn and retain that much detailed information! Unfortunately, we couldn’t capture what we saw on camera, but, through a giant revolving telescope and rotating roof, we saw the Milky Way, learnt about the ages of different stars, their creation and what makes them bigger and brighter, and finally we saw Jupiter and four of its moons. We ambled back to our dome under a glittering sky, full of admiration for astronomers, feeling incredibly small, and loaded with questions about our universe and beyond.

Meeting a Chilean family was another bonus of our stay. Lola and Albie made two new playmates, whilst Jake and Tash enjoyed Miguel’s company, learnt more about Chile and appreciated his barbecuing (asado) skills!

It probably wasn’t quite warm enough, being winter here, to fully enjoy Elqui Domos’ pool, but the children gave it a good attempt!!

Thankfully, we had a car to explore this beautiful area. We drove as far as we could along the valley road, passing Horcon and ending in the cute village of Alcoguaz.

This is certainly a magical and mystical place; we’d recommend it to anyone! Special times.