Important note about my frequent travel: these are my experiences and observations I share eagerly and enthusiastically. I receive no compensation in cash/kind/discounts, etc. in any way from any business/locations I’ve visited. None of the businesses paid for my travel expenses or offered any free services.
Our initial plan for day 2 was to go hiking but we noticed there were lots of stray dogs everywhere. Most of them leave you alone but I did see a few of them run after cars, barking. After my experience in Bahamas, I did not want to go hiking with so many stray dogs around. Besides, we’ve done enough hiking in Patagonia. Instead, we drove to a nearby artisanal market about 10 mins away.
We tried Copao jam at a stall called Pura Sepa. Copao is the fruit of cactus plant. Jam was good but I just don’t like jams. Our host, Roberto, had also told us to try goat milk manjar which is basically Chilean dulce de leche. Turns out the goat babies were very young right and finished all the milk. There was nothing left to make manjar. The guy at the stall apologized and told us to come back in summer.
After walking around for a while, we had fresh papaya juice and empanadas. Since we were visiting in winter, most of the shops were closed and the market was mostly empty. Next, we went to Gabriela Mistral Plaza in Vicuna. There’s plenty of parking around the plaza.
We stopped by tourist information office. The guy only spoke Spanish but he was very helpful. He gave us a map of the local area and told us of some popular destinations. We walked around the plaza and noticed an Entomology and Natural History museum so, of course, we had to go in. Entrance fee was only 600 CLP (about 1 USD). We could take pictures without flash.
The museum was very small, basically two small rooms only. One room is for natural history and the other room is for entomology. They did have some cool things on display like a 70 million year old tree trunk and a 150 million year old archaeopteryx. The building was old because the floor creeked with every step. All the information was in Spanish so we left pretty quickly.
There was another artisanal market at the southeast corner of the plaza so we went there next. This market has a lot more options for souvenirs and a bigger food court in the back. We were the only people there in winter.
Surprisingly, there was a vegan restaurant called Govinda’s in the plaza and it’s operated by Hare Krisha group. There is no menu as such, just local dishes made vegan. We were coming up on siesta hour and most of the shops were closing down for their afternoon nap.
We walked to Gabriela Mistral museum next. The walk was very nice with lots of graffiti on the walls. This museum is very pretty. There’s lots of open space and places to sit outside, it’s very peaceful and serene. The entrance is free. After all the walking around, we were hungry so we ate at a restaurant across from the Gabriela Mistral museum called Riaz Del Elqui.
After lunch we went back to our B&B for siesta. We had another observatory tour planned for the night and we wanted to be well rested. We were scheduled with Turismo Migrantes for night trekking and observatory tour. However, that morning they called and said the tour guide cannot make it and cancelled the tour last minute. Luckily, Roberto was able to get us scheduled with Alfa Aldea observatory for the same night.
Alfa Aldea observatory tour only takes place if they have 6 people signed up for the tour. We only had 4 people but luckily they decided to go ahead with the tour. They told us to meet them at a gas station at 6 pm. From there we followed a car to the observatory. Alfa Aldea offers camping, make wine, grow cotton and have an observatory. Very diversified portfolio. They’ve been in business for about 5 years and seem to be doing well. The tour started at 6:45 pm after everyone paid 12,000 CLP (about 18 USD) per person.
The tour starts in one of the domes where we watched a short 10 minute 3-D video about how earth and moon were formed. Before starting the video, they served us a glass of wine from their own winery. After the video, we walked over to an open space where a 16″ telescope was set up. We observed 7-8 objects through the telescope and about half way through, they served us delicious hot asparagus soup and toast to keep us warm.
After spending about an hour outside we went back inside for the last part of the tour where we listened to radio telescope sound of Jupiter and Sun. After we warmed up a bit, we drove back to our B&B. We set up our own telescope and looked through for a while before calling it a night and going to bed. We still have one more day in Elqui Valley. For more pictures click here.
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