Last Tuesday, Jessica and I took two buses to Coquimbo. We left at 9:30 am and arrived in Coquimbo at 7 pm. It was a long bus ride, but the vistas were beautiful - especially the last leg, which was along the coast.
We spent the next two days at a 'Physical Oceanography of the Southeastern Pacific' conference, where Jessica and Fabian, her adviser and my collaborator, presented. I also got to spend some time getting to know Fabian and his wife, Angela, over mariscos and wine. I tried 'loco', which is a local mollusc that supposedly tastes like abalone. I ordered it 'a la parmesana' (swimming in parmesan cheese). It came in a 'greda', which is a type of dish they bake it in. I can't even begin to describe how delicious it was - the meat was tender and creamy, which was only accentuated by the cheese.
On Friday, I visited downtown La Serena, a beach town 14 km away, on my own while Jessica and Fabian attended the conference. Later that day I met up with them to visit the feria artesenal. And that night Jessica and I stayed at a beachside cabaña. It was gorgeous.
The beach outside the conference | View from our cabaña in La Serena
On Saturday, Jessica and I took a colectivo (taxi where they pick up passengers along the way to keep it full and the prices low) to Vicuña, a small town 30 min away in an area called Valle Elqui. We were told that the Valle Elqui is a must-see while we were in the area because the desert flowers would be blooming. Well, we didn't see any flowers but the valley was beautiful nonetheless. We visited the Gabriela Mistral museum, dedicated to the Chilean Nobel poet, and a local farmers market.
Then we took a bus to Pisco Elqui, a small town higher up in the mountains made famous by it's beauty and it's Mistral pisco (really, aguardiente) distillery. There's some controversy regarding the name of the town. Supposedly it was changed from 'La Union' by an ex-president, who claimed that Pisco originated in Chile, not Peru. But in reality, 'pisco' in Chile was actually aguardiente until the last 50 years or so, when it changed it's name. But Peru was making 'pisco' way before then. (I learned all of this from the tour, which was all in spanish! My spanish has improved a lot from traveling with Jessica) At the distillery, I felt like I was visiting a Napa vineyard that was plopped in the middle of a valley in the heart of Anza Borrego desert. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime.
Bus ride to Pisco Elqui | Church in the Plaza de Armas, Pisco Elqui
Grape mascerators used in first step of Pisco distillation | Pisco distillers
Mistral distillery | Lunch at the Mistral distillery