Note this post covers the 8th and 9th of February 2010.
After the markets and icecream, we spent much of the afternoon just sitting in the sun, eating, catching up on emails, uploading photos, that sort of junk. It was really quite plesant and relaxing.
We then had an invitation to have drinks (mainly of vodka) at Laura’s house that night; we got dropped over there, and then went down to the local bottle store, which we were told is set up as a front for the local drug-running mafioso, and because of this, and their not caring too much about making money, prices are kept, shall we say, quite low. A wonderful night was had by all four of us, and the conversation in half English / half Spanish flowed very well.
On Wednesday, we went for a trip up to Pisco Elqui valley with Paulina. That is where the local spirit, Pisco, is made; it’s very strong grape liquor and is a little bit like a brandy.
To get to there, we had to take two busses, firstly to Viquña, then from there to Pisco Elqui. The busses were of the small and rickerty variety, and filled to the brim. We had to stand up in the second bus for some of the way, as we barrelled down the road at well over 100km/h in the heat.
We passed through small and picturesque village, and finally reached Pisco Elqui after a couple of hours. We wandered around the town plaza, and through the small markets and around town for a bit.
After a while we got hungry (and not just a little overheated), so we found a neat restaurant a distance away from the main part of town. It was called “La Esquela” (The School), as it was apparently converted from an old schoolhouse. We ate Pastel de Choclos, which I hadn’t had myself in many years, and for desert, this crazy traditional drink which was peach juice, with dried peaches floated on top of a bed of wheat grains. While very tasty, they were also huge, and we couldn’t finish them.
After eating, we walked down the road, through to a set of cabins owned by our Aunt and Uncle, and down to a riverbank at the bottom of the property, the idea being to get away from the heat; maybe dip our feet in the water or go for a swim. However recent heavy rains had apparently changed the shape of the river considerably making this unfeasable, so we just rested in the shade for until it was time to go on the distillery tour at 5pm.
Although it was entirely in Spanish (and the guide punctuated every sentence with ‘ya’ which I found funny), the distillery tour was pretty cool. Pisco is a liquor made from a particular kind of grape, and then distilled and aged. It tastes a bit like a rum I guess. Pisco Sour is the most common cocktail made with it, and the ones on offer here were much better than any I’d had back at home.
Coqiumbo at night
After arriving back in La Serena after our Pisco trip, we had a quick dinner and were then told that we were going to be driven out to Coquimbo for a few drinks, with our cousin and aunt and uncle. After a very slow trip driving along the beachfront road (traffic was horrific); we made it into Coquimbo at maybe 10pm or something like that.
Downtown Coquimbo was pretty lively, there were a number of bars around the central area filled with people, street performers in the plaza, and a bus with the label “Tourist bus” on the side; a double-decker lit up affair with an open roof, music blaring out, and people dressed in various costumes (barney, mickey mouse etc) dancing on top of it.
We found one street that had been blocked off to cars, with bars down one side of it, and filled with tables and chairs. Three of the bars had bands set up in front of them, and each band was taking turns at doing their sets. We managed to find a table in the crowd eventually, sat down and ordered a round of mojitos. One of the bands was seemingly playing traditional classics and every body in the crowd was happily singing along:
After some incredibly tasty nibbles including palm hearts, cheese bits, amazingly tender beef, and spicy sausage, and another round of mojitos (darn those two for one specials, haha), we were treated to some latin beat freestyle rapping curtosey of one of the audience members and his friends:
All in all, an exhausting, full on, and fun day had by everyone.