The Elqui Valley is a fertile jewel in the Chile’s arid north. It’s particularly famous for its grapes, be they destined for the table or to be made into wine or the local liquor, called Pisco.
We arrived in La Serena, gateway to the Elqui Valley, at the beginning of April. Just one week earlier an unseasonable storm had produced terrible floods and landslides, bringing chaos and sorrow to northern Chile. Our friends at EcoTourismo had already assured us that our tour would go ahead as planned, but we still weren’t sure quite what to expect.
We docked at the port of Coquimbo, before dawn on an overcast morning. After being collected by Jorge, our guide for the day, we drove through La Serena and into the lower reaches of the Elqui Valley.
The first sign we saw of Nature’s power on this area was at the Puclaro Reservoir, just west of the small town of Vicuña. Ironically though, it wasn’t evidence of flooding or landslides but of the drought that has gripped this region for the last eight years.
Standing at the village of Gualliguaica, on what should be the north shore of the lake, we could just about make out a pitiful puddle over a mile and a half away to the west. Jorge told us that the reservoir currently contains less than 10% of its capacity, a dangerous situation for a valley dependant on irrigation.
The first indications we saw of the previous week’s flooding were during our visit to the Aba Pisco Distillery. Mud caked the area around the outside fermentation tanks, and production had been temporarily halted at the time we were there. (Look for more about our time at Aba in a future post.)
However, it wasn’t until we left the distillery to head a little further up the valley that we saw worse effects of the flooding (which were actually comparatively light in the Elqui Valley, relative to other parts of the region). Jorge wanted to take a minor road that runs part way up the side of the valley towards our next destination, to show us the view. Unfortunately, we soon discovered work to clear a landslide off the road was still in progress, so we had to backtrack and return to the main highway instead.
On the bright side – literally – it wasn’t long after that the Sun finally decided to make an appearance and burn off the stubborn layer of clouds. Finally we had blue skies and were able to see the surrounding mountains, allowing us to appreciate the upper reaches of the Elqui Valley in all its glory.
While you’re thinking about the trials Mother Nature is currently throwing at Northern Chile, not to mention the volcanic eruptions the south is dealing with, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?
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