Sadly we had to part ways with our new friends, but we will meet them next year in Brazil. We headed along the route of the Estrellas (stars) along which there are numerous observatories on the mountaintops.
We stopped at a huge dam for a break. There was this wind chime sculpture making the most horrific noise.
Next we entered the wine growing region and headed up the long winding Elqui Valley to Pisco Elqui about 107 km east of La Serena. This is the home of the Pisco distillery (national drink is the Pisco sour: 3 parts pisco, 1 part lime, and sugar over ice). It is along the route of Gabriela Mistral (noble winning Chilean poet).
Back tracking to Vicuna we then headed off road on the route of the stars. There were some areas where the road was red.
Heading up over the mountains there were some very steep climbs and sharp switchbacks.
About 3 and after about 180 km we spotted a small shelter on the top of a hill and decided to camp there for the night to watch the stars. Unfortunately it then became cloudy, so we did not see too many starts, but it was quiet in the many hours we were there only 4 cars came by and a heard of goats.
We headed out of the mountains down some steep stretches. And suddenly we were on the great paved road thru lush valleys.
There were still no cars on the back road thru the desert and at times you worried the road was closed. We did however drive thru a Chinchilla sanctuary. It’s not to often you see a sign saying slow down for chinchillas. No cars means no towns, or crappy towns with by the hours motels, so we opted to head back to the Pan Americana at Los Vilos at 310 km to find a place to sleep.
Now we were very close to our goal of Santiago with a day to kill. We opted to stay a night in Limache about 130 km from the city. We toured along the coast and found out where all the rich Chileans live in style.
We did a little living in style ourselves since Dan found this place on line at 70% off!