A travel moment in Elqui Valley

In the magical groves of the Elqui Valley we are surrounded by harsh, black mountains that mark the Atacama desert beyond. But if you look in rather than out you find yourself in an autumnal paradise of orchards, orange groves and vineyards, all clustering as high up the dry mountains as far as the irrigation will take them. The colours are dazzling – earthy terracottas give way to florescent greens topped by a powder blue sky of alluring brilliance. We are truly in the land of poets and artists. Its popular with hippies and seekers after alternative lifestyles who have never quite made it back out of the valley. We are staying in the little village of Pisco Elqui and on our first day we set out to buy a picnic – we find a tasteless local cheese, a jar of pickled white cabbage, a loaf of hard, stale bread but an unexpected restorative treat in the shape of a bottle of Late Harvest wine - the colour of liquid honey. The flavour is full , fragrant and infinitely sweet transforming our indifferent meal into our most memorable one. The Elqui Valley is famous for producing pisco grapes for making the Chilean national drink, Pisco Sours. But for us the Late Harvest wine is the more palatable discovery. As we are savouring the last drops suddenly the snoozing cat wakes up, rushes out as quick as lightening and there is the sound of a million glasses tinkling and then the earth shudders beneath us. But its not the heady effects of the Late Harvest, merely one of the many minor earthquakes that are part of everyday life here. We, unused to the earth’s tremors and only too aware of the recent large earthquakes to the south of us are unsettled and rush outside. But no one else bothers and the cat settles back to sleep under the gigantic cactus on the other side of the road.

The taste of a new wine and the experience of our first earthquake will not be forgotten!

A Fookes

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