Monday, December 26, 2016

high desert days

I took the bus to Pisco Elqui, winding and climbing through the arid but fertile Elqui Valley.
Pisco Elqui is about 1200 meters above sea level. 
Except for the occasional stream and watered grapevines, it reminds me of Western Nevada. 


Huge, steep mountains. Mineral-rich soil and turquoise reservoirs.
There’s some argument over whether Peru or Chile lays claim to Pisco. I’m not taking sides. 
Chile has a large wine industry, mostly table wine exported to the US and Europe. I’ve been doing my part, drinking my share of Carmeniere.
Pisco Elqui itself is a tiny sunny haven. I’m staying at an eco-lodge in a room called Suspiro. There are ripe plums and apricots (damasco) and quinces on all the trees and a friendly bartender whipping up Pisco sours by the miniature pool. 

Next door at the Jardin Secreto, you can get your aura cleansed. Massajes are tempting.
The area is well known for astronomy, with several observatories. I can’t wait to see the stars tonight. My room has a big skylight.

This mural was in the bus station in Vicuña. I do not know why there's a UFO. (Edited: Elqui Valley has a reputation among latter day hippies, Ayurvedic practitioners, and seekers. Not my scene.)
I’d promised Doro I’d write about Gabriela Mistral, who came from this area and was the first Latin American to win the Nobel prize for Literature in 1945. 

She was a fascinating, complex woman who eventually left Chile for Europe and California. 

An early feminist icon. Beloved still.

Honored here on the 5000 peso note. 

I’ll definitely be reading her work and learning more about her the next few days. One friend explained she had to leave that small town and live abroad, because she was gay. 

Meanwhile here's a poem to get you started:

The treasure at the heart of the rose
is your own heart's treasure
Scatter it as the rose does:
your pain becomes hers to measure.
Scatter it in a song
or in one great love's desire.
Do not resist the rose
lest you burn in its fire.