Due to our tight budget, we opted for a shared dorm with four beds, which came out to about sixteen dollars apiece. This price included a yummy breakfast of bread, jam, various cheeses, sliced meats and your choice of coffee or tea. Not anything super luxurious, but always a nice benefit to a hostel stay. The price also included an off street parking spot which was wonderful!!
After we finished checking in (basically a breeze minus the fact they accept only cash) we had a light meal at the hostel cafe. I opted for the veggie quiche with a salad and small bottle of wine, which came out to about seven dollars. Naynay and Joe went with sandwiches, and I was the only lush drinking my own personal bottle. The hostel has gardens in most of their patio areas, as well as a resident cat or two. It was really lovely to eat surrounded by greenery and roses, with the walled courtyards keeping the city din at bay.
We wanted to go stargazing that night in Elqui Valley, so after our late lunch, we piled into the car and drove the 45 kilometers. We arrived right as the Mamalluca office opened at six pm and purchased tickets for $8 dollars each as opposed to the almost $40 tour price offered everywhere else. Being able to drive was a godsend in that case. We were told to come back at 8:30 to follow the tour van to the observatory, and when we arrived, there were at lease eight cars there ready to caravan after the vehicle.
The following two hours flew by as we looked at planets and other galaxies, oohing and awing at the incredible sky. Our guide was Luis, an active astronomer who was super knowledgable about everything we were seeing in the sky. Patiently answering the barrage of questions, he was a joy to listen to. It did sadden us to learn that within fifty years the observatory will no longer be useable due to light pollution from the nearby town.
After driving home we enjoyed a restful nights sleep before beginning the last leg of our journey, 500 kilometers to Santiago.