Sorry for the long silence. I have no excuse for myself except laziness. It happens 🙂
After coming off the spectacular but freezing salt flats, I crossed the border from Bolivia into Chile and spent two nights in the blessedly hot desert town of San Pedro de Atacama. It sits on the edge of the Atacama desert, supposedly the driest in the world. The small town is filled with adobe houses and a fair amount of hippie-wanna-be types and overall has a mellow, relaxed vibe.
I didn’t do much here, mostly because many of the tourist attractions mirror those we saw in Bolivia on our salt flat tour. Except for one thing.
People who love the stars and space flock to this area of Chile for it´s clear, night skies.
I am not really a star junkie, but I can appreciate a good constellation or two. And there is nothing better than being amazed and delighted by natural wonders of the universe that you inherently know exist, but still can´t believe when you see them magnified through a giant telescope..
There are dozens of companies offering tours for this, but I went with SPACE, the largest public observatory in Chile. It is operated by a French couple, Alain and his wife Alejandra, and cost about 18,000 Chilean pesos ($38 US) for 2.5 hours, including transportation and hot drinks.
Alain has a great sense of humor and somehow manages to make you laugh while explaining the night sky. He has a unique talent of making confusing topics easy and fun to comprehend and is a superb example of someone living his dream, doing exactly what he loves doing.
We looked through eight telescopes (some of which Alain built himself!) at constellations, clusters and the bright, blinding moon when it finally rose from behind a mountain. The pictures below are courtesy of Shaun (from Australia) and his spectacular camera. They are all real and not photo-shopped (just taken at slow speed to take in the light, etc):