Updated: Dec 3, 2018
19th - 21st November 2018
Weird how hot the desert can be…
We entered Chile from the cold Bolivian mountains where we were wearing our thermals 24/7, and hopped straight off a bus into 30 degree sunshine.
Our hostel was adequate with a nice outdoor seating area. We headed out pretty pronto to find food and money after changing into shorts (after shaking off the cobwebs). San Pedro was a lovely, upmarket town, startlingly expensive but colourful and bustling. We found somewhere nice for food (pizza. What else?) before relaxing for the afternoon.
I was in bed for 7:30pm, because I was to be up at 1:45am for Stargazing with Atacama Desert Stargazing. Jorge picked me up from my hostel at 2:20am and I joined 12 others as we headed out of town into the desert where Jorge lived…
The moon was high and I was ever so slightly worried I'd thrown a heap of money at stargazing where I'd see very few stars. Jorge sat us down amongst his telescopes and heaters (it's COLD in the desert at night) and reassured us that the moon would set in 2 hours, giving him enough time to give us an astronomy lesson and also a snack break (TOP snacks fyi). Jorge's enthusiasm was unfaltering and he made sure we all saw everything, including the 3 famous craters of the moon: Capernicus, Kevlar and Yuko.
When the moon set, the Milky Way filled the sky. We saw the stunning Orion and Tarantula Nebulae, Sirius (the brightest star in the sky), the mystical Southern Cross with its 'Jewel Box’ cluster, another incredible cluster of Old Stars which blew my mind, Alpha Centauri, Pleiodes (the Seven Sisters), and Orion's feet: Bellatrix and Beeteljeuce (Beeteljeuce might die in the next second or hundred years, don't you know?). We also caught the tail end of the Leonid Meteor Shower… These were no ordinary shooting stars. They lasted at least 5 seconds and stretched across the whole sky, fading out slowly. It was utterly magical.
When dawn came, it brought with it Venus, who sparkled on the horizon until the sun was fully awake. Stargazing has always been a passion of mine, as it is a passion of my mother's (*shout out*). The (88) constellations are fascinating and the infinity of space is utterly intoxicating. It is no wonder that humans have forever turned their heads skywards in awe and reverence, and seeing the sky in the best place on earth has increased my curiosity tenfold.
In the afternoon of the same day (and after a morning nap) continuing my astronomy-themed day, I went to Moon Valley with Josh and Sophie. A very different experience. It was HOT, distractingly so (...but it is the desert). Sarah, my main squeeze, was still feeling “ill” so took herself off to the spa to reco
ver. So extra.
The rock formations were beautiful and unique, formed by oceans and salt and 3 mountain ranges (I can't remember the names of the ranges and Google isn't doing me ANY favours. Soz). The rocks chatter as the salt cracks and sand dunes stretch for miles; an inhospitable, otherworldly landscape home to very little (that I could see). We stopped in different places along the trail, and ended on a precipitous ledge overlooking the sunset. The real show was the warmth the sun cast over the mountains to the east, as we watched clouds being sent over the mountains from Bolivia.
We've been in the desert only a few days, but Chile has already provided some jaw-dropping experiences. We leave tomorrow for the airport to take us south, to colder, more rugged climes… and a boat.