Published: September 7th 2011September 6th 2011
Starlight express to San pedro.
San pedro was 5 hours by bus away from antofagasta. What a journey, stunning scenery all the way there. The bus stopped half way. For what particular reason I'm not sure but where we stopped seemed quite high and maybe the driver needed a cigarette. When we got out we could see why, there was snow on the road. Snow on the way to the driest desert in the world, crazy. So during our 10 minute break we could throw some snow balls in the desert. Who else can say that they've done that. The ground snow was unusual for this time of year and everyone was mesmerised by it. We couldn't believe it. As we approached San pedro it already had lived up to our expectations. It looked straight out of a western film. Tiny town with White washed Walls on the church where the wooden floors creaked so loud you could imagine everyone turning around to see who was late for church. All the shops, cafes and hotels were single story and all the same sand stone colour. We were collected by haviara and brought 10 minutes outside San pedro to our desert
lodge in the astrological observatory centre where we would do a stat gazing tour the following night. The lodge was a sheer sanctuary in the desert and so quiet. Absolutely no one around. We brought our own food and bought a cheap bottle of red wine (2 euro for a Santa Rita). John made a good high fire so that we could sit outside after dinner and watch the stars. John makes and I quote "the best fires", to the sky, to the sky. Saw 2 shooting stars here one of which is the clearest and longest shooter ever. So beautiful the stars were so bright we wandered up to where the observatory was and talked to alesandra and booked our taxi into town the next day, we hardly used our torch it was so bright out. We got a sneaky peak through one if the telescopes and saw the nearest star in the sky to us. It was a beautiful mix of greens and blues. Couldn't wait for our tour. Toured around San pedro as much as we could. It's quiet small one main street, a church, a Market and tons of side alleys and streets to wander through.
Although some just lead to nowhere. It all just looks like a film set and we nearly passed out when we saw some sheep being herded just off the main street. And again nearly fell off my chair when we saw a guy on a horse, proper cowboy like, just wandering along like he had nothing to do. It really is a place like mo other and we just loved it here. But our chill out sanctuary was calling and we got a lift back and went walking around the desert where we were staying. The dust is so bad your hands and skin get so dry and itchy with little or mo moisture in the air. The walk was great no one around, no noises, you could see cars in the distance but couldn't hear anything. Plus there was no fear of us getting lost with the massive volcano that we could see from our bed and shower we couldn't go wrong. Made our dinner and headed up to meet with Alain, our french astrologer for the evening. Started with alain's explanation of the stars, the universe and the night sky to the naked eye. What we see by
simply observing the stars above. How the sky changes every four minutes, stars appearing and disappearing as the earth turns. Quiet funny and entertaining but it blows my mind how some stars are 80000 years away. And might not even be there anymore. Then it was outside for more demos and with his magic laser beam pointer we saw all the constellations in the southern hemisphere. Alain tried his best with the aid of his pointer to show us why some of them got their names. But as he said himself it looked like they had too much too smoke that day coz there was no way we could see a man on a horse or a virgin woman holding a vase. And we had had a glass of vino. After some more of the stars according to Alain we went off to the telescopes and he explained what each one pointed too. There were 15 in total and we got to see Saturn and it's rings, the milky way at close range, some clusters that had amazing colours, the closest star to us and the craters of the moon. Alain then took pictures of the moon for us on
our cameras. He even pinpointed the place where Apollo 13 landed. It was unforgettable to see these planets and stars with our own eyes. Amazing experience and definitely gives you a new outlook on the night sky. The telescopes were that powerful it was hard to walk away and go for a hot chocolate at minus 2. But we did and while everyone else piled back on the bus we could keep on looking at the stars. It was a great tour and we enjoyed it even more for staying at the space observatory. Alain really knows his stuff but keeps it witty and informative at the same time. I'd say even if you knew your star stuff you came away with more than you started with, even if it was only that Alain recommends using star gazing to pick up women. Well he is French after all!! Wished we had of stayed longer here but we were off to Arica the next day. Via antofagasta, one more night there and then another delightful night bus. Brilliant.
There are more photos below