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Published: August 29th 2006
not quite but it does have the British flag painted on it...
wonderful and odd. Chile compared to Peru and Bolivia is very mod in a way unlike, I don't know, what you might expect in South America. It's very mod in a not good sort of Western way (just an opinion). What I mean is that in the towns - not talking of the tourist places to visit, hike, swim etc - there are malls and lots of fast food and ample options when it comes to variety of food. And after Bolivia it was hugely welcome, big portions of foods, and then we discover Ripley's (department store) food court on the top floor with KFC and other options like Doggies hot dogs! Was good for the moment but after eating fast food for a few days we decided not to eat KFC again.
The main reason to be in Antofagasta was to visit the Very Large Telescope Observatory
! The place was great
! Totally, unreal, in a sci-fi bio-dome kind of way. As you may have seen already The next best place to space
article published by the BBC online magagzine. If you haven't check it out!
We took it pretty easy most of our time in Anto preparing for our scheduled visit to
the VLT, visited a few car rental places and opted to go with the Alamo got a huge 4X4 truck which was a lot of fun to drive - think I just missed driving - it could have been a Yugo and I'd be pleased.
Driving to the VLT was a sight to see the vast desert of Atacama was spectacular. Before setting off we stopped at the petrol station to fill up, Sean bought like a huge three gallon bottle of water! Which isn't actually easy to drink out of sans glasses.... but while driving managed to drink up along our vista stops to the main entrance.
As usual the best combo is me driving and Sean navigating. If you've ever had the pleasure of me as your navigator you'll understand why .-)
Cruising along the Pan-American highway was a perk too. Once we got out of town we got on to the Pan-Am with it's fog or ocean marine layer to accompany us a good bit of the way. Luckily by mid-morning it was clear, sunny and windy.
Eventually all we saw was red desert very otherly world lanscape with small boulders scattered about the
our ride to the Paranal Observatory
As Sean's PA and chaufer for a couple of days I got to drive this big truck
valley floor. While driving and stopping enroute you realize that everything is A LOT further than it may appear. Like Sean wanting to walk to the summit of a close hill - I rightly refused, mainly because it was hot so Sean set off discovering pretty quick into the trek that it was much further than expected.
Needless to say the summit wasn't visible from the valley floor but what a spetacular view was waiting us at the VLT! The telescopes are on a flattened mountain peak four kilometers from the base camp. That too was a bit of a surprise since it looked so much closer.
It's very dry in the Atacama desert so on day two I decided not to wear my contacts because the previous day when I was wearing them my eyes became irritated and sore.
We checked in with our passports, the gaurd joined us to show us where and how to park. As a visitor you have a separate designated lot and everyone parks in reverse facing the out of the slot (in case of emergency evacuation).
The place is very tranquil yet full of vibrant energy. Guess that a
Very Large Telescope
positive side effect of people working in areas they're passionate about. During our visit we watched the Moonrise which was very bright and not so great for star gazing overall. While visiting, Olivier Hainaut astronomer extrodinaire showed us, through his powerful binoculars, an most amazing star cluster! It was breathtakingly beautiful and man who wouldn't be excited to go to work everyday exploring the cosmos... I realize after listening and attempting to understand what's involved in analyzing data they work very hard to obtain information - in the end - for us.
Made me wish I studied a bit more when I was a child as I might know a bit about the stars. The Southern Cross was really nice as was the milkyway but like I said earlier the Moon was very bright so not neccesarily optimum for viewing the sky. But, I loved every moment of it. Super cool.
Post visiting the Paranal site, we returned the truck, booked into another hotel and spent the remaining days working me mostly on my blog, Sean getting the article completed for his deadline. Oh yeah once we checked into the hotel Sean went into the bathroom and shaved
recognize the logo???
give up? Or did you see it immediately, hmm, think HARD ROCK CAFE!
off his beard as promised due to our certain arrival in Argentina within the next fourteen days - give or take a couple.
After a weeks stay in Antofagasta it was time to push South so we took our time and visited two tiny towns called Caldera and Copiapo.
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