Chile, a new continent and our last country together. All getting a bit emotional!!
The border crossing/immigration was very straight forward despite being told the Chileans were difficult. The closest thing to an issue was I left an orange in my rucksack, but the guard just ate it and we waltzed through. Tiff safely got her Marmite and Yorkshire Tea into another country!
San Pedro de Atacama: A heads up, this part of the world in July/August is winter so it’s very cold…but also account for desert storms. As we arrived there was a three day sandstorm which meant no tours were running at all. Frustrating, nobody wants to be stuck in a tourist border town! Luckily the tours are very similar to what we’d seen on our Salt Flats Tour so we weren’t to disheartened. We checked into Hostel Matty for 2 nights, which was comfortable enough but we were always either being blown over by sand and dust or freezing at night. The budget suddenly kicked in so for the first time we actually made our own meals. Not bad going for almost 3months of dining out like princesses!
Fortunately, we ended our stay on a high with a constellation tour (Atacama Cygnus). The three musketeers (Tiff, Andrew and I) got picked up at 8:30pm in a small minibus, which actually didn’t get to its destination! We had to get out and walk about a kilometre along a pitch black dusty road (that bloody sandstorm creating blocks in road!). We arrived at a quaint cottage in the middle of nowhere. In the back garden there were several chairs with blankets in a semicircle around a huge telescope, and a table full of snacks! It was adorable. Not to mention the sky looked spectacular, the milkyway was so clear. We love stargazing!
A brief introduction then we were at the snack table with a glass of red wine to warm ourselves up, accompanied with cheese and salami. We would of had a wee top up of wine if it wasn’t for a rather peculiar Korean man that downed the whole bottle and left nothing for anybody else…. some serious international/cultural barriers there.
It was an amazing evening consisting of various explanations about types of stars and planets and how important astronomy has been for centuries. Very interesting! We all took turns looking at the telescope, we saw Jupiter, Saturn (including its rings!!) and various types of star clusters. There were also many constellations pointed out to us with the guides laser pen: Scorpio, Virgo, Taurus etc. Our constellation Gemini was unfortunately in the Northen Hemisphere, boo! We felt so small and insignificant in this huge magnificent galaxy.
They also outlined the constellation the indigenous Andeans discovered and worshipped….obviously it was the shape of llama!
The Southern Cross also shone brightly and they explained how it’s used to navigate.
As the night went on we were topped up with hot chocolates as the temperature kept on dropping! We couldn’t take our eyes off the stars but were curious as to where the moon was?! We thought once it’s dark and Mr Sun’s gone Mr Moon should be there. We didn’t see it until we were leaving at around 11:30pm. It rose up from behind the mountains and volcanoes as an enormous yellow glow.
To round off the tour they took really cool photos of us with the stars behind. Quite an ask, we had to stay still for 30seconds holding back giggles and shivering uncontrollably. Apologies, we don’t look our best we have an obscene amount of layers on!
The following morning we jumped on a bus to Calama, where we’d catch our flight south to Santiago (Sky Airline). It’s only $3000 Chilean pesos and very easy to book from the bus station.