Tag Archives: VLT

Atacama, here we come (-ah)

(sorry, titles are hard sometimes)

Here’s one thing I find to be weird; the Atacama desert (which is huge), stretches all the way down to the coast. How can there be like, the entire Pacific oceans’ worth of water just sitting *there*, and then dry, empty of vegetation, coastal hills right next to it?

We took an exit off route 5 on the way to Antofagasta (chile’s second largest city, population of only 300 000), just to go up to the Observatorio Paranal, which houses the Very Large Telescope. Of course, you can go on a tour if you book like 3 months in advance, and that’s only for saturdays, but we still wanted to stop by and ogle the area. While having a quick lunch in the parking lot, we were approached by a german guy who was curious about our camper and wanted to donate a few beers (it’s actually really cool how many people are waving and giving us thumbs up when we drive Ramone along the road!)

The german had some curious news; it’s been raining dogs and cats in the San Pedro de Atacama area, flooding a lot of the roads and in general, giving astronomers a head ache with the high air humidity. Oookay, that was unexpected; that area is like supposed to be some of the driest in the planet. So, now we have volcano eruptions and flooding where there’s an annual amount of a few millimeters of rain.

We pushed on past Antofagasta, and Calama (trying cheekily to go to the visitors center of the huge open copper mine Chuquicamata (only for official tour buses)), and finally arrived in San Pedro. The plan is to spend the last two weeks of our trip in this area, checking out the altiplano, hiking a volcano or two, and in general enjoy life in low oxygen environments.