Chile, January 2017

Landscape and people Landscape and people

Rockhopper Penguins



Pisco Elqui
In January 2017 - in a trip that also brought us to the Falkland islands - we visited Chile. We spent most of our time in the Atacama desert area, the highest and driest desert on earth, making daytrips from San Pedro de Atacama (see a 360 pano of our lodge here). Despite the dryness and the altitude - a guide drove us up to nearly 5000 meters - there is water and there are birds. Small, shallow salt lakes provide a habitat for well-adjusted shrimp, which in turn attract flamingos and some other birds including stilts. Also, lamas and alpacas roam the desert and seem to be able to find food where we couldn't see anything that looked remotely edible.
The Atacama has been inhabited since at least 500 AD. At the start of the 15th century, the Atacameños were conquered by the Incas and brought under Spanish control in 1556. In 1824, the region became part of Bolivia and in 1883 fell into Chilean hands. In 2007, the Atacameño population was estimated at 21,015 people (Wikipedia). Many of the historic villages still exist today with the same old names, including friendly little Toconao or - the more recent artists village of .
The Atacameños protected their villages with strong stone walls - we visited an active excavation site.
Not far from San Pedro are areas offering spectacular scenery, most notably Death Valley and Moon Valley. We visted the latter early in the morning for a chance of some good light and clear views - and with Renee posing in the middle of the road to help give a sense of perspective.
Because of the altitude and the clear skies, Chile - and particularly the Atacame area - has become and international center for astronomy. We did not visit the Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), but we did have a chance to see some clear night skies, also on our trip to the Pisco Elqui valley, which also hosts a number of observatories. We stayed at the Elqui Domos hotel in one of their "domes", which are "geodesic structures made of a metal frame covered by a PVC tent. Outside there is a deck and inside there is a living room and a bathroom on the first level and a double bed on the second level. The roof of the tent over the double bed can be opened to see the sky." A fish-eye pic taken through the roof our dome - albeit in daylight - is included here. Panos inside and outside can be seen here and here.
Our trip started and ended in Santiago, where we visited the spectacular San Cristobal Hill, overlooking the city. A 360 pano from the hill can be seen here.
Flying in and out of chile, we took a few pics of the Andes range (here).

Landscape and people