Out in the desert

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Where I stayed
Residencial Vilacoyo

Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, November 15, 2012

We met a really nice French guy, Erwin on the bus to San Pedro and ended up sharing a dorm with him. We hadn`t planned on staying in San Pedro for too long as all 3 of us wanted to do a 4x4 jeep tour from here to Uyuni in Bolivia. Unfortunately, due to a dispute close to the Bolivian border, all such tours were cancelled. Myself and Eoin will continue on to a different border crossing in Bolivia and will instead do the tour from Uyuni. With extra days in San Pedro, we decided to do a few tours. Really glad we did as the place has so much to offer. Day 1, we rented bikes and cycled to Villa De Luna which is out in the desert. Here, we visited caves, salt mines and saw Los 3 Marias (Ancient standing stones). It was a great day but 2 Irish people on bikes in the desert for 6 hours is not a good combination. No ammount of sun screen could have saved us (We`re healed now though). That night, we made dinner and went for a few drinks with Erwin and a Chilean guy we met in the hostel named Diego. We had great craic. Eoin tasted the local drink which was a mixture of beer, wine, vodka and ice cream. The next day, we walked around San Pedro, caught up on e-mails, wrote post cards and watched the Premiership games in a local bar. We found out at 8 o clock that our tour to Bolivia was cancelled so myself and Eoin decided to go on an Astronomy Tour. It was brilliant! One of my highlights of South America. Tours are done here as Atacama is the driest desert in the world with only a few nights cloud coverage in the whole year. There is currently a project being developed in the desert which will create the worlds biggest telescope. The guide told us that it is the 2nd biggest scientific project in the world just behind the CERN Development in Switzerland. The tour guide was a Canadian astronomer. The first hour of our tour basically involved looking at the sky through the eyes of a native thousands of years ago. The astronomer pointed out the zodiac, planets, stars and overwhelmed us with all his knowledge. The second hour of the tour involved us looking through telescopes. This was amasing! The telescopes were huge. We saw Jupiter (and its surrounding moons), Earths Moon (unbelievable), Sirius (The brightest star in the sky. It looked like a diamond made up of several flashing colours), the sword of Ryans belt, Beetlejuice (A star which is 1,800 times the size of our Sun. This was like flashing red lights in a circle), the Turantula Galaxy, a part of the sky where stars are formed and also from the largest telescope we saw a massive cluster of stars (unreal). The third part of tour was a question and answers segment with the astronomer. It was in a really cute room with a hole in the roof to see the night sky. We got hot chocolate and tea while listening to the astronomer. He said alot of rich people send their telescopes here to be monitored by the astronomers. The owners can then pick up the images online. He told us about Google Sky (like Google Earth. Everyone should take a look at this). He also spoke about the Big Bang Theory and his opinion on how the world is going to end. We could have stayed there all night! The next day, we decided to go sandboarding in Death Valley. This was great craic. Not as hard or as dangerous as snowboarding so we`re told. The sand dunes were massive so it took us awhile to get the hang of it. Each time, you got to the bottom you had to walk back up the dune again. In the heat, this was torturous enough. That said, it was a very enjoyable experience. After we went back to Villa De Luna with the tour group to see the sunset at the Amphitheatre. So beautiful especially when we were drinking pisco sours (a local alcoholic drink). Day 4, we`re here writing this before we get our bus a little bit up North. We have to go here to cross the border to Bolivia in the morning.
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