Month: April 2016

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Nightsky observer

Enjoying the beauty of the nightsky in the Salt Cordillera in the area of San Pedro de Atacama. The band of the Milky Way stretches from Alpha Centauri (left) to Orion (right), with the Large Magellanic Cloud featuring prominently close to the center (the fuzzy spot below the Milky Way).

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Culinary walking tour

All the other wonderful tours and activities in San Pedro de Atacama notwithstanding, this was the absolute highlight for me. During a leisurely stroll you get to sample the distinct flavors of the region, and learn a lot about Andean history and food culture. Nora, the founder of this new venture, is not only a true foodie but also has a wonderful way of sharing her passion with her guests. If you are planning to visit San Pedro and are ready for a new experience, check out Nora’s site at A Bite of Atacama. And here are some images of the sampled dishes. Lama empanadas with homebrewn rica-rica pale ale.   Chicken saté with chañar sauce and mashed potatoes.   Gnocchi with Guanaco meat and melted goat cheese.  

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Oficina Humberstone

Humberstone was the biggest “nitrate town” in northern Chile, producing salpeter that was used as fertilizer as well as for the production of explosives. Humberstone was deserted in 1960 and has been a ghost town since. In 2005 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today Humberstone is open for tourism and parts of it have been turned into an outdoor museum. Interestingly enough many of the deserted houses are completely empty: All of the interior fittings have been stolen…                    

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Polloquere hot springs

The Polloquere hot springs are located at 4318 meters in the Salar de Surire in northern Chile (Parinacota region). This is a very remote area that can only be reached by offroad vehicles on rather precarious roads (don’t forget to bring extra gas and lots of water). The thermal water is moderately to very hot, and thus perfect to warm up in cold temperatures. During our stay at the hot springs we had a full moon. Although this is not ideal for astro photography, it nevertheless illuminated the landscape nicely and gave the sky an appealing blue tint. Rise of the full moon.   The two brightest stars of the nightsky, Sirius (right) and Canopus (left) are setting.   The Big Dipper, but on its head.   Great campsite with lots of parking available.   Frozen windows in the morning.   Moon setting.   Sun rising.   The moon is setting behing the ridge on the right, while the first rays of the sun illuminate the mountain on the left.   Lovely morning scenery.

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ALMA

I was very lucky and could to join a daytime visit to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA is located at 5000 meters altitude on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama desert. It consists of 66 high-precision radio telescopes, that have a diameter of 12 and 7 meters, and that can be spread over distances of up to 16 kilometers. ALMA is used to study light from some of the coldest objects in the universe, thus providing insights into our cosmic origins. In order to reach the ALMA high site you have to undergo some rigorous medical checks at the OSF (Operations Support Facility) located at 2900 meters and endure a bus ride, which completes the ascend to 5000 meters in 45 minutes.