Chile 2016 – El Sauce Observatory
The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest places in the world so a mountaintop in the desert is the ideal place to put a telescope.
El Sauce is home to a number of telescopes (with more being added) including Phil’s.
In March 2016 we travelled to El Sauce to set up the ‘scope.
Highways in Chile are very good but once you leave them the going gets slow as you can see from our journey to the top.
Chile 2016 – Golddigger horse trail
The Hacienda Los Andes is on the southern edge of the Atacama desert in Chile in a small town called Hurtado.
The surrounding land is rugged, hilly, dry and dusty.
Horseback is the ideal way to see it, especially on a placid, sure-footed Chilean pony.
Chile 2008 – Highlights
Highlights from a journey to Chile in 2008.
It begins in Santiago with its statues, markets, cable-cars and air pollution then heads north to Coquimbo by the sea with its pelicans.
We stayed in San Pedro de Atacama where we could visit archaeological ruins like Tulor and Quitor, Chaxa lagoon with its flamencos, the deep desert Valley of the Moon and the geysers at El Tatio
Chile 2008 – Santiago
Chile’s capital Santiago lies at the foot of the Andes and is unbelievably polluted. From any height the city is covered by a thick yellow haze.
You can see it clearly from the cable car to the top of San Christobal Hill, then take the funicular back down.
Parks, fountains, fish-markets, stray cats, statues, brass bands and shopping malls.
Santiago has them all as well as pollution.
Chile 2008 – El Tatio
El Tatio in northern Chile is a spectacular sight in the early morning as the sun rises over the mountains and the geysers begin to steam.
The journey from San Pedro deAtacama to El Tatio passes through fascinating scenery.
The wetlands area near Machuca is full of birds. Vicuna and rea search for food in the dry desert plains and the cactus-covered sides and turbulent river of Rio Guatin valley are amazing.
Chile 2008 – La Serena
La Serena is the capital of the Coquimbo region on Chile’s coast.
The city is known for its its colonial and neo-colonial architecture as well as long beaches, like El Faro with its landmark Faro Monumental lighthouse.
The harbour at Coquimbo is a base for the Chilean navy as well as hosting a thriving fishing flotilla and thousands of pelicans.
Local people also harvest seaweed.
Chile 2008 – Elqui
The western end of the Elqui valley is a fertile fruit and vegetable growing area.
Further inland grapes take over the fields and these are the raw material for pisco – Chile’s own version of grape brandy.
A great place to stop for lunch is the women’s solar cooking cooperative at Villaseca.
Gabriela Mistral is Chile’s Nobel prizewinner, for literature, and she is celebrated in her birthplace of Montegrande.
Further east along the valley is Vicuna which is a jumping off place for stargazers – Mamalluca observatory is not too far away up in the mountains.
Chile 2008 – Montes
Life’s too sort to drink bad wine.
So we zero in on our favourite brand, Montes, whenever possible.
We were lucky enough to be able to visit the Montes winery in the Apalta Valley south of Santiago.
This included a tour of the winery, a wine tasting and an al fresco lunch.
Needless to say, we are still big fans of Montes wines.
Chile 2008 – San Pedro de Atacama
Our main port of call on our 2008 visit to Chile was San Pedro de Atacama.
Back then Phil was hoping to put a remotely operated telescope there. That didn’t work out and the scope is now at El Sauce (see video above) but San Pedro is a fascinating place.
The population of the town in 2008 was about 2000 but it must have the world’s highest density of tour agancies.
While there we visited Tulor, an archaeological site consisting of a village complex of round walled houses; Quitor a stone hilltop fortress, pre-Columbian but taken over by the Incas and conquered by the Spanish; Chaxa Lagoon, a national reserve for flamincos; and the Valley of the Moon with its bizarre outcrop known as the “Three Marys”.