The skies of central and northern Chile are known around the world for their sharpness and clarity, thanks to the fact that it only rains about 60 nights a year. And given DH's fascination with all things shiny and sparkly, we knew we had to make our way there.
On the way, we stopped in at the coastal city of La Serena (with a claim to fame as a summer beach escape). We didn't have any specific plan and started questioning our decision while checking into our hotel- the proprietor was a grumpy Scottish ex-pat (we think the grumpy part was just part of his shtick) who was not La Serena's best salesman. Since this was the second hotel in a row that we had stayed in which we were the only guests, we put the question to our Scottish host who told us that the tourist season in La Serena was "February". We then asked what the can't-miss-sights of La Serena were and were told that "there weren't any". To some extent he was right- La Serena was another Spanish colonial town with too many food dishes comprised of ham and/or cheese, a number of nice squares and a few churches, but there really wasn't much here to hold our interest so we packed up and headed to the Elqui Valley.
In 1982, scientists measured Earth's magnetic forces for the first time by satellite. The satellites found the Earth’s greatest point of energy (and magnetic centre) is in South America and is in and around Chile’s Elqui Valley.The Elqui Valley sits well out of the way of city lights and maintains a gentle, steady climate with little wind or precipitation. So if stargazing is your thing, it’s one of the best places in the world- numerous international observatories have been constructed in the area. On a moonless night, the starry skies can be seen up to the eighth magnitude with the naked eye. The Milky Way is oh-so-milky and Jupiter makes the brightest show at night. In fact, the galaxy’s viewing is so superb, you simply have to peel your roof off, lay in bed , and stare upward. And that’s exactly what we did at a hotel called Elqui Domos where the rooms are two story, tent-like dome structures – the bed is on the second floor and you can zip the roof off, load the blankets on (it gets cold), and stargaze all night. They even have a mini observatory on site that allows up close views of old, young, and teenage stars- we explored the Milky Way, various constellations, and Jupiter and we were left with a presentation that had us thinking that our entire planet might be a molecule on the whisker of a rat in an alternate universe. If you want to feel similarly insignificant you can watch a YouTube video at this link:
Our daylight adventures had a western flavour. DH (where the 'D’ stands for Deadeye Daisy) wanted to explore the valley on horseback. Looking very much like a Chilean Cowgirl and Cowboy we hooked up with some folks from Milwaukee and with some slightly independent-minded trail horses spent a few hours exploring the spectacular terrain of the valley. DH is temporarily bow-legged but she wants me to download a couple of John Wayne movies so I think she’s only a six-shooter and a black mask away from going Lone Ranger on me.
Stargazing and bronco riding didn’t leave much time for sleep but we had a great time in this high energy zone of the world