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November 06, 2004

Last Northern Chile Update

From Antofagasta, I arrived in La Serena late on Saturday night after a 12-hour bus ride that was fairly painless except for some of the terrible movies they played--one starring The Rock called Welcome to the Jungle, and another based on a Michael Crichton novel called Timeline. But they also played Training Day, which I hadn't seen, and that one was pretty good. Of course I watched them all, though!

I couldn't do much on Sunday because it was Chilean election day, but I did manage to go to the beach with an English girl from my hostel. It was nice, but not a remarkably pretty beach I thought.

Monday, I took a tour to Valle del Elqui, where I visited a papaya farm (there's a different kind of papaya here, with a very pulpy yellowish flesh that can't be eaten raw--they make it into juice, candy, marmelade, and ice cream); two places where they make pisco (a liquor made with grapes that's popular in Chile and Peru); and a few small towns. I definitely saw more in one day than I would have on my own, but I felt very uncomfortable being part of a large group when we were in the small towns--15 of us unloading from the bus, traipsing across the plaza to the museum, then back on the bus... I think I will try to save tours for more remote locations or activities I can't do on my own. In the Salar, for example, it wasn't a big deal, because there's no other way to do it, and everyone is on a tour.

That night, I went to the Mamalluca Observatory--and Jan and Pete from my Salar group were there! There are several observatories in this area because they get something like 360 clear nights a year, but this is the only observatory where the public can look through the telescopes. It was a really cool experience. We could see the Magellan Clouds (the nearest galaxies outside the Milky Way) with the naked eye, as well as the Milky Way and constellations I hadn't seen before like Scorpio and the Austral Crown. Through the telescopes, we could see the Andromeda Galaxy and a ton of nebulas (nebuli?) with names like Lagoon, Omega, Tarantula, and Butterfly. We had to wait a while between turns at the telescopes, but that didn't matter--while we waited, all heads were turned skyward, searching for shooting stars and just taking in the sheer number of stars.

As we were leaving, Orion was just coming up on the horizon--upside down!--reminding me how close and yet so far from home I am. And the many galaxies we saw certainly served as a reminder of just how small this Earth of ours really is in the big picture.

My last day in La Serena was for Internet, shopping, taking some pictures in town, and feeling on edge about the election. The next day I was on a bus to Valparaiso (8 hours), and didn't learn until I arrived that my bad feelings about the election were well-founded. I've talked to so many other travelers and South Americans about the election, both before and after, and it's almost embarrassing. They can't imagine how Bush managed to get re-elected, especially when virtually every American they've met is against Bush. They wonder, as do I, how can so many Americans disagree with what's happening, and it's still not enough? It's just painful to talk about, but I can take small comfort, I suppose, in the fact that every person I talk to is one more person outside the US who knows how the "rest of us" Americans feel.

Posted by Amy on November 6, 2004 05:45 PM
Category: Chile

About the Bush thing. . .

We enlightened people travel. That helps us to get enlightened, I think. So it makes sense that the locals meet so many Americans who agree with them about Bush. It's those red states that got Bush into office. I wonder how often most travel outside the Midwest? :) Keep up the good work telling people how the "rest of us" feel Amy.

Posted by: amber p on November 12, 2004 03:13 PM


I'm just now able to catch up on your entries, and I'm loving them. I've had the same experience here--based on people traveling through Mexico, one would think that the entire US despises Bush. The fact that he is still the president is not quite as scary as the fact that so many Americans WANT him to be president. Who ARE these people???

OK, on to your next entry--

Posted by: Jessica on November 20, 2004 10:03 AM
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