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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chile Galactica

After returning from Easter Island we couldn't get into our apartment.

Had our apartment been robbed? Had the giant stone statues cursed us? 

It turns out that our landlady thought that we were skipping out on rent because of a problem with one of our credit cards.  It didn't help that we were completely isolated from civilization while she tried to contact us for four days. She ended up replacing all the locks.  Unable to get in, we dejectedly journeyed through the night our landlady's apartment, where she gave us a new set of keys.  Back again!

Weeks have passed, weeks which I'm sure Patience will do justice in another post.

One day, all of a sudden, Chile galactica began. 

We took a night bus to the misty port city of La Serena.  Aptly named, La Serena is a serene place.  No one was out Saturday morning as we made our way through a desolate South American suburbia to the beach. 

We saw a big cannon and picked up a few rocks. This rock collection was particularly exciting for me. 

We headed to a now lively city center and walked around an artisan market, some churches, and, surprisingly, a Japanese garden.  Japan and La Serena have several corporate partnerships, so Japan donated a garden to the city.  Turns out lots of Asian countries set up shop in Chile, even North Korea!

From La Serena we headed to Vicuña in search of stars.  The desert hills surrounding Vicuña offer some of the clearest skies in the world for stargazing.  Billion dollar telescopes have been built by Europe and the US to advance the knowledge of our universe.  We took a tour to an observatory and it didn't disappoint.  With the Milky Way stretching all the way across the sky and constellations like Scorpio and the Southern Cross easily visible, the night sky was the best I've ever seen.  Through the telescope we saw several star clusters, Mars, the rings of Saturn, and some nebulae.

Earlier that day, we visited an entymological museum (insects) and a giant Pisco plant (Capel).  Pisco is a very popular Chilean brandy made with a special grape native to South America.  Both Chile and Peru claim to be the inventors of Pisco.  Chile even renamed a city "Pisco Elqui" to assert its claim.  We took an on-site tour of the plant and saw lots of fermentation and bottling stations, not to mention fields of Pisco grapes stretching across the desert.  Good times in Norte Chico.

The coming weeks are some of our last.  In preparation for Patagonia we have a lineup of asados and feasts.  I recently discovered a cache of jugglers in Parque Forestal, the huge park that we live by. They made me aware of a 700-person juggling convention this Saturday in another park in Santiago.  Exciting times ahead!

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