Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blue Dawn Geysers to Saturn's Rings Night

What a surreal and beautiful last few days...

I just took a jeep trip from southern Bolivia through the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world. There are islands of cactus in the middle of the salt plains, and frozen colored lakes with pink flamingos. The landscape changes constantly, from puffing volcanoes to jagged rocks to dry rolling hills. Yesterday we set out at 5am, in the dark and cold, arriving at a geyser field just as the sky was turning a lighter blue. It was 4,900 meters, or almost 15,000 feet, the highest I have ever been. Grey mud boiled and lurched under steam in this other-worldly place. Then as the sun was rising, we arrived at hot springs, taking a dip before breakfast.

The jeep left me at the border of Chile, where I took a bus to San Pedro de Atacama. We dropped about 2,000 meters, a welcome relief for my struggling lungs and cold, tired body. I took a nap before heading to a stargazing tour in a private home outside town. An astronomical French/Chilean couple have huge telescopes in their yard and do star talks. I saw the closest star to earth, the spot on the moon of the first landing, nebuli, another galaxy, and the rings of saturn.

The day that started on another planet ended there as well.

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