6th December – 11th December – San Pedro de Atacama

Our lovely hotel in San Pedro – a small town of a few streets in the middle of the desert:smushDSCF1162

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Fairly stylish desert Xmas tree…
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Big Xmas tree in the town square.
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Town square.

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View of the Licancabur volcano from the town square.
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Pretty low-rise San Pedro dust streets

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We took a morning trip to the ALMA base station – the antennae themselves are at 5000m altitude so they don’t take visitors there…

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Sun over ALMA

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UV rating indigo – stay out of the sun!!
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The world needs lerts.
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Where the magic happens…
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Friendly scientist posing for snaps!

By luck there was an antenna ‘in the workshop’ so we got an up-close view of it being put through its paces, spinning etc:

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Hard hat OVER sun hat…

Inspired by our visit and particularly by out guide Les, we decided to take the astronomy tour into the desert that night – obviously no photos, but 10 fixed telescopes of various range (one so large you had to climb a stepladder to peer into it!) gave us views of galaxies, nebulae and other exciting things, all after Les’s excellent ‘introduction to astronomy’ talk. Really great night!

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The comedy loo inside the hut next to the stargazing platform.
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Empanadas, San Pedro stylee.

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We also took a visit out to the salt flats:

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Somewhere in the distance there are flamingoes…

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Floating in Laguna Piedra – saltier and more buoyant than the dead sea, apparently!

Next up – the Ojos de Salar, so named because apparently they look like eyes…

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Some people jumped in, we did not!

The final stop was another salt flat where we watched the sun go down while drinking pisco sours made by our lovely guide.

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