There's a sort of mania that grips the last night on the mountain. You know you can't put off until tomorrow that peachy-sounding target you've been tempted by for no good reason. Thus it was that I was running NS slits across N206 practically until sun-up. Then the mania of tape-writing began in earnest. I brought six tapes with me at 14GB each. This was such tremendous overkill concidering each image, even reduced, was 10 meg. 175 images * 10 meg each = something less than 2GB. I wrote a tepe each for the raw and processed files if nothing else to not mix up the file names.
Sleep was very hard to avoid. Since I almost missed the carryall last time, I wanted to stay up and take care of things. A hike along the rim of the northern drop-off in the early morning revealed a multitude of birds and flowers. Sitting on a rocky ledge below the old, abuandoned hut--Blair Witch Observatory?--I spotted three viscatchas down on the rocks below and finally got a good look at them. Even several minutes of mutual observation didn't change my opinion that they're really strange creatures.
Bummed around for a while at the 4m poiking into rooms I'd never been in before. I even managed to get into the central core which really seemed like something ina first-person video game. Fascinating and spooky all at once.
But sleep could not be completely avoided and I found myself at 11 am with nothing to do. Some sleep ensued and I felt that horrible just-woke-up-from-REM-sleep feeling about an hour later. Lunch and carryall and down the mountain we bounced at great speed.
I mooned about the Recinto for a while and ran into Arlo Landolt who invited me out with a group of folks for dinner. This was very welcome. More mooning about desperately avoiding sleep.
At the appointed hour I wandered over and found that the group of folks was Kim Venn of MacAllister college in MN and her formerly-undergrad student Allison. They were headed up the mountain for four nights of Magellanic Bridge work on the 4m. We also had Steph Wachter and Don Hoarde, CTIO staff people and the very tall Jim (Hughes?). Dinner was sought at a non-Chilean place-Pizza Mania (emphasis on the second syllable) where good conversation and food was had. I hadn't realized how desperately I needed a Pisco sour! At last, home, bed and 12 solid hours of sleep!
But a walk north revealed a very large, very dead seal or sea lion washed up on shore. Probably 8' long. Further walking found the Elqui river. Now I'm lying amidst Americans near el Faro surrounded by a group of typically teenage Chillean girls. Perhaps it's time to wander on...
El Faro all decked out for Christmas. What you can't see here is that the garland is decorated with enormous wooden watermellon slices and strawberries.
The Max Planck Institute for Adult Education. And here I thought it was in Germany...
The airport. Not a terribly busy place.
Dinner was prepared and I collapsed in front of the TV to watch, among other things Retro Top, an 80's MTV type program. "Shout! Shout! Let it all out!" Now it's raining very slightly and I'm waiting for Tito. I really hope Amy's flight went (is going?) well. Travelling by oneself is less stressful, but also much less rewarding...
The view from Mark's appartment during the morning.
...and here is the same view in the afternoon!
Amy catches up on her journal in one of the parks. Meanwhile, hoards of Chilean high-school kids dumped each other in a puddle of mud.
Things went pretty well all told in the last 24 horas. Tito dropped me off after a fascinating discussion regarding water-borne diseases and ways of using cacti to purify and flavor drinking water. I hung around the sleepy La Serena airodrome and watched the guards chase the stray dogs off the runway so the (out-of-place-looking) Lan Chile jet could land. Amy was waiting for me when I debarked and it all came as a bit of a shock. Mixing worlds and all.
We babbled at each other for a while and found a cabby (Robertito) who ferried us to the San Pablo Metro station for the exhorbitant sum of $7000. There-after a number of Adventuras en Espanol ensued and we zipped through the very modern Metro toward Tobalaba and Casa Mark. Heavily laden and sweltering, we wandered the streets and found, at length, 3069 Callao and Mark. He let us in and apologetically went back to work.
We relaxed a bit and then spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly around the Las Condes and Valencia neighborhoods getting footweary, sunburnt and very tired. My general impression of Sgto is that it's pretty much like any other National City in the world. Not terribly foriegn nor interesting. Looks and feels a bit like Atlanta, except for the Spanish part.
At 8:30 we were to meet Mark and some other ESO folks for dinner. We hung about the Banquedano metro stop for a while and got into quite a conversation with a travelling Cubano named Hector Serey who spoke about as much English as I speak Spanish. Amy, however, held forth most impressively as we discussed all sorts of topics. Quite a friendly fellow. First class. We exchanged cards and he said aside to me, "She is your girlfriend? You hold onto her. Veeery beautiful!" Hah!
Mark arrived and by 9 we were attempting to order various food at Simon Rest. Various calamities occurred; they were out of what we came for and our replacement dishes were cold. Also present were Ariene, Mark's French S.O., and two other French ESO folks: Nicole and Anne. Eventually it was home and bed.
Snappily dressed palace guards at La Moneda
Another scene in the Presidential Palace.
Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere
A very interesting statue in the Plaza de Armas
Santiago, old and new.
Mr. and Mrs. Pedro de Valdivia. Pedro was not a nice dude. The things he did to the natives were really apalling. Rumor has it he was killed by having molten gold poured down his throat. That's karma for you!
Continued to the Plaza del Armas which is much larger and more paved than its La Serena counterpart. Looked in on Santo Domingo church which was no biggie and headed, by tube, back to the area we had dinner last night. For $1000, you can ride up this large funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal where there is a great view and a breat big statue of the Madona. Huge, wax covered racks of burnt-out candles mark the offeratory location and brings home the Catholic nature of this country. Now we're resting los peds on a peaceful bench near the Saint Christopher chapel and will soon head back to base camp.