“There’s the llama, look!”
Above me were a billion, tiny stars, shining brighter than the sequins of a Las Vegas showgirl, but no llama.
“To the left. Up a bit. Near the Southern Cross.”
Squinting hard and shivering with the cold, I scanned the skies again. Faced with such an all-singing, all-dancing celestial light-show, it seemed ungracious to be focussing on the shadows.
Then I saw it; a black swathe of cloud that looked uncannily like a llama grazing happily among the stars.
Northern Chile, with its clear dark skies is considered to be one of the best places in the world for star-gazing. It’s less well-known for its llamas. But for the indigenous Quechua/Aymara peoples of the high plateaus, the Milky Way is a mirror of life on earth. As there are few sightings of archers or water-carriers in these parts, it’s no surprise that the heavens are a veritable Noah’s Ark of foxes, armadillos and condors.
Once I got used to spotting constellations made of ‘dark stains’, I found it hard to stop. To the horror of my astronomy-loving friend, I pointed out a man riding a turtle and Bob Dylan.
As we walked further away from the lights of Pisco Elqui, I stopped dead. A huge, dark, majestic mass was taking shape in the sky. What was it?
“Is that …is that, the condor?”
There was a long pause as my mental well-being was clearly being brought into question.
“That’s the Andes”.