Cloud-spotting in Chile

photo by makelessnoise

photo by makelessnoise

“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?”

“Urm, no”.

There was a long pause as my mental well-being was clearly being brought into question.

“That’s the Andes”.

http://www.gowander.com

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Filed under astronomy, blog, chile, Travel articles

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