Thursday, 20 February 2014

Star Gazing in the desert

After the chilly heights of Bogota we swapped to the Tatacoa desert with temps of 40* plus. The main draw for this place is the star gazing if the sky is clear so somewhat dumbstruck by our accommodation (and ours was comparatively nice) we sat in the middle of nowhere, watching nothing, and waited for nightfall. 

At 7 pm we walked up the dusty track to the Observatory and waited for SeƱor Astronomer (really) to arrive.  He did soon after but apologised for being unprepared. He then disappeared for 30 seconds only to reappear 'ready' for which we could only read replete with badge-filled Gillet to house his pens, notes and gadgets - the best of which has to be the high powered laser pointer that seems to reach space, it could probably burn someone's eyes out, but my view is you can definitely trust a small studious man in a Gillet not to attack you with a laser.  

He had several telescopes set up for the likes of Jupiter and the cluster that inspired the Subaru symbol... But by far the best was a hugely detailed look at the moon, which he kindly captured on the stream of cameras we all passed to him. 

After 2 hours of neck hurt we returned very happy to our tin hut in the middle of nothing. Gayle slept like a baby while I was woken up by the sensation of something crawling over my legs.  I'll never know if it was the sizeable crickets, spiders or lizards that I saw in there, probably best I reckon. 

Our daytime sights were a few odd landscape shapes left from when the area was a river bed and a 'natural pool'. The water was natural - but the pool was a concrete bath 3x5m, no idea what the point was there - we kind of sat in it watching the guys 'managing' the pool stare at us while we stared at them.  Odd.  Definitely time to find some more cramped bus seats to carry us to San Augustine....

San Augustine.  Home of very old tombs and monuments of people with their animal spirits. Potentially interesting but we were a tad bored.  Perhaps we've reached our limit of old stones now so bypassing our hosts offer of a 'secret trip' to a real live coke farm (a snip at $250!?) we packed for the final small-seat-defeaning-music journey across Columbia. 

The only dodgy bits of Columbia these days are around the borders so with a land crossing ahead of us we set out early to ensure we were off the mountain passes (still known guerrilla territory) by nightfall. 20 hours later we'd twisted and turned through some terrifying dust tracks  on very high drops,  got through border control (we were told to expect 2hours and thorough searches - we got there one hour before they shut and with a cursory sniff from an old dog, were waved through in 15 mins), and had got a final bus to Quito, Ecuador.   When we got to our dorm beds at 2.30 am the thought struck that it was Valentines day.  Romantic to a fault. 

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