24.01.2010 - 24.01.2010 25 °C
We need to catch up on some former dates, but since I have internet here at Alta Atacama, thought we would take a few moments to comment on this place. Flying into Calama yesterday afternoon reminded us of the James Bond movies when you get dropped off in the middle of the desert to perish. We had no clue where we were and just hoped that our hotel knew to pick us up. And yep they did. Once we got into the small terminal there was a check in desk for Alto Atacama and our name was on a sign with a driver waiting for us. We had a 1 hour drive to our hotel and what a drive. The first 20 minutes was like being on the moon with no vegetation or hills - just a landfill site that we drove through. Then we made a turn and headed into this spectacular valley. Words cannot describe this other than take Drumheller-Sedonna-Moab-Grand Canyon and mix them together and voila -Atacama Desert.
Our accommodations are quite simple (just kidding). This facility can hold a maximum of 80 guests and there are currently 25 of us here. Each room has their own private patio overlooking the hills. There are several splash pools and a fabulous spa (yep we will be partaking in this). We have three meals served to us a day - all beverages are included except premium wines. We wonder if they have enough rum for the next 3 days. Each day you meet with the excursion captains and the group decides which tours to take everyday. The tours are conducted in great Ford vans fully air conditioned and loaded with water, soft drinks, beer, nuts, chocolate bars to get you through your excursion.
We took a quick tour of the facility and met with the excursion team and confirmed star gazing at 22:30. So had some dinner and unpacked. Walked up to this great observation platform that had lounge chairs. You laid back in a lounge chair and spun it to whatever direction you wanted and watched the stars. We were lucky to see stars as we are about 5 days before a full moon. Then the telescope was opened and what a view we got of the moon, mars, orions belt, and southern cross. I have never seen stars that close before, nor seen them twinkle so bright. This is truly the best place to see stars in the world. Absolutely amazing.
Up early today and off to our first official excursion (medium intensity). All excursion are based on days of acclimatisation. Even though we are at 2500m (top of lake louise), we could still feel some altitude adjustments last night. as we have been travelling closer to sea level for the past month, we needed to acclimitize ourselves again.
So this morning was a light tour. We went to the Hierbas Buenas area where we enjoyed petroglyphs from over 2,000 years ago (llamas, fox, snake, flamingos). We walked amongst these rocks and then headed to a Rio Grande, on of the oldest settlements in the area dn still a working agricultural town. Our guides family comes from this village. We fed llamas and took photos of a small village church. then we walked along another spectacular formation area called rainbow valley because of all the colours.
Once again, the camera just does not do these photos justice. We will try later tonight to download some photos.
For anyone who has an appreciation for geology and likes the badlands, this is a MUST destination. Darwin is like a little kid with all the formations and talking to our guide. As usual, they like hearing the name Darwin but love it when he actually answers their geology questions.
Off to our 4-course lunch and a nap before we head to a sunset excursion in moon valley tonight.
Life is GOOD.