Jaw-dropping and existential pondering - Chile
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Have you had them? Those moments in life where you look at a pitch-black, but star-filled sky and can’t help slight anxiety creeping up? The thought that we and our earth are such a tiny little particle in a universe within universes. Have you ever been to the desert? Or on a boat in the open sea? Maybe you’ve experienced walking through a large mountain range between snowy peaks? Did you also feel the power of nature overwhelming you, telling you that you’re a part of history, but far less powerful than you thought?
My visit to the Atacama Desert and Patagonia in Chile have imposed this mighty feeling upon me once again.
Torres del Paine - Patagonia
The famous mountain range in the most southern area of Latin America is as impressive as you imagine it to be. It’s landmarked by three separate peaks right in the centre. The most southern peak is the highest, measuring 2881m. Together with the neighbouring Grey Glacier, it’s one of the harshest and most inhospitable places on earth. However, the fauna and flora of the Torres del Paine National Park are abundant. There are flowers and plants with particular shapes and colours as well as specific mammals such as Lamas that call the place their home.
Not too far from the mountain peaks is the Grey Glacier, a vast pack of ice that measured 270 square kilometre in 1996. In 2007 an ice pack the size of three football fields has broken off into the glacial lake. In March this year, two new blocks broke off that last one. Global warming can be seen at best when you’re in the middle of barren nature. I’ve admired the glacier from a boat on the lake. An ice pack coming down at me is something I’m happy not to have experienced.
And... when at a glacier, why not catch some century old ice for your drink, right?
San Pedro de Atacama
From the wet ice packs of Patagonia, up north I went to one of the driest places on earth, the desert of Atacama. After a pitstop in Santiago de Chile and a breathtaking winery called "VIK", I was up for a new brown and yellow colour palette.
Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA)
As if driving through this vast, barren landscape isn’t enough to make you ponder about our existence, I’ve also visited world's largest radio telescope in the world. The high altitude of 4500m and the dryness of the desert give optimum conditions for the 66 antennae to measure the faintest radio waves coming from space. This means that ALMA can spot some of the most distant and ancient galaxies ever seen. It also studies the areas around new stars and planets being formed.
Fun fact, ALMA was constructed in 2013 at a cost of 1,165 billion euro, of which 448 million came from US taxes.
It’s obvious that the Atacama desert is the best spot on earth for stargazing and philosophising about what else is out there. If it doesn’t scare you, I dare you to watch “Interstellar” again tonight and then get outside to look up at the sky and just think.
For more photos about the Atacama desert, visit my Photo Page and the album Stones, Sand & Salt.