I just got back from a wonderful tour of the Southern Skies, some beautiful parts of Chile, and oh yeah, a comet. I thought it would help reinforce my happy memories to blog about my experiences. So I’ll do a separate post for each day I was away.
The tour that I took was done by Bob Berman’s Special Interest Tours/Bob Berman Astronomy Tours company. Based on my experience with them this time around, I highly recommend their tours to anyone who would like some country flavor to go with their astronomical observing. They are friendly, normally organized and quickly improvise when things don’t go according to plan.
So, the start of the tour, November 6 and 7, 2013. I leave my house on November about 5:30 am for a 7:25 flight out of Juneau. After stops in Ketchikan, Seattle, and Dallas Fort Worth, I arrive in Santiago about 10am local time on November 7th. It takes me about two hours to collect my baggage and clear customs in Santiago. I and two other people who wind up being very good traveling companions arrive around the same time and are the last folks to collect in Santiago. Anjali Bermain, Bob Berman’s daughter and a tour coordinator for Special Interest Tours is there to collect us at the airport. Thought the week Anjali will prove herself friendly and extremely client oriented. Anjali also acts as our main translator. I can’t say I interacted with EVERYONE in our tour group of 43, but I’d estimate that about a third of us, including me, had some Spanish. Among us Spanish speakers we ranged from the halting but very good with menus (me) through people who seemed fluent to me. All but three of us would have been lost without Anjali around.
We go to the Hotel Santa Lucia in downtown Santiago to meet the rest of the group, drop our bags and go on an optional walking tour of Santiago. I think about bagging the tour and napping because my sleep apnea kept me from getting much sleep on the Dallas to Santiago leg of my flight, but It seems like a good orientation to the town. We have a native guide and the tour is fun. After the tour I had a chance a chance to do the currency exchange I didn’t get around to before and test my ability to ask for and understand directions when I get lost on the way back to the hotel. My abilities to ask directions are good. My ability to understand directions given in Spanish are middling at best. BUT I did make it back to the hotel for the formal tour orientation at 3:45.
One of the “Wow I had no idea” moments in the walking tour is our guide’s statement that street dogs are treated as common property, sort of like sacred cows in India. This assertion was backed up by the fact that we did not see any underfed dogs in any of the towns we visited.
The orientation was followed by a bus tour of the city. We stopped at a crafts market with outdoor cafe. I hadn’t eaten in the past 12 hours, so I had a greek salad for lunch. This tasted great but might not have been such a good idea. The tour was followed by an AMAZING seafood dinner at the Donde Augusto in the Mercado Central. They stayed open late just for us. There was shrimp, scallops, and several kinds of fish. Everyone had a great time and this is where I began learning what a diverse group we were. There were professors, geologists, medical researchers, retired people of various professions and more. We had people from Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina and of course the United States. Despite my sleep deprivation and jet lag it was a wonderful night of food and conversation. The dinner is where I’m also introduced to the delightful Pisco Sour, which is vaguely like a margarita but great on its own terms. From Santiago through La Serena, it is also prepared several different ways. All are good.
Once we return to the hotel, I go to my nice, clean room and flop into bed. I’m grateful that my CPAP machine and all my other electronic gear only require an adapter plug and not a power converter. It gives me a moment of rare gratitude for global capitalism.
from Tumblr http://alaskanlibrarian.tumblr.com/post/67070560981