We spent the time between the years with another trip to the Atacama Desert, this time visiting ESO‘s La Silla, Paranal, and APEX Observatories. In-between we enjoyed whale watching from Chañaral de Aceituno and the Laguna Santa Rosa, the Salar de Maricunga, the Laguna del Negro Francisco, and the Laguna Verde all in or close to the Nevado Tres Cruces National Park near Copiapó. From Paranal Observatory to APEX Observatory we took together with our friends visiting from Germany, Birgit and Michael, a route passing through the Escondida Mine, the Salar de Imilac, the Monturaqui Crater and along the Salar de Atacama to San Pedro de Atacama. After an early morning visit to the APEX telescope at 5100m and to the old sulphur mine below Cerro Toco at 5465m – from where our traditional Happy New Year picture was taken – we explored in the afternoon the colourful Laguna Lejía following a wash board road around the always smoking Láscar Volcano. The well-known nearby Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques were unfortunately already “closed” by the park administration when we arrived at 6:30pm in the most beautiful evening light. We continued our trip with a morning visit to the beautiful Arcoiris (“Rainbow”) Valley near San Pedro and then with a long drive to Pica. From there we visited the nearby dunes and the Salar de Huasco where we encountered an amazing number of suris or puna rheas. After we escaped a heavy thunderstorm at Salar de Coposa we spent the afternoon visiting the Humberstone and Santa Laura historical saltpeter towns. On the next day we began our return trip to Santiago with a visit to the impressive Geoglifos de Pintados and continued south along the coast on Ruta 1 to reach the Pan de Azúcar National Park in the evening for a camping night with a self-made pasta dinner and the noise of the pacific waves. After two weeks we returned to Santiago with 6300 additional kilometres on the counter.
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