Do you ever get that feeling you’ve made a terrible mistake?

Last week I was talking about my time in Valparaiso, Chile, and while the city has its challenges, it was gorgeous.  I seriously could have spent an entire week there, just on the back porch of the little bed and breakfast I had found.  It was amazing.  BUT, I had another idea rolling around in my head and I just had to make a run of it.  Truth be told, I timed my visit to Chile this past year to coincide with the solar eclipse that took place there.  The eclipse we saw here in the US was so interesting, I just wanted to see another one!  However, after I started digging, the cost of seeing the eclipse was going to run me well over $1000 – for a little over 3 minutes of eclipse time.  For some people it’s worth it, and frankly for me it was worth it, but with everything else we have going on, I just couldn’t justify it.  Missing the eclipse was a definite disappointment, but I was also looking forward to seeing the southern sky at night more.  In fact, I bailed on chasing the night sky while in South Africa more because I knew I had this trip to Chile coming up… and really, the thought of missing the eclipse AND missing the night sky was a major downer.  So… I pulled up all my maps of dark skies and looked around in Chile… found a hotel in close proximity to what looked like would be nice skies… and booked it.

The town I stumbled up in my searching was called San Fernando, Chile and is about two hours south of Santiago, making it about 3.5 hours from where I was in Valparaiso.  No biggie. I hoped on the Panamerican Highway (bucket list achievement) and away I went.  As I drove, the skies went from crystal clear… to SUPER cloudy.  By the time I got to my hotel, it looked like it would thunderstorm at any moment.  Not conducive to seeing the night sky, obviously.  Well, I walk in my hotel and get checked in… which was entertaining because the woman there didn’t speak a lick of English, and my rudimentary Spanish was no help (Yay Google Translate!), and I get the sense that I’m the only person there.  Like literally me, and the lady at the front desk are seemingly the only people in the entire hotel.  Strange.  Oh… and it has the feel of a college dormitory.  So, I’d left behind this beautiful spot with gorgeous views and traded them for a crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere Chile, in hopes I’d see a beautiful sky… all while it looked like it could start raining at any moment.  Sweet.

Well, I figured out how to turn on the heat in the my room (it was FREEZING) and checked my weather apps again, which all said the clouds would clear, and I decided I was going to give it a go.  So I hoped in the car and just put a pin on the map to where it looked like I’d be well inside the dark skies, and most importantly, looking towards completely dark skies, and I started driving.  The road turned into a gravel road… which turned into a not-so-great gravel road… BUT the skies started clearing!  I drove and drove until I started to worry that my little car might get stuck and then I’d never be heard from again.  As I crested this hill I saw a pull off that looked like I could easily park and get turned around, so I called it quits.  I was well in the dark sky zone, and there wasn’t a town on the map for MILES.

As I waited for night to fall, the skies cleared up completely, and the air of the Andes Mountains was dry and cold, just what I was hoping for!  I setup my gear as soon as the sky was black and I had a look around.  It was INCREDIBLE. Earlier this year I had witnessed some of the darkest skies in the United States, under optimal conditions, and it honestly couldn’t hold a candle to how beautiful this was.  Honestly I was hoping for something more interesting for the foreground of my image… but once I saw the sky I conceded that it was the true star of the show anyway (no pun intended), so snow capped mountains in the Andes would have to do. 🙂

After I got my pictures I returned to the hotel, and seemingly as quick as the skies cleared, the clouded over again.  I was lucky.  Also, it turned out I was not the only person in the hotel… there was one other person staying there, who I ran into at breakfast the next morning.  Yes, it was creepy.

Next week I’m starting my fall colors series from this year, and I’m totally excited.  See you then!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
San Fernando, Chile
I-475, San Fernando, Región del Libertador Gral. Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile

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