Waking up today was very different to anywhere else I had ever awoken. For a start, my mouth, nose and skin were completely dry due to the altitude, and I could barely talk until I took some water! But the main difference was waking up during the night in complete darkness. Due to the observatory’s strict light pollution policies, there is not a photon of light coming in from the window or under the door as is typical in a normal bedroom, and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between opening my eyes and closing them! It was quite surreal.
Anyway, after waking up in this strange but wonderful place, we all met downstairs for a sumptuous breakfast before taking an unusual break before departing. This was because we had a large amount of work to do which we weren’t able to do the night before due to the night’s activities, and the Internet here was excellent, so we spent an hour in silent concentration until it was time to pack the van and push off.
Leaving Paranal one got the strong feeling that you were leaving behind a small oasis of the future, and that the road down the mountain was literally bringing us back down to reality! However, as always we were excited to be back on the road and we had a 410km leg to take us into Copiapó, a mining town with a population of around 150,000.
The drive went very smoothly for the entire duration, and we were treated to some truly beautiful vistas. Aside from stopping for lunch, where people in the small seaside town had already heard about the SRZero amazingly enough, we drove nonstop. The only surprise of the whole day was when driving through Copiapó trying to find the hotel, we came across the capsule in which the Chilean miners were rescued in earlier this month! We ended up returning to the main square to see this in closer detail later on, but for now we needed to get to the hotel.
The hotel was pretty dingy, and despite them agreeing by phone to let us charge up, they still made a hassle about it. But finally we managed to convince them that it doesn’t use much electricity and that it’s not dangerous; these were among the hardest people we have come across to explain that this technology is safe! However, we soon had the car charging, our rooms sorted, and we could head off to dinner. Surprisingly, there was an abundance of Bavarian restaurants in this city! We ate in one of them and the food was pretty good, but this was the extent to which we explored the city for we had another early morning to get up for, so no late nights for us!
Not the most exciting of days all in all, but it was a successful day bringing us that much closer to Ushuaia!