February 28, 2009

Chile Atacama Valley of the Moon

Our local guide Oscar led us on an excursion to the Valley of the Moon. Our first stop was a look-out over the Valley. So glad we didn't have to ride up on bicycle!

Chile has 150 active volcanoes, 10% of the world’s active volcanoes. We walked over dove gray volcanic ash trails while Oscar carefully described some of the history of political conflict between Chile and its neighbors Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina. Past Chilean regimes put protective land mines along the border. After a few earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods, no one can be completely sure where these land mines now lay. Thus, some of the mountains along the border can only be safely climbed from the Bolivian side.
Near sunset, we clambered up a steep sand dune. I hiked along an undulating ridge while Teresa climbed up to the highest viewing point. As with many of the natural sights we were to see throughout Chile, it was difficult to describe and difficult to capture in photos. Sometimes, you just have to go and see the 360 degree vistas for yourself!

Chile Atacama San Pedro de Atacama

The Atacama Desert (70,000 square miles) is the driest desert on earth. When Nicola spouted this "fact", I had my doubts. When it started "raining" (a few drops), I said a bit sarcastically "What, raining in the driest place on earth?" But when I got back and checked on wikipedia, it stated that several reliable sources claim this to be true. The Atacama desert is 50 times drier than Death Valley and there are sections of soil that contain NO microbial life.
Nicola led us on a quick orientation of the sleepy village of San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis in the Atacama Desert and jumping off spot for tourist activities. Our local guide was Oscar of Cosmos Aninos Expediciones. Instead of ocean surfing, sand surfing is a popular sport.

We passed by a quaint Spanish church before setting off for lunch in a fun local restaurant.
We had a few hours for a siesta before setting off for our late afternoon excursion to the Valley of the Moon.

February 04, 2009

KCWC John Simpson

Mahin and I took advantage of the opportunity to get our photo taken with John Simpson, BBC News World Affairs Editor, when he spoke at the KCWC General Meeting. He amused us with tales of his latest outings with fellow adventurers Sir Ranulph Fiennes (after whom his son Rafe is named) and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston -- essentially a challenge as to who can out-terrify the others. Simpson has interviewed many world leaders and reported from 30 war zones. One insight he tried to convey was that although the famous leaders he has met may exhibit strange behaviours, few are "all that special". He seems also to have lost much of his enthusiasm for war reporting since the birth of his son.

February 02, 2009

London Blizzard of 2009

London ground to a halt during the biggest snowstorm in 18 years -- as much as 8 inches blanketed Kew!
Banjo LOVED the snow - people were laughing at how the snow accumulated around his front legs like white athletic socks. We loved the initial peacefullness on the Thames Path (before throngs of children came out to build snowmen and slide down the banks on our green - but that was fun too).