Much can happen in a week! David is no longer working on the La Serena project. We flew to Santiago, Saturday, August 30, so David could meet with upper management in the AMEC office here. The reason for David being taken off the project was purely office politics and certainly no reflection on David’s work ability. The client’s representative was truly sorry to see David go and wrote an wonderful letter to David. He said that since David had arrived production had increased and he had seen a great improvement on the project.
David was disappointed as he loved this project. He enjoyed the challenges of building a pipeline through such rugged mountain terrain and was looking forward to building the pier in Coquimbo. As for me, I am disappointed for David. He really got the raw end of the deal in all of this. It is just the inconvenience of having to pack up and vacate after just being settled for less than a week!!
We did enjoy our apartment for the little while we were there together. I enjoyed sitting and reading on the balcony in the afternoons. The beach, waves and sunsets were amazing. However, we are also grateful that we are out of the apartment. We had learned that the beach turns into “Daytona Spring Break” for the months of January and February. Our condo complex had many rental units for specifically the purpose of renting to the vacationers. We feel it would have been a nightmare trying to live there during that time.
Although we weren’t there very long, we did do some exploring. East of La Serena is the Elqui Valley, which is known for the various fruits and vegetables grown in that region. David and I rode through this valley in a collectivo, which is a taxi that one shares with other people going to the same destination. For us, that was the village of Vicuna.
It cost approximately $3.40 per person for the hour ride. It was beautiful. We passed fields of vegetable gardens, papaya and citrus groves and several vineyards with the snow-capped Andes in the background. About midway, we passed a 240 ft dam that was constructed in 1996 and opened in 1999. In the process of building the dam and reservoir, five villages had to be relocated to higher grounds. Again, it was a beautiful sight. The blue water surrounded by the lush, green vegetation and snow-capped mountains.
At one point on our journey, we came to a complete stop in the road to allow a herd of sheep, being guided by men on horses, to another pasture. This isn’t your typical everyday event in the states!
Vicuna is a small village of about 13,000 people. We made our way to the town center park or Plaza de Armas. It was a busy place full of families enjoying a nice sunny day. We walked around the plaza looking at a couple of artisan malls and other shops. In one corner of the square, was the Torre Bauer. It is a medieval castle style tower made of wood. It was built in 1905by the former mayor Algonso Bauer, who had German ancestry. Today it is the tourist information office, I am not certain what its original purpose was when it was built.
On the next corner from the Bauer Tower is the Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepcion. This was built in 1909 and has a distinct wooden tower. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the inside, as the church was closed.
Vicuna also boast of a Municipal Theater that is done in art deco style. On a night trip to Vicuna, we saw part of a performance of traditional dance in it. The theater was packed, standing room only, so didn’t see much of the performance or theater.
The night trip to Vicuna was to visit the Mamalluca Observatory. There are several international research observatories in this area due to the clear skies this area has to offer. The research facilities only offer tours during the day; however, Mamalluca Observatory was built specifically for tourist to be able to observe the night skies.
The tours are given by volunteers. It was wonderful. We got to see the planet Jupiter with 3 of its several moons. I would have loved to see more planets, but I guess winter isn’t the best time to observe the planets. However, the night before, as David and I were enjoying the sunset from our balcony, we noticed two “stars” in the west right after the sun went down. We learned on our tour that those “stars” were actually Venus and Mars.
We learned and saw the different star clusters. The global clusters have more stars in them and form a tight, ball of stars. The open clusters are newer stars and not as close together.
We were also shown constellations in the sky. We saw the Southern Cross, the Scorpion, a Crown…oh yes, we saw the Milky Way Galaxy…very cool! Also, pointed out were the Inca constellations that resembled the Nasca Lines…for example, the Llama (which was my favorite and was outlined in a black cluster), the monkey and a women’s body. Sometimes, ones imagination was really put to the test to see some of these forms!!
In the brief talk they gave, they discussed some of the other research observatories in the area. The names for these places are very scientific. For example, one is called VLT (Very Large Telescope). Another that is in the planning stage by the European Union is being called the Owl Telescope. This stands for “overwhelmingly large” telescope. David and I just found it comical that the names did not have a more scientific origin.
Another day trip was to visit the village of Andocollo and see the pipeline that David was building. Andocollo’s claim to fame are the gold and copper mines in the region and the Basilica in the town’s center. On December 26, more than 100,000 pilgrims besiege this little town. Many of these pilgrims walk from La Serena to Andocollo (33 miles uphill)to pay homage to the Virgen de Andacollo. It must be an amazing sight.
The Basilica is an imposing structure built out of Douglas fir from California!! It is 230 feet long, 150 feet wide, the central cupola is 135 feet tall and the twin towers are 150 feet high. The outside is painted in red. Nearby was a museum that held various gift of plaques, handmade crafts, beads, paintings, etc that were left as offerings of thanks for prayers answered by the Virgin.
The area where David’s pipeline was being installed was very, very rugged and beautiful. We spent part of the day just sitting on a knoll and taking in the beauty of the area. As always, I have posted my pictures on my “web shots” page, so you can get a visual idea of what I am trying to describe. http://community.webshots.com/user/forshara
So, with mixed emotions we say good-bye to La Serena and onto the next, new adventure. Stay tuned and I will post as soon as I have something to share.