Southern Skies Star Party
July 14, 2012, I flew American Airlines to Miami, and LAN Airlines through Lima, Peru, to Bolivia for a star party in the Andes. My goal was to have a second experience with the southern stars and constellations. There were 8 of us on Jen Winter's astronomy tour. We had rooms at the Inca Utama Hotel on Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, and I had a roommate from Delaware. We were at 12,000 feet in the Andes Mountains, where views of the night skies are awesome. The Milky Way was straight up, arching from one end of the sky to the other.
We took a day trip to Tiwanaku, a pre-Columbian archaeological site. It was before the Incas. Puma Punku is a temple, or pyramid, at Tiwanaku. There were no signs of ancient aliens. Ruins are ruins are ruins.
Myself and two others climbed a hill (should I say mountain) to look at the Andes range. A panoramic view of Lake Titicaca was on one side with snow-capped mountains on the other. It was the most inspiring part of the trip. We took the wrong path coming down, and I could see the headline: "Lost in the Andes!" We kept coming toward the lake and finally came across a farmer with a van. He drove us back to the hotel.
Our group visited La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. La Paz sits in a "bowl" with mountains all around. Population is over a million. We walked the streets of this crazy place. People drive like maniacs and think nothing about walking out in traffic. Dark-skinned women wear wide skirts and bowler hats. Spanish is annoying, and dogs are everywhere. Bolivia is a third-world country. Its currency is the Boliviano. Somehow I got through without having to get any.
Lake Titicaca is partly in Bolivia, partly in Peru. Bolivia is landlocked. I thought it would be nice if Peru offered Bolivia a strip of land to the ocean. Countries are so territorial.
It was wintertime. In July! It was mild, however, while I was there. They fed us well at the hotel, and I ate llama. There were some llamas in a pen. There was a spa, and I got a massage from a Bolivian woman.
I have traveled on 4 continents. 10 foreign countries. 42 states. I have become a low-end world traveler and a rank amateur astronomer. An adventurer. An Indiana Jones. I'm not sure I like it. I would prefer stability. A home. Wife. Girl friend.
Bolivia may be my last trip out of the U.S. You never know. Traveling is a hassle. Airport security makes it hard, as do foreign languages and governments. It's like you get a certain knowledge and you are drawn to these kinds of experiences.