MagAO-X 2024Aa Bonus Blog: La Serena, Chile

It appears precedent has been set by An astronomer’s guide to Valparaíso and Bonus Feature: Santiago de Chile. So here is the chronicle of Katie’s and my traipse through La Serena, Chile on our way back to Tucson.

First and foremost we hit the beach! Just like California on the other side of the equator, the Pacific Ocean is not warm, but majestic as always.

We went to the historic shopping center and craft market, La Recova. Great food, great souvenirs, great sleepy pups. Knowing full well we would be missing the 2nd empanada Sunday at LCO, we took advantage of our time in proximity to Chilean restaurants.

The most exciting part of our trip was undoubtedly our tour of the Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve. The folks at El Pino Lodge (Carnegie’s base camp in La Serena) were able to set us up with an amazing bilingual tour.

In case any future astronomers would like to attempt this expedition, I will lay it out. First, you drive about 1.5 hours north of La Serena to Punta de Choros where you will board a boat. Katie and I don’t really know what we were expecting, but we weren’t expecting this:

You begin by cruising around Isla Gaviota in hopes of maybe seeing a whale or dolphin. We didn’t have that luck but we were not in for disappointment. The main part of the tour is slowly taking the boat around Isla Choros and taking in all the wildlife and crazy rock formations. The only people allowed on Isla Choros are biologists studying the animals. However, several sea lions popped into the water to study our boat!

Did we get to see the bell of the ball? The South American Humboldt Penguin? You betcha.

In the final portion of the tour, you get off the boat and wander around Isla Damas and take in the unique flora and fauna.

Finally, on our way out of the city we had to take a look at Faro Monumental de La Serena, the distinctive lighthouse 25 meters high (hey that’s how big GMT will be!).

Welcome to grad school Katie!

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