Stars

Scorpios are suspicious, defiant, extremist, and sometimes vindictive.

Even for the deliberately vague predictions offered by astrology, this one (from Cafe Astrology) feels off. I’m a Scorpio, and I don’t think anyone has ever described me in the terms above. At least I hope not.

The stars were the featured part of my day in Atacama. Let me explain, via running diary.

5:20 AM: A meteor streaks across the sky, disappearing near the horizon. My first shooting star. I am on a bus, headed toward the geyser fields of El Tatio. Everyone else is sleeping.

7:00 AM: Our guide is the same from yesterday’s trip to Valle de la Luna; he explains that the geysers are best viewed first thing in the morning. The current temperature is -8 Celsius. Surrounded by steam rising from the ground, I barely notice the steam from my coffee.

8:00 AM: Pools sit on multicolored terraces of red and yellow. Water bubbles up through holes in the ground. The pressure builds and builds, until finally a spout shoots several feet into the air.

9:00 AM: I change out of my warm clothes and into my board shorts. It’s still ice cold, but there is a thermal pool, heated by the same mechanism as the geysers. I climb into the water; it’s not hot at all. Shivering beside the pool after a few minutes’ dip, I question the life choices that brought me here.

11:00 AM: Llamas. We are passing through the tiny village of Machuca. The locals are only too happy to sell food and handicrafts to tourists. Their llamas are grazing in a riverbed on the way out of town.

1:00 PM: Flute music is popular in the mountains. When I went to dinner in Tilcara, a boy came in and played a couple of flute songs (for a tip, of course). I am reminded of this at the hostel, where a Canadian practices on the flute he bought.

2:00 PM: At lunch, a musician plays guitar and flute. For a tip, of course.

I enjoy my first jabalí asado–grilled javelina. The ribs are delicious.

3:15 PM: Siesta.

6:30 PM: Early dinner of leftover pizza. I’ve never felt more at home.

9:00 PM: My second tour of the day begins, simply called Space.

The bus drives south from San Pedro, where French astronomer Alain and his wife have set up a small observatory. In the clear night sky, Alain’s laser pointer appears to touch the stars. In reality, as Alain highlights Alpha Centauri, the beam of light will reach the star in about four and a half years.

10:00 PM: Alain shows me how to use my camera while taking a picture of the Moon through a telescope.

11:00 PM: I start to feel cold again; we move inside for hot chocolate. A six word summary of Alain’s thoughts on astrology: “The stars don’t care about us.”

From Cafe Astrology, my horoscope tells me that today is a good day to take the initiative.

Taking initiative is one of my goals.

Maybe astrology does work.

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