I have left the mining town of Andacollo yesterday, full of impressions from a world that I had no idea existed. It did seem like from an ancient time, those hard-working gold-miners… Who are so proud of their traditions, their region and its “earth” providing their existence. The frantic search deep down in the ground seems like such a intriguing contrast – and, at the same time, analogy – to the incessant search up in the night sky. Anyway – moving on via the ‘Route of the stars’, the road winds down the mountain through a breathtaking landscape. I am on my way to the valley of the river ‘Rio Hurtado’, where, so I hear, a guy from Belgium has opened a hotel specialized in astro-photography.
One more post, one more image from the mining-town of Andacollo, before I leave here tomorrow. Although this region around Cerro Tololo averages 320 clear nights a year (and just as many sunny days), the weather can change in a heartbeat up here. A miner’s reality therefore staggers between the merciless sun and nasty, quick-passing storms – there is one moving across some miner’s sheds in today’s image. Tomorrow my journey will take me further into Valle Elqui, where astronomers and stargazers from all over the world gather for the incredible night sky.
I accepted Hèrnan’s invitation to visit him again at his mine today, and while doing so I took this image. He showed me – step-by-step – the process of extracting gold (‘oro’) from the mountain. He is very proud of his work, of being a minero, with which he continues a long family tradition. Already at the age of five, his father took Hèrnan with him to work. You can tell that it is “in his blood”, as he says… Moving fearlessly and cat-like (very, very unlike myself…) through the rocks.
My first visit to Cerro Tololo will still have to wait a couple of days, as there is some road-damage from the last storm. Meanwhile, I continue on the “Ruta de las Estrellas” – the ‘route of the stars’ leading through this region. The region has a long and rich tradition in mining – especially in copper and gold. I find that to be an interesting contrast to the astronomical observations here – into the sky and into the earth… Today I visited the mining-town of Andacollo, close to Cerro Tololo, where many so-called pirquineros work. Pirquineros are independent miners (often the men in their family have been for generations), not affiliated with any of the big mining-companies. They dig their own small mines way up in the mountains, where they search for gold alone or together with their sons. I had the true pleasure to meet Hèrnan today. This is “his” mine, where he works 7 days a week – 40 meters below the ground.
From La Serena, the capital of the Elqui-region, the road to Cerro Tololo-Observatory leads through Elqui Valley. A road that, after you make a turn towards Cerro Tololo, winds up all the way to the Argentine border at ‚Paso Agua Negra’ at almost 4800 (!) meters. I drove down – no, I really should say ‚drove up’… – that road just little ways today, and as Chile is such a narrow country, the climb is pretty steep. From 0 to 4800 meters above sea level in just over 200 kilometers. The landscape is incredible (literally breathtaking…), unlike anything I have seen. A mountainous desert that averages 320 clear nights per year – together with the non-existent light pollution and the high altitude, this region is a superb location for astronomical research and stargazers from all over the world.
Amongst the many beauties of the places I get to visit for the deep dark pale blue-project, I find their utter remoteness simply stunning. I arrived in La Serena yesterday after pretty much three straight days on the road. A 20-hour trip to Santiago, and then an 8-hour bus „ride“ – by the way, an image from the bus-station in Santiago to start with! – the next day to get to La Serena. Traveling by bus is quite remarkable here – extremely popular and rather comfortable -, as there is hardly a railway-system. The bus-services of the two big companies cover the entire country from the deserts of the very North all the way down to tierra del fuego in the South (Chile stretches over 4200 kilometers). Tomorrow I will continue my journey into Valle Elqui, where Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located – about 80 kilometers east of here at an altitude of 2200 meters.
I am happy to announce that, shortly before my departure to Chile, the second part of the “no deeper blue”-edition is available. From the press-release of the gallery: “Alongside the ‘deep dark pale blue’-project, a multi-part photography edition is being created – issued by Galerie Vayhinger and Mr Christoph Bauer, Head of Kunstmuseum Singen/Htwl. From each journey, Florian Schwarz chooses one subject and bundles the works to the series ‘no deeper blue’. We gladly present the edition’s second part from Australia.”