The sky, the sand, the salt and the time. ‘Nostalgia for the Light’

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picture of the stars taken at night with extreme exposure

I made it to Atacama. It had this enormous lure with it. A desert so high up, at 2400 meters altitude. A desert that resembles the face of the moon; and had salt fields. A desert that had flamingos in a lake and free reigning llamas. A desert which is the driest place on earth. So dry that you can watch the sky better than anywhere else in the world that they founded one of the biggest telescopes on earth, the ALMA. A desert which oldest mummies of the world from 9 thousands years ago were found. I was parched. The whole place was parched. But I found what I was looking for.

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moon through the telescope

 

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I watched ‘Nostalgia for the Light’ at Istanbul Film festival in 2011. It was a documentary about Atacama desert in Chile, the driest place on earth. The documentary was a showing on the explorers of the history of the desert: the astronomers looking through the biggest telescope on earth, the ALMA, to see the stars and universe form millions of years ago; the archeologists exploring the pre-columbian people’s lives and their history through the perfectly preserved bodies they have uncovered in the desert; and the mothers and sisters looking for their lost ones’ remains, perished under the Pinochet dictatorship in the seventies.

The life in the small village of San Pedro de Atacama went on serving tourists, expanding with new small hotels, more cafes, raising sheep and llamas in past many years. It acts as an oasis (which it is!) to welcome and provide anyone. It is shielded from the astronomers researching what happened millions of years ago on top of the mountain nearby; not weary at all of the nearby tragedy of detention camps and relatives search for bones in the desert. But village folks are aware of their ancestors ruins and customs from 500 years back; the forts made against the Spanish conquistadors, and the now semi abandoned rituals. They actually live a very similar life of past in the mud houses and provide themselves food with llama meat and yarn in Atacama. They also express big disdain on demonstration in a museum of the mummified bodies found in Atacama, dating way back to 7020 BC.

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Santiago Arkeoloji Muzesinde Chimichurro mumyalari

 

This desert is able to witness to the past history of the heavens; host political atrocities for the people who came from modern cities; and provide an oasis for its own indigenous people alongside the flamingos, birds, mice, llama and other animals. I thought it was a demonstration of short history of time and what earth actually looked like before we as humans existed and what it will look like after we exist too.

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celebration at san pedro de atacama

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