Off the mountain

La Silla in the distance

The last thing I expected back in 1973, after the first 11th of September, was that one day one of my children would travel to Chile, to be bussed up a mountain in order to sit every night for two weeks operating a telescope. Or that to get to her telescope – one of several – she’d have to drive a car in the dark (and I do mean in the dark, as otherwise the night sky would be lit up), avoiding hitting donkeys or falling off the side.

La Silla

As someone on facebook remarked, it looked very sci-fi up there. It really did.

There were tremors and – possibly – deadly spiders. Donkeys, as I said, and some rabbity/squirrelly creatures. Humidity was a problem (if it’s too high you have to close the dome and put a little hat on the telescope, in the dark). And powercuts weren’t helpful either.

La Silla

So, that was my last few weeks, that was. (I’d say the killing of the – possibly – deadly spider with a handtowel was the highlight, as experienced from my end.)

Whereas 43 years ago I went on marches and attended support concerts, all in the company of the Chilean refugees who came to Sweden, along with our ambassador who made himself persona non grata. Those were the days. But as I said, I could not see Daughter doing the driving in the dark, or the donkeys. Well, who could?

She’s back ‘home’ now, after a three hour bus journey, 16 hours on three planes and a night’s rest in Santiago, where it’s hot. That’s summer for you.

La Silla


7 responses to “Off the mountain

  1. That was a lie. Needless to say, after we’d fed her, she left again. But at least she came back to be fed.

  2. Sounds amazing! So happy for her! A book to calm your nerves?

  3. What a wonderful experience for her to have up there at the observatory – and for you to semi-share in and I am enjoying the photos. It must have been so good to have her back again too,, post-spiders, even if for a short while. And how strangely “circular” life can be.

    • Life is always circular. Just takes a while to realise.
      We had to adjust our lives to find suitable Skype times. I had to be around for my UK builders. She needed to sleep in the daytime, and be ready to press ‘go’ when darkness descended. Chile is three hours behind us, but they work to standard European time up there…
      And the cleaners clean the rooms at night, and the kitchen serves ‘lunch’ just before dark and ‘dinner in the middle of the night, when they have to drive there in the darkest dark. And then they seem to have breakfast just before hitting bed.

  4. Wow, what an adventure! But how stupid I am. Why is she driving in the dark? I wondered. How reckless! Surely they do not have to have it dark until she arrives. Then they can switch off the lights and get on…
    But then, thankfully, I came to my senses. There are other people up there too, it’s not all rigged up just for one intrepid Witch’s daughter.
    You see, I am not an impartial enough observer, of stars perhaps, of offspring not at all. I am so delighted she got there.
    It’s lovely when they come home to be fed.

  5. Not stupid, just logical.
    But yes, lots of astronomers up there. Three of her Swiss colleagues came and went. She found a Swede over the Saturday night cheese fondue at the Swiss telescope. The last day she met someone German (?) who she had a friend in common with.
    The driving; no headlights, no light inside the car, only a few guiding low level lights along the roads, but not where you park and reverse in the dark…

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