I'm still in Vicuña, Chile. The weather finally cleared up a couple of days ago so that I could go to Mamalluca Observatory to see the stars. Through their telescope I saw Saturn (including its rings and two of its moons), a nebulous of forming stars, star clusters and many other wonderful things.
While I have been waiting for the weather to clear over the last week I have been keeping myself busy by visiting some of the other small towns in the Valley of Elqui, where Vicuña is located. One day I went for a hike up one of the many mountains surrounding this small town. When I reached the peak I received a little fright when, from out of the serene silence, I heard a shriek "baaaaaa."
I look all around and didn't see a thing except barren, rocky land and cactuses. And then I heard it again. Suddenly a skinny black figure stood up and hesitatingly walk towards me. It was a new-born, baby goat - and she still had her dried up umbilical cord attached to her belly. I called her Nunu. She had been separated from her mother and was starving. I think she thought I could also nourish her with milk and she continually reached for my crotch for sustenance (below). It tickled.
Not being able to satisfy her with my milk, I tried to give Nunu some of my banana (not a euphemism) but she wasn't interested . Although after showing her some kindness I couldn't lose her for another second. She followed me for about three kilometres down the mountain. If I stopped, she stopped. If I ran, she ran. Most of the time she was walking precisely next to my pacing feet and at times between them, tripping me up.
[Below] It amazed me how an animal so young and small could run so fast. She simply would not let me get away. The video below shows Nunu running and flying through the air - correcting herself mid-flight so that she could continue pursuing me when she touched down.
I really admired her spirit and grew really fond of her. After seeing a fox on the way up the mountain I didn't want to abandon her all alone and vulnerable. So I led her to a kind farmer (below) who I met on the way up. He told me she was about five-days-old and was probably left there after the rest of the herd was led back down the mountain after spending the night on top.
[Below] I managed to record a small part of our journey down the mountain together. The amazing thing about this video is that I didn't trip and fall whilst continuously turning back to record Nunu as she followed me. Her 'baaing' continued the whole journey!
Information about Mamalluca Observatory
Hours: between 8.30pm and 3am in summer, much less in winter
Entrance fee: $3.500 (plus $1.500 if you use the shuttle bus from Vicuña). In total it is about US$9.
Language: tours are offered in English and Spanish
Telephone: (56) 51-411352
Reserve a month ahead in summer.
Tours are cancelled on cloudy days.
Organise tours through agencies in La Serena or directly from the observatory's office in Vicuña: (office 1, 260 Gabriela Mistral street - just around the corner from the main square)
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- Ara the goat farmer
- The Universe is smailing at us!!!
- Camping bodyguards