Posted by: nativeiowan | July 12, 2019

2019 v7.TotalEclipseoftheSun

Editor’s Note: I rushed this to publication and know its flawed so as I clean it all up I apologise to the folks who suffered through 1st draft:


When you are/ become a chaser of eclipse, your life changes. There is a multi-faceted pro/con situation which is as easily justifiable as another double-shot or another snort…  When mentally, physically or spiritually addicted, justification and/ or rationalisation is unnecessary. I do what I do because I am now officially addicted to Totality. I can’t wait for my next “fix”.

My name is Mike and I am an Eclipse Junkie…

And like all junkies of all sorts, my tale is disjointed to the point of being confused, and starts somewhere in a blurred past…

Contemporaneous note: 1211pm. 01072019. I sit in a very remote area of norther Chile. The Elqui Valley is fucking mind blowing. Dry, desolate, beautiful, awe inspiring, and fun.

Fun that is if you are hanging with the Virgin Galactic gang. A gang of intellectuals, reprobates, dreamers, achievers, and me and Grace. We call ourselves “Future Astro-nuts”. What we have in common is we each have bought or are partnered wth someone who has bought into Richard Branson’s Space-Tourism gig.

We are chasing The Eclipse. Been at it a few days, a few miles, a few plane trips, a few bus trips… I’m trying to catch up in my blogging.

Noting that Grace and I visited Easter Island before the Eclipse-gig… I’ll restrict this tale to the VG, the eclipse-chasing activities, and talk about Rapa Nui later…

First morn on the VG bus… breakfast at 6am:2019-06-27 07.07.44We’d been in Chile 5 nights, had now stayed in two different hotels in Santiago, but only for the night each. We’d been traveling a lot and this first morn of the VG-gig was to be our third early morn in five days.

Our first day on the VG-Bus saw us checkout as a group, get transported to the airport, flown to Atacama (2 hours away) then bused to San Pedro… Get used to the frenetic activity…2019-06-27 15.49.21-1

I think I slept through most of this day’s travel. I certainly did not take many pictures.

It was a long, first day. After a fair few long days. With many more long days to come.

But the welcome was fun and we enjoyed our first eve in San Pedro…2019-06-27 19.20.47

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Both Grace and I needed sleep so we did not howl all night.

Early next morn, wooly hats and scarves in place we prepare to explore this amazing land…2019-06-28 05.25.52

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We are visiting hot springs at over 14000ft/ 4000mt. Above you can see distress in Gracie’s face. The altitude is getting to her.2019-06-28 07.49.40

Temps well below freezing…2019-06-28 07.52.56

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We walked around a bit and Gracie got nailed by lack of oxygen… altitude sickness wins…2019-06-28 08.23.46

Gracie went down hard. I was not feeling fantastic either, but Gracie went down hard.

The folks running the show sent us down the mountain. We rolled down the hill with a nice group of folks. They all took their coats n jackets off to pile on Gracie. Staying warm really helped a lot. When we got down around 10,000 feet she could breath again and was much better.

Grace all bundled up…2019-06-28 09.28.10 HDR

Awe inspiring, desolate land…2019-06-28 09.33.59

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Selfie with the comatose lady…2019-06-28 09.34.24

Saw an Andean fox on the road…2019-06-28 10.03.07-1

Stark land scapes…2019-06-28 10.05.36-1

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The main group carried on for the day so we missed the hot springs…

Later that same day, Grace feeling better… but still cold… Here we are stopping for a bite on the main square at San Pedro…2019-06-28 17.48.05

The church of San Pedro de Atacama has been standing in this location for over 400 years…2019-06-29 19.20.17

Misc picts in no real order… Lots of travel leads to a modicum of confusion.

Sun set from the dunes…2019-06-28 19.19.11-1

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Group pict: Sunsett from the Dunes…2019-06-28 19.19.15-1

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Another early morn… It is a blur. Not sure which day/date but they all started clear and crisp, and cold…2019-06-29 07.32.12

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On another bus, again…2019-06-29 10.40.07

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Getting higher… getting colder…2019-06-29 10.59.14

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I can see for miles and miles…2019-06-29 11.05.26

A very good group to tour with… This is a selfie taken by “San Francisco”…2019-06-29 11.57.22

Cold but fun… Tho they look like the same selfie… check out the back ground on each…2019-06-29 12.00.38 HDR

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Took her hands out of her pockets long enough to thumbs-up…2019-06-29 12.01.36-1

So we travel around, see amazing landscapes, eat n drink to much, and laugh a lot…

Lots of selfies…2019-07-03 08.24.16

Somewhere in the travels we end up at our camp… about 4000ft up in a dry, dry landscape…2019-07-03 07.56.30

Beautiful surroundings…2019-07-03 07.56.25

I am very impressed with the cool-ness, the style, panache and even hubris involved with creating from dust, our kick-ass camp-for-three-nights… 2019-06-30 17.47.21

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Contemporaneous note: 01072019. I am sitting in an outdoor dining area erected for 37 Astro-nuts bold and brave enough to join this rare and bitch’n experience. Again…

I did VG’s Camp Eclipse in 2017 in Idaho. It was way cool, but the group numbered over 200 people. It was way cool but this gig, this year, this Eclipse is much different.

The Virgin Galactic “community” (VG) is very cool. They throw the absolutely best and greatest and coolest and bitch’n-est parties. The people who organise these insane experiences are candidates for sainthood.

This trip is several days long. It covers three locations requiring flights and transport and logistics and patience that only those of rare nature possess. I shan’t name names but the stand-by VG saints, Tiff and Gemma, certainly make being an Astro-nut easy. This trip we have Kristen and Mary augmenting the shepherding of this rowdy herd. They are all lovely, tranquil in the eye of the storm, and a whole shit-load of fun.

As I sit here in this remote but well stock location I ponder and marvel…  It all started in Santiago, where Grace and I were met at the airport, whisked efficiently away to a 5star hostel in Santiago. Grace and I arrived a bit late. As mentioned, we’d been to Isle De Pascal (Easter Island) and arrived a day late. The VG mob had all checked into their comfy hotel earlier and had gone out to an observatory to have a look at the Southern Sky.

The VG mob is “star-fixated”. We are Astro-nuts! One common thread I find in the VG mob is that we all read Sci-Fi when we are young. We all looked to the night sky with longing and lust and a sense of loss. We are made up of star-dust. We are all celestial. Why not long for a home coming? Why not desire with absolute intent to be reunited with our womb, our mother, our origins?

In classic VG fashion the first morning started way too fucking early… as did and does every morn with mob…

Breakfast at 6am. On the bus by 730. Group check in for a 930am flight to San Pedro Acalama. 37 VG-nuts plus VG staff and travel coordinators, group leaders, caterers, support teams, drivers, luggage handlers, fixers, etc, etc.

Group check in, mass loading onto the plane, incessant head-counting, chasing the recalcitrant herd-members who stopped too long at the kiosk. The shepherds are amazing. Very amazing. Land, clear, collect and load onto buses. Mass checkin at the hotel. keys, rooms, questions, problems, solutions… in amazing efficiency we all get to our rooms, drop our gear and are herded back onto buses for yet another amazing cultural and social experience.

Three nights in San Pedro. Early morns and bus-boarding each. Trips up to over 12000feet, 4000meters. To hot springs and salt flats. Up-early and home late. Amazing food, exotic grog… Chilean wine and beer, Pisco, Pisco, Pisco…. Chii, Chii, Chii…

Time rushes past. Little sleep, too much food n grog, eclectic and entertaining conversations.

Time rushes past…

Onto La Serena. Who does not like the sound of “La Serena”. We were met by the “Sub-mayor”. Officially welcomed. The local TV station was there. I guess this migration of eclectic reprobates can and does attract attention.

I think this trip, which is going way too fast, can be, maybe should be, a seminal point in my aged and ragged life. I shall be an unapologetic Eclipse-Maniac from now on… And the next one is December 2020…

So we bus and eat and drink and laugh… its pretty damn cool…

When the VG-mob enters a place, a space, the fun starts…

When the VG-mob invades it does a dandy job…

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There will always be loads of grog, good grog. Loads of good food. Loads of laughter and smiles, and yes, noise…

Contemporaneous note: 720am. 02072019. So I am sitting in “Camp Eclipse”.

I didn’t finish this yesterday. I got drunk. With Tiff… very, really, nicely drunk. OK, Tiff didn’t get drunk, or as drunk as I did, but I stayed back at the Camp as others went our exploring, and as I was being a nuisance, Tiff gave me the job of testing the tap-beer. There are two beers on tap; one a nice 5.2% ale, the other a 7.5% rocket-fuel-type IPA. I tested both and blame my day-time drunkenness on the IPA.

Where we been, what we been doing…Allow me to tell the tale visually:

A group meeting where Bad-Ass-Tiff is telling us what, where, n when…2019-07-02 11.52.03

Of course, Gracie thinks its cold out… Craig thinks its summer…2019-07-02 11.51.52

Did I say that the camp was bitch’n…2019-07-02 08.52.52

One of my favourite picts… Johanna not bothering with refill trips to the bar…2019-07-01 22.59.51

But the fire was cozy and the eve was brisk. Perfect for a nice Chilean Red…2019-07-01 22.59.37

Bad-Ass Tiff giving me a sneak-peek at the “too heavy to travel” VG yoga mats…2019-07-01 12.27.22

Supper at Camp Eclipse… hoods n hats n caps n red wine… 2019-06-30 21.56.50

Stir crazy in the bus or just hapi…2019-06-30 18.49.56

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Well worth the price of admission…2019-06-30 18.18.27

Magnificent vistas…2019-06-30 13.37.02

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Gracie with Yayoi…

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Yayoi is an example of a Future Astro-Nut… Very fun, very adventurous, very amazing…

Its hard to single out the individuals that made this so damn much fun. I shan’t try.  But suffice to say that we all ended up in the same remote place for the same reason. Must have something in common.

Contemporaneous note: It’s 929am. Breakfast here is going well. No hot water in this camp (as we kinda had hoped and expected) so the morning started with a very “bracing” shower.

And as the breakfast tent fills up, as the sun radiates the dusty campy ground, I anticipate today. It is Today where we experience Totality.

The perfect location with the perfect company….2019-07-02 17.26.02

We had come for TOTALITY and were not to be disappointed…

And it begins…2019-07-02 15.00.23

Everyone made themselves comfy and prepared to be bedazzled…2019-07-02 15.41.38

The mandatory sun-shades look cool…2019-07-02 15.26.17

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Super Gem…2019-07-02 15.25.45

A pano of the watchers…2019-07-02 15.24.37

Yayoi ever smiling…2019-07-02 15.17.16 HDR

My personal viewing location… with Neely, Gem, Alan… the best seats in the house…2019-07-02 15.13.17

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Gracie is hapi…2019-07-02 16.48.08-1

I like looking at the shadows as the sun light diminishes…2019-07-02 16.48.02

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The magic show ends but the magic remains…

And then the animals all crawled out of their lairs…

For one of the coolest “party-plans” I have ever seen (and I’m known for my cool parties) our Eclipse-Party formal wear could not have been better. All different. From the Lobster to the shark to the octopus… I was a flying squirrel…

Gracie sure liked being a Racoon…2019-07-02 18.46.022019-07-02 18.45.422019-07-02 18.45.312019-07-02 18.45.20

So the Totality experience was way, way guuuud. The VG-companions were way, way cool. The VG-fixers and shepherds and support team were way, way exceptional.

The end of the tale. The end of the CHASE… White Tailed Marsupial Gracie staggers back to her tent at the end of a very, very great experience…2019-07-02 23.53.03

Of course there are more picts than I shan’t comment on. But I think that they are worthy of being part of this tale, even if as an addendum …

  1. 2019-06-29 14.47.372019-06-29 12.56.16
  1. A very fun group to be with… 2019-06-29 12.47.062019-06-29 12.46.442019-06-29 12.46.022019-06-29 12.45.112019-06-29 12.44.392019-06-29 12.44.232019-06-29 12.41.172019-06-29 12.34.01-12019-06-29 12.08.36 HDR2019-06-29 12.02.102019-06-29 18.00.402019-06-29 18.00.192019-06-29 17.58.592019-06-29 17.58.402019-06-29 17.57.552019-06-29 17.57.432019-06-29 17.54.382019-06-29 17.52.062019-06-29 17.51.202019-06-29 17.29.332019-06-29 16.48.592019-06-29 16.40.092019-06-29 16.39.042019-06-29 16.39.002019-06-29 16.23.06 HDR2019-06-29 16.21.212019-06-29 16.21.072019-06-29 16.21.052019-06-29 16.21.032019-06-29 16.21.022019-06-29 16.20.512019-06-29 16.19.552019-06-29 16.17.572019-06-29 16.17.252019-06-29 16.09.332019-06-29 16.09.242019-06-29 15.07.372019-06-29 15.00.052019-06-29 14.57.362019-06-29 14.54.54

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