First of all, I have to comment on the AWESOME stargazing we enjoyed last night… at about 9:30 p.m., after dinner, we donned warm layers (I brought my fleece travel blanket at the last minute which was a good idea) and climbed up about 50 lit steps to the hotel’s star gazing platform. It felt more like a helipad with six lounge chairs arranged around the perimeter and a giant telescope (the largest I’d ever seen) in the center. Carolina, the hotels astronomy expert, pointed out the Southern Cross, Orion, several stars and the planet, Saturn. It was fascinating but I am determined to go home and do some reading to become more knowledgeable. The Milky Way burned brightly above us and the star-savvy members of our group (Tom!) marveled at seeing the Greater Magellenic Cloud for the first time. Because of Atacama’s remote location, no pollution and no light, it is one of the best places in the world to see stars. We awoke to a lovely day (all days are lovely here, I’m told) and we set off to the Cejar Lake, a smallish but 95 ft. deep natural pool, according to local legend, formed by the tears of a nearby volcano when “his brother” was made extinct! We learned much about the mythology of mountains–did you know there are male mountains and female mountains (who court each other!)?? I know they talk about the Avenue of the Volcanoes being in Ecuador, but I swear there is one in Chile! In fact 10% of the total number of volcanoes in the world are in Chile and 7 of them close at hand in Atacama. At first I wondered why we were brought on a swimming mission arriving at 10 am when there was still a bit of a chill in the air, but I figured that out about an hour later when hordes of people started to arrive. We were the first ones there and our fabulous lodge had beach chairs set up with bathrobes, towels, crocs to wear in the water and a gourmet mid-morning snack. We had the pool to ourselves for the first 1/2hour and although it took me a few minutes to screw up my courage and “take the plunge,” it was well worth it. This pool is four times more salty than the ocean and the buoyancy was incredible. Yes, it was cold, but somehow you got used to it, in spite of goose-pimpled skin! There was no treading water, you simply laid back and your feet came to the surface. We rinsed off with jugs of warm fresh water which tingled the skin and returned to the hotel. Lunch was served on the patio consisting of shrimp tempura with rice noodles followed by a mushroom ravioli. For the first time on the trip, we had an “afternoon at leisure” enjoyed by all. At 5 p.m. we were joined by Haroldo Horta, one of Chile’s top professional photographers, who happens to make his home in Atacama. He was generous and gracious with his knowledge and helped all of us with camera settings we would have never dared to try to capture the best possible photos of the famous Atacama sunsets and the few minutes of “magic light.” Unfortunately our efforts were thwarted by a cloudy and super windy evening which blew mini-tornadoes of dust into our sundowner drinks (and eyes).