Last week was pretty weird. In a rare moment in my mechanical heart, I felt feelings. Like, bad ones. But then, as if I spilled a bottle of delicious Pap (short for “papaya” and not “smear,” although it doesn’t taste like it) on my motherboard, everything sort of short-circuited for the better and I had a couple of extremely glorious moments. Indeed, even with the downs (both the feelings and the syndrome) it still feels good to be alive.

And I suppose I have Chile’s Atacama Desert to thank. Did you know it’s “the driest desert in the world?” I didn’t until about 100 Chileans told me. Repeatedly. (Apparently, along with Pap, this is a major point of national pride.) However, driest desert in the world or not, there is still a fair amount of water there. But instead of boring rivers and lakes, the Atacama Desert boasts THE HIGHEST GEYSER PLAIN IN THE WORLD!

Although, to be honest, that sounds more exciting than it actually was. I was expecting 1,000 Old Faithfuls combined with that nice drunk feeling one gets when dealing with altitude, but really, all that was there were about 1,000 bubbling craters of sulfur water and I felt completely sober. Hmm.

Anyway, finally after a couple hours one ended up spitting out about seven feet of water. Yay? But whether the craters spewed water or not, I guess, didn’t really matter. Instead, I was just happy to be in the desert. I’ve never been in one before so seeing the terrain was like being on another planet for me. Not to mention, the nice breakfast of eggs boiled in some hot-piping sulfur water was pretty sweet too.

And speaking of other planets – literally – later that day I went to the “observatory,” which I put in quotation marks because it ended up being some middle-aged French dude’s backyard. I gotta say, it was a pretty f*cking impressive backyard, though, being filled with dozens of $150,000 telescopes and all. At first I wondered how this freaky home French fry was able to afford all this science, but he answered my question preemptively by telling me that, thanks to a hook-up from the old actual observatory he worked at near La Serena, he got some pretty heavy discounts. Indeed, this man’s mega tight astronomical deal skills were second to none.

Even tighter, though, were the views. I saw three different galaxies, not even including our own Milky Way, which in the clear desert atmosphere showed itself so vividly that it almost looked like morning fog lingering in the late-night air. Wow, check me out getting all f*cking poetic and sh*t!

But, apparently, the most impressive star system I saw was something called the Tarantula Nebula 2070. I was told it will make nerds soil their pants. (My pants had already been soiled by a bird.)

And while I’d love to be able to exhibit some choice photos that I took at this point, considering I’m working with a broken down 2005 Nikon S1 Cool Pix, this was the best I could do:

Um, breathtaking? So, instead, let’s just jack something illegally from the Web:

Ah, that’s better.