Inca Utama Hotel & Alapacha Amateur Observatory
12,300 feet - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia - South America
We spend one week in Astronomer's Paradise. With views of the sky so stunning the summer milky way casts a shadow on the ground.
Saturday, July 14th, Guests board overnight flights to La Paz, Bolivia (LPB) airport.
Flights operate indirectly from the US through MIAMI on American airlines Lima (LIM) on LAN Airlines.
AA Flight 922 MIA-LPB departs at 11: 10pm and arrives at 05:45am +1
Sunday, July 15th - Guests are met at the airport by guide, Ivan Blanco. Our luggage is portered and loaded onto the bus for us as we are transferred to the hotel and observing site on Lake Titicaca.
We check into our hotel and have a chance to explore the hotel at our leisure as bags are portered again to our rooms. The afternoon is free to rest and recover from travel before dinner on Sunday night. The dinner menu is available all day for guests to order in advance for fastest service and earliest chance to go out to observe. The 5-star dining offers a pleasant surprise as the staff caters our meals in 3 courses. Tonight, Ivan and Jen will announce the schedule for optional group day tour departures over the coming days. Due to local circumstances, we cannot confirm these in advance. The schedule below depicts a sample of activities, but occasionally, dates or programs change due to availability or closures.
Tonight, after dinner is your first opportunity to get out under this fantastic sky. Early in the evening, Cruz and the milky way are strait overhead. Eta Carinae is as high as 60° and the LMC will be down around 20-30° depending on what time you make it out after dinner. It will soon set and make way for the SMC, then around 3am, we should see it rise again in the east.
Monday, July 16th - This morning, we take an easy (optional) tour to allow clients to acclimate. Those who want to participate, need merely to put their name on one of the tour lists kept at the front desk. Optional tour costs are added to your hotel bill and you can pay for them on check-out.
Typical Optional tour for Monday: Iruitus Floating Islands We will take the hydrofoil to the floating islands of the Iruitus to visit the people who live on islands made from floating tortora reeds; then the small island of Piriti, where especially fine samples of pre-columbian pottery have been excavated. Those who do not opt to join the tour may sleep in and have breakfast whenever is convenient. The staff knows we like to sleep in and will fix eggs to order with fresh baked bread. Tonight, dinner is served early to allow guests to get out and observe early again.
Tuesday, July 17th - Some clients may stay out late under the skies and want to sleep in and skip morning tours. Those who wake late are not disturbed and are welcome to join breakfast as late as noon with a kindly accommodating kitchen staff accustomed to late waking guests.
Typical Optional tour for Tuesday: This morning, those taking the optional tour will depart by bus early for Tiwanaku. We go by bus back to El Alto, the subburb of La Paz before turning north again to reach the ancient plateau of Tiwanaku. We visit the museum, filled with artifacts excavated from the site from Tiwanaku's III stages of development. Then, we explore the outdoor museum's pyramids, underground temple, courtyard and the puerta del sol. Activities at the hotel include the Altiplano Museum and the living cultural museum. Many guests like to take time in the full service spa for a choice of massage treatments.
By this time, guests have typically either adapted to the altitude very well or else display some symptoms from the lack of oxygen. Our doctor on-staff will be visiting tonight to be sure everyone is in good health and everything is going well. Oxygen is available at no extra charge at the hotel and on all busses and boats. Usually those who have a little altitude sickness recover very quickly with just 15 minutes with the oxygen tank and complete thier full acclimitization process fully.
By now, observers will have a chance to learn their way around the sky and settle in on an observing program. If it gets cloudy, we will have resident expert archeo astronomer, Manuel de la Torre give his planetarium program on the Alapacha - of the Andean sky in our roll-off roof planetarium.
Dinner tonight will again be early for guests to get out and observe as soon as the sun is down.
Imagers should remember to click off some dark frames at dusk.
Wednesday, July 18th - Typical Optional tour for Wednesday: Another favorite option is the fossil hunt. Because this area of the Andes mountains was lifted by tektonic processes, there are many upturned hills which reveal layers dating back many thousands of years. In a favorite nearby hill, guests can visit one such hill where layers are actually tilted laterally. Visitors can walk laterally back through the eons, uncovering hidden treasures of fossils like trilobites and an ocassional fish trapped between layers of sandstone.
Occasionally, one night during the week will experience some cloud cover of some kind. In these times, we invite guests to join a tour of the Kallawaya. This local Andean medicine man is revered as a holy man. This order studies pharmachology of local herbs and provides both medical and counseling advice for local Aymara peoples.
Thursday, July 19th - Typical Optional tour for Thursday: Today, we will offer a more adventuresome optional program. A big favorite is the Chacaltaya Cosmic Ray Laboratory. We reach this high altitude observatory by bus, at an altitude of over 17,000 feet. The facility is uniquely situated atop the Chacaltaya glacier, where researchers can study cosmic radiation at high altitude. Years ago, when glaciers topped this area of the Andes, a ski resort operated on this mountain. This was once the highest place in the world to ski. Now, the glaciers are melted and guests visit the old coffee shop and enjoy breathtaking views out over the Andes, where distant mountains of Sajama can be seen in the distance. Some guests will wish to climb the path even farther up to see the old site of the abandoned observatory once operated atop this high peak.
If the sky has been clear until this point, we typically open the Allapacha observatory up for the impressive local planetarium show. Developed by local archeo-astronomer, Manuel de la Torre, this presentation depicts the close association the local Aymara people have held with their "Alapacha" sky above as tied in with their history and belief structure. As always, the 22" StarMaster Telescope which resides in the Alapacha observatory is available for clients to view after the roof rolls back to reveal the breathtaking sky above.
Friday, July 20th - Fridays, we always offer an optional shopping trip to La Paz. Here, we get to wander the hilly, downtown streets of old La Paz. Columbian style buildings are the backdrop for a rainbow of color in local textile markets, music shops and even the witch-doctor's market. Here you can buy alpaca, woven awayo's, pick up a lucky tallisman, find jewelry of local silver and lapiz or malachite or even have your fortune told in molten pewter cast into water in the main square.
Saturday, July 21st - This morning we check out very early and transfer back to the airport in El Alto, La Paz for your flight back home. This morning, before the sun rises, you will have perhaps your best view of the Large Megelanic Cloud. As large as your outstreached fist, the LMC will be hanging some 15° up over the lake out the side of the bus window on the ride back home.
Other optional day tours are available and will be offered to / and selected by the actual visiting group who attend. To learn more about available options, visit the Optional Tour page here: