A Travellerspoint blog

Chile

Rapa Nui (Easter Island or Isla de Pasqua)

Route: Santiago de Chile – Rapa Nui – Santiago de Chile

semi-overcast 25 °C

DECEMBER 2018

Map of Rapa Nui

Map of Rapa Nui

Our journey started with a flight from Montevideo to Santiago de Chile. The arrival at Santiago airport came as a bit of a shock, usually it is fairly quiet, but not today, it was heaving. When we thought about it, we shouldn’t have been surprised, this was the end of the last working day before Xmas.
Two nights in Santiago got us prepared for our next destination, the island of Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island). Our stay in Santiago was just at the airport hotel, catching up with the usual admin duties and never getting tired of the view of snow capped Andean mountains out of our window.

Rapa Nui is about 3500km and five hours flying time from the Chilean mainland. It is one of the most remote places on earth, and sits in the Pacific Ocean half way between Chile and Tahiti. As the plane touched down you new you were somewhere special. As we disembarked from the aircraft, a warm breeze and the sound of the wind in the palm trees met us. Our host was waiting for us with a broad smile, a necklace of flowers and to transport us to our accommodation, via a short city tour. We had rented a cabin for 6 nights from a local Rapa Nui family, who we very quickly realised were some of the nicest and friendliest people you could ever meet.

Our first afternoon was spent doing a bit of shopping and getting our bearings. It had been a long day so we didn’t fancy cooking that night, so we eat out in a small seafront restaurant, gazing out into the Pacific Ocean watching the waves carry surfers towards the beach.

Hanga Roa Surf Beach

Hanga Roa Surf Beach

Hanga Roa

Hanga Roa

Hanga Roa

Hanga Roa

Our prime reason for visiting Rapa Nui was to see and learn about their fascinating culture and history, and that all started on the second day, Christmas Eve. We spent the morning organising our stay, car hire and private guided tour, and chatting to our host (I say we, but it was mainly Anne as the conversation was in Spanish). In the afternoon we headed out to explore. Our destination was Anakena on the north east of the island. This gave us our first sight of the islands rolling landscape, plus seven well-preserved Moai’s (see Personal Observations and Interesting Fact (POIF) below for explanation) and a beautiful beach. The beach at Anakena was idyllic, soft white powder sand washed by the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, just too inviting not to go for a swim. But what was unusual for the afternoon was the number of other tourist we met, initially for photograph assistance, but then turned into lengthy conversations. There was Emma from Canada, Andy from USA and Rachel from China, an enjoyable and unexpected bonus for the day.

7 Moais at Anakena

7 Moais at Anakena

Anakena

Anakena

Anakena Beach

Anakena Beach

Island Road and scenery

Island Road and scenery

That evening was pretty special as well, as we were invited to join our host family for their traditional Christmas Eve evening meal. It was a real privilege and honour to be their guests and to meet all the family; they even had a gift for us under the Christmas tree.

Day two was Christmas Day, and although some places were closed, we were still able to get out and explore. In fact this was our first of two days with our local guide John, and as it was a half-day we kept it local.
Our first location was the ceremonial site of Orongo, where we learnt the history of the birdman competition. Participants would live and train in a village on top of a cliff, readying themselves for a race to collect an egg of a Sooty Tern. The race required the competitor to climb down a cliff-face, swim to an islet, climb up another cliff-face, collect the egg and repeat the route back to the start. It was winner takes all, with a prize of island king for a year and a virgin maiden.
Close to Orongo was the beautiful volcanic crater of Rano Kau, the source of materials and water for Orongo.

Birdman Island where the Sooty Tern eggs were taken

Birdman Island where the Sooty Tern eggs were taken

Orongo ceremonial village where the Birdman competitors lived and trained

Orongo ceremonial village where the Birdman competitors lived and trained

Birdman Petroglyph at Orongo

Birdman Petroglyph at Orongo

Orongo crater

Orongo crater

From Orongo we visited Vinapu a site of some amazing stonework and fallen Moai’s. At that point heavy rain stopped play and we headed back to the cabin.

Coastal view from Vinapu with a Pukao in the foreground

Coastal view from Vinapu with a Pukao in the foreground

Wall build like the Inca at Vinapu

Wall build like the Inca at Vinapu

Fallen Moai at Vinapu

Fallen Moai at Vinapu

That evening the rain cleared enough for us to explore by ourselves, and make a visit to Puna Pau (the Topknot quarry – see POIF below) and Ahu Akivi (sea facing Moai’s – see POIF below).

Seven Journey men looking out to sea at Ahu Akivi

Seven Journey men looking out to sea at Ahu Akivi

Pukao left over at Puna Pau

Pukao left over at Puna Pau

Puna Pau, the Pukao quarry

Puna Pau, the Pukao quarry

The following day was a full day guided tour with John, exploring the many archaeological sites along the south coast of the island. It was during this day that we really got to understand the history of the Rapa Nui people and see the legacy they left behind (the key things we learnt are recorded in POIF below).
The weather on Rapa Nui is constantly changing with a keen wind blowing it across the island. A mix of sun, cloud and rain is the norm for most days. But this particular day we were very lucky, not one shower during the whole time we were out, making the experience even more rewarding.
The tour started at Hanga Te’e , a reconstruction of a traditional village. This and the accompanying explanation set us up for a day of discovery.

Chicken coop at Hanga Te'e

Chicken coop at Hanga Te'e

Traditional village reconstruction at Hanga Te'e

Traditional village reconstruction at Hanga Te'e

Next stop was Akahanga to see the archaeological ruins of a real village, plus a cave that was used as a shelter and some toppled Moai’s. With the vision of the reconstructed village this site came alive.

Fallen Moai at Akahanga

Fallen Moai at Akahanga

Akahanga coastal view

Akahanga coastal view

Cave at Akahanga

Cave at Akahanga

We then moved onto the crown jewels of archaeological sites, the main quarry at Rano Raraku. It was here that the Moai’s were carved, directly from the rock face.
Rano Raraku is an extinct volcano with a beautiful crater lake and partly completed Moai’s littering the landscape. The site had an unbelievable feel about it, every way you turned there seemed to be a Moai looking back at you, and you could easily imagine hundred of craftsmen at work creating these incredible structures.

Rano Raraku volcano and site of quarry

Rano Raraku volcano and site of quarry

Rano Raraku factory site for Moai. It took a year to carve one with 10 or more people working on it

Rano Raraku factory site for Moai. It took a year to carve one with 10 or more people working on it

Crater at Rano Raraku

Crater at Rano Raraku

Unfinished Moais (buried) at Rano Raraku near the crater

Unfinished Moais (buried) at Rano Raraku near the crater

An unfinished Moai being carved horizontally and would probably never have been finished as it would have been too heavy to moved

An unfinished Moai being carved horizontally and would probably never have been finished as it would have been too heavy to moved

Rano Raraku quarry

Rano Raraku quarry

View from Rano Raraku over to Tongariki 15 Moais

View from Rano Raraku over to Tongariki 15 Moais

From Rano Raraku the views didn’t get any less impressive as we arrived at Tongariki. Here fifteen massive Moai’s gaze down upon us as we explore what remains of the village that once lay in front of them. With the turquoise sea in the background, it is no wonder that this is one of the most photographed places on the island.

Tongariki Iconic 15 Moais

Tongariki Iconic 15 Moais

Tongariki

Tongariki

Tongariki

Tongariki

Our next stop was a change of scenery as we arrived at Papa Vaka. Papa Vaka is a collection of stones carved with petroglyphs and used as a type of school blackboard in the education of life skills, fishing, canoeing, etc.

Petroglyph at Papa Vaka, you can see a boat and fishhooks if you look closely

Petroglyph at Papa Vaka, you can see a boat and fishhooks if you look closely

Our last stop was Te Pito Kura, the site of the largest Moai erected on the island, although it was toppled during the war (the only larger ones are in the quarry in a state of construction). The site is also home to a magic stone, said to have healing powers and directional qualities. However, there has been no proof of it healing any one and because of its high iron content there will be a reaction if a compass is placed upon it.

The magic stone aka Te Pito Kura

The magic stone aka Te Pito Kura

And that ended a very enjoyable and informative day, partly thanks to our expert guide, John (see POIF below for contact details).

After our busy day out on tour, we almost enjoyed being forced, by heavy rain, to take it easy at the Cabin the next day. It was a day of writing postcards, working on photos and a bit of relaxation. However, by late afternoon the rain had stopped and the sun was out, so we decided to do the same. We jumped in the car and headed of to explore some of the sites along the west coast. Of the three sites on our list, one, Ahu Tepeu was closed for restoration work, but we did get to see the other two.
First stop was Hanga Kio’e, a single standing Moai atop of some pretty impressive cliffs. Followed by Tahai, the only standing Moai with eyes and we waited to watch the sunset there.

Sunset with Moai and Tourist at Tahai

Sunset with Moai and Tourist at Tahai

Sunset at Tahai (on a rainy day)

Sunset at Tahai (on a rainy day)

Originally all Moai’s had eyes made from crushed coral. The eyes were inserted into the Moai eye socket once erected, so it could look over the village and keep it safe. But when the Moai’s were toppled during the war the eyes either fell out, our were gouged out by the enemy.

Moai with the coral eyes

Moai with the coral eyes

For the next day it was a very early start, as we wanted to see the sunrise over Tongariki on the far side of the island. A drive in the dark across the island, being careful to avoid the horse and cattle on the road, got us to Tongariki at 07:00, in good time to witness an amazing sunrise.

Sunrise at Tongariki

Sunrise at Tongariki

For the rest of the morning we toured around our favourite sites to see them in a different light.

Rano Raraku in the morning

Rano Raraku in the morning

Rano Raraku in morning sunlight before opening time

Rano Raraku in morning sunlight before opening time

Anakena with Moai and Beach in the background

Anakena with Moai and Beach in the background

Anakena revisited

Anakena revisited

Anakena Moai revisited

Anakena Moai revisited

Ovahe Beach, not for swimming

Ovahe Beach, not for swimming

It was then time to head back to the cabin for a rest, but not before we visited the harbour at Hanga Roa to watch the cargo transfer process (see Modern Day Rapa Nui in POIF below).
By late afternoon we were rested and ready to explore more of Hanga Roa, ending the day with a nice meal in a restaurant looking out into the Pacific and finally watching the sun go down, before going back to the cabin.

Catholic Church in Hanga Roa

Catholic Church in Hanga Roa

Last night in Rapa Nui with local punch

Last night in Rapa Nui with local punch

Cemetery at Hanga Roa

Cemetery at Hanga Roa

Sunset in Hanga Roa

Sunset in Hanga Roa

And that was our amazing visit to Rapa Nui, one we shall never forget and place we would like to come back to.
So it was a flight back to Santiago de Chile, a two night stop over, and then off for new adventures in Colombia.


Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Rapa Nui
The Europeans called it Easter Island, the Chileans Isla de Pascua but it is now known by its native name of Rapa Nui. Although the island belongs to Chile it is in fact Polynesian, forming the most southeastern point of the Polynesian triangle. It has a population of around 8000, all of which live in the only town of Hanga Roa. It is a small island, only 164 square kilometres, 45% of which is a National Park. In 1995 the island was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, to help protect its unique culture and monuments, most notably its Moai’s (see below).

Flag of Rapa Nui

Flag of Rapa Nui

Rapa Nui from above

Rapa Nui from above

Myths, Legends and the History of Rapa Nui
Today experts believe that they have a pretty definitive history of Rapa Nui, but with very little oral accounts and an un-deciphered written record, questions still remain. However, generally speaking, this is a brief history of Rapa Nui.
Millions of years ago, with four independent volcanic eruptions, magma and ash from the sea floor was forced to the surface, to make the island that we know today as Rapa Nui. The island remained uninhabited until Polynesian travellers arrived somewhere between the 8th and 12th century. At the time the island was a true paradise, palm trees covered the island, the weather was very favourable and the sea was full of fish. The new arrivals landed in the north of the island but soon split up and formed tribal groups throughout the island, mostly living on the coast to take advantage of fishing.
Life was good and all they needed was in plentiful supply, therefore they had time on their hands. Time enough to honour their tribal leaders with statues to adorn their burial sites. These statues, called Moai’s, got grander as the centuries passed by. However, what they hadn’t realised was that they were using resources faster than they could be replenished. They thus found themselves in a famine situation, and as humans do, one tribe stole from the other and war broke out. Many lives were lost through starvation and warfare; cannibalism became riff, and the population collapsed.
By the time Europeans arrived, the Rapa Nui population only numbered in the hundreds. With the Europeans bringing new diseases with them, and plundering the locals for the slave trade, the island lost almost all of its inhabitants. And with that went most of the historical record, verbal or written.

Moai’s
Moai’s are the massive statues that make Rapa Nui famous. These monuments range in size from three to twelve meters tall, are carved in a likeness of a tribal leader and are placed on top of a platform (a Ahu). Beneath the platform is a burial chamber containing the leader remains (confirmed by the few sites that have been excavated).
The Moai is carved from a single piece of rock (compressed volcanic ash) taken from the only dedicated quarry on the island (Rano Raraku). The carving is of the individual’s head and body, but nothing below the waist. The reason for this is unknown. Once carved it was then transported to its destination and erected on top of the Ahu. Transportation could be over 20km of undulating terrain, most likely using palm tree trunks to roll it. Many men were involved in this activity and each Moai was estimated to take about a year to complete. It has also been noted that as time went by the Moai’s got bigger, probabley due to the advancement in technology.
Once the Moai was erected it with given a “Topknot or Pukao”, this is believed to be his hair and not a hat. The Pukao did not come from the same quarry as the head and body, so more carving and transportation was involved. The Pukao were carved at Puna Pua, an area with a high iron ore content. So giving the Pukao its red colouration. Once on site the Pukao was placed on top of the Moai head, to finish off the construction.
Moai’s are erected to face away from the sea and overlook the tribal village that they once ruled (there is one exception, where the Moai’s represent the seven journeyman who first landed on the island). But today most Moai’s lay broken on the ground. This is because during the tribal wars they were all pulled down, either to celebrate victory or because the prosperity they represented no longer existed. In fact the only ones that stand today are the ones re-erected by archaeologist and historians to show what they would have looked like in times gone by.

Moais

Moais

Modern Day Rapa Nui
Although our primary goal was to explore Rapa Nui’s ancient culture and history, sometimes the modern way of life is equally as interesting. First we discovered that what we see today is relatively new, and is off the back of a tourist boom in the past 10-15 years. Today, residents are reliant on tourism for their livelihood. That aside a number of interesting fact came to light whilst chatting to the locals, of which here are a few.

There is only one hospital on the island, but not enough doctors evidently. The hospital can deal with usual demands, maternity, minor cuts and breaks, etc. But for anything serious, an air ambulance is required to take the patient to hospital in Chile, 5 hours flight each way. Fortunately, the cost of this is covered by the local heath care insurance.

Rapa Nui is not self-sufficient and relies on shipments from Chile for most things. Small items come by plane, but large items need to be transported by boat, and take much longer. But that is only part of the problem, Rapa Nui doesn’t have a harbour deep enough to dock a large container ship. So to get round this, they unload the ship out in the bay using a specially designed barge with crane. This involves many journeys from ship to shore, as the carrying capacity of the barge is much smaller.

Harbour activities

Harbour activities

Shipping almost everything from Chile also has an impact on what you can find in the shops at any one time. The locals obvious realise this and shop wisely, but for the few self-catering tourist like us this can be a bit of a problem, especially when you arrive around Xmas time. Although we didn’t fully realise this when shopped on our first day, it was a good job we did because the shelves were almost bare when we returned on Xmas eve. And food is not cheap, although alcohol is at Chilean prices, the rest are closer to Icelandic prices.

We wondered about refuse as well, what do they do with it. As you can imagine the problem is getting bigger as more tourist visit. But for the moment they have an incineration plant for about 60% of it, with a target of recycling the other 40%. It is debateable whether this is being achieved, but what ever is recyclable, it is packed up and shipped to Chile for processing.

In respect of energy, surprisingly there isn’t much renewable at the moment. You see a few solar panels, but most of the power comes from diesel generators. Maybe in time this will change, because what the island has plenty of is wind and sun. Maybe even an ideal location for electric cars, as distance are short, but they would have to be robust to deal with the roads.

Horses and cattle roam freely around the island, with only fences/walls to keep them out of the National Park sites. This means it is common to find them wandering in the road, almost anywhere on the island. Another driving hazard to contend with.

Cattle roaming freely on the island

Cattle roaming freely on the island

Wild horses roaming freely across the island

Wild horses roaming freely across the island

In the UK I am used to church bells being rung in a standard way, without any real tune you could recognise. But on Rapa Nui, and I don’t know whether it is only at Christmas, the bells chime out Christmas carols.

John
If anyone reading this is planning on visiting Rapa Nui, we can highly recommend our guide John. He can be found at Cabana Tongariki, close to the hospital in Hanga Roa.

Posted by MAd4travel 14:27 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Southern Chile and more

Route: Santiago de Chile – Molina – Recinto – Curacautin – Pucon – Valdivia – Entre Lagos – Ensenada – Puerto Vares- Ancud – Chonchi – Ensenada – Nueva Imperial – Talca – Santiago – Buenos Aires – Puerto Iguazu – Buenos Aires.

DECEMBER 2016 – JANUARY 2017

On 07 December we picked up our hire car and headed south. Our first stop was 250km south of Santiago, in the fruit and vegetable growing region and in a small town called Molina. Our aim was to visit the national park near by, but Anne’s cough had got so bad we needed to seek medical advice. Our host David was very helpful and organised a doctor’s visit on the first day and a hospital visit on the second (to get a second opinion). To our surprise the diagnosis was an allergy. The hospital increased the strength of the medication (given my the doctor) and gave Anne an injection to speed up the recovery process.

From Molina, we headed a further 250km south to a small village called Recinto, nestled in the forested slopes of the Andean Mountains. We had beautiful views from our cabin balcony of both the forest and mountains. But would you credit it, I (Malc) started to develop the same symptoms as Anne, so started the course of allergy tablets that had originally been proscribed by the doctor for her (Anne was now on the Hospital prescribed medication). Our first, and only full day, dawned with a fine mountain rain in the air, and as neither of us was in the best of health, a short village walk when the rain cleared was our only activity.

Another 350km south, and we were now in the northern reaches of Chile’s Lake District. Home for the next three nights would be a cabin in the woods, south east of Curacautin. Beautiful location, but access was at the limit of our little Hyundai Accent’s capabilities. Day one again dawned with fine mountain rain but cleared to allow us to walk to the idyllic Laguna Negra. The second day was much nicer, sunshine and a clear blue sky, so we hiked to the viewpoint to see Vulcan Llaima (the local volcano that dominates the skyline on a clear day) in all its glory.

Parc Nacional Conguillio

Parc Nacional Conguillio

Woods in Parc Nacional Conguillio

Woods in Parc Nacional Conguillio

Lava flow fromVolcano Llaima

Lava flow fromVolcano Llaima

Our cabin in the wood, just outside Parc Nacional Conguillio

Our cabin in the wood, just outside Parc Nacional Conguillio

Track to our cabin in the woods

Track to our cabin in the woods

Local birdlife

Local birdlife

Volcano Llaima

Volcano Llaima

Chile_264.jpgAccess to our cabin in the woods

Access to our cabin in the woods

From one cabin in the woods, we then moved to another, 250km further south. Not quite so remote and with a bit better road access. The cabin was located between the two-lakeside towns of Pucon and Caburgua, next to the Rio Pucon. More stunning scenery, with the skyline dominated by Volcano Villarrica. We had three days here and had plenty of time to enjoy the lakes, rivers and the nearby national park.

Lago Pucon

Lago Pucon

Southeast this time, to the coastal town of Valdivia. Said to be one of the most attractive towns in Chile, this was stretching it a bit, but it was pleasant enough. However, we did love the open market, selling a fabulous selection of fruit, veg and fish. And with the massive South American Sea Lions waiting for fish scraps, barely feet away from the fishmonger, quite a unique environment. Sadly our second day in the area was a wash out.

South American Sea Lions

South American Sea Lions

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

South American Sea Lion in Valdivia

It was then onwards south to another lakeside town, Entre Lagos on lake Puyehue. For the two nights here the weather wasn’t favouring us, but we did manage a waterfall (s) hike in the Puyehue National Park.

DIY water transportation wheel

DIY water transportation wheel

Stones that float

Stones that float

Three Waterfalls Hike

Three Waterfalls Hike

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South once more, and another lakeside town. Ensenada was on Lago Llanquihue, a beautiful setting surrounded by two volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, the later having erupted as recently as 2015. Accommodation was also another cabin in the woods and a very comfortable one to. Although the weather was still unsettled we were able to get out and enjoy our surroundings. A drive up to the ski station on Vulcan Osorno allowed us to witness all the different vegetation as the altitude increased, until there was nothing but volcanic ash. We also visited Lake Petrohue and explored the waterfall trails along the Rio Petrohue.

Los Pilliyos

Los Pilliyos

It was now Xmas day and our next destination was Chiloe (a large island just off the coast of the mainland), or so we thought. About half way to the ferry port, Anne’s phone burst into life, announcing a Tsunami alert. Not sure what to make of this, we studied what other people were doing, namely nothing out of the ordinary, and continued our journey. However, just before we arrived at the ferry terminal we were stopped by police, advised that there was in fact a possibility of a Tsunami and we should get away from the coast. Also, because of this there was no ferry’s running? With this advise we headed back in-land and spent the night Puerto Vares about 100km from the coast. It was there that we heard that there had been a 7.6-magnatude earthquake in Quellon (far south of Chiloe), which had triggered the Tsunami alert.

By the next day, the news was much better. No one had been hurt in the earthquake, the Tsunami warning had been lifted and the ferries were back to normal. So this time we successfully crossed the Canal de Chacao and arrived safely on the island of Chiloe.

Car Ferry to Chiloe

Car Ferry to Chiloe

We had planned a nine day stay on Chiloe, which was now eight, a couple of nights in the north at Ancud and the rest in the centre at Chonchi. Chiloe is one of the wettest places in Chile, but other than dodging the odd heavy shower here and there, in didn’t affect our enjoyment of this very scenic island. The pace of life on the island was even more relaxed than the mainland and scenery was very much like Devon and Cornwell. We loved our stay there. We got out on the water a couple of times to see the marine life and the coast from a different prospective. We visited one of the smaller islands of the main island, including another car ferry. Walked in the country side and visited the Chiloe National Park, which occupies almost all of the western coast, and explored many of the towns and villages. What was also a bonus was our accommodation. Both very comfortable self-catering cabins, but with magnificent views out over the bay with fishing boats constantly coming and going (especially in Chonchi). The only signs of the earthquake, although we didn’t visit Quellon, were a few cracks in the road and a number of small landslides. However, most days we did feel an earth tremor, all part of the after shock process.

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Goose

Goose

Red Legged Cormorant

Red Legged Cormorant

Ancud Chiloe

Ancud Chiloe

One of many UNESCO church's on Chiloe

One of many UNESCO church's on Chiloe

Chile mainland from Chiloe

Chile mainland from Chiloe

Chiloe

Chiloe

Ibis

Ibis

Chonchi Port

Chonchi Port

Chile_357.jpgChile_359.jpgCastro Chiloe

Castro Chiloe

Castro Chiloe

Castro Chiloe

From Chiloe we started our journey back north to Santiago. First stop was a return visit to Ensenada and the lovely cabin in the woods. We had two full days here, and on the second, we got good weather and were able to explore Vulcan Osorno up as far as the snowline.

Volcano Osorno

Volcano Osorno

Volcano Osorno

Volcano Osorno

Swan

Swan

A long drive from Ensenada brought us to our next destination, Nueva Imperial in the heart of the Mapuche region. The Mapuche are one of the last indigenous people to still remain in Chile, although now mostly integrated with the European settlers. We had one full day here to explore, it rained, but we did keep dry for our visit to Lago Budi.

Another long drive brought us to our final destination before returning the car in Santiago, that of Talca. The accommodation here was once again very comfortable. This time we were not self catering and instead ate at the on site restaurant. This had the added bonus of a bit of interaction with fellow travellers. Talca had great mountain scenery just a short drive away, so this allowed us one day of hiking and one day just relaxing.

Santiago was just an overnight before flying on to Easter Island, our so we thought. The following morning all plans changed. Whilst at breakfast my (Malc) day bag got stolen, and with it went my passport, credit cards, money, electronics and more. So instead of Easter Island, the following week was spent getting an emergency passport, a replacement tourist card, and a visa for Argentina, together with undertaking the endless tasks to organise everything I needed to continue our travels. It was a nightmare, but I must acknowledge how helpful the hotel staff were and that also goes for the British and Argentine Embassies and the Chilean Police. Also, Anne was amazing; I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Fortunately, everything was organised it time for us to continue our travels into Argentina, and get the itinerary back on track.

Flight over the Indian Mountains from Chile to Argentina

Flight over the Indian Mountains from Chile to Argentina

One night in Buenos Aires, followed by an internal flight to Puerto Iguazu. The focus of the visit was the Iguazu Falls, the largest body of water falling anywhere in the world. We spent two days at the falls and one in the town of Puerto Iguazu. The falls were amazing as ever, we had visited them before, but the crowds were bigger than last time.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Turtle

Turtle

Plush Crested Jay

Plush Crested Jay

Spiders

Spiders

Toucan

Toucan

Swallow-tailed Butterfly

Swallow-tailed Butterfly

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

Cayman

Cayman

Coati

Coati

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Our last three nights were in Buenos Aires with the days spent sight seeing.

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Personal Observation and interesting facts

Supermarkets
Best supermarket in Chile was Jumbo. Because it stocked our favourite chocolate marzipan and some British beer – Trooper & London Pride.

Chilean's
Almost without exception, the Chilean people were the friendliest we have encountered anywhere in the world.

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu reminded us that there seems more tourist in the world than ever before, maybe people are rushing to see our planets wonders before us humans destroy them all.

Posted by MAd4travel 02:09 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Northern Chile

Route: Santiago de Chile – Vicuna - Vallenar – Huasco – Chaneral – Bahia Inglesa – La Serena – Santiago de Chile – Calama – San Pedro de Atacama – Santiago de Chile

NOVEMBER – DECEMBER 2016

Our first 24 hours was spent travelling from London to Santiago de Chile, via Buenos Aires, Argentina, a distance of 12,225klm. Much of the next day was spent recovering from the journey, which wasn’t too bad to be fair, in a comfortable apartment in the centre of Santiago. The following three days were spent exploring the city.

Arriving in to Santiago de Chile over the Andian Mountains

Arriving in to Santiago de Chile over the Andian Mountains

Santiago de Chile Old Town

Santiago de Chile Old Town

Santiago de Chile old and new

Santiago de Chile old and new

Santiago de Chile Fish Market

Santiago de Chile Fish Market

Santiago de Chile - central park

Santiago de Chile - central park

Santiago de Chile skyline

Santiago de Chile skyline

Our next destination was Vicuna, about 400km north of Santiago. We choose to fly and then hire a car to explore the Copiapo Region. This we did, and spent the first few nights at Vicuna in the Elqui Valley. Fantastic accommodation and great hosts, it was hard to leave. The Elqui Valley was beautiful, an oasis in an otherwise barren landscape, where the river runs down from the mountains to the sea. The valley is cultivated mostly for vines and the production of Pisco, the local spirit. In addition to the valley scenery, we had an amazing evening gazing at the stars and planets through massive telescopes at one of the local observatories.

Accommodation in Vicuna, Elque Valley

Accommodation in Vicuna, Elque Valley

Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley

Moon, from Elqui Valley Observatory

Moon, from Elqui Valley Observatory

Valley transport

Valley transport

From Vicuna we headed north to explore more of the Copiapo Region. Vallenar was our first stop, which allowed us to explore the attractive valleys of El Transito & Carman. It was then 60klm west to the coastal town of Huasco, and the beautiful Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe, with its resident Vicunas. From Huasco we travelled much further north, into the Atacama Desert and to the town of Chanaral. Chaneral was our base to visit another beautiful park, Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar, with its stunning geology and many varieties of Cactus.

Huasco

Huasco

American Brown Pelican in Huasco Harbour

American Brown Pelican in Huasco Harbour

Parque Nacional Llanos de Chile

Parque Nacional Llanos de Chile

Vicuna

Vicuna

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Cactus in Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Cactus in Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Flora of Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Flora of Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

We then started our journey back south with three relaxing days at Bahia Inglesa. A little beach resort in a secluded bay, where we did very little except, eat delicious seafood and chill out. It was then onwards south to La Serena, the principal city of the region, before flying back to Santiago de Chile and the start of the second northern phase.

Cadera

Cadera

Bahia Inglesa

Bahia Inglesa

Our next Chile adventure took us much further north, deep into the Atacama Desert. We flew to Calama and stayed a few nights in the city. The reason for the stop over, was to visit the largest open cast copper mine in the world, at Chuquicamata. And, what an impressive visit it was. You can’t believe the scale of the operation until you get up close. The whole in the ground was over 14klm long and several kilometres wide, and they plan to make it bigger. The trucks were enormous with a ladder needed for the driver to get to his cabin; everything was on a massive scale. They have even relocated a whole town, so as the operation could expand even further.

Chuquicamata - Worlds largest open cast copper mine

Chuquicamata - Worlds largest open cast copper mine

Mega truck at Chuquicamata

Mega truck at Chuquicamata

Mining at Chuquicamata

Mining at Chuquicamata

Loaded truck at Chuquicamata mine

Loaded truck at Chuquicamata mine

Chuquicamata

Chuquicamata

Chuquicamata truck convoy

Chuquicamata truck convoy

Chuquicamata mining

Chuquicamata mining

From Calama we moved deeper into the desert, and to the town of San Pedro de Atacama. An oasis of adobe style houses, with Andean volcanoes looming in the background. We hired a three-bedroom house and spent 10 days in San Pedro, thoroughly exploring this unique region. As well as the towering volcanoes, which are always in view, the landscape has a barren beauty. There are vast salt lakes with flocks of Flamingos, sparse grassland where Vicuna graze, canyons with moon like features but no water and green patches in the desert where mountain rivers cut through. It was also hot, a powerful sun in mostly clear blue skies made you seek shelter whenever it presented itself. Cooling down only at night. The other feature of the area was the altitude, San Pedro was at 2400meters, but most of our exploration was higher than this, 4800meters being our highest point ventured. Heat plus altitude made each activity extra tiring, but definitely worth it. We also did some more stargazing.

Pukura de Quitor

Pukura de Quitor

Volcano Licancabur

Volcano Licancabur

Vicuna

Vicuna

Salar de Taras

Salar de Taras

Flamingoes on Laguna de Tara

Flamingoes on Laguna de Tara

Flamingoes on Laguna de Tara

Flamingoes on Laguna de Tara

Atacama Desert rock

Atacama Desert rock

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna sand dune decent

Valle de la Luna sand dune decent

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna sunset

Valle de la Luna sunset

Laguna de Chaxa

Laguna de Chaxa

Flamingo flight path

Flamingo flight path

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna

Laguna Minques

Laguna Minques

San Pedro de Atacama high street

San Pedro de Atacama high street

Llama's

Llama's

From San Pedro de Atacama it was back to Calama, a flight to Santiago de Chile and the start of our Southern adventure.

Personal Observations and interesting facts

Earthquakes
The Chilean people treat earthquakes as part of everyday life but for us tourists it can be a bit disconcerting. The first we experienced, in Santiago de Chile, almost shook the mirror off the wall, and the second, in La Serena, was further from the epicentre so the movement was less.

Hitchhiking
In rural parts of Chile, public transport is infrequent, making hitchhiking commonplace. In the short time we were there, we have picked up three locals. The first two were vineyard workers, who offered us freshly cut grapes as a thank you. And the other one was a lady who lived in the desert and wanted a lift to town. All are very grateful for the lift.

Roadside Shrines
In England, death through a road accident, warrants, at most, a cross and a few flowers. However, in Chile, this would be the minimum, more usually it would be a concrete shrine filled with biblical characters. Not only that these shrines can be big, some are the size of a small chapel. And the unusual doesn’t stop there. We have seen a whole car included in the structure, as well as safety hats and road cones, even a large photo of the deceased (election campaign size).

Memorial to a road fatality

Memorial to a road fatality


Road Side Memorial

Road Side Memorial

Posted by MAd4travel 02:07 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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