Monday, 21 March 2011

The Isla de Pascua

Moai at Rano Raraku, the quarry where they were created

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to the locals, is where we've been for the last few days. Best known for the stone Moai scattered across its shores and slopes, its also a first class South Sea Island with all the chilling-under-a-palm-tree potential that that entails.

For me the Moai are the big draw - I was captivated the first time I saw a photo and have wanted to visit them for as long as I can remember. It's partly the sheer spectacle, and partly the mystery that surrounds them. There are many theories but still no agreed story for how they were transported and put into place - the biggest are over 10 meters high and weigh many tonnes. The Moai were all toppled during inter-clan warfare precipitated by exhaustion of the island's natural resources. Seeing so many lying in ruin at the base of their Ahu (platforms) is very poignant.

Restored Moai at Tongariki; toppled Moai at Ura Uranga Te Mahina

Thanks to a great recommendation from Rob & Iz we've been staying in a great little Cabana a stone's throw from the breaking waves (we can watch them from our veranda) and right next to one of the best sets of standing Moai.

Sunsets

The sunsets have been coming thick and fast, as have the caipirinas (Rob - I'm converted!).

Obligatory cocktail

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

In Patagonia

Just returned to civilisation (and internet connectivity) after a week in the wilds of Patagonia. We've been living in very fancy tents deep in the Torres Del Paine national park, land of strong winds and changeable weather.

The Torres Del Paine massive

We've tortured ourselves with a couple of long hikes - one in good weather and the other in driving horizontal rain - and have taken advantage of our 4x4 to explore the less-visited corners of the park. The geography is incredible - huge granite outcrops, glaciers, azure lakes and wide open pampas. The fauna is fantastic too: we've had close encounters with guanaco (cousin to the lama), fox, rabbit, hare (huge!), rhea (think ostrich) and skunk (dead, smelly) on the ground, plus eagle, condor, flamingo and many other (unidentified by me) birds above it.


Assorted Patagonian fauna

Just about 2,000 photos so far and only one week in :-)

Monday, 7 March 2011

We've made it / Elqui Valley



Iberia came through on the second attempt. Rob, Iz, Daniel: you were right, Iberia long haul is nothing to shout about! But we made it, and the trip proper has begun :-)

One more slight hiccup in Santiago, the long fingers of Iberia clutching at us as LAN initially couldn't find our internal flights after Iberia's update yesterday, but that was quickly fixed. Then it was a short flight and drive up to the Elqui Valley and its starry skies.

The Elqui Valley hosts many of the world's best observatories due to the clear air, absence of light polution and the small matter of 320 cloudless nights per year. We visited Observatory de Pangue and got a fantastic tour of the night sky from the extremely knowledgeable Eric and his 40cm telescope. The southern skies really do look amazing.

We stayed over night at the Elqui Domos, dome tents pitched high in the valley. You can open the tent top and fall asleep gazing at the stars, so we did.

Location : D-485,

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Chile - not quite off to a flying start

So far we've made it as far as Madrid. We should be in the Elqui Valley right about now but Iberia let us down somewhat, getting us to Madrid two hours late and just as our connecting flight to Chile was pushing back. Literally - we could see our plane on the tarmac...

We've been re-booked for this evening, put up in a hotel and fed, and spent today on an impromptu exploration of Madrid. First stop was the airport to talk to LAN and Iberia again and get some changes to our internal flights in Chile as we clearly weren't going to be getting the first of those today. That all went without a hitch, and a quick bit of internetting got our car hire and hotels sorted too.

The rest of the day was tapas and wandering, finishing off by stumbling upon a parade of floats winding its way through the streets. This seems to happen whenever we are in Spain - I just assume that there's a big party right across the whole country every weekend :-)

We're off to dinner now before heading back to the airport for our midnight flight to Chile, take two.