April 16th, 2009 @ 11:22 am by John · 15 Comments
After a night on the benches of the Santiago airport we boarded our jet and sped off towards the middle of the pacific ocean. After 6 hours a tiny island loomed out of the airplane windows, which were calling home for the next 4 days.
Rapa Nui, to give it its traditional name, is an anomaly on this earth. A tucked away, remote isolated haven where rugged terrain, magical vistas, folklore and tradition meet in a mythical melting pot of Polynesian and Spanish culture.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the kind staff of Mihinoa camping who had 4 laia’s ready and waiting for us. Donning our new flower necklaces we set up in our hostel and planned for the next few days. The campsite located in the town of Hanga Roa was fantastically situated a stones throw from the sea with its crashing light blue waves battering the rocky shoreline.
On one of the evenings we got a taste of Polynesian history and culture when we attended the Kari Kari show. It was a show full of traditional dance and songs where the audience got the chance to participate albeit not by their own choice. The performers on the show would come off the stage and go hunting for potential prey to dance on with them. Sitting at the back of the audience provided no safety net as me and Kev were eagerly targeted for a showdown on stage. Infact, what seemed daunting thing, turned out to be a great laugh where we got to dance with some pretty Polynesian girls and receive a huge round of applause from the audience.
Easter Island is well known for its beauty and Moai statues dotted all over the island which would take a long time to see if on foot. So we hired a small jeep which we affectionately named “Jimmy” after the name of its model. With our new friend Jimmy, we took to the road and visited Orongo village which gave us some information about the history of the inhabitants of this island thousands of years ago. We then went on to Rano Kau Volcano which hosts a vast amount of Moai statues of all shapes and sizes.
Before we went on to see the spectacular Tongariki statues (picture below), we chilled out on Anakena beach until it started to rain. We finished off the day by watching the sunset at Ahu Akiri, where we shared the stunning views of red skies over the big blue sea with 4 other Moais.
The island is also a hiking haven. We were recommended a long hike around the coast of the island. The starting point of this hike was about 20km away at Anakena beach and by then we had no longer had Jimmy. Fortunately, The island is hitch-hiker friendly, and we managed to grab a free ride on a back of a lorry. Along the hike we got to see the beautiful natural coast lines and the many strange rock formations and old rock structures from previous inhabitants. On the final part of the hike we got a little miserable as we veered off the track and got lost inland. Then it got more miserable when it started to rain heavily. We got back to the campsite after about 7 hours of solid walking. That never put us off a little more hiking the following day where we saw the Ana Kai Tangata caves and a few more Moai statues along the coast, closer to our campsite.
We spent the final days chilling out, enjoying the sun and our sea views, playing volley ball with the campsite owner’s children and reading some of the books that we have managed to hoard since we started traveling.
We leave this small gem of an island after four fantastic days after the owners kindly see us off at the airport where we leave for our next slice of paradise that is Tahiti.
Tags: Chile · South America
April 12th, 2009 @ 3:29 pm by Chris · No Comments
We ended our Salt Flat tour in San Pedro, we were a little concerned as we approached the border due to our tour company telling us the border could be closed due strikes but they continued taking us towards it anyway. We were able to go through the border albeit after a pretty long wait in a stiflingly hot bus and more stamps in the passport, yay!
We arrived late in the afternoon and started the hunt for accommodation, we found a nice YHA hostel from the guide book, John had his own room whilst we shared another room with 3 story bunk beds of which Mike and Kev were on the top some 5 metres off the ground, it was quite a climb to the top, especially after a few drinks.
After looking around San Pedro we discovered the Geysers and lagoons we could see from San Pedro were already covered with our guide on the Salt Flats, it became apparent we maybe stuck in San Pedro with little/nothing since both the buses out of town were fully booked and we would have to wait for the next ones in 4 days time. Our hostel was advertising Sand boarding along with a tour of some caves and the chance to see the sunset and moonrise from an exclusive location. We had heard it was a fun thing to do and since we missed it in Lima we decided to give it a go here. With our activities sorted we went to find something to eat.
After eating we decided to spend the rest of the evening in a very productive way and went to the bar for one or two drinks, which turned into several more. We spent the evening drinking under the stars alongside an open fire to keep us warm, joined by Barry someone in our room in the hostel who was also trying to get out of San Pedro. To conclude the evening we left the bar after it closed and bought some more of our own beers to drink back at the hostel.
The next day we got up late and went to find out how we could get out of San Pedro, the result was a private minibus costing almost triple the other buses, but after we weighted up the pros and cons of stay in San Pedro it was our only option. With a big hole in our pockets after paying for the bus we headed off Sand boarding. We left in the back (me and Kev) of a pickup truck, everyone else had a nice seat in the front of the pickup.
After a short drive we arrived at a sandy hill with no ski lifts! I tentatively put my hand up when asked whether anyone had snowboarded before which meant I could keep my trainers on and us a board with bindings, everyone else had to do it in their socks and on a board with hoops for their feet.
We began waxing our boards with the supplied candlesticks and started heading down the slopes, head first in some cases. It was harder than it first looked with Mike slowing to a complete stop down the hill and Kev doing one or two face plants into sand.
We all came to the conclusion the hardest part of sand boarding was the climb back to the top of the hill on scorching hot sand and we should also not take cameras because we almost lost another camera, Mikes, when it was dropped into the sand and the lens got stuck out luckily hitting it against a hard surface sorted it out.
The caves we were taken to were not very spectacular and somewhat disappointing to look at, not quite what they had been built up to be. After leaving the caves on the advice of our guide we grabbed a few beers to take with us to drink whilst we watched the sunset.
We headed to our exclusive viewing area for the sunset and full moon experience, it just so happened all the other tour companies must have got wind of this exclusive location as they started arriving too.
As the sun approached it’s final moments before disappearing behind the skyline it started moving very fast, so we had to work fast on our photos and almost as soon as the sun had gone a very fast rising moon on the began to appear which we all had a go at pointing at, with some success.
The following day we left in our very expensive taxi towards the Chilean border enjoying some chilled out music courtesy of the line out cable and iPod once again. We reached the border and got into another 2 cars to reach our first destination in Argentina, Salta.
Bring on the steak and wine, yum!
Tags: Chile · South America
April 1st, 2009 @ 12:31 am by Mike · 9 Comments
After a 10 hours bone shaking bus ride from Potosi we arrived in a place called Uyuni where the gang would begin a 3 day tour across one of the largest salt flat planes in the world. With a 9:30AM start we turned up out outside Cordillera office who we had booked our tour with and was greeted with an Australian born Argentine couple; Surge and Silvi who would be joining us on our tour. Taking us through the salt flats was Richard or how he pronounced it ‘Zicard’ who did not speak a word of English and would be our driver and supposedly cook for the next few days.
In our 10 year old Toyota Land Cruiser which clearly looked well used, we pulled up at our first destination which was two steam trains with approximately 7 carriages each that sat in the middle of no where. The steam trains look like they had been abandoned sometime ago as they were rusting away and covered full of graffiti. Either way they were unusual props and perfect to start our array of catalogue poses.
With our photos entries ready for Littlewoods catalogue we pressed on west into the heart of Salar De Uyuni which is where the salt flats are located. Here we stopped off at what was once a hotel made out of salt but had to be abandoned as it was now illegal to have a hotel on the salt flats. The hotel has been converted into a “covert museum” where you had to buy a chocolate bar to enter. Continuing further west we arrived at a place called Isla Incahauas which was like a raised island of rock that was filled full of cactuses. We hiked around the island for approximately 40 minutes whilst pulling out a new string of catalogue poses as there was nice views of the salt flats.
For the remainder of the afternoon the group devoted all of it’s time in taking perspective shots on the salt flats, which basically is a large white canvas so it is easy to make impossible shots looks possible.
Here are a collections of the perspective shots we took.
In the evening we carried on driving west until we hit the border of the salt flats where we would rest for the night. On the border are lots of salt hotels which we had the privilege of staying in. Quite literally everything in the hotel was made out of salt; the dinner table, the chairs we sat on, even the base of our beds.
Having decided the night before, the group opted for an early start in an attempt to stay ahead of the other flurry of tourist who were on the same tour. Leaving the salt hotel at around 7AM we quickly stopped off in a town called San Juan to pick up some basic supplies. Now we started to head south in the direction of Chile crossing a railway line to a place called Salar De Chiguana which had a small military boarder control and views of ‘Ollague’, which is one of the highest volcano in Chile.
Our next destination of the day is a place called Arbol De Piedra which is an area full of tall weathered away rock. There was one particular rock that is well know which has suffered quite severely from wind erosion and a semi ‘apple core’ effect has occurred. Most of the base has weathered away meaning the top section was a lot larger than the bottom and it is only a matter time as to when it would topple over.
After another cracking performance in front of the camera we continued south to a lagoon called Colorada. The lagoon itself was pretty stunning with amazing views of the surrounding of glacier topped mountains, but what made the Colorada lagoon special is that it is home of the famous pink flamingos. The lagoon was filled full with pink flamingos which were an absolutely delight to watch, especially when you see a flock hurl across splashing in the water as they fly off into the air.
After lunch we continued further south to our final destination called the Red Lagoon. This lagoon was quite literally a large lagoon filled with red water and apparently the water is red due to the algae.
On the way to the lodging where we would be resting for the night we had Kev’s iPod plugged into the auxiliary on the 4×4 stereo. Here we had a ‘free for all’ where each person got to take turns in picking any song of their choice. It got to Surge’s turn and he picked an absolute classic that was Bohemian Rhapsody. It was just like the scene out of Wayne’s World and when the guitar rift kicked in everyone was head banging like crazy including our driver. The video would have been a classic but unfortunately we have lost our copy and looking to retrieve it from Serge and Silvi, so watch this space.
On our final day we had to get up at 4:30AM so we could see some geysers in action. This type of ‘geysers’ is different to a ‘geezer’ known in the a UK which as Microsoft Works dictionary puts it, is an “eccentric or irritable senior citizen”, they are a spring that gushes out hot water and / or steam. The geyser that we approached first had steam gushing out furiously and smelt of sulphur, but in this case we had no problems touching the steam as it was only mildly warm. Warming our hands is exactly what we all needed because the temperature was below freezing to the point where everyone’s fingers and toes was hurting. Chris even had a bottle of water we left in the car overnight that had frozen.
Desperately needing warmth to prevent us loosing a limb we arrived at our next destination. It was an outdoor hot spring that would solve all our problems. All but one problem as there was no changing rooms meaning we had to get changed in the freezing cold, but it was totally worth it. The hot spring was so heavenly that we almost considered skipping breakfast, but unfortunately hunger got the better of us. After getting changed for breakfast I left my swimming shorts on the wing mirror of our 4×4 to dry and upon returning back they had frozen despite the sun shining in its full glory.
The very final stop of our salt flat tour was a trip to the Green Lagoon. Of all the lagoon’s we had visited the Green Lagoon was the most picturesque. The lagoon was large with still, undisturbed water that made the whole area feel so tranquil with reflections of the glacier topped mountains on the lagoon that were truly stunning which you can see for yourself below.
Next stop; a quick stop in Chile to one of the driest town in the world called San Pedro De Atacama.
Tags: Bolivia · Chile · South America