Gail South

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Chile~ November, 2010

Sun., October 31

Flight to Santiago from Buenos Aires was changed from four o'clock to eight. Ate (Super Pancho: a hot dog with crushed potato chips--delicious) in the airport then flew.After paying $280 entrance fee, we went through customs. I got arrested in the airport in Chile because I had an orange in my bag. What a hassle!! First I had to fill out all kinds of paperwork and was issued a summons. Then I had to wait with three other viejas on a bench for the customs officer. At midnight , he interviewed me, threatened me wth a million dollar fine, and let me go. A man who had been on the plane with us was waiting after two hours with his wife and son to take us to our hotel. After a wild ride on Halloween night, we got there and collapsed (they had wanted to go out to eat at two in the morning)

Mon., Nov 1 -  Got up and had a leisurely breakfast. Went for a walking tour of Santiago . Very nice small city--almost deserted on the All Saints Day. Saw a nice exhibit of gold and silver at the museum and all the government buildings. The main museum was closed. Ended up at the Central Market where we had a great seafood meal (scallops with all the roe intact, conger eel soup and marisco soup), the came back and had a siesta--it was very, very hot. Waited til dark, then walked up the hill past Cerro Santa Lucia for ice cream at Emporio La Rosa. We were number 76 and they were up to 34. Worth the wait. Sat outdoors and watched people.  

One of the world's most famous yet least visited archaeological sites, Easter Island is a small, hilly, now treeless island of volcanic origin. Located in the Pacific Ocean at 27 degrees south of the equator and some 2200 miles off the coast of Chile , it is considered to be the world's most remote inhabited island. Sixty-three square miles in size and with three extinct volcanoes (the tallest rising to 1674 feet), the island is, technically speaking, a single massive volcano rising over ten thousand feet from the Pacific Ocean floor. The island received its most well known current name, Easter Island , from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen who became the first European to visit on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722 . Extensive archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic research has conclusively shown this hypothesis to be inaccurate. It is now recognized that the original inhabitants of Easter Island are of Polynesian stock, that they most probably came from the Marquesas or Society islands , and that they arrived as early as 318 AD. It is estimated that the original colonists, who may have been lost at sea, arrived in only a few canoes and numbered fewer than 100. At the time of their arrival, much of the island was forested, was teeming with land birds, and was perhaps the most productive breeding site for seabirds in the Polynesia region. Because of the plentiful bird, fish and plant food sources, the human population grew and gave rise to a rich religious and artistic culture. That culture's most famous features are its enormous stone statues called moai, at least 288 of which once stood upon massive stone platforms called ahu. There are some 250 of these ahu platforms spaced approximately one half mile apart and creating an almost unbroken line around the perimeter of the island. Another 600 moai statues, in various stages of completion, are scattered around the island, either in quarries or along ancient roads between the quarries and the coastal areas where the statues were most often erected. Nearly all the moai are carved from the tough stone of the Rano Raraku volcano. The average statue is 14 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 14 tons. Some moai were as large as 33 feet and weighed more than 80 tons (one statue only partially quarried from the bedrock was 65 feet long and would have weighed an estimated 270 tons). Depending upon the size of the statues, it has been estimated that between 50 and 150 people were needed to drag them across the countryside on sleds and rollers made from the island's trees. The moai and ahu were in use as early as AD 500, the majority were carved and erected between AD 1000 and 1650, and they were still standing when Jacob Roggeveen visited the island in 1722. A small number of the moai were once capped with "crowns" or "hats" of red volcanic stone. The meaning and purpose of these capstones is not known, but archaeologists have suggested that the moai thus marked were of pan-island ritual significance or perhaps sacred to a particular clan.  

Tues. Nov 2

Plane was delayed an hour, but made up half of that en route. Our driver, Vicki, was waiting with the owner of the hotel, Residencial Tahai, her sister, Theresa (we would discover that everyone here is related somehow). We have a nice big cabana with a shaded patio. Went into town. Had a great dinner at Haka Honu (but more expensive than we thought--we misfigured the exchange rate, plus they added the tip in but didn't tell us and we didn't check). Walked back among the moais along the coast, then retired early.   

Wed., Nov 3

Full day tour with Patricio from AO Tours. He arrived around 10 o'clock in a very battered VW bus. He had made a mistake and we were scheduled with two other people, Swedish men in their early 20's. It turned out to be fine. They were very pleasant, and apparently there are almost no birds on this island. The inhabitants cut down all the trees a hundred years ago and the birds left: duica finches, sparrows, pigeons, and beautiful red-tailed tropicbirds (beautiful, gorgeous, and all the pictures I took are LOST). We also saw a Chilean tinamou (perdiz). Excellent tour. Visited the quarry where the heads were carved. Saw a beautiful blue tropical fish. Had diner at the expensive French restaurant (sea urchins, octopus soup and scallops with avocado aioli). Walked home and got some good sunset photos. Good day.  

Thu, Nov 4

The half day tour scheduled with Patricio turned into almost a full day: 10 am to 4 pm . We visited the topknot quarry, where the "hats" were made. It is a different stone than that of the heads themselves. Transportation remains a mystery. We saw the five moias facing the sea (the only ones doing so) and crawled through (literally) two caves: the Banana Cave and the Cabade Dos Ventano. Good dinner by the sea.   

Fri, Nov 5

Good flight back to Santiago--lots of movies and music. Quick trip to Hotel Diego de Almagro (although Jerry disappeared and we feared we had lost him) This is a very nice facility close to the airport.

Sat, Nov 6

Picked up rental car with no problem. Had a hard time with the roads and directions, but got to Concha y Toro winery right on time for our 10:20 tour, which was OK, not as good as some, but interesting nonetheless. Huge group of Polish tourists whos guide had to retranslate everything the guide said. Two nice tastings. We had some problem finding the Hotel Termas de Cauquenes, but the OBT road we did find was beautiful with bright orange flowers lining the road and magnificent views of the snowy Andes . The resort was busy hosting the governor and things were a bit confused, but eventually we had a nice lunch. Went bird watching in the RN Cipreses and saw some very nice sights. Jerry wheedled wine and cheese from the chef.  

Sun, Nov 7

Hard rain all day. Great lunch at Lapostolle. We had appetizers in the great room by a roaring fire, then moved to the dining room. With dessert, the waiter brought us a Borobo 2007, one of the best wines I've ever had. On to Miguel Torres, where we were installed in the very spacious guest house, then taken on a personal tour.  

Mon., Nov 8 

Miguel was in Santiago , so we lunched with Sarah. Delicious.  Return to Santiago airport and Hotel Diego de Almagro. Had dinner in the dining room.  

Tue., Nov 9

Up early for our very long day.  Santiago to Buenos Aires . No problem. We thought we had a seven hour wait, but the attendant told us we could get on an earlier flight. So we rushed to get a taxi into town to pick up the bags we had left earlier at the Lafayette . Made it back just in time for the flight. Bad news. The flight from Sao Paulo to New York was the original one, so now we had seven hours in Sao Paulo . Had we known, we were planning a good meal in Buenos Aires . As it was, there was nothing in the boarding area and one doesn't dare leave that area. So we sat--not even a news stand. Finally met Herb and Candy at about 6 am . Home again!!.