Cadence Visits The Home of the Mayan Calendar!
Cadence Travel Specialist visits Easter Island, the Atacama region, and Santiago.Review by George Wahab
Photos by Kathleen Wahab
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is a magical place of mysterious legends, theories of extra terrestrial visitors, great stone statues that walked from the quarry to the plateau where they now stand, and the very place associated with the Mayan calendar predicting the end of our world on December 21th 2012. That's where we started our visit to Chile- on this tiny island of just 24 square miles and the southernmost piece of land in the Pacific Ocean.
Why anyone would venture to visit such a place? What else can we see beside the Moai? What type of aircraft can land on a tiny piece of land? All those questions came to mind when we decided to make an excursion to Easter Island.
On arrival we were pleasantly surprised. Our 5 hours of a comfortable flight on LAN from Santiago was a Boeing 767 aircraft, with every seat occupied by passengers from all over the world. We landed on a 1.5 mile world class runway that runs across the narrowest part of the island, built by the United States as an alternative site for the space shuttle landing. At the airport we were greeted with the Polynesian tradition of leis, and at the resort, a refreshing pisco sour.
After settling in our comfortable accommodations, there was no time to lose to explore the island. It requires a minimum of three to four days to take the many organized tours- archeological, historical, ancient villages, and of course, the Moais.
Visiting the quarry where the huge Moais were carved from the rocks was amazing; realizing the enormous work done with such primitive tools such as a piece of hard rock. Unfortunately, many of the statues have fallen on their way from the quarry and scattered all over the island! Descending from the hill they fell on their back, while on the flat surface they fell face down.
Climbing the volcano, we reached a breathtaking view of the lake in the crater and of the entire island and ocean. Wild horses roaming the landscape certainly added to its charm.
Relaxing on a Pacific Ocean beach was a soothing experience; sunny skies, warm white sandy beach and calm water with gentle waves. We treated ourselves to a delicious local empanada made of very thin dough folded over a tuna steak with cheese then deep fried to a crusty shell, topped with special local sauces... It was a delicacy to remember.
The island is a seafood haven; all kinds of fish fresh from the ocean, prepared to the delight of the palate; ceviches and carpaccio's of tuna, local fishes, octopus and others with dulce de leche, a favorite desert.
How these Moais were transported for a distance of eight miles, at a time when the inhabitants did not possess any powered equipment is a mystery by itself. The legend says that they walked this distance; it could be, as some scientists proved that it can be done by wiggling them with ropes pulled in different directions.
We spent three days in Santiago, the capital of Chile, a large and modern city. This was our second visit in almost four years. We took a privately guided city tour and we were amazed by the changes that took place in such a short period of time. New developments everywhere; new hotels opened, from five stars to deluxe boutique hotels to all types of hotels. New high end shopping areas, plazas, shopping centers are many. Slum neighborhoods are cleaned up and gentrified; art galleries, shops, restaurants and cafés abound, example, "Bella Vista". Seafood is the prime specialty.
Atacama Desert, north of Chile, was our final destination; a place like nowhere else in this world. At an elevation of 8000 to 11000 feet, having the clearest skies ever, Atacama Desert was elected to host the International Observatory "Alma", where the universe is being observed and studied by scientists from every nation.
The topography of the desert looks like the lunar landscape, especially at the "Moon Valley", it is hilly and volcanic. The soil is rich with minerals- Chile supplies most of the copper of the world. At "Rainbow Valley," the mountains vary in color based on their individual minerals. The blue mountain rocks are rich in copper, the red mountain is red as it is rich in iron, and the third is white due to its richness in silicon. Apart from the color scheme, the rock formations alone are fascinating.
The highlight of our trip was observing the sunset from a cliff in the Moon Valley. As the sun was setting in the West displaying a colorful panorama on one side, the full moon was rising from behind the snowcapped Andes to the East displaying another magical picture. It was as if the moon and the sun were competing for the best display. The experience was indescribable. We visited the geysers at 11000 feet elevation, a fantastic scene to see at sunrise.
Our experience in Chile was enriching, extraordinary, adventurous and to be highly recommended. The resort and hotel accommodations throughout the trip were deluxe and most comfortable.
Interested in visiting Chile? Contact a Cadence leisure travel specialist for the experience of a lifetime!
Cadence Travel Management