The Majestic Andes
Bus stations are not the most salubrious places to start and finish great journeys; a negative which can be forgotten because the trip between the two was nothing short of spectacular. Although we were not first on the bus, we found that the prime seats at the very front of the top deck, were miraculously empty. We soon discovered that seasoned travellers tended to avoid the hair-raising sight of vertical cliffs and narrow bends that descend icy roads. Nevertheless, the real reward for our front seat location was the sight of Chile's highest mountain peaking out from behind the clouds, and the breathtaking sight of the majestic Andes.
We were presented with a surprise trip to the wine country of Casablanca to celebrate our wedding anniversary
An Unforgettable short break
Santiago is a city quite unlike Buenos Aires, in fact it seems much more American in nature with skyscrapers, fast multi-lane highways and tunnels zigzagging through the surrounding mountains. Plenty of great shopping and eating here, but the highlight as usual was leaving the city behind and heading for the countryside. This trip had been planned so meticulously that I did not think there was room for any new additions to our itinerary, but on our fourth day in Chile, we were presented with a surprise trip to the wine country of Casablanca. Our stay at the renowned Matetic winery, a beautiful restored farm, was arranged by our family and Original Travel to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Long walks, great food and interesting red and white wines made this short break unforgettable.
Mysterious Easter Island
After this break we said goodbye to mainland Chile and flew off west to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known locally.A flight time of over 5 hours makes you appreciate just how isolated Rapa Nui is. Nearest neighbours are over 1,000 kilometres away.You soon realise that the Polynesian heritage of the islanders is very important and they clearly feel closer to them than the distance might suggest. On a wet and windy evening, after a ten-minute walk from our hotel we saw our first Moai, who smiled at us as we approached.He obviously knew that this wind and rain was the last we were going to see on our trip, as we had four clear and sunny days to enjoy everything the island had to offer.We watched the mysterious Moai grouped around the islands all facing inwards, protecting their people, and the quarries still littered with half finished statues that appeared ready to march off down the hill.Behind this quarry, we were treated to local men in training for an annual test of strength, racing across the crater lake on reed rafts, - completely naked!
We were treated to local men in training for an annual test of strength, racing across the crater lake on reed rafts, - completely naked!
On our final full day we decided to ride up to the top of the highest peak on the island. Four hours on sure footed but slow horses, was probably a challenge enough for first timers, but for those of us who had ridden before, getting the horses to move a little faster was well worth the effort. Going ahead of the majority of the group, we managed to get up to the only group of Moai that face out to sea.Somehow seeing this group on horseback made the experience even more memorable, definitely one of the best things to do in Chile! All good things come to an end, but leaving Rapa Nui was really only made bearable by the promise of Tahiti and Bora Bora waiting for us at the end of another mammoth flight to the west. Read more about Rosemary's trips to Bora Bora, Argentina, Peru and the Galapagos.