Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 14 : San Pedro de Atacama : Desert, Flamingoes and Oasis...

Deserts are dry places and Atacama Desert is the driest of them all. Not that it never rains here but just not very often. The water that is  around comes from the show and ice melting on the nearby mountains forming small rivers and turns sheltered gorges into oases that harbour quite rich wildlife and lush vegetation. 

As the water travels down these gorges it heats up forming lovely natural spring pools at 36C - very nice after a long trek up a steep canyon. 

Water that makes it onto the desert plateau proper soon evaporates leaving a layer salty deposits, salt that has been eroded from the mountains. Over the millennia this salt layer has got thick. Very thick. 1450m thick in places. 

And the salt is so intensely saturated that the water can't even evaporate and it forms super-saturated salt lakes. Ideal for minute sea monkeys, the principal food of the flamingo. And the sea monkeys love the flamingo poo. Circle of life and all that.

Beautiful sunsets too.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Day 13 : Chile : South to North...

Today was an epic travel day. Planes, and cars and more planes. We had fun on the trip though. 

4300km from the southern most tip to the northern most outcrop of Chile. From the coldest place on earth to the driest: Antartic to Atacama Desert. 
Stuart is getting his English Patient look ready. Scarves, sweeping film score and stuff upper lip.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Day 12 : *Not* Antartica...

Oh piss, damn, blast, and bollocks. 

We had planned to make it over Drake's  Passage to visit Antartica but the weather is just too bad. 60 knot winds and 12m high waves have stranded the ships, grounded all aircraft and made the trip impossible. The penguins will just have to wait for another time.

Our Plan B? Get sloshed, count your blessings at having such 1st world problems and see if we can fly somewhere else instead. 

Stuart has already pocketed the entire toiletries from our standby hotel, drunk the minibar dry, and loudly commenting on some of the dubious fashion choices of our co-travellers. 

"Stuart of the Antartic" he may not be but "Stuart of the Acerbic" he certainly is.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Day 11 : Patagonia : Torres del Paine National Park. Cowboys, Condors, and Glaciers...

Another delay to our trip further south due to bad weather has meant we have had the opportunity to spend time in the world famous Torres del Paine National Park. 

It is a truly beautiful place. 

Mountains, glaciers, cowboys, condors, pumas, and the weird little llama type animal the guanaco.

It has always been a place on my bucket list so glad we got a chance to go.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 10 : Patagonia : Peurto Natales...

Due to the bad weather our plans have changed a little bit and we are spending a bit more time in Patagonia. But wow, what a great place it is to spend time in. 

We have flown to Peurto Natales (a delightful little town) with a beautiful lake, fabulous views, quirky street dustbins(!)

We are staying in a stunning hotel called The Singular that even has its own funicular. 

We have rather taken to the spa with its glass fronted views of Last Hope Sound. 

As alternative plans go we have rather lucked out. Today we are are planning a trip into the national park. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day 9 : Patagonia : Punta Arenas...

After a brief stay in Santiago we jetted 3000 odd kilometres further south down along the Andes towards Punta Arenas, the capital of Patagonia.

Patagonia is beautiful but chaffing freezing - even if it is summer here.

We met some nice people though and had some great food at a local hostelry called The Beagle.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 8 : Easter Island : Goodbye...

It's been a lot of fun staying in Easter Island but it is time to bid farewell and return at the mainland.

The Explora lodge has been great; especially the guides Jorge, Pepe, Julianne and Maya Maya. 

We've made some firm friends in Tammy, Richard, Tina and Robert. 

Back to Santiago we go!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 7 : Easter Island : Sunrise, Snorkelling, and Cycling...

So much for a relaxing holiday! 

Up at 5:30am again to take some more (and better photographs) of the stone platform with the fifteen moai. There used to be eighteen statues on the platform but the massive earthquake in 1960 in Chile caused a tsunami to arrive seven hours later which had an eleven metre high wave that smashed the original eighteen to smithereens and they can only find fifteen to put back.

Back at the main town Stuart and I took a small fishing boat out to the the bird man island to go snorkeling. The seas were very rough and our skipper seemed to enjoy smashing our little vessel at great speed into the crest of the massive breakers one were were in the open ocean and then freefalling us down into the watery trough beyond. I was shit scared. The snorkeling was fine when we got to the island - a few exotic fish to note - but the whole trip was was rather marked by the high-speed hydronautics of our skipper. A feat he repeated during our return to dry land.

In the afternoon we decided to bicycle around the island which turned to be far more ambitious act than we had initially anticipated. Lots of hills and slopes lay ahead. We managed it though and rewarded ourselves with a spot of body surfing in the crystal blue waters at the tropical sandy beach. 

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Day 6 : Easter Island : Beach, Caves, and Topknots...

at 5:30am to watch the sunrise over fifteen moai, a hike along the island's rugged north shore, a peek inside an ancient Rap Pa Nui stone observatory, a swim at a tropical beach overlooked by seven maoi with topknots, a spot of potholing down two perilously narrow and deep lava tunnels, and a late Friday night in town watching a local rock band play to a good-natured long-haired drunken (largely tattooed) crowd. Yes, we managed to over-do it once again on Easter Island. 

Great fun today, albeit utterly exhausting! 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Day 5 : Easter Island : Craters, Quarries, and Moai...

Having settled in to Easter Island life today we decided to step it up a notch with our exploring. 

We started the day with a 9km hike along the rough southern coast of the island, along the terrifying cliffs and then up the steep side of the main volcano. 

The main volcano is dormant and the long cooled central crater has since filled with rain water and been populated with deep green rushes, an odd species of endemic fish, and its own unique micro ecology of other flora and fauna. It looked incredibly beautiful. 

The crater also was the sight of the famous annual Bird-Man competition last run in the late 1800s. The competitors climbed down the side of the volcano into the sea, swam out to a remote islette through shark invested waters to steal a bird's egg, they swam back, reclimbed the mountain and presented the unbroken egg to the king. The first back won a virgin and had to go into seclusion for a year at the moai quarry. Oddly.  

Unsurprisingly the competition has long died out - not least because the island has run out of willing virgins!

In the afternoon we visited said moai quarry to take a look at the birth place of the icon Easter Island statues. All the statues were created there and transported around the island by a means no-one is sure. Some say they "walked".

We were frankly stunned by these amazing big-nosed sculptures and I don't think we will ever see anything quite so awe inspiring. 

Carved out of volcanic rock by hand these massive monoliths were in turns beautiful, majestic, and characture-like. 

After visiting the quarry we walked along the route the moai took as they "walked" around the island. 

I don't think we will ever see anything quite like it again.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Day 4 : Easter Island...

We left Santiago with a rather heavy heart. It was a fab city with lots to do and we had been there all to briefly

But we were due to be heading east. Due easy in fact. 2000 miles out to sea. To one of the most remote inhabited places on earth. Easter Island. The place of those giant stone heads known as moai. 


The flight there was great (a super comfortable Boeing Dreamliner), the airport was simple (basically a hut), and the welcome warm (purple garlands all round).

Easter Island is small. Very small. It is a simple triangle of scrub land 14 or so kilometres across connecting three dormant volcanoes. There are very few trees, thousands of wild horses, a bit of tourism, and lots and lots of moai. 

We were staying in the south part of the island away from the only town - obstensibly so we could experience island life at its most genuine. But in reality we were staying in a high end tourist lodge that locals probably never see the inside of. 

In its defence, tourism is really the only industry on the island and all the money generated by the lodges, hotels, guides, and rangers goes back into the local economy. Also the relatively high entrance fee to the national park is ploughed back into protecting the unique ecology of the island. 

Our first afternoon was spent acclimatising and going on a trek down to the sea to see one of the ancient maoi platforms. All the statues we saw had been tipped over there though in one of the tribal wars the island suffered 1000 years ago so it was a bit disappointing. Nice view of the sea though. 

In the evening there was a local dance performance which rather caught our eye, for some reason...