Experiences from my last South America country: Chile
28.03.2013 - 01.04.2013 25 °C
This entry won't probably very long, but I feel the need to write a chapter about it. The reason is that tonight I will leave South America, and head west towards Asia, making a few stops on the way. Moreover, I have a few things to say as always, because it's so easy to gather nice experiences when travelling in such places.
After I left Ushuaia, I went to Punta Arenas in Chile, from where I flew to Santiago. I visited Santiago on my own at first, and kind of liked it, but it was only when I met up with two girls from the city that I met in Ecuador that I discovered that the beauty of the city is in the surrounding barrios, where we enjoyed wandering around. So I am really thankful to them because as always, how a city will remain impressed on your mind as a memory is only based on the experiences you lived there - if a city has a more beautiful central square than the other it does not make that big difference in the long term.
Here a short personal excursus:
The next highlight of my travel happened: I met family. The brother of my grandfather came to Chile decades ago, and became Swiss Consul. He started then a family here, that I've never met - just heard about from my mother. And meeting them was just so nice. Contrary to many families, especially "italian" ones, mine is not extremely large in numbers, which is absolutely not a problem, just a fact. So it was very nice to meet the cousins of my mum, and especially some of my correspondents in age, my two second-grade cousins Paulina and Dominique! Two lovely girls with which I discovered to have more interests in common than I would have expected! I know that for you, travel blog readers, this might not be that interesting, but for me it has been extremely important. It has been a great plasure staying together for a few days, and I really hope to remain in contact with the Chilean branch of the Oschwald family. Great people, great time =) The picture is taken in honour of our shared passion for japanese culture:
I cannot talk that much more about Chile, because I have not visited much of it. And actually, with the risk of sounding cheesy, when I'll think about Chile I'll think about my family. I'll try to visit them once more and I'll visit the country a bit farther than Santiago!
Now, I am still in Chile, officially. But it just does not feel like it - I am in Eastern Island, or with its original name, Rapa Nui. Even though the best one is for me Te pito o te henua, which means "the navel of the world". It could well be, it's definitely one of the remotest places on earth, with Chile's coast 3500km far away!
About this amazing place: why is it called Eastern island? A pure coincidence: it was discovered on Eastern in 1722 by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who with a great deal of creativity called it... Eastern Island. It does not have anything else to do, and I should know - I was here yesterday, Eastern 2013!!! Being on Eastern Island the day of Eastern is something that sounds cool though, right? Anyways, this place was previously popolated by a community with polynesian roots, and this is still nowadays easy to understand when walking in the streets and watching some of the few native Rapa Nui talking in Rapa Nui (yes, everything is Rapa Nui: island name, people, language). Their appearance and the sounds of their language is something totally unrelated to Chile, who annexed the island to its territory in 1888. As an example, listen to Haumoana, a local musician I met that really does some amazing music: Hapaʻo Tatou
The previous Rapa Nui are those that built the statues that make this Island so famous: the moais, these giant bodies with extremely big heads, that stand lined up around the coast of the island. Most of them were carved on the slopes of Ranu Raraku, a vulcan providing the tuff needed for the statues. I will not go deep in the history of the island, but as a summary these heads were the representation of old ancestors, but as well they embodied the status symbol of a community. This is why during the centuries, fights among the clans led the winners in taking down the moais of the losers, reason why until a few decades ago most of the statues were found like this:
However, in the 50s their restoration to their standing position started, and nowadays many ahus (altars) have been completely brought back to their original appearance. The most famous is Ahu Tongariki, that counts 15 moais:
I've been going around the whole island to visit all of these archeological places with a rented bicycle. And eventually I managed it, but the road has been harder than expected. Here the short story: 2-3 hours after I left the only city on the island, Hanga Roa, my tire experienced some difficulties... and got flat. So, I hitchhiked back to town with the bike in the car of a friendly Chilean, got a second one, and with a taxi I got back where I left off. After having been at the vulcano, I left for Ahu Tongariki but then suddenly realized that there was a moai I absolutely needed to draw on my travel journal, so I went back to the vulcano, for the joy of my already tired muscles. Finally, after another few hours of terrain road, I got to Anakena, the only beach on the island, and finally relaxed. However, when biking back, right on top of the hill, with very sore muscles (I'm SO not fit anymore), ready for a long descent, the transmission (how do you call it?) started having problems, and considering that I was already biking with my head lamp as the sun set already, I had to hitchhike again... oh yeah. Bikes were not friendly to me that day.
Anyways, Rapa Nui is not only about these beautiful statues, but the landscapes are stunning by themselves. Considering also that there are hundreds of horses wandering around the whole island, I really did enjoy biking around:
Moreover, the day of Easter a curanto took place, in which free food is distributed to the whole population! So, I managed to get my hands on a tasty Easter lunch based of a chunk of meat, a sweet potato, some bananas, a po'e (pumpkin cake) and a whole watermelon! How awesome, eh? These are the people in line for the free meal:
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my stay in Rapa Nui. After the Antarctica, it was time for a warmer place, and I am very happy I could satisfy my curiosity about such a mysterious place. I know I could have written a lot more about this place, it deserves it, but outside the sun is shining and calling for me! So I leave you with three of my favourite pictures, since it's what most of you look forward to:
Long exposure picture with the stars rotating behind a moai, Ahu Tongariki
A rainbow appearing behind the head of a moai
A beautiful sunset at Ahu Tongariki
Next I'll move west, with a particularly nice stop in.... mmh, well let's call them "paradise islands" for the moment! I wish you all the best, and as always leave a comment or write me something somewhere, I do appreciate every message I receive even though it might take more more than usual to answer!