I couldn’t wait to get to Easter Island, one of the highlights of the trip.
The island is located in the Pacific Ocean, quite far from the coast of Chile, approx. 3,500 km.
Although it belongs to Chile, it has an autonomous status and its inhabitants are Polynesians, being the eastern extremity of Polynesia.
I wonder how those people would have arrived on such a vast territory spread across the entire Pacific Ocean.
Btw, the photo on the Home page is not mine, is a photo taken by Attila Munzlinger.
In the summer of 2019 I went on an intensive tour of western South America. Passing through five territories of the continent took me through fascinating places, unique in the world. I stood by the Hand of the Desert, looking up at the southern night sky of the Atacama desert, and drove the largest dunes in the world and the paths of desert valleys with such a different appearance that people gave them names like the Valley of the Moon or the Valley of the Planet Mars. I took night pictures near the Three Sisters in the Valley of the Moon.
I gazed westward into the Pacific Ocean, out in the open, alongside the stone statues of the vanished civilization of Easter Island—the eastern tip of Polynesia. I had lunch in the middle of the Bolivian salt desert and at night I photographed my reflection in the water mirror of the flattest and whitest place on Earth. We stayed in a villa made of salt and cactus wood. We went to the cactus island of the salt desert. I listened to the stories of the astronomers from ALMA – an observatory located at over 5000m altitude, but also to those of the native inhabitants of the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. We drove fast on dirt desert roads to see the flamingos at sunset. I went to Macchu Picchu. I went to Cusco. We saw the oldest pyramids in South America, the over 5000 year old ones from Caral. I went to the witches market in La Paz and saw the singing fountains in Lima.
It was a monumental trip in just one month, parts of which could be monumental trips in themselves. The pretext was the few minutes of solar eclipse, the third solar eclipse for me. The rest of the trips and the fascinating things experienced concentrated within a month make me wonder what I do with my time at home when week after week, month after month goes by without discovering anything notable. And I miss leaving again.
The tour was organized by the SARM Romania astroclub, of which I am a member. The official name was SARM Romania Expedition – South American Eclipse 2019, extending from June 25 to July 22, 2019.
Given the intensity and extension of the trip, we have divided the story into 9 parts, presented in chronological order as follows:
- Buenos Aires;
- Chile – Introduction to Chile and The Solar Eclipse 2019;
- Easter Island;
- Chile – Atacama Desert, Valley of Death (or Mars) and other amazing places;
- Chile – Moon Valley and the Flamingo Birds;
- Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni or the Salt Desert;
- Bolivia – La Paz, Tiwanaku and other amazing places;
- Peru – Machu Picchu and Cuzco;
- Peru – Lima, Nazca and the Caral Pyramids.
04 July – Thursday
Thursday, we left early in the morning, at 04.00, for the airport. We left our luggage at a hotel, handed over the rental cars and took the plane to Easter Island. The plane landed on the island at about 10.
I couldn’t wait to get to Easter Island, one of the highlights of the trip. The island is located in the Pacific Ocean, quite far from the coast of Chile, about 3500 km. Although it belongs to Chile, it has an autonomous status and its inhabitants are Polynesians, being the eastern extremity of Polynesia. I wonder how those people would have arrived on such a vast territory spread across the entire Pacific Ocean.
At the airport everyone paid a local Easter Island reserve entry fee ($80 per person). We were greeted by super cute canine police who were checking to make sure you weren’t bringing in fruit or other things from outside the pasture biosphere. We were then picked up by cars and arrived at Hotel Gomero 3* (600-700 m from the airport).
Nice hotel, a holiday atmosphere. We then went on an island tour. We had a superb Polynesian guide and very knowledgeable, very professional.
The first Moai seen raised my pulse. They are beyond expectations. It was well worth the effort. There are so many everywhere, all over the island. I had a rather complex and long tour, I walked a lot.
I also saw unfinished Moai, and the place where some had been started but had not yet managed to be transferred to the display place. It is assumed that these were the representation of personalities, leaders of the various tribes on the island, a kind of PSD / PNL statues of the Polynesians who colonized the island who-knows-when. The history of the island and the origin of the population has many elements of mystery. The common theory is that the struggle for power and limited territory led to an ecological and demographic disaster. Be that as it may, when European settlers arrived there they found traces of a fallen civilization, but traces of the living, core population still exist today.
The island has heavenly beaches and palm trees and beach bars. We had lunch in a chill place, next to some huge palm trees, almost but not quite next to the beach.
Everywhere in the towns there is an atmosphere of relaxation, everyone is smiling. I felt very strongly the feeling that you are cut off from the world, isolated in a good way, and that nothing can touch you there. Anchored offshore sits a huge container ship as a sort of single wholesale supply point for the entire island.
Some cars don’t have doors, the locals don’t care, they don’t need them, they probably don’t have any.
It should be noted that souvenirs are cheaper in the city and not on the beach.
Lots of stray dogs, as if they too didn’t have a care in the world. Everything is slow, calm, cheerful and sunny.
When you look out to sea, in the Ocean, in the direction in which the statues are oriented, as if wearing out where they came from, you also feel how far away you are from almost everything. You look into immensity, into nothingness, into infinity, into the unknown.
In the evening, we had dinner at the hotel and had a program of traditional Polynesian dances. Being very tired, we didn’t go out for photography at night. The meals were very good, they eat very well on the island.
In the evening I spent the evening telling stories with a Chilean tourist on the island, she was scuba diving and playing soccer in her spare time.
I talked to some Americans who were eclipse hunters, Some had been to 14 solar eclipses. Now they had put up $10k per person and chartered a plane to follow the shadow of the moon for a prolonged effect of the eclipse.
You cannot move to Easter Island. You can come as a tourist and stay for a maximum of one month, as there are restrictions on stay even for Chileans from the mainland, in order to protect the authenticity of the island. An extremely appreciable policy these days.
05 July – Friday
I had a very short stay on Easter Island, but even so it was worth the additional cost of the trip of around 1.000 euros. On Friday we still had time for another walk on the island, in the southern area. Then followed the transfer to the airport at 3pm and flight to Santiago, the plane landing at 9:35pm.
I flew with Latam, with a plane equipped with enormous legroom, with very kind staff, food served with a metal knife and fork, heavy dishes, no saving of kg it seems. As usual on such long flights, I spend my time either eating or sleeping or watching movies. In Santiago again, we stayed at the 4* Holiday Inn, where we had also left our main luggage.