This journal documents my activities, observations and thoughts on a tour of South America Pacific islands with a group organized by Adventure Travel and Tours, Poway, CA. Cathy and Bob Prada designed the tour and made all the reservations and accompanied the group on the tour. They are the owners of Advantage Travel and Tours and were the same couple that organized my Five 'Stans and Gulf States tours in the fall of 2007 and my South Pacific Islands tour in 2008.
Overview of the trip route:
- Fly from LAX to Miami – overnight in Miami
- Fly from Miami to Bogota – overnight in Bogota, Columbia
- Fly to San Andres Island – spend two nights and tour the island
- Fly to Quito, Ecuador - - spend two nights and tour Quito
- Fly to Galapagos – board a yacht for a three day cruise of the Galapagos islands
- Fly to Santiago, Chile via Quito – spend the night in Santiago and tour a vineyard
- Fly to Robinson Crusoe Island – tour the island and spend three nights
- Fly to Santiago – spend the night in Santiago
- Fly to Easter Island – spend three nights and tour the island
- Fly to LAX via Santiago
Jan 19, 2009 (Monday) Depart Los Angeles and fly to Miami
The alarm woke me at 04:30 for my first big adventure of 2009 and the first tour I have taken since falling ill in Fiji on May 9th 2008. I was about 90% packed and just had to add my breather mask and tube and organize my fanny pack. I showered and shaved and by that time Judy was up and joined me for breakfast in which I had a Slimfast drink and an orange from our backyard tree.
The Prime Time shuttle driver arrived a few minutes after the scheduled pickup time of 05:50. The van was empty and the driver told me he had only one other customer to pickup in Van Nuys. Being Martin Luther King holiday, the traffic was light. I dozed off until we reached Van Nuys. The driver had a little trouble finding the correct pickup point and finally parked the van and walked the neighborhood on foot. I continued to doze and after a while he reappeared with a young black lady. She told me that she was flying to Baltimore and I jokingly asked if she had a place to stay since I heard that every hotel within driving distance of DC was booked for the inauguration. She replied that she is a native of Baltimore and will be visiting her parents. She moved to LA to pursue an acting career with limited financial success so far. She was very pretty and gave me a card for a theater group she appears with. We talked about the business on the way to the airport, arriving less than an hour from pickup.
Believe it or not this was the first time I have flown out of the new American Airlines terminal. Checking my bag and having to pay a $15 fee was not fun. There were many bag drop-off lines, unlike United, Continental and Southwest and people were standing in line with one bag which made the line look short only to have fellow travelers join them with carts of bags as the approach the head of the line. I was not impressed.
The security line was a lot more efficient and I passed through without too much wait to be "wanded" because of my artificial knee. Boarding the aircraft was a little bit of a hassle. The Gate Agents pulled a lot of people aside because they either had too big a bag or too many bags. Once I got to may seat (I was in Group 5) I could understand why. The American Airlines B-767 configuration had very small overhead bins. Normally on United, Continental or Southwest I can put my carryon wheels first and my laptop back pack on top of the carryon. On the American plane I had to put both sideways. Fortunately I had the aisle seat in the middle and there was no one in the middle seat.
The plane pushed back on the scheduled time of 09:00 and was airborne by 09:10. An hour after takeoff we were offered a ham and cheese, bagel sandwich which I bought for $6 since it was 13:00 Miami time. I skipped watching the movie (a kid's flick with Bill Murray and some kids saving a city from extinction or some such rot), finished the latest Time magazine and dozed.
Landing at MIA was smooth and fifteen minutes early. Then my fun began. It was a long walk to baggage claim and my bag was near the last off. Fortunately a chauffeur left a cart when his client arrived with a small carryon. I loaded my bags on the cart and set forth to call the hotel for their free shuttle pickup. At the end of the arrivals hall I found the courtesy phone board and dialed the Hyatt Park hotel. They informed me that their van had just left the airport and only shuttles once an hour. It was now 17:15 and he told me he would send the driver back as soon as he arrived at the hotel. There had been a sign at the baggage carousel that some shuttle busses picked up at the arrivals level and some at the departure level. I asked a TSA agent near the phone where the hotel shuttles picked up and he told me the center lane of the arrivals level so I wheeled out to the curb and saw mostly rental car busses. I asked one of them and he told me to go upstairs to the departure level. Finding an elevator (there were only down escalators) that was in operation was a little bit of a challenge but once I got to the arrivals area I ran into a crowd that would make it difficult to flag down a shuttle bus which I had no idea what color or signage it would have. I fought though the crowd of people checking in with Sky Caps and their piles of luggage to get to a cross walk and go to the center island where I saw a bus from one of the hotels parked. He told me that the Hyatt bus was white and that I should stay on the island although the bus would most likely be looking for me on the curb side in the crowd.
I waited over half an hour and finally flagged down a Hyatt bus with a female driver that was upset that I was on the island and not the curb since she now had to reenter the curb side flow to pick up her additional passengers. Eventually we arrived at the Hyatt Summerfield Suites! Whoa, my reservation was for the Hyatt Park and it has a different bus. They agreed to drive me to the Hyatt but I first had to make a round trip to the airport rental car area. By now it was getting dark and was after 18:00. I finally got to the correct hotel at 18:30 (two hours after landing). At the desk I asked if the Prada's had checked in and was told they had no reservation for them. I unloaded my bags in the room using the valet cart. When I returned the cart to the lobby I ran into Marian Speno from Santa Cruz, who was supposed to be arriving with Bob and Cathy. Bob and Cathy were around the corner checking in at another desk. OK we were all together as planned. Marian declined joining us for dinner but Bob, Cathy and I walked across the parking lot to a Cuban restaurant in a mall. Cathy and I had their special: fresh mahi-mahi and Bob had pulled pork. Very good and I not sure what was Cuban about it. We drank a full decanter of sangria with the meal. That provided enough of a buzz for me to turn out the light at 21:00 after calling Judy and discovering that she is OK but she took Griffy to a new vet to get tests on why he is peeing in the house. She had to leave him because they could not extract any urine from him. I dropped soundly off to sleep until mid-night when my air conditioner started to sound like it was losing a bearing. I arose to turn it off and called Judy again and she told me they finally were able to extract some urine to test and she had him home and on some expensive pills (no Medicare discount or co-pay on pet medications).
Jan 20, 2009 (Tuesday) Fly Miami to Bogota
My alarm woke me at 03:00 to get ready for our 04:00 taxi to the airport. I joined up with Marian Bob and Cathy in the lobby at 03:50 and our cab departed on time. Once inside the terminal there was surprising crowd at the LAN check in desks. Marian was first and breezed through security, I was next and got in the crew line which went fast and they had a full body scan so I didn't have to be "wanded", but they do take time to flash the results so I was the last to proceed to our gate which was as at the end of the terminal. It was a full aircraft. Cathy is a "Two Million Miler" on American and had priority boarding which allowed us to board with her. The plane was another B-767-300 like the American plane from LAX. This time I had an side aisle seat and again had to put my bags in sideways which irritated the guy in back of me, although his bag would have taken up the whole bin. He spit out something in Spanish and replied no habla espanol. He was able to get the bag in a bin across the aisle from his seat.
We pushed back on time and took off at 06:35. At 07:30 they served us a free breakfast with fruit cup, and an omelet with mushrooms. As opposed to the American configuration LAN has seat back screens and I was able to select a movie. I watched "Ghost Town" and some "Raymond" episodes. We arrived fifteen minutes early at 09:45 and had to process though Passport Control and then it took a long time for me to get my bag (I wish I didn't have to carry the breathing machine on these trips to I could pack with just a carry on). Cathy told me I needed to fill out a customs form which we should have received on board the flight but she was able to get them for us.
Now fun number two began. Marian, Bob and Cathy were scheduled to fly directly to San Andres while I was to spend the night in Bogota. They exited via the transfer lane and I through the normal arrivals lane. Cathy told me that there would be someone with a sign to meet me. I stopped to exchange money (at $2,130 Columbian peso to USD$1) and as I exited the hall I did not see my name on a sign. I roamed up and down the curb area looking for someone with a sign and then back to the crowd when I saw a woman that had not been there before holding up a sign. I was in back of her and tapped her on the shoulder and when she turned I saw my name in bright red letters. The woman did not speak English but showed me a print out that listed my flight arriving at 13:30. She called someone on her cell phone and handed it to me – it was my guide, Rosa, explaining that they checked with the airline and were told I was on flight 571 when in fact I was on 570 and she would pick me up in twenty minutes.
It started as an awkward wait. The greeter was very uncomfortable because of her limited English skills and I was even more uncomfortable with my limited Spanish skills. She attempted a conversation and then a Sheraton bus arrived and after loading the Sheraton Airport greeter approached us. Her name was Wendy and she spoke English so the three of us had a lively conversation after I told her my daughter's name was Wendy. It turned out my greeter had two boys but was divorced and Wendy was single. Neither spoke highly of Columbian men.
When Rosa arrived in her personal car she was a woman about 54 years old and spoke English very well. The plan was to drive me to the hotel and then after lunch she would take me on a tour of the city. Climate change has affected this area, it's supposed to be the dry season but it has been raining every afternoon for weeks so the guide suggested that we conduct the tour first and then drop me at my hotel. The sky was overcast so I agreed that it was the best plan.
The city has the third-highest in elevation of the South American capitals at 8,500 ft. I felt the altitude a little bit, but since it is about the same as the cabin pressure in a plane flying at 32,000 feet it didn't affect me too much.
Bogota has a population of a little over seven million in a country of around 42 million. It is often known as the "Athens of Latin America" for its large variety of culture content. The tour started with a drive through the Colonial District about thirty minutes southeast of the airport. We eventually parked the car and walked the narrow streets to the Plaza de Bolivar which is bordered by a 16th century Cathedral that dominates the plaza, the Mayor's Office, the House of Congress and the Supreme Court of Justice where the M-19 Revolutionaries held hostage 300 workers in 1985 and killed all eleven justices. The original Supreme Court was burned in 1948 and again in 1985 during the hostage siege.
As we approached the square I saw hundreds of pigeons and low and behold Marian. It turns out that Marian, Bob and Cathy had three hours to kill before their flight so they hired a car and were taking a self directed tour. Marian, soon left and Rosa and I strolled down to the Presidents Place on its own square in back of the Mayor's Office building, passing a group of demonstrations, with a bull horn reminding people of the large number men kidnapped since 1998 by the rebels.
The road passing the President's Palace was closed to vehicles and visitors without badges. I watched a group of guards lining up for inspection. My guide told me that military service is required for all men unless they join the police force. These guards were technically police and included several women.
On the way back to the car we stopped at several old buildings that were once villas where the doors were open to the street so I could see the inside layout. The colonial homes were generally two stories around a court yard with fountain in the middle. The second floor had a balcony overlooking the court yard. None of this beauty is visible from the street. One of the villas we stopped at housed Simon Bolivar's mistress and just up the street was a building Bolivar worked in. At one point assassins set out to kill him and his mistress saw them kill his guards and she ran up the street and to warn him and he jumped out a window and escaped. There is a plaque at the window describing the event.
Up a narrow street my guide knocked on a window and a woman opened the window and started to recite a Columbian poem that all school children are taught in school. She was joined by a male in the next window then another woman in her window and finally a third woman in a third window. The words sounded beautiful and the players were very animated. I just wish I understood the words.
Back in the car we drove to the Gold Museum parking garage across the street from the museum. As we walked across to the museum it started to rain. The museum is described as housing the world's greatest collection of gold objects. The display was breath taking and when you realize that many of the objects such as plates, bowls, musical instruments, ear rings, nose rings ear lobe inserts, masks and breast plates date back to hundreds of years BC you realize why the Spanish conquerors were so impressed.
The next stop was at the customary Jewelry store where I was shown a model of a typical emerald mine, the polishing machines and then offered coffee or tea at the display case of USD$8,000 emeralds. They also had gold and gold plated jewelry for sale in the hundreds of dollar price range. Leaving the show room I had a cup of tea with Rosa and the shop manager who wanted to discuss my thoughts on President Obama.
I found the people very friendly, my guide learned English as an exchange student in Bartlett, NH in 1971. She has a son teaching grade school biology in McAllen, TX, and says her countrymen love the current President and they liked President Bush but are very excited over the changes they expect to take place during President Obama's administration.
The walk back to the car took us by the University which just started classes on Monday after a winter/summer break. It is weird to identify the seasons when the country is so close to the equator. Bogota is 4 degrees north and the southernmost city in the country is 4 degrees south. They go by wet and dry seasons for holidays rather than summer and winter. Anyway the area was full of cafes packed with students on their lunch breaks. The area also had a large number of police with bullmastiff guard dogs in leather muzzles.
We now drove up the mountain to Simon Bolivar's country villa where he lived in his later years and died at the age of 47. The villa was furnished with his and his mistresses original belongings after his death the furnishings were displayed in the National Museum and the villa converted into a brewery. After World War II it reverted to the government and restored to its original configuration. This was the last attraction on the tour and just as we were about to visit the gardens the heavy rains came. Fortunately, they had umbrellas to get us to our car without getting too drenched.
As we drove back to town and to my hotel it was dry but after check in I went to have a late lunch and it was pouring outside so I ate in the hotel restaurant. They guide book told of Columbians love of hamburgers so I ordered one (never again at this restaurant).
With the heavy rain outside I retired to my room and the internet and started my journal. At 20:00 I went back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I wanted to order a typical Columbian dish but was informed that the restaurant didn't offer any, so I order an unusual "Oriental Chicken Roll", covered with parmesan cheese, black and white sesame seeds, stuffed with bits of ham and apricot sauce.
I returned to my room, checked email and went to bed at 22:00.
Jan 21, 2009 (Wednesday) Fly
Bogota to San Andrés Island
My alarm woke me at 08:00. The ten hours solid sleep did my cold a lot of good. No coughs to speak of and no sore throat. I showered and shaved and went to breakfast at 09:00. It was a typical hotel buffet fair, scrambled eggs, sausage, rolls, cereal, fruit, etc.
Returning to my room I finished packing, checked email and continued to write my journal. At 11:30 I checked out and took a walk around the neighborhood. Next door to the hotel was a fast food oriental restaurant, "The China Express" and across the street was a Dunk'in Donuts next to a Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream store. My guide, Claudia, from the tour agency arrived at 11:50 to transport me to the airport. Claudia was a little older than Rosa and although she was a lawyer she had been a tour guide for 30 years because she loved to travel. She rattled off some of the places she had visited and it was very impressive. At the airport she assisted in my checking in and then left me to have lunch and proceed to the waiting area. She had recommended that I have a hamburger at a Presto (a fast food burger chain in Columbia). I found one in the food court on the second floor and it was a far superior to the hotel hamburger.
Security was different. The bags went through the typical machine but we didn't have to remove laptops or shoes. I set off the alarm and they hand "wanded" me and when my knee buzzed the wand they let me through. The waiting area had three gate numbers and I was assign to gate 1. We had to pay a San Andres entrance fee of USD$19 and get an entry form before we could leave the waiting area.
When the boarding time came it was a long walk to the boarding gate. At the gate we had to line up by gender and were physically patted down by police and our carryon luggage inspected.
The plane was an MD-83 and I was assigned an aisle seat on the two seat side in the second row of coach. No one was assign next to me. We had boarded on the schedule time but we sat at the gate a long time and finally an announcement was made in Spanish and everyone got up and start to line up to de-plane. As we were waiting the man in back of me was talking in English to someone on his cell phone. When finished I asked what was going on and he told me that the plane had a broken booster pump and we were to return to the waiting area while they serviced another plane. As we left the plane they issued a Transit Card.
Back in the waiting area I plugged in my laptop and wrote some journal entries. While we were waiting they served sandwiches and drinks (that is the first for an airline). As we were finishing our sandwiches they made an announcement in Spanish and everyone started to line up at the door and board a bus. I packed up my laptop and was not able to make the first bus. I was one of the first on the second bus which took us through the maintenance hangar area (Avianca is an FAA certified Maintenance Repair Facility) to another MD-83 with a US registration. As we left the bus we had to line up by gender again and the same police padded us down and looked in our bags. As soon as the last people were on board they tugged us out to the taxi way and we had a very long taxi to the departure runway. The Bogota airport has two runway complexes and two terminals some distance apart. We arrived from Miami on the large runway and terminal and Avianca operates out of a smaller terminal. When we broke ground two hours late there was a LAN aircraft departing at the same time on the other runway which looked to be several miles away.
The flight was uneventful and they served us another sandwich twenty minutes after takeoff. I wrote some journal entries on my laptop. We made up some time so we landed one hour and forty five minutes late. Passport control was easy and I had some fun watching the drug sniffing dog walk over every bag that came off the airplane. He took extra sniffs on some bags and when we passed through Customs I noticed that some of those bags were being pulled from the exit line and visually inspected. I was waived through. Outside Customs there was a receiving desk and a woman from Decameron Resorts asked if I was "Ed Reynolds" and inspected my voucher and loaded me in a cab. The hotel could be seen from the terminal across the runway so it was a short drive. The check in desk was expecting me. The Decameron Resort is all inclusive including food and drinks. They have many hotels on the island and they attach a wrist band (like in the hospital) to you that is color coded, green for over 21 (allowed to be served liquor) and red for minors. By the time I had gotten to my room and changed from a long sleeve to a short sleeve shirt, Cathy knocked on the door. By now it was 19:00 and she invited me to join Bob and Marian at the bar. We had the Decameron special (a variation of a Rum Punch) and they briefed me on the activities. Their flight had also been delayed the day before because the heavy rain closed the runway for two hours. They had not been impressed with the dinner at our hotel so Bob had made reservations at another Decameron hotel that was recommended by the front desk. It was a fifteen minute cab ride to the other hotel and it was a good meal. I had the Atlantic Seafood Platter with shrimp and several different fish and scallops.
By the time we returned to the hotel and had a nightcap it was after 22:00 and I retired around 23:00.
Jan 22, 2009 (Thursday) San Andrés Island
The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina, identified by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, is located 480 miles northwest from the Colombian Caribbean Coast and 140 miles from the coast of Nicaragua. San Andrés is the capital of the Colombian department of San Andrés y Providencia. It is situated at the north end of San Andrés Island. The population is considered to be about 20% Raizals and 80% mainland Colombians. It is known as the 7 colors sea, because you can see that the water has several tones of green, blue and turquoises among others. This Island is dedicated mainly to the tourism and commercial fishing.
I had set my alarm to wake me at 08:00. Twice during the night the power failed and my breathing machine cut off requiring me to remove my mask. The outages didn't seem long and I would awake when the power restore to the noise of the breathing machine blowing air.
At nine I went down to breakfast, buffet style with an omelet cook. I didn't see anyone from our group until I returned to my room and ran into Marian in the hall. It very windy outside and she told me the snorkeling tours to the reefs had been cancelled because the strong winds. I decided to walk to the center of town and browse the shops and check email at an Internet Café. The walk plus the time on the Internet took me two hours and I was back at my hotel by 12:30.
Lunch was buffet style. There were only a couple of people in the restaurant and the hotel manager was taking pictures of the buffet and the cooks with their tall cook hats. The main dish was a huge roast beef or lasagna. I had a slice of the roast beef but the knife the carver used was not sharp and it made the piece of meat stringy.
After lunch Bob had arranged for an English speaking driver to give us a tour of the whole island. We stopped at several interesting places; one was the pirate Henry Morgan's Cave, the reported location of the pirates treasure. The cave is now full of water and nobody has found any treasure but they have found evidence he moored in this area. Next we saw one of the original wooden houses that used to populate the island. Now people use cinder block to build their homes. Next was the "West View Point" which once was a water park slide and then to the "blow hole" which is now dry but has a lot of tourist concessions. In the center of the island at its highest peak is the First Baptist Church. As we approached the church we came upon a sign that read:
YES WE CAN…WE CAN RULE OUR LAND
JUST AS OBAMA YES WE CAN REMEMBER
JUNE 1ST OUR DELARATION OF IND
AUGUST 1ST OUR LIBERATION
The driver told us that there is a group of people that have petitioned the United Nations to grant San Andres independence from Columbia. After a tour of the church we went next door to meet with one of the leaders of the movement, Oakley Forbes. He is an English teacher at the church school and explained their reasons for independence. To begin with San Andres Island volunteered to become part of Columbia when Panama (which is their closest land) was separated from Columbia they elected to stay with Columbia because Nicaragua wanted to annex them. The world court ruled in favor of their staying with Columbia. Now they feel they are being exploited by Columbia. Columbia is stopping the teaching of English in the public schools and harasses locals that want to carry on the islands traditions. The area is rich in sea food and some oil deposits have been discovered, yet not of that income flows to the San Andres people. Currently tourism is the big revenue generator with weekly flight from Canada requiring the tourism industry people to have some fluency in English, yet Columbia has dropped the teaching of English in the public school resulting in the need to import English speaking workers from Columbia and giving only the low paying jobs to locals. Local unemployment is over 14%. Oakley was an eloquent speaker and told us his phone is bugged and his emails deleted. It was an interesting meeting.
The island tour was complete and our guide dropped us off at the Hotel Aquarium, another of the Decameron Resort Hotels. This hotel has a number of separate buildings built on the water connected by walkways over the water. Bob had made reservations for dinner. It was buffet style, not as good as the previous dinner but better than the Mary Land's buffet.
After dinner Cathy and Marian visited a jewelry shop while Bob and I talked to some Canadians. They told us that they can get a tourist package in Toronto that is all inclusive including charter air for USD$900 per week. The fellows we were talking to fly down to San Andres every year.
Cathy purchased an expensive gold necklace and we walked back through town to our hotel and after one night cap in the Mary Land bar I retired.
Jan 23, 2009 (Friday) Fly San Andrés Island to Quito, Ecuador
My alarm woke me at 05:00. Breakfast was at six but when I got to the dining room it was over flowing with the Canadians that had arrived the day before. Bob had told me that there was an internet shop close by and I walked over to it and discover it was closed. By the time I returned to the hotel, the buffet line was down to one couple so I had breakfast. Bob and Cathy were at the next table. Cathy had rebooked us on the noon flight because the last several days the afternoon flight was late and she didn't want to risk our missing the connecting flight from Bogota to Quito.
So after breakfast I packed, checked out and boarded a van for the airport. Check in and security was a breeze, the plane was on time, only it was a smaller Fokker 100, than the MD-85, so they made us check our carryon bags.
We took off at 12:50 and landed in Bogota at 14:50. We were able to check in for our 21:30 flight to Quito and had five hours to kill, so Bob hired a cab with and English speaking driver and we drove to the National Museum and then to the Fernando Botero Museum of art. Both museums contain not only Botero's paintings but also paintings from the impressionist artists.
The security at the airport was easy but the waiting area for our assigned gate was full of another flight and we had a long wait in the hallway. At this airport they have a secondary bag and pat down check to get into the waiting area. I bought some internet time and cleaned out my in box. While looking up some information on my smart phone I turned on the cell phone and discovered that it worked in this area so I called Judy. Nothing new to report that was not already in her email but it was good to talked to her.
Eventually they opened our waiting area and the American Airlines aircraft at our gate was tugged out but no plane replaced it. When the boarding time came they had us go downstairs to a bus. The plane was a B-757 and we climbed stairs to the second entrance door (the one most airlines use between first class and coach). Bob was one of the first up the stairs and Cathy and I were the last from the first bus.
Bob greeted Cathy with the news that there was no row number 9 which were their assigned seats. When I got to my seat 11D (the second row from the door) it was occupied. Marian was in 10D. Between Bob, Cathy and I the flight attendants were very confused as to what to do. Bob and Cathy finally sat in a couple of First Class seats and I sat down in 8C just left of the entry door.
Eventually a gate agent arrived and moved Bob and Cathy to the last row in the aircraft but ignored me. I was now a perfect zero for three, with a foul-up on each flight. Having to be bussed to the aircraft and the seat confusion caused the takeoff to be an hour late. We broke ground at 22:30 and landed in Quito at 23:40.
Our morning tour had been rescheduled for the afternoon so we were able to sleep late.
Jan 24, 2009 (Saturday) Quito, Ecuador
My alarm woke me at 09:00 and I was able to get to breakfast before they closed. I returned to the room and wrote in my journal. At noon I went down to the coffee shop and no one was there so I walked across the street to a little Steak Restaurant and had a steak sandwich and a beer.
Our tour was scheduled for 13:00. When I arrived in the lobby Cathy reported that the first stop on the tour was to drive 30 km north of the city to visit the Equator Monument. All the others had visited the monument in the past but thought I needed to see it. When we got to the monument the driver kept going up to a mountain top Preserve that over looked a volcano crater. Unfortunately, there was either steam or fog in the crater so we couldn't see anything interesting. There was a row of tourest stalls which most likely why the driver took us there. Returning back to the monument the driver drove off the highway to an Equator Museum. We walked up a path to a funky place with a strip down the middle and a sign stating that the strip was the true equator calculated by US Army GPS and that the monument was off by several hundred meters.
Marking the true equator enabled them to demonstrate several things they don't do at the monument. One was a demonstration of the Coriolis effect. The earth spins on the poles in such a way that the northern hemisphere rotates in a counter clock wise direction and the southern hemisphere in a clockwise direction. They had a tank of water with a drain in the middle to a bucket underneath. When the drain is over the equator and they pull the plug the water flows straight down into the bucket. Then when they move the tank south of the equator by a few yards and refill from the bucket and pull the plug, the water swirls down the drain in a clockwise motion. Repeating the demonstration on the north side of the equator, the water swirls even more forcefully in a counter clockwise motion. The increase in swirling is due to the pull of the magnetic north pole.
Another demonstration had the people clasp their hands several feet from the equator and have the guide try to pull down on the person's arms. Then repeat it standing on the equator and the guide is able to easily move the arms. This is a result in the bulge of the earth right at the equator. The guides performed several other experiments to demonstrate the unique properties on the equator. It was a fascinating stop and none of the group had ever visited this museum and were happy that they had taken "rookie" Ed out to the monument. From the museum we drove to the monument and I quickly ran up to take some pictures and then rejoin the group for the ride back to the city. Next stop was the National Church where a wedding was taking place and then on to a 10 story high statue of the Virgin Mary on a mountain top overlooking the city. The drive to the statue was slow because the streets are narrow and one way. At the monument we had a beer and took pictures and then on our way back to the hotel we almost ran over a woman when a purse snatcher attempted to grab her bag as he ran down the street. She held on but was pulled to the ground just to the side of our car and two men tackled the thief.
Back in the hotel I took a nap and then joined Bob, Cathy and Mike for dinner at 20:00. They had scouted out a place called La Rioja, earlier around the block from the hotel and we walked in a light rain to find it open but empty. We had a nice dinner. I had a large piece of tender beef. When we left the place around 21:00, it was still empty and so were the other restaurants we passed on the way back to the hotel. It was surprising for a Saturday night. Since we had an early flight I went right to bed.
Jan 25, 2009 (Sunday) Fly to Galapagos: Highlands, Santa Cruz Island
My alarm woke me at 04:30. The email connection was working so I checked my MSN account and answered a message from Judy then showered, shaved and packed.
At six I went down to breakfast and sat with Marian. I had a little breakfast and then returned to the room and cleaned up my QMXS mail box (over 300 messages). At 06:25 the front desk called to tell me the group was waiting for me in the bus to go to the airport. I packed up my laptop and proceeded to the lobby and found the group was in the lobby waiting for the driver. Eventually we boarded the bus and waited until 06:40 when Bob reminded the door man we needed to get to the airport.
Once at the airport the check in was a little confusing. Klein Tours was handling the tour to the Galapagos and had messed up the cabin assignments. For some reason they paired Cathy with Mike. Our tickets departure, airline, ship and Galapagos entry paperwork was all linked to our cabin assignment so it confused things to pair Cathy with Mike and have Bob as a single. The check in procedure was to go to one end of the hall and get your bag x-rayed and tagged and then return to the check in counter where you received a packet from the Klein Agent and they took your bag to load on the plane and gave us a sticker indicating we were assigned to the Coral II.
We were bussed to the aircraft, a B-737-200. I was assigned seat 5D across the aisle from Marian, Cathy and Mike. The was a large group of school kids on the plane and one was assigned to the seat next to me with his buddies in the row behind so he spent most of the time facing the rear giggling with his friends.
We departed Quito at 08:25. The teacher finally moved the boy next to me to a seat in front of her so she could keep him buckled in his seat.
The hotel had delivered a copy of the International Edition of the Miami Herald and I spent most of the flight reading it. The route had us making a refueling stop at Guayaquil before the one and half hour flight to the islands. It took just 35 minutes to Guayaquil and we departed there after an hour at 10:00, landing on the Isla Baltra, in a flat dry area that looked like the Arizona desert. Our guide for the tour, Hernan, was at the Klein Booth to greet us and direct us to the correct bus. Hernan, is a handsome muscular Tarzan look alike with thick shoulder length hair. He is a native Ecuadoran who grew up in Galapagos and is a trained Marine Biologist and deep sea diver.
When we boarded the bus we found a group of four from Israel, a group of six from France and a lone Canadian from Spain. The bus ride took us across the island on a windy hilly road to a ferry landing. There we boarded a boat that sat ten people on a bench on each side and was powered by an outboard motor across the water less than a mile to the Isla Santa Cruz. The bus on this side was smaller and required some of the people to sit in the center fold down seats. This drive across the island was much longer and was through green areas, the village of Santa Rosa, in the middle of the island and finally to the sea port village of Puerto Ayora. There we donned life jackets and boarded rubber boats to be ferried to the Coral II, one of a dozen or so yachts moored in the harbor.
I was assigned cabin 7 on the main deck, Marian was in cabin 6 which was larger at the front of the ship. Mike and Cathy were assigned a cabin similar to mine on the lower deck and Bob to a cabin similar to mine on the top deck. I agreed to exchange cabins with Bob and then Marian agreed to change with Bob and Cathy. It was the only cabin with a double bed. So Mike, Marian and I ended up in cabins that were about 109 sq ft. The room is adequate. The closet holds all my belongings and I can store my luggage under the bed. There was one 110 outlet and I needed to use my extension cord to plug in my breathing machine and charges on the bed side table. The twin beds are hard – essentially just box springs without a mattress.
After lunch our luggage arrived and then we boarded the rubber dingy for a trip back to Puerto Ayora and a short bus ride to the Charles Darwin Research Station. We had a guided tour of the Research Station grounds were we saw 100 year old turtles up close and several types of iguanas.
The Galapagos breeds several types of turtles which have some unique characteristics that appealed to sailors in the 1500 to 1800's. The can survive a year without food or water and the water they store in their body is desalinated and thus is drinkable by human beings. The pirate and whaling ships would capture the turtles and use them for fresh water and meat on their long days at sea.
The weather was very hot and humid and after the tour we had several ours of free time to either explore the Research Station or return to town. After buying a bottle of Gatorade at the Research Station I elected to walk to town. Eventually I caught up to Marian and we walked until there were some stores. The Canadian/Spanish lady exited a jewelry shop and Marian joined her while I stopped at an Internet shop and bought thirty minutes for a USD$1 and read and wrote email.
After that I walked down to the boat landing and Cathy called out and invited me to join the group in a bar where I had a large beer. At 19:00 we donned our life jackets and rode back to the ship. Dinner was served at 19:30 followed by a slide show briefing on the next day's schedule and activities. After dinner the Canadian/Spanish lady named Ofra invited me to join her in the spa. It was sea water and not heated although it had refreshing jets. Unfortunately the ship stated out to the next port and the rocking spilled the water out and the jets would spry in the air. Not a pleasant experience. Ofra was from Toronto and with her husband she ran a restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia. After five years ship moved to Spain and made a bundle restoring old homes and selling them to Brits. She is now retired and just traveling.
After unpacking I retired at 21:30. I didn't sleep soundly with the movement of the ships and the firm mattress.
Jan 26, 2009 (Monday) Espanola (Hood) Island: Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay
My alarm woke me at 06:00 and I showered, shaved and wrote in my journal. The shower is on a spring loaded timer. You set the temperature and push in the knob and it slowly pops back out and shuts off. Marian complained at breakfast that her shower didn't work because she never thought of pushing on the knob.
The breakfast was a buffet style and offered a choice scramble eggs, sausage, fruit and cereal. Cathy did not sleep well and missed the meal. I returned to my cabin and took a nap before our 08:30 departure to Punta Suarez, located on Isla Espanola (Hood Island), the southernmost of the Galapagos Islands.
At Punta Suarez we had a dry landing at a concrete dock. For a short distance we walked along a concrete path to the base of a lighthouse. On our way a sea lion was nursing a baby across the path and we were warned not to get near protective mother sea lions. Hernan was able to convince the sea lions to move and we were on our way again. At the base of the lighthouse we stopped to observe a young hawk practicing its skills. Hernan told us that it must have just been set on its own and needed to practice catching reptiles and tearing their meat with his beak. To practice the hawk would swoop down on a twig and pretended it was a reptile. He repeated this many times.
On the water side we observed "Sea Lion Baby Day Care", a shallow pool of water protected from the open sea and sharks by rocks. Here the baby sea lions darted around in the water playing with each other. Next we walked across rocky lava fields observing numerous Iguanas and birds up close. The trail is marked by white and black posts and we were forbidden to leave the trail but many of the Iguanas and the booby birds nested next to the trail. We saw a variety of wildlife such as sea lion colonies, marine iguanas, lava lizards, sally light foot crabs and birds such as blue footed boobies, and gulls. There is famous blowhole but it was not active when we stopped in its area.
We returned to the ship for lunch and the ship moved to the other side of the island where we were offered the opportunity to snorkel. I had my mask and rubber boots but no fins. Those of us that elected to snorkel were driven out to a rocky outcropping. The water was choppy and I didn't see very interesting things. Mike's mask started leaking and when I waved to the boat to get him they drove to me. I made the mistake of rolling over to swim to Mike and got a mouth full of water. They pulled me in the boat first and then Mike. I was coughing and spitting out water and they decided that I should call it a day.
Dinner was on the top deck outside. They had a grill up there and advertised the dinner as an outdoor BBQ but it was prepared in the galley. We had a baked potato, guacamole (no chips), beef and chicken and all the Sangria we could drink.
After the dinner Hernan briefed us on the next day's activities and I retired at 21:00 hoping for a more restful night. The ship rocked a lot until midnight when they dropped anchor at our next stop: Isla Santa Maria
Jan 27, 2009 (Tuesday) Santa Maria Island: Punta Cormorant, Post Office Bay
I slept until the ship's wakeup call at 07:00. Breakfast was at 07:30 and we departed at 08:30 to Point Cormorant where we had a wet landing on a beautiful beach. Hernan gave us a lecture on the formation of sand on the various islands and drew diagrams in the sand to show how the Galapagos Islands were formed. The island we were on (Isla Santa Maria) was the second island created in the area and as the tonic plant shifted to the northeast the volcano that created the islands moved with the plate island.
Following his lecture we walked to an inland lagoon to observe the flamingoes. The lagoon was low and few flamingoes were seen. Hernan dug in the dry shore line and several inches down he came up with black lava mud. Ofra volunteered to have a mud facial which he applied. From the viewing area we walked around the lagoon to the other side of the point to another beautiful beach with fine white sand. It is off limits for swimming because it is the turtle egg laying area. There were many holes in the sand that contain the eggs and we saw a few turtles in the water.
Back at the original beach several of us went swimming and snorkeled. The beach was nice but there was not much to see in the water. We soon boarded the boats for the trip back to our ship and lunch. After lunch we departed again in two boats, one for sightseeing and one for snorkeling. Only Hernan, Orha, Bob, one of the Israelis and I elected to snorkel. Hernan issued fins to Bob and I and it was a great experience. We saw numerous fish, sharks, turtles, beautiful star fish, sting rays and had sea lions swimming with and under us. I had none of the problems I encountered the previous day and keep up with Hernan thoughout the session.
We returned to the ship for a rest and then set out again for the historical Post Office Bay. We had a wet landing on a nice beach and a short walk to the Post Office barrel where early mariners from around the world would deposit and collect letters from the barrel to be delivered to their destination. Even today visitors may drop off and pick up letters, without stamps, to be carried to far destinations. The address closest to me was Ojai and it was dated this week so I left it to mature.
Back on the beach we observed the crews of the Coral I playing soccer against the crew of the Coral II and then I returned to the water to snorkel off the beach. The area was shallow without the varity of marine life we observed on the previous snorkel session. For fifteen minutes I followed one large fish and watched its interaction with other fish and feeding itself on algae and things it picked off the ocean bottom. In some instances it nudged over small rocks to get at whatever was under the rock. Fascinating!
When we returned to the ship we were greeted by ice cream sundaes and then I took a nap before dinner. Dinner was shrimp, brussels sprouts, pork chop, peas and hearts of palm salad. For desert we had the remainder of Ofra's birthday cake and the leftovers of the other deserts we had the last two nights.
After dinner Hernan briefed us on the next day's activities which included packing and tagging our luggage, paying our bar bill, and filling our tip envelopes.
I retired to my cabin, retrieved my money from the safe, paid the bar bill and filled the envelops with USD$25 for the Captain and Crew and USD$20 for Hernan (a little more than suggested).
I retired at 22:00 and had a good night's sleep. At a suggestion of Marian I put a tee shirt under my back and it reduced the pain I had experienced the previous nights.
Jan 28, 2009 (Wednesday) North Seymour Island & Baltra, then fly to Santiago via Quito
My alarm woke me at 05:00 so I could get a head start on packing. Official wakeup was 06:30 and by that time I had my belongings ready to pack in my bags.
At seven I went down to breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes and fruit. The juice was a delicious strawberry concoction. I made the mistake of lingering after breakfast talking to Bob and Cathy. I only had fifteen minutes to brush my teeth and pack my bags. The boats left at 07:30 and in my hurry I left my camera in the room.
We had a dry landing on North Seymour Island which is just north of the airport. The walk was rocky but we got up close to boobie birds, sea lions and several other birds. Back on the yacht I finish packing and took my luggage to the collection point.
The first boat took our luggage to a dock where it was loaded on a truck. The second boat took us to a different landing where we were to get on buses to the airport. I was in the first boat and had to wait while it returned to the yacht to pick up the remaining passengers. At the top of the landing ramp was a covered area with two benches for people to wait to load the buses. Both benches had sea lions sleeping on them and when one of the passengers approach the bench the sea lion snarled to inform the passenger to back off.
The bus filled and we eventually drove a short distance to the airport terminal where we had an hour and a half wait. I bought some jewelry for Judy, some post cards for the grandkids and a long sleeve light weight beach shirt for myself.
Ofra bought me a soda and we traded travel stories. She was going to spend a few days in Quito and then she didn't know what she would do next. Security was easy and even though I set off the alarm they waved me through.
The plane was packed and I had a couple from Pittsfield, MA seated next to me and they were pleased to see my Red Sox hat, although he was a Yankee fan and she was a Red Sox fan. We took off at 12:30 and I started listening to The War Within book on tape, by Bob Woodward. We landed at Guayaquil after an hour and thirty five minute flight. This time we did not have to take on fuel so we were only on the ground forty five minutes and then arrived in Quito thirty minutes later at 16:05.
We checked in for our LAN "red-eye" 21:45 flight to Santiago and learned that we could purchase a one day access to the VIP lounge. It had free internet, food and drink. This enabled me to clean up my email boxes, check on the Red Sox news and write my journal. I also had cell phone access and all my daily Red Sox Instant Messages appeared. The big issue was getting Varitek to sign a contract. I was able to call Judy.
When we finally boarded our plane it was also packed. Since it is summer break there were a lot of teen age sports teams both boys and girls on the flight. The plane left five minutes early at 21:40. We had to fly back through Guayaquil to Santiago and the plane was going on to Buenos Aires. I hooked up my iPod to listen to the rest of The War Within. The flight to Guayaquil took fifty five minutes and we were on the ground, an hour and ten minutes and then back in the air at 23:35.
Jan 29, 2009 (Thursday) Fly Quito to Santiago
We had a four and half hour flight to Santiago, arriving at 06:05 local (they are two hours ahead of Ecuador time). We waited thirty minutes in the airport for Bob Ihsen to fly in from Miami and join our group. Bob was also a member of the group on the South Pacific Island tour, and is a 77 year old retired high school history teacher from Covina, CA. He had wanted to spend more time in Columbia so after Easter Island he will fly top Bogota by himself and tour Columbia and the San Andres Island.
The Sheraton Hotel, Santiago, had some clean rooms so we checked in early and took a nap before our lunch and Concha y Toro Winery tour.
The Vineyard was a forty five minute drive from the hotel and when we got there we drove past it to the La Vaquita Ech'a Restaurant. We sat on a patio and I had a nice asparagus and scallops soup and the sea food sampler appetizer, with wine.
Our lunch took almost two hours and we arrived at the Winery just before our tour appointment of three o'clock. The tour starts with a video of the winery. We sat down right at three and discovered it was in Spanish. When it was over we got up to leave when a young lady with an Aussie accent told us that the tour was about to begin so we sat through the same video in English and then walked to the founder, Don Melchor's, villa and some of the vineyards and into a new storage shed. Outside again we had a white wine tasting and were told to keep our glass. We then descended into the Casillero del Diablo, which is the original wine cellar. The story goes that the Don was losing his best wine from the cellar and decided to spread the rumor that the Devil resided in the cellar and the thievery stopped. Next we had a red wine tasting and then time to buy if we wanted and that was it! Less than an hour and only two tastings! If we wanted additional tastings it would cost USD$3 per glass, but the group was ready to go.
On the way back we stopped at a Lapidary factory. Marian was looking for something for her daughter and was not satisfied with the factories offerings. We were able to get a complimentary shot ofpisco, a traditional Chile lemon sour drink. Marian then visited several of the Lapidary shops next door and I was able to find some ear rings that I thought Judy would like.
We then stopped at the hotel we will be staying at on our return from Robinson Crusoe Island and stored luggage that we would not take to the island because of the weight restrictions of the aircraft.
Back at the hotel I visited the Business Center to check email. The Sheraton had internet connection in the rooms but charged a minimum of USD$10 for three hours, but the Business Center granted each guest ten free minutes per day. That was all I needed to clean up my MSN email box and respond to Judy's messages.
It was then dinner time and I was not very hungry after the big lunch so I had a sandwich in the hotel bar where I could watch the BBC on their TV.
Back in the room I wrote a little in my journal and retired early since we had an early trip to the airport in the morning.
Jan 30, 2009 (Friday) Fly Santiago to Robinson Crusoe Island
At 04:50 I was awakened by the roar of a car or motor cycle outside the hotel. My alarm was set for 05:00 anyway so I arose, showered and packed. At 06:00 I went down to the lobby for breakfast but nothing was set up. There was an airline flight crew standing in front of a room off the lobby and soon the door was opened and I could see the buffet set up in a back room. I ate a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses and fruit. At first there was no coffee or tea, but about 06:15 waiters started to appear with coffee and tea.
I returned to my room to finish packing and carried my bags to the lobby and checked out. I complained to the desk clerk about the requirement for a minimum connection time for internet in the rooms. They require 3 hours when many people want to just check email before they go to bed and then when they get up in the morning.
At 07:00 I went down to the Business Office for my free 10 minute session. The room was open but no one was there. In the hall I found a hotel staffer who logged me in to a desktop in the business office. I was able to clear my MSN mail box and write Judy a short message.
It was now time to load up and head for the airport. We had George, our driver from yesterday, drive us to the small airfield. He had to drive around to find the vehicle entrance. We entered a controlled access point and proceeded to Lassa Airline to check in.
Six additional people were also going to the island. Our bags were weighed and our bodies weighed. My bag was overweight but the total of our group was under the limit so there was no problem. They then told us we would be bussed to another charter airline at the International airport so we could fly in a larger plane. We crowded in a van for a one hour ride across the city to the Aerocardal terminal. I was seated backwards in the van across from Marian. Next to me was, Pilar, a tall young lady who we discovered spoke English. She had lived in Chicago and NYC with her ex-husband. She has three children staying with her ex. We talked a lot about travel. She had been too many places, but of course not as many as Marian. She was amazed that Marian spends more time away from home than at home.
Aerocardal is the "most important corporate airline in Chile" with a fleet of jet and turboprop airplanes. Our plane would be a Dornier 228-100, configured for 12 passengers. I spoke to the Captain as the second officer performed the preflight of the plane, and learned he got his training in the USAF at Mooney AFB and then flew in the Chilean Air Force. He gave me the information I needed for my log book and cautioned all of us not to drink very much because the aircraft had only a small toilet for emergencies.
Once we boarded the plane I sat in the second seat on the right side. Each seat had a bag with a bottle of water, a small can of Diet Coke, and some cookies. A free lunch! We took off at 10:40 and it was an uneventful flight. I didn't carry my iPod so I attempted write a DataViz Word To Go entry that I could then transfer later to my journal on my laptop. The flight took two hours and twenty minutes over water at around 28,000 feet. The landing strip is on a remote hill top on the southwest end of Robinson Crusoe Island, with cliffs at each end of an asphalt paved runway with no taxiway. There was a small newly constructed terminal building at the midpoint of the runway with a ramp area. A Piper aircraft was on the ramp when we taxied up and cut engines. There were a 3 or 4 men and a four door pickup truck. Our luggage was loaded in the pickup truck and we were told that it was a downhill walk to the ferry pier. The road was under construction with a lot of loose gravel. It was steep and a switch back. Our first view of the cove with the pier was a sight to see. The beach and cove was full of sea lions.
Despite slipping a few times we made it to the pier without falling. Tied to the pier were several boats. The pickup arrived with our luggage and it was loaded into Blanca Luz II, a Motor Launch with a cabin that would hold a couple of dozen passengers on benches. Each of was issued a life vest and most of our group sat in the main cabin for the hour and one half trip to the township of San Juan Bautista (John the Baptist) on Cumberland Bay. The first three quarters of an hour we saw no vegetation. The island was sheer rock hills with no beaches. Finally, we passed a small beach with a grove of pine trees and a small house. From that point on the hills were greener with clumps of trees and grass. When the launch rounded the point into Cumberland Bay we saw a couple of hundred one to two story small houses that are the home to 600 inhabitants in the township, who largely survive on the harvest of spiny lobsters and recently, golden crawfish, the town consists of a few unpaved streets, an elementary school, a soccer field, a local museum, four pubs, a disco, and a small cemetery.
We were greeted on the dock by our host, Pedro. He has a small hostel and has been in the tourist business for over ten years, specializing in diving and hiking. He spent his early teen age years in Hawthorne, California and met his wife, Fabianna, on repeated diving trips to Robinson Crusoe Island. They eventually married and settled on the island and now have two children. They both love to cook and have recently built a nice hostel. Bob Ihsen and Marian were assigned rooms in the hostel while, Mike, Bob, Cathy and me were assigned cabins in the Daniel Defoe Hotel next door. I was assigned to the Robinson Crusoe cabin. It was very rustic with a big bay window with a beautiful view of the bay only forty feet away.
After dumping my bags I returned to the hostel and joined Mike at the bar for a beer. Pedro and his wife were cooking up spiny lobster for a late lunch. They were delicious!
At 19:00 we walked down to the pier area to watch a village festival. Three young men from the village competed in eight events. The first event was a roping contest where the skeleton of the head of a steer on a post had to be lassoed. Each man had three tries but none were able to get the rope over both horns and the post. Next the men had to grab a log from a pile of logs and run down to the area and chop the log in half. Each of them had one assistant that turned the log for them. The winner was the one man without a shirt on and was assisted by his brother which looked like an identical twin but we learned later was a year older. He had another brother and sister with the same facial profile cheering him on. Next they had to shoot an air rifle at a row of bottles. The shirtless "macho man" won again. The fourth contest required the strapping of a saddle and bridal on a horse with the lasso rope in a certain position on the back of the saddle. Mr. Macho Man won again. The fifth contest required each man to build a fire in a bucket, then boil a can of water and make tea with a local leaf. Mr. Macho Man won this one. The sixth contest was a cooking contest where each contestant had two onions and a can of something on a table on the stage. Mr. Macho Man put on a woman's apron, but it was getting dark and there were no street lights so we walked back to our cabins at 21:30. We had a night cap in Bob and Cathy's cabin and I retired at 22:30.
The others reported that the music could be heard all night, but my breathing machine must have blocked out the noise and I slept like a log.
Background on the Archipelago Juan Fernandez
Named after Spanish navigator Juan Fernandez, who discovered them in 1574, the Juan Fernandez Islands owe their notoriety to the story of the shipwreck of Alexander Selkirk, immortalized in the classic novel "Robinson Crusoe', by Daniel Defoe. The three Juan Fernandez islands—Isla Robinson Crusoe, Isla Alejandro Selkirk, and Isla Santa Clara, lie 400 miles off the Chilean mainland. Home to one of the most highly endemic ecosystems in the world, with unique species such as the Juan Fernandez red hummingbird (famous for its needle-fine black beak and silken feather coverage) and the fur seal, these islands were declared Juan Fernandez National Park in 1935 and World Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1977.
Jan 31, 2009 (Saturday) Robinson Crusoe Island
Breakfast was scheduled for 08:30 so I set my alarm for 07:30 to shower and shave. The shower was a wand type and had separate hot and cold knobs but I couldn't get hot water so I shaved in the sink and there the water was very hot so I returned to the shower and it was warmer but not as hot as the sink.
I met Mike and Bob Ihsen at the breakfast table. They served us scrambled eggs with bits of ham and toast. They had run out of juice but they had good tea. Bob and Cathy didn't arrive until 09:30. Pedro showed us some post cards which Bob Ihsen and Marian bought. When everyone finished breakfast Pedro took us on a tour of the village. The first stop was the National Park Ranger station where if you plan to climb the mountains you have to buy a Park Entrance ticket.
Across the street was the Post Office and we were able to buy stamps for the post cards. I decided to buy a couple of stamps and then get some Post Cards from Pedro. The next stop was the Library where we saw computers with internet connection donated by the Bill Gates Foundation to all Libraries in Chile. The retired school teacher that runs the library opened the museum next door and Pedro explained the displays of Selkirk, the islands history and the sinking of the Dresden.
From there Pedro led us north past the town square, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, past the outdoor basketball court, into the cemetery and then along the coast to the light house and a cliff which still has holes with gun shells from the World War One shelling of the German Battleship Dresden.
When we returned to the town center we climbed the hill overlooking the village and explored the many caves cut in the hill side. When Chile first won its independence from Spain it didn't last long and Spain retook procession of the country and shipped the leaders to this island. The caves had been created before they came for undocumented reasons but the prisoners moved into the caves and they are now known as the Patriot Caves. In four years Chile regained their independence. As we walked along the path in front of the caves we came upon the walls of the old Spanish Fort. The top of the fort is a level grassy area with a weather station and radio antennas. This completed our tour and we walked down hill past the Catholic Church to the village.
It was now getting close to lunch time and Pedro made arrangements for us to have lunch at a restaurant across from the Catholic Church, so Bob, Cathy, Mike and I trekked back up the hill to a yellow house when we had fish burgers with beefsteak tomatoes and cheese. A great lunch! (Mr. Macho Man was also eating lunch there) We found out later it is considered the best place to eat on the island because the owner is connected to airline employees and gets fresh fruit, meat and vegetables flown in while the others have to rely on the monthly Chilean Navy ship to bring their provisions.
After lunch I returned to Pedro's, checked email and then to my room for a nap. Dinner was at 20:00 and was a delicious Golden Crab dish. I retired at my room after dinner and turned out the light at 23:00.
Feb 01, 2009 (Sunday) Robinson Crusoe Island
I slept past my alarm and awoke at 09:00. I couldn't get hot water in the shower but I was able to shave in the sink. Everyone else had had breakfast when I arrived. Mike was already climbing the trail to the lookout and Bob, Cathy and Bob Ihsen were about to leave.
After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and guacamole I bought two post cards and then walked to the village center where I ran into Marian. We explored the school and other places that Pedro didn't take us to and returned to the hostel. She returned to her room to read a book on Pitcairn Island and I returned to write my post cards and then walked down to the Post Office and back. By this time the hikers were returning. After some email sessions and journal writing, Bob, Cathy and Mike invited me to join them on a walk along the south shore.
On our walk we came upon a new hotel and decided to have a beer and check it out. It turned into a delightful afternoon. The owner, Marcelo, used to live in Minneapolis and has been on the island for five years. His wife, Monica, is the island dentist. They have two small children. Marcelo serves as one of the few diving instructors on the island and is also the agent for cruise line visits to the island. We had several beers and a pisco sour before walking back to Pedro's for dinner.
Dinner started with the local Fisherman's Soup and sort of vegetable soup with hunks of crab and fish. Delicious! The main course was broiled local fish and sliced potatoes. The fish was the same as the fish we had for lunch the day before (similar to tuna). Desert was cheesecake with a boysenberry sauce. Overall, our meals on the island were outstanding.
The sun sets late in this area and still the dinner stretches out until well after 21:00 so it was not until 23:00 that I turned out the light.
Feb 02, 2009 (Monday) Fly to Santiago
My alarm woke me at 07:00. I had a restful sleep but with some strange dreams that took me back to reentering SMU to get a degree. I guess it was brought on due to a discussion I had about the Bush library yesterday. Strange! I broke the code on the hot water in the shower. Mike had discovered that they used the instant hot water heaters like is found in some kitchens and water colors. When the water flows in the sink it is very hot and when you first turn on the shower it is hot but if you increase the flow the water speeds through the heater so fast that it does not get hot, so the trick is to not open the faucet knob all the way.
After showering and shaving I started to pack and at 08:30 I walked over to Pedro's for breakfast. Bob Ihsen was the only one there from our group. I was able to get on Pedro's internet and discover the score for the Super Bowl. It must have been an exciting game with the Steelers winning in the last 35 seconds.
Our boat to the airport was scheduled to leave at 11:45 so I returned to the room, finished packing and carried my bag to Pedro's. Since I had an hour to kill, I set up my lap top in the hostel dining room and was able to connect to the internet and clean out my MSN mail box and to write in my journal.
At 11:30 we walked to the pier and boarded a 35 ft open fiberglass boat with Hoda Model 20 outboart engine. Pilair and her boy friend joined for the trip to the airport where they were going to hike back to Cumberland (an estimated 8 hour hike). They sat in the bow, the Marian and I sat on the next bench, Bob and Cathy and Bob Ihsen on the middle bench and Mike on the next bench with the Airline Agent. Our luggage was stored between Mike and a back bench. The boat operator and another Airline Agent stood in a well in back. We started out and didn't get very far when we slowed and circled back. They were trailing a fishing line and it had caught a three foot fish and were hand pulling it onboard where the Airline Agent clubbed it to death and it stayed in the area where the operator was standing I think for the rest of the trip. The sea was choppy at time but riding in the open none of us got sea sick. Most of the hour and one half ride we were close to the sheer cliffs of the coast but there were some stretches where we were a mile or more off the shore in open water. We passed a number of fishermen in their similar open boats and a number of lobster buoys which we had to navigate around. When we entered the airport cove it was full of sea lions. They were so numerous you could almost walk on them to the shore.
The older of the two airline agents opened a shed by the pier and backed out a four door pickup truck. We loaded in the luggage and then squeezed the six of us into the cab. Piliar and her boyfriend had already started to walk up the steep switch back road to the airport. When arrived at the airport building there was another agent there that informed us the plane was twenty minutes out. We sat in the waiting room and I read a week old section of the Sunday New York Times that had been brought in on our flight on the 30th. When the plane landed it turned out to be a twin engine Piper Cheyenne. A Chinese family and a young woman disembarked. They loaded out luggage in the nose of the plane and the pilot informed us that one of us would have to sit in the co-pilots seat since there was only five seats in the passenger compartment. I was already on board and the group elected me to ride up front which I didn't mind at all. It was a little confining and I was afraid to move my feet and hit the rudder petals but it was a fascinating ride back to Santiago and brought back memories of my private pilot days almost forty years ago. The pilot was an ex-LAN Commercial jet pilot with 10,000 hours but only 800 in the Piper Turbo Prop. The flight was smooth with a 50 knot plus tail wind. We took off at 14:40 and climbed to flight level 250 and cruised at around 295 knots most of the way. It took one hour and fifty minutes to the SCTB airport north east of the city. Lassa airline had provided each of us a small bag with a Diet Coke and two chocolate cover cookies as an in-flight lunch. The landing was smooth. A pleasurable flight!
We waited almost an hour for a van to arrive to transfer us to our hotel which was close to the International Airport over 10 miles across town. Along the way we stopped at a Super Market that had a Money Changing Booth to get more Pesos for Easter Island at a good rate. I exchanged USD$100 for 60,700 pesos.
It took an hour to get to the Hotel Diego De Almagro Airport which was located in an industrial area near the cargo area of the airport. We retrieved the luggage we stored there before our trip to Robinson Crusoe Island and checked into our rooms. I then had to rearrange my luggage and setup my C-PAP machine for the night. At 19:00 I went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Mike was having a beer on the patio and wasn't ready to eat, but Bob Ishen was sitting alone so I joined him. I had an unusual salad with hearts of palm, sliced avocado standing on end, string beans and another while vegetable that I couldn't identify. My main course was a fresh broiled fish and for desert I had a plate of sliced fresh fruit (plums, strawberries, peaches, pineapple, apples, mangos and a scoop of pistachio ice cream). Overall it was one of the best meals of the trip.
My room had free WiFi (what a contrast to the Santiago Sheraton), so I returned to the room and cleaned up my MSN mail box and wrote a few messages and retired early.
Feb 03, 2009 (Tuesday) Fly to Easter Island
Our airport shuttle was scheduled for 07:30 so I awoke at 05:00 to shower, shave and pack my bags. I was down to breakfast at 06:00. Bob Ishen was just finishing. He was leaving our group to fly to Bogota and spend a week touring Columbia. His shuttle was scheduled for 07:00. We said our goodbyes and hope to meet again in the fall on the Iraq tour Cathy was planning.
The breakfast buffet was the standard hotel fare. Back in my room I had one last internet connection and then packed up and lugged my bags to the lobby. The ride to the airport terminal took only five minutes and when we got in the terminal a blinding bright sun was lighting up the room. It was busy with over 50 check-in counters. I found a cart to load my bags and in the process lost sight of the group. With the blinding sun it was difficult to see them so I asked an agent at the low end numbered counters where the flight to Easter Island checked in. Of course it was 57 to 60 at the other end of the hall. As I started in the correct direction Mike approached me and led me to the group. We had a little confusion since we had not checked in online and received a boarding pass. Eventually we got in the right line and were checked in.
Security was almost a joke. I set of the alarm and an guard passed a wand over me beeping at every zipper, my watch and knee but he waved me on. Mike told us the flight was over booked and they offered him USD$500 to fly the next day which he declined. The waiting area was crowded with no seats left and when the plane was towed to our gate the agents started to line us up by row number. I was assigned seat 26J so I was in the first group of coach passengers to board. I recognized my seat mate from breakfast at the hotel, as she did me as we had waited for our toast to brown together, so we traded names and chatted until take off. She was a high school art teacher on sabbatical from Halifax, NS., and was going to Easter Island to attend the two week, Tapati Rapa Nui, annual festival that celebrates the Rapa Nui culture and heritage. When we had boarded the aircraft I had picked up a brochure with a description and schedule of the events. Two clans on the island nominate a young woman to be crowned queen at the end of the two weeks based on the points each clan members participating in scored events accumulate. The clan that scores the most points has their woman crowned queen for a year.
The flight took off at 09:30 and took five hours. I saw two movies, Witness, an academy award winning movie from 1986, and The Women, considered one of the ten worst movies of 2008. I agreed with critics on both films.
The plane landed at 12:30 local. Easter Island is in the Eastern Time Zone we as, Santiago is in the Mid-Atlantic Time Zone. After we picked up our luggage we were met by tour guides from a local tour agency, Aku Aku Turismo, that Cathy had contracted through the Santiago Tour Agency. They loaded our luggage into a van and took us on a short drive around the north end of the runway to the Iorana Hotel, a complex of one story buildings with the doors to the rooms facing inland and each room with a sliding glass patio door facing the ocean. We were assigned a block of rooms (47 to 50) near the end of a building. Across the lawn from our rooms was a tennis court in disrepair.
After unpacking I joined the group in the dining and bar building adjacent to a pool and with a grand view of the ocean below. I had a delicious, broiled shrimp sandwich and a beer. We met the Dining Room Manager, Irene, who although is a native Rapa Nui, lived in the US, initially, attending English language school in Carmel and then living in Santa Fe, NM and Orlando, FL. Her younger sister, Jean works the reception desk. Irene has grown kids living in the states.
At 15:00 I met the group for the tour at the reception building. Our guide, Thais, was a young woman with fair English skills. The tour took us to the southwest tip of the island to Rano Kau Crater, a magnificent volcano crater full of fresh water covered by reeds which as the Lonely Plant describes as a "giant witches cauldron". The views of the island were fantastic but it was very windy and we had trouble keep our hats on. We were taking a lot of pictures and there were a number of other tourists there. Later when Mike was reviewing the pictures he found that one he took that had two young woman sitting on a bench and a gust of wind bellowed up their skits reveling that they were not wearing under pants.
From the Crater we drove to the Orongo Ceremonial Village, where we saw the low stone slab constructed buildings with earth covered arched roofs. The entrance to teach building was a small tunnel. Outside each building were water catchment pits and fire pits. The guide told us that they only occupied the buildings at night and in inclement weather. This area was occupied by the "Birdman Cult". Off the coast in this area were two small islands and the "Birdman of the Year" was the man or his stand in, who could swim to the small islands, find and bring back the first egg of the season. The Birdman winner had his head, eye brows and eye lashes shaved, and his face painted red and black and spent the year in a special house. This ritual was known to take place up to 1867.
We continued our walk through the village to the south side of the crater for another fantastic view of the south side of the island. We boarded our bus and drove past the hotel, the north end of the runway and into the town, down to the north shore, past the Tapati Rapa Nui stage, the cemetery and stopped at the Tahai site. Tahai is a ceremonial center made up of three alters (Ahus) with massive carved stone portrait sculptures (Moais), and stone houses similar to the ones in Orongo. We had a group picture taken with five Moais in the background. From Tahai, Cathy requested the van driver stop at the Aku AKu Turismo agency office. She was concerned about the arrangements for the next two days. While she was in the office Mike, Marian and I walked down the street to a Craft Store. The stores close from noon until 17:00 and since it was just after 17:00 not many of the vendors had setup their displays. We walked back to the van and Cathy told us that the arrangements she had made for us to have a private tour had not been forwarded from Santiago and that the next day two cruise ships would be in the harbor and all guides and vehicles were reserved to service the ships passengers. We would have to join a group tour in a bus, but Thais would still be our guide. Cathy was not happy since she had paid the private tour rate. Cathy, Bob, Mike and me had the van driver drop us off in the center of town and we visited a bigger handy craft shop with more vendors and a little lower prices than the other store. I bought some Moais for the Grandchildren. We found that with the cruise ship due the next day the vendors were not willing to bargain very much but I was able to buy three Moais for the list price of two.
We were hot and thirsty so we stopped at a bar and had a beer. Sitting outside the bar on the curb was the young lady from Mike's picture which gave us quite a chuckle. After our beer we started walking back to the hotel and stopped at a market and bought some water, snacks and beer for our rooms.
The tour only took a couple of hours and we were tired from the walk, the flight and days activities so we decided to not attend the Tapati Rapa Nui events that night. I had a delicious broiled fish for dinner and we drank a bottle of Casillero del Diablo wine.
After dinner I carried my laptop to the reception building where they had WiFi and was able to clean my MSN inbox and write some emails. Back in my room I wrote some journal entries and turned out the light at 22:00.
Feb 04, 2009 (Wednesday) Easter Island
I had set my alarm for 08:30, but at 07:55 I awoke to a sound like a wood pecker. It turned out to be the air in the pipes to the room next door. Awake, I showered and shaved and lugged my computer bag to breakfast. The group was already there as was a large group of Japanese. It was a strange breakfast for me because the eggs were gone and the table was covered with deserts. I had a piece of lemon margarine pie for breakfast, a bowl of cereal and a bowl of canned fruit. After this strange breakfast I lugged my laptop over to the reception area to get a WiFi connection. Along the way I saw the two cruise ships anchored off shore. The Royal Princess dwarfed the other ship. After setting up my laptop I was able to answer a few emails and clear my MSN in box. It was after 09:00 and we were going to be picked up for our all day tour at 09:30 so I hustled back to my room and dressed for the tour.
When the bus arrived we had the same driver and guide as we had the day before. We were the first stop and one other couple and a young Japanese girl from our hotel boarded the bus. The bus then toured the city picking up couples at various hotels. We noticed that people were wearing bathing suits and carrying towels. It turned out that the tour was going to finish with a stop at a beach. None of our group was aware and none of us brought swim gear. Cathy was not a happy camper.
After everyone was picked up for a total of 19 the bus stopped at the Gas Station Mini Mart so we could buy water. Bob bought a bottle for each of our group.
From the gas station which bordered the airport runway on the north side the bus headed east to the coast and our first stop at Ahu Hanga Te'e. There we saw eight Moais face down and their hats (topknots), scattered nearby. The next stop was Ahu Akahanga where we saw remains of a "boat house", outdoor fire pit and caves. The boat houses were so named, because they were constructed with stone walls and then poles were bent over to form the roof covered with leaves. The design looked like an upside down boat. We also saw small caves that were the third form of shelter on the island (stone houses, boat houses and caves). We were able to walk up close to a toppled Moai and see the details of the face. Thais told us that this Moai was most likely never set in place on an Ahu since it's eyes had not been carved.
The next stop on the tour was Ahu Tongariki. This is the most breath taking set of Moais on the island. In the mid 1990's Tadano, a Japanese company that manufactured a heavy duty crane, brought one to the island and filmed it erecting 15 Moais for a TV commercial demonstrating the power of the crane. They were erected on the largest Ahu (stone platform) ever built, in fact now the largest stone platform ever built by mankind. After taking one picture of the 15 I got a message that my camera picture storage was full. Every night I recharge the battery but I had neglected to transfer the pictures to my laptop. I switched to using my cell phone camera for the rest of the tour.
From Tongariki the tour took us to the volcano of Rano Raraku, also known as 'The Nursery', which contains the quarry where the rocks originated for the creation of the magnificent Moai carvings. The sculptures were carved in the hill side and somehow moved to all parts of the island, some weighing as much as 50 tons each. Almost one hundred unfinished statues now lie scattered and abandoned on the slopes of the volcano still waiting to be moved! We walked up a trail past Moais that were buried up to their chest by erosion down the side of the volcano, past Moais in various stages of carving in the volcanic rock. One statue had a round head while all the others were flat back heads. This one is reported to have been craved in honor of a worker who died during the carving operation.
After the tour of Rano Raraku we had lunch in covered area with adjacent wood BBQ grills. We were served pisco and a buffet style of rice, salad (mostly sliced cucumber), fish and BBQ chicken, and custard like dessert. After an interesting pit stop that charged USD$1 for paper and had broken toilets we re-boarded the bus and proceeded to Ahu Te Pito Kura where we saw the largest Moai ever moved and erected on an Ahu. According to legend documented in the Lonely Planet and confirmed by our guide, Thais, a widow erected the Moai to represent her dead husband. It is 33 feet long and now lays face down with its topknot nearby. A short walk from the Moai is a magnetic round smooth rock. Te Pito Kura means "navel of light". A legend claims that the first supreme chief of Easter Island, King Hotu Matua, himself brought the stone to this place, symbolizing the navel of the world. Thais held a compass over the rock and it slowly swung in erratic directions, indicating the magnetic disturbance of the rock. She told us that the custom is that if you make a wish with your hands on the rock it will come true.
The last stop on the tour was the beautiful beach of Anakena for a one and one half hour swim. Cathy was upset that when they switched us to the public tour they did not inform us of the swimming and none of us brought swim suits. She attempted to get the driver to drive our group to the village where we could take a cab back to the hotel but they would not deviate from the scheduled tour. Cathy and Marian would not leave the bus, but Bob, Mike and I left.
There were a lot of people at the beach and several sandwich stalls and bars in the palm trees. Mike headed for a bar while Bob and I walked over to the hillside where Ahu Ature Huki stands. It was re-erected by Thor Heyerdahl and a dozen islanders. Using wooden poles and rope it took them 20 days. Nearby is Ahu Nau Nau with seven Moais, four with topknots. During the reconstruction of Nau Nau the archeologists discovered that Moais had eyes inlaid with white coral and red rock. After taking pictures of the Moais, we discovered the cave that Hotu Matua reported lived in.
When we returned to the beach we found Mike at one of the beer stands and joined him for a beer. The waitress/bar tender was a large Polynesian woman with few teeth (Bloody Mary from South Pacific). She was very jovial and Mike told us to ask her to lift her apron. With a huge grin she flashed the apron to reveal a large penis constructed of silk stocking material. She then hugged each of us with Bob taking pictures. Cathy and Marian heard our laughter and left the bus to see what was so funny. When she "flashed" Marian, Marian was so impressed that she bought the apron from the woman. Marian's 70th birthday is February 28th and her family has planned a big party and she thought it would liven up the party if she wore it. There were a number of jokes about it, but the best one was at her age she called it her" memory stick". To a great extent the incident took the edge off our not knowing about the swimming on the thirty minute ride back to the hotel.
We had a small wine party at one of the hotels picnic tables overlooking the sea and watched the Royal Princess tenders shuttling the last passengers from shore. When it looked like they were complete three small boats appeared from the south racing towards the cruise ship. We speculated that it was groups of scuba divers late returning.
After dinner at the hotel, we decided to attend the Tapati Rapa Nui activities that night. The schedule was round two of the dance contest starting at 21:45. We took cabs to the Tapati stage area and were able to get good seats in front of the judges table. One reason we were able to get the seats at 21:40 is that the event didn't get started until 22:15. It started with the two competing woman, one dressed in yellow, the other in white dancing with a partner. The dance step was similar to ball room dance, nothing fancy, with no twirls, or dips. I thought the white dresses couple didn't dance to the music as well as the yellow dressed couple. Next ten couples dressed in yellow with numbers on their backs dance the same style followed by ten couples dressed in white.
The dancing was followed by individual singers from each team performing tragic songs. Next was the "typical dress" competition. The white candidate performed like a model parading around the stage displaying her dresses with two men accompanying her, and then the yellow candidate came on stage with teen age girl. She paraded around the stage and then stood in front and removed her skirt and handed it to the girl who then held it up and showed it off while the candidate walked around in just a g-string. This routine was performed a number of times with the white candidate never shedding her skirt and the yellow candidate always shedding her skirt.
Following the typical dress completion there was more music and singing. It was now after mid-night and we decided to leave.
Feb 05, 2009 (Thursday) Easter Island
We had no tour planned for the morning so I slept in and had breakfast at 09:00. The Japanese group was checking out and I was able to get eggs and a more normal meal, although they still had pie and cake in the buffet. After breakfast I carried my laptop to the reception building and checked my email. Bob asked me if I wanted to join them on a trip to the museum. Mike was off doing his own thing but Bob, Cathy, Marian and I squeezed into a taxi and visited the Padre Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum, dedicated to promoting knowledge of the Rapa Nui culture. I found the museum to be great experience and provided a better understanding of the history and culture of the island than I had been able to learn from the tours, guides and readings. It is well laid out with an English translation guide book they loan you. It is not a very large building with all the displays in one room and outside the building.
Easter Island is described as the most isolated land mass on earth with Chile the nearest land to the east and Pitcairn Islands to the west. It is the southeast part of the Polynesian triangle, with Hawaii at the apex and New Zealand to the south west. The islands in this area were all formed by volcanic activity. Thor Heyerdahl proved that people could have sailed to the island from South America but most researchers believe they came from the islands to the west and northwest. It is a mysterious island with little understanding of the history, culture and reasons for the Moais. Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki venture in 1947 started open up the mysteries to the rest of the world. The museum established in 1973 and remodel in 2001 to its present state has 19 wall panels, 5 central boards, 7 showcases and 4 pedestal displays. The subjects displayed include:
- A description of the museum
- Science and Imagination – background on uncovering the mysteries of the island
- Oceania, a scattered continent – describing the tree types of Polynesian islands, their formation and relationships
- Navigation in the area over time
- The development of the island's land mass over the years
- King Hotu Matu's arrival and what he reported brought with him
- The species native to the island
- Rapa Nui social organization
- Rapa Nui religion
- Manai (The force) and Tapu (the boundries)
- Moai displays: head, female figure, body figure
- Ahu design and purpose
- Moai eyes
- Moai statistics and theories on how they were moved into position
- 887 registered to date
- 288 moved to and erected on an Ahu
- 397 remaining at the quary of Rano Paraku
- 92 on route to an Ahu
- 887 registered to date
- Tools used by the islanders
- The importance of Moai
- The art of fishing
- Agriculture on the island
- Tangata Manu, cult of the Birdman.
- Petro glyphs on the island
- Weapons used on the island
- Human body adornments – tattoos, clothing and jewelry
- Writing on the island
From these displays I found the description of the theories on the purpose of the Moais and how the were transported to be the most interesting. The Moai installed on a Ahu possessed a great deal of Mana which protected the family's activity and territory. They were not gods or demons. A generally accepted theory is they were commemorative images commissioned by the chief or his descendants. The Moai carried out the double function of establishing visably the ancestry of each clan and the power and organization of a clan. They were toppled when clans fought to increase power and territory over the increasing scarcity of resources on the island.
The theories on transporting the Moais have been studied and tested by:
- Thor Heyerdahl : dragging them on a sled
- William Mulloy: tying them face down on a V of poles and dragging them on a sled in a Y shape
- Pavel Pavel: walk an upright Mori by tipping them side to side and forward
- Charles Love: laying the Moai on a sled of logs which were pulled on log rollers
- Jo Anne Van Tilburg: combined Heyerdahl's and Love's methods
When we finish our visit to the museum we took a taxi back to the hotel. Bob and Cathy got off in the center of town to check out some of the other hotels for future tours and Marian and I continued on toi the hotel. I had lunch by myself, checked email and got ready for our afternoon tour.
At 13:00 the Aku Aku Turismo van arrived with a male guide. This time we drove into the center of the island to Ana Te Pahu, a site of former cave dwellings. The caves are lava tubes, created when rock solidified around a flowing stream of molten lava. We descended into one and followed its path towards the sea. It was very large and frequently had openings in the roof providing light and indicating that the cave was not that far below the surface after several hundred yards we found a place to climb up through one the openings to the field above. The cave did continue on but we were surprised to see our van in the distance parked at our entry point. Impressive!
The next stop on the tour was Ahu Akivi where seven Moais stand facing the sea. They are the only Moris on the island that face the sea but since they are far from the water they still could be facing the clan's territory. It is an impressive site and I was able to get some good photos.
From Ahu Akivi we drove back towards the town and up the side of a volcano crater to Puna Pau, where the topknots were made out of the relatively soft red lava rock. As we climbed the hill we came upon a scientific exposition team from several universities and the museum staff. They were excavating the area to:
- Determine if the depression running up the northern outer slope was actually the road running into the crater.
- Investigate the possibility of red scoria being quarried here on the northern slope.
- Recover material that will allow them to date the quarrying in this part of Puna Pau
At the top of the crater edge we had a magnificent view of the whole island. Bob engaged in conversation with the researchers and was invited to attend a lecture this evening. Our last stop on the tour was Vinapu, off the southeast end of the air field. The wall of the Ahu differed from the walls of all the other Ahus on the island in that the stones were larger and resembled construction found in Hawaii. No Moais have been erected at Vinapu but there were some heads that we were able to very close to see the details of the carvings.
We returned to the hotel and Bob invited us to join him at the professor's lecture at another hotel. Marian accepted his offer but Cathy, Mike and I declined. We agreed to meet at a restaurant across from the Tapati show grounds at 20:00 for dinner.
I had yet to swim on the island so I changed into my bathing trunks and walked down to the sea. The hotel had created a pool amongst the rocks. There were already a family and several others swimming there and after the hot sticky tour the water was very refreshing. I was concerned about traveling back to the US the next day with a saltwater damp bathing suit so I climbed the trail back to the hotel swimming pool and dove in and swam around in the fresh water pool. Back in my room I took a shower further rinsed out my trucks and hung them on a chair outside my sliding glass door. The sun was hot and there was a good breeze so I tied the suit to the chair. By now it was after 19:00 so I dressed for dinner and as I left my room I saw Mike and Cathy leaving in a taxi. I had neglected to tell them I had declined Bob's invitation to attend the lecture. The receptionist called a taxi for me and gave me a note with the name of the restaurant and soon I was at the Tapati grounds. I entered the Au Bout Du Monde Restaurant and did not see Cathy or Mike. A waitress informed me that a Chinese lady was dinning upstairs, but when I went up there it turned out not to be Cathy. It was not 20:00 anyway so I walked across the street to the Tapati show grounds and looked at the vendors and food places setting up for the evening events. As it got close to 20:00 I crossed the road again and discovered Cathy and Mike ordering a beer in a little beer stand so I joined them.
After our beer we returned to the Au Bout Du Monde Restaurant to get a good table overlooking the Tapati stage. They reserved the table for us but it was in bright hot sun so we sat at a table in the back of the room awaiting Bob and Marian. When they did arrive they had a third person with them. It was Dr. Charles M. Love, who had given the lecture and was one of the authorities on the theories of how the Rapa Nui's moved the Moais. He was currently on the island on sabbatical from a community college in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He has been coming to Easter Island for almost 40 years. He is a wild looking man with bushy John L. Lewis style eyebrows curved up to his hair line. When the sun set we moved to our dinner table and Dr Love sat next to me. His father is a renowned geologist that studied the Rocky Mountains. Most likely he knew my step grandfather Kimball who was oil geologist in Wyoming in the WW I era. It was a most memorable dinner and a great way to end our venture to the South American Islands.
We finished our dinner before the Tapati show started and I elected to return to the hotel and start packing. Before going to bed I lugged my laptop to reception and cleaned out my MSN mail box and wrote a few emails. I retired about 23:30.
Feb 06, 2009 (Friday) Fly Easter Island to LAX via Santiago
I awoke to my alarm at 08:30 and decided to eat breakfast and pack for the trip home before showering and getting dressed for the flights. No one from my group was at breakfast; as a matter of fact the room was almost empty. The hotel was expecting a large group to arrive that day and they had a large group depart the day before. When I returned to my room I found that my bathing suit had dried over night and I was able to pack up and then shower and dress in my travel clothes. My Red Sox hat was missing and I guess I must have left it at either the restaurant or the taxi. Oh, well it was the last day of the trip and it would be spent primarily in airplanes and not in the sun. I dug out a spare hat that I carry just in case. Just then Mike knocked on my door and he had the Red Sox hat. I had left it in reception when I checked my email after returning from diner.
It was now 10:45 and we were scheduled for an 11:00 pickup so I lugged my bags to reception and got my laptop out to check email and clean out my MSN email box. The tour company van did not arrive at 11:00 and at 11:15 Cathy called them – what a bunch of turkeys. When they dropped us off the day before she reconfirmed the 11am pickup, now they told her that she was to call at 11 and tell them what time she wanted them to pick us up. Finally, they arrived at 11:45. The airport terminal was not very crowded. I had a little problem checking in because they ran out of luggage tag printing paper and my bags were set aside while they ran around looking cabinets for more paper. When she finally printer the luggage tags she gave me my stub but just laid the tags on the counter. I had to point out my bags for the baggage handler to affix the tags. They were tagged through to LAX.
I then did some last minute shopping for the girls and then sat with Marian awaiting boarding. When they did board we were a couple of the first to board. I had the same seat I had been assigned on the flight to the island, but this time the window seat was empty so I was able to take some pictures as we taxied out and when we took off. We departed five minutes early at 13:45.
I watched two movies on the flight. The first was the "Traitor" with Don Cheatle. I don't know why, except curiosity, I picked "Fight Club" as the second movie. What a strange movie and we landed before the end. I remarked to Bob and Marian that it was a loser and I didn't even find out the ending. A guy behind me told me that was too bad because the ending sort of explains the movie.
We arrived in Santiago at 20:15 and bid farewell to Bob and Cathy who were flying on to La Paz, Bolivia. Mike was flying to Atlanta on Delta while Marion and I were on the LAN LAX flight. We had a very long line to pass through Passport control which was compounded when they had a shift change and stopped processing anybody. Eventually we were checked and passed through security, shoes on, laptops in the bag and a quick wand when my knee set off the alarm. The gate printed on our boarding passes at Easter Island, differed between Marian and mine and neither one existed. Since our flight was not scheduled to leave until midnight it was not listed on the monitors. We found a Customer Service Counter and they directed us to the correct gate. Marian then started shopping and I proceeded to the gate and discovered that the terminal had free WiFi so I checked my email. Marian soon arrived and told me that she had found some star shaped ear rings which I wanted to buy for Wendy, so I shut down and proceeded back to the shopping area and bought several pairs. There was a Ruby Tuesday's there so we decided to have a soup and salad rather than eat a heavy meal after midnight on the flight.
As we started back to our gate they called the Delta flight at a gate near the Restaurant so we decided to stay and bid Mike farewell.
Marian and were again the first to board our flight. This time I again had a right side isle seat and had a Korean businessman at the window. I pumped up my "First Class" air mattress, plugged my ears, and put my eye mask on my forehead ready to sleep after takeoff. We departed at 00:15 and my first action was to finish watching "Fight Club". The LAN seat entertainment allowed me to fast forward to the point I was watching when they cut me off on the last flight. The ending still didn't explain the point of the movie, oh, well. I passed on eating accept for a glass of wine and a roll. I settled in to sleep at 01:30 and had at least eight hours sleep before breakfast. After breakfast I watched a few TV shows before we landed at LAX at 06:30 local for an 11 hour and 15 minute flight. There was not other flights process through Passport Control so I was checked as soon as I got to the hall. The bags were already coming off the carousel. Marian walked by and we said our good bys and I asked her if she would be going on the Iraq trip in the fall. She responded that she had already been to Iraq but if the trip visited Bagdad she would sign up. After she left a woman waiting for her luggage next to me asked about the mention of Bagdad. I told her of the trip Cathy and Bob were planning on putting together and she told me to go if I could. She has traveled there during the last three years on a government program to assist woman to become entrepreneurs and found it very interesting. She told me that most people speak English and are very friendly and helpful to Americans. She not only was based in Bagdad but traveled around the country without fear. Something to consider, if Cathy is able arrange the trip in October, it puts a more positive spin on going.
My bags arrived and I was off to the Terminal One for my flight to Sacramento. I can't believe how quickly I cleared Customs and got my luggage. I had arrived at the gate at 06:30 and I was in line to check in at Southwest at 07:10. There were a few people in front of me in line but one of the agents was waiting while her customer was talking on his cell phone. I asked her if I could make the 07:30 flight but she told me it was already loading. My scheduled flight was not until 09:50, so I had a leisurely check in and back in the US type security check. After 15 flights without having to remove my laptop or shoes and due to my artificial knee setting off the alarm, I was back to having to strip and have an individual secondary check. The good old USA – I was home again!!