Latin America

Seafaring Journeys

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2009

exploring the moai Of course, when thinking of attractions unique to Chile, Easter Island is a place that looms large in travelers’ minds. Located some 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile, it is the most isolated of the Polynesian islands and probably the last of that wide-spread island group to be settled, around A.D. 800. Locals call their island Rapa Nui, and those mysterious statues we’ve seen in pictures are called moai, a Rapa Nui word meaning “for fertility.” More than 600 moai are clustered about the island on raised platforms, and almost all their elongated bodies and heads face inland. The most extraordinary site to see is Rano Raraku where moai were quarried. More than 350 unfinished statues remain, some upright, others face down, and others still attached to the rock. El Gigante, the largest, is 70 ft. tall and weighs 270 tons. Among the other ceremonial groups of moai not to miss are the 15 statues at Ahu Tongariki.

Touring around by bus, jeep, on foot or horseback, clients will also get a different look at the island’s mysterious past when visiting the Orongo ceremonial village on the rim of the Rano Kau crater. The rocks around Orongo are decorated with hundreds of birdman cult petroglyphs. In addition to its monuments, Easter Island has lovely beaches, paths and roadways to explore. For those who prefer to hike on their own, allow at least a day to walk the length of the island—five easy hours from Hanga Roa to Rano Raraku. For those who like horseback riding, there is no better way to see the island, best done with an accompanying guide.

All visitors are greeted with a traditional flower necklace at Mataveri airport, and in the town of Hanga Roa, the island capital, must-sees are the church and the colorful walled cemetery, as well as the pier to watch the fisher-folk hauling in the day’s tuna catch. One catches the Polynesian spirit in many of the dishes served in local restaurants and in the folklore troupe performances held at hotels and nightspots.

Accommodations on the island are generally first class but small, with the exception of Explora’s latest: Pousada de Mike Rapu, set between the Pacific Ocean and the Rano Raraku Volcano, three miles from the capital. The hotel has 30 rooms—four Raa suites and 26 Varua rooms, all with a sitting area, hydro-massage bath and ocean views—that spread out from central areas that house the reception, the lounge, and outside and inside dining and bar areas. Next to the common areas is the Casa de Banos Hare Vaispa with a pool, massage salon and open-air jacuzzis. Rates at the property include accommodations, all meals, daily excursions with guides via boat, horseback, bicycle and expedition vehicles, and airport transfers. Length of stay will depend on the air connections via LAN from the mainland that vary with the season; the minimum stay of three nights starts at $2,280 pp dbl.

on land, lakeside For clients who want to stay on “land” and still get in some soft water-based adventure such as kayaking or fly fishing, consider Adventure Life’s 4-night Chilean Lake District tour. After pick-up at the Puerto Montt airport, clients are whisked away by land to Puerto Varas, a unique town bordering Lake Llanquihue. Along the drive, passengers will pass by the magnificent Osorno Volcano—a must-view. Once at Puerto Varas, clients will tour the nearby Frutillar village and the museum and partake in a cultural adventure by experiencing tea time and savoring local cakes.

Day two allows clients to choose between two excursions: Chiloe Island or Puyehue National Park. The Chiloe visit has participants cross the Chacao Channel to tour Ancud city, with a stop at the main square to view Chiloe’s mythological statues and the local market. Then it’s onward to Punihuil, a small group of islands that are home to a Humboldt penguin colony and marine wolves. Those who opt for the national park, will drive north crossing Lake Rupanco and Lake Puyehue to reach the 264,403-acre park, filled with ever-green forests and crowned by three volcanoes. There’s a walking tour to view the endemic flora and fauna and then a dip in the hot springs.

The following day, the itinerary takes off to the Perez Rosales National Park, one of the country’s oldest parks. Here, there’s time to visit the Osorno Volcano, take a short hike, visit Petrohue Falls and then come nighttime, make oneself at home at the lakesidePetrohue Lodge, where clients will spend the next two evenings. Day four is filled with kayaking on Lake Todos Los Santos, hiking through forests, fly fishing or just basking in the natural surroundings. The next day clients are transferred back to Puerto Montt for the flight back home.