The Beauty of Chile

So since I just recently visited two of the most beautiful places in South America, I’ll do my best to sum up the sights I was blessed enought to see. Chiloé and Easter Island were the two best trips I’ve ever been on, and I hope I have the opportunity to return one day:

Chiloé

Ah Chiloé – without a doubt, my new favorite place in the world. My friend José Manuel told me before I left that Chiloé and Southern Chile was possibly the most beautiful place in Chile. Even with my expectations being pretty high, I was overwhelmed.

Danny Novotny (McCombs student) and I left for Chiloé on the 19th of September on a 16-hour overnight bus ride. Pretty interesting waking up and discovering that your bus is now on a ferry in the middle of some water. But after a long, cramped, food and water deprived journey, we arrived to Castro, the capital of Chiloé and the most centrally-located city.

We arrived in Chiloé and booked a couple of excursions for the next couple days. Our first trip was a day long hike to Punta Pirulil with our guide, Pato. Pato was awesome – really funny and friendly guy, and someone who I was actually able to somewhat competently speak Spanish with. Anyway, we drove to the hike in a Jeep 4×4 tank car thing and picked up two Chileans from Santiago who were walking to the hike.

We soon after began the hike, and I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves: the views were incredible!

This was by far the most amazing hike we’d done since I’ve been here in Chile, and I’ve seen some amazingly beautiful places already. After a full day of hiking, exploring, and being in awe of the beauty of Chiloé, we arrived back in Castro and had yet another amazing salmon dinner (we probably ate seafood every night – it was amazing!) I also got a couple awesome pictures – the first is of the Palafitos of Castro (houses built on wooden stilts) and the second is the view from the deck of our hostel:

Day 2 of Chiloé had high expectations to meet, but once again, I was completely amazed and awed by the sights. We met up with a different guide for this excursion, Juan Pablo, and along with an Argentinian living in Puerto Varas and his friend, we set off to kayak the Rio Chepu. I think we were the only people on the river, and I haven’t been to a more tranquil and peaceful place in a long time – the water was like glass, and we heard and saw so many different kinds of birds and even a river otter!

Quite an awesome experience, almost as awesome as sea kayaking (which I wanted to do) – but the next part of the excursion made this trip worth every penny we paid, as we visited Puñihuil: an island where Penguins migrate to every winter!! It was still early in the season, so there weren’t many penguins in the area yet. But after an awesome empanada lunch, we got on the boat and went looking for some penguins – and look what we found:

The last day of our trip, we slept in and headed towards Ancud to spend the day before returning home. Our day in Ancud perfectly represented the pace and style of life in Chiloé – perfectly relaxing, slow, and community-oriented. We visited Fort San Antonio, an old Spanish fort that was the their last stronghold in Chile, plus a nice secluded beach where Danny made two more dog friends (I swear he does this everywhere we go). Finally, we relaxed for a couple of hours in the main plaza as about 50 people showed up to watch the construction of the main church. Like I said, an incredibly relaxing day and I love the slow pace of life and strong sense of community.

Easter Island

All I can say is wow – that tiny island is one of the most incredible places in the world. My first of 3 trips to the Jewels of South America (I’m going to Patagonia and Machu Picchu in December after classes) was absolutely spectacular. I arrived at Easter Island around 1:30 PM on Friday, and immediately began exploring. I bought entrance tickets to a couple of the parks on the island, checked into my hostel, and rented a 4-wheeler for the entire weekend (all in Spanish – couple people told me I had good Spanish, but I think they’re being nice to the clueless American student tourist). I also decided to do this trip by myself because it would be a great escape weekend, and Ben Pyne (studied in Chile the year before) told me it was an incredible experience to just explore the island solo.

Anyway, once I got my 4-wheeler, I began exploring the island. I went to Rano Kau and Orongo, an old Rapa Nui village that was the location of an important religious ceremony every year (to save room, check out this link for more detailed info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orongo). The sights were extraordinary:

I spent about an hour, hour and a half at Orongo/Rano Kau, then headed to another site and saw my first Moai!! The Moai below are Ahu Vai Ure, Ahu Ko Te Riku, and then the general site of Ahu Tahai:

After admiring the Moai’s and eating a quick snack, I continued north along the coast, seeing more Moai and some incredible coastal views. I also stopped at an awesome cave called Ana Te Pahu for a bit:

That was my short day. The next day (Saturday) was my only full day on the island, so I had to see everything in a really short time unfortunately.

I started out around 9:30 AM the next morning with this view, and knew I was in for an amazing day:

So I saw some more fallen Moai platforms, then it started pouring rain. So I’m in shorts, on a 4-wheeler going 40 KM/hour, in the rain…and it was AMAZING!! Anyway, I arrived at my first main destination, Rano Raraku, and the rain cleared up!! Rano Raraku (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rano_Raraku) is basically Moai city – there were tons of Moai here! I also relaxed for a few minutes in the beautiful crater lake right next to Rano Raraku:

After the beauty of this amazing park, I drove maybe 5 minutes to (arguably) the best place on the island: Ahu Tongariki!!

Absolutely stunning view, seeing 15 standing Moai. This made for a perfect lunch spot, and immediately after I finished lunch, it started pouring again! So, I hopped back on my 4-wheeler, and begin driving into the rain again! I continued around the island to the North side, where I saw Papa Vaka (old Rapa Nui petroglyphs) and more fallen Moai. Then, I got to a beautiful secluded beach area called Ovahe:

Absolutely awesome. Since the rain had finally let up, I relaxed on the beach area for a half an hour, then continued up the coast a bit further to Anakena, the most popular beach on Isla de Pascua, complete with Moai:

Very scenic area, but there were a lot of people here, so I didn’t stay long. I began heading back toward the main town, Hanga Roa, but not before making two more stops at Puna Pau (where the “hats” of the Moai were made) and Ahu Akivi (7 Moai looking out to the sea – a rarity among Moai)

Finally, I returned to some of my favorite spots near my hostel to hang out for a bit, returned my 4-wheeler, then tried to see the sunset near Tahai (supposed to be incredible, but it was way too cloudy), although I did get to see some stampeding horses, which was awesome.

And that was the end of my way-too-short trip. I caught an 8 AM flight back to Santiago (only flight back to mainland Chile on Sunday), walking to my plane with the beautiful sunrise:

2 of the most amazing trips I’ll ever go on, and I’m still planning to visit Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Machu Picchu before I head home. We just finished our second round of midterms, and only have 4 weeks of school left! It’s scary how fast time is flying by here, but I’m so blessed to be able to experience these amazing sights!

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