Arriving On Easter Island

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Arriving On Easter Island (Isla de Pascua)

“The farther you go, however, the harder it is to return. The world has many edges, and it’s easy to fall off.” Anderson Cooper

The idea of a bucket list is weird. The thought that there is a set number of activities that you have to do in the world to die happy is depressing.  Life changes and things happen and your goals and desires change with that. I love lists. I make them all the time. They are more travel goals than bucket lists. The thing about these lists is to never finish them and always add new ideas.

The plane landed at another place on my list that I can check off – Easter Island. It is one of the most remote places in the world and has all those statues. We have flown six hours from Santiago to get here. You can only fly from Santiago or Tahiti on Latam Airlines to get there.

When you land on Easter Island you’ll notice that the runway appears to be really huge, because it’s really huge.  Back when NASA was working out the flight plans for the space shuttle in the 1980s, Easter Island aligned perfectly with one of the designated landing spots and the US government made a deal with the government of Chile to upgrade and extend the runway on Easter Island in exchange for possibly letting the space shuttle land there in case of an emergency.  Although never needed by NASA the runway expansion helped Easter Island greatly, as this meant larger planes could ferry tourists and supplies to the island.

In 2007 the Explora all-inclusive hotel opened on Easter Island. The hotel has expansive windows and outdoor areas to see the beautiful views on the south side of the island. The air smells so good. It feels like pollution has not yet come to this remote part of the world.

We arrive at lunchtime and a woman starts talking to us. I travel alone often and I’m always in awe of people who can do that. We are a little surprised but chat a bit with her about the island.

After lunch, we are taken on our first tour of the Moai with two couples from Missouri. Meeting Americans abroad is tricky in Trump’s America. We are sure they are Trump supporters and to them we must be California liberals. We know they own guns. In our minds this means that they must like racist, narcissistic bullies. Someone asks me what I do? I say that I  write a travel blog. Another one snaps, ”I don’t want to be in your blog.” I want to answer that I’m way too self-centered to write about you. This isn’t starting well.

We make a decision to not talk about politics and not be those judgmental California liberals that we were about to become. Those people turn out to be nice and interesting. I don’t know who they voted for but they aren’t thrilled with what is happening in the country now either. They became the people who experienced Easter Island at the same time in the same way that we did. They will always be part of our amazing memories here. The woman who snapped at me wasn’t feeling well and we were tired from jet lag and the long plane rides. The lesson for me is don’t judge people on your worst traveling day.

It is the tours to the Moai and surrounding areas and especially the staff and tour guides that really make this place so wonderful.

They are young, passionate, fun, very knowledgeable with great communication skills and a lot of information.

We spend most of our time with Bruno and Ika. Bruno is Chilean and had worked at Explora in the Atacama desert.

Ika is Rapa Nui and from the island. It is interesting to get their different take on the Moia stories.

Paulina the hostess is always around making sure that everything is going smoothly with kindness and humor.

Francisco the manager is always visible and asking about your day. I have amazing massages with Moea at the end of hiking days.  The girl who runs the gift shop makes a pharmacy run for me.

The friendliness and kindness of Explora is catching. We are having lunch a few days later. A couple sits down next to us. ” So did you just get here? Where are you from?” I ask.

I will always have a bucket list of places but it is the people you meet who live and work in these places and the encounters with other travelers that shapes your travel experience.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

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The Houses Of Pablo Neruda

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“Poetry came in search of me.” Pablo Neruda

The Chilean Nobel Laureate poet Pablo Neruda may be one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language. His poetry is hard to translate and there is only a small amount in English. It is difficult for me and also for many Chileans to disassociate his words from his intense political views and/or personal failings.


He wrote exquisite poems about love and human nature. Neruda has three houses—one on San Cristobal Hill in Santiago, another in Valparaiso and the third is in Isla Negra. I visited two of them. To decorate his houses he has scoured antique shops and junkyards for all kinds of objects. He has many collections. Each object reminds him of an anecdote. You can not photograph inside.

Riding the funicular to the top of Parque Metropolitano is the classic tourist activity in Santiago.

When we got to the bottom again, it deposited us a block away from La Chascona, the house the poet bought in 1951 for his then-secret lover, Matilde Urrutia.

La Chascona (the name refers to the wild tangle of Matilde’s hair, a recurring element in his poems) is a house filled with objects – not for their value or beauty, but as an expression of the person who assembled them. It was destroyed in a military coup after his death and has been rebuilt and restored. For a Communist, he is quite the shopper.


Isla Negra (Black Island) is neither black nor an island. It is an elegant beach resort forty kilometers south of Valparaíso. No one knows where the name comes from; Neruda speculates about black rocks vaguely shaped like an island which he sees from his terrace.

Thirty years ago, long before Isla Negra became fashionable, Neruda bought—with the royalties from his books—six thousand square meters of beachfront, which included a tiny stone house at the top of a steep slope.

“Then the house started growing, like the people, like the trees.” His collections of bottles, nautical things and odd objects grew as well.


l love these collections and I love this house with its magic light and expansive views.


It is at Isla Negra where Pablo Neruda and his third wife, Matilde have established their most permanent residence.


His most iconic works were written here. It is where he was happiest entertaining a constant stream of visitors with Chilean wine and food. The names of his dead friends are carved in the beam above the bar so he can always have a drink with them. There are seventeen names.

When he died, which was during the Pinochet reign of terror,  Neruda was given a pauper’s grave. Chile didn’t officially embrace its most famous writer until democracy was restored in 1990. Then he and Matilda were buried outside facing the sea according to his wishes.

“Bury me at Isla Negra, in front of the sea I know, in front of every wrinkled place, of rocks and waves that my lost eyes, will never see again.”

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Things To Do In Chile

Ten Things To Do In Chile

“Latin America is very fond of the word “hope.” We like to be called the “continent of hope.” Candidates for deputy, senator, president, call themselves “candidates of hope.” This hope is really something like a promise of heaven, an IOU whose payment is always being put off. It is put off until the next legislative campaign, until next year, until the next century.”  Pablo Neruda

Eat at Borago. which is one of the top Michelin starred restaurants in the world.

See the street art that defines Valparaiso.

Visit the homes of Pablo Neruda.

See the Museum of Memory and Human Rights commemorating those who suffered under the Pinochet regime.

Visit Chiloe Island and hope it isn’t raining,

Visit the art museums and galleries of Santiago.

Eat Chilean empanadas (different from Argentinian ones). Drink Pisco Sours.(like Peruvian Pisco Sours). Have Chilean hot dogs (different from American ones.)

Have a ski day in the Andes Mountains.

See Castro which is famous for its colored wooden houses built on stilts. I love colored houses.

Spend a day visiting Chilean wineries and Vino Del Mar. 

Fly Safe,

JAZ