24 hours or so on the Chilean mainlaind, so we need to make the most of our time! We were picked up at 8 o’clock by our very friendly guide, Sergio for a trip to the coast.
Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are about an hour’s drive from the Chilean capital Santiago and halfway across the country. Valparaiso is really like nowhere else, with brightly painted houses, many made of corrugated iron, tumbling down steep hillsides towards the sea. It’s probably best to try to get an idea from the pictures…
Vina del Mar is much more sedate, rather like a modern seaside resort in the Med. We had lunch at an excellent Italian restaurant – Don Vito e Zanoni. Again, the pictures probably convey this best.
We finished the day at the Casas del Bosque winery with a tour and some samples of really excellent wine. Their Carmenere is especially good but not sure that you can get it in the UK. I will be looking out for it though.
Guest blogger Peter
Our first full day on Easter Island started (after a substantial breakfast) with a visit to tbe volcanic crater of Orongo, one of the largest of 70 extinct volcanoes on the island. The crater itself is beautiful, filled with a patchwork of islands and pools – our guide told us how her aunts would hike down into the crater to do tbe laundry while the kids swam and ate wild fruit – but the cliffs nearby are also the site of the Birdman cult.
Until well into the 19th century, the young men of the island competed in an extraordinary contest, descending the huge cliffs with floats, swimming across to the offshore islets and awaiting the first eggs of the sooty terns that migrate here in September.
We continued in the afternoon, visiting one of the many caves on the island, where the inhabitants hid from Peruvian slavers, and the moai commemorating the seven Polynesian explorers who first came to the island from the distant Marquesas.
Guest blogger Peter
So, what is the mystery of Easter Island?
There is actually an immense amount of existing oral tradition by which the monuments can be understood. The ahus contain the bones of the ancestors and the moai represent their spirits and continuing presence. Equally, we can see where the moai were made and how. We don’t know exactly how they were transported – there are too many theories here, the most exciting of which is that they were “walked” to their destinations, shuffling from one side to another.
What is incredible, though, is that the few thousand inhabitants of this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific erected monuments that compare to those of the Maya or the Egyptians. And they invented writing. None of this happened anywhere else in Polynesia or indeed, I think, in any other comparable environment. Why this civilisation evolved here seems to me to be the real mystery of the island.