Diving Bonaire: Taking your skills to the next level

August 18-25, 2018

Bari Reef

Spotted Moray Eel at Bari Reef

My goals were simple: become comfortable as an independent diver, i.e., just Don and me and no guide, and start experimenting with underwater photography. Bonaire, with an abundance of easy shore diving and marine life, proved to be a great destination for honing our skills.

Before Bonaire I had 15 dives logged, the last one nearly two years ago. I felt that I had forgotten most of the skills I had learned. I found an old PADI Open Water Manual and we practiced some of the basic skills in my brother’s pool. This little refresher gave me confidence that my general skills were still there.

On Bonaire we arranged with VIP Diving (see the following post for a review) for two guided dives on the first day followed by the PADI buoyancy course on day 2. The first day was meant to be a refresher course of sorts and to get to know the local reefs. The second day was to work on buoyancy skills which are critical for good photography.

By day three we were ready to conquer the reefs on our own. We would have 4 days of independent diving. My one concern was being able to navigate our way back to the starting point of our dive. Ron, our guide at VIP, assured me that this was easy. Just follow the reef in one direction, note the time and head back for the same amount of time. If the current throws you off a bit off you’ll still be able to see your truck on the shore. This turned out to work surprisingly well.

The next level of complexity was adding the underwater camera. I had played with an Olympus TG-4 waterproof camera on some previous dives but was limited by the camera to 40 feet, which is really too shallow for scuba. I decided to add the underwater case and flash to the system for greater flexibility. Of course now I had more to think about, managing a camera plus maintaining proper buoyancy and everything else. As I got more comfortable underwater each dive became more fun as I could focus more on what I was seeing while maintaining a safe dive, i.e. watching dive time, depth, air and so forth.

As I mentioned before buoyancy skills are critical for photography. Controlling your depth and stillness in the water by moderating your breathing is what will get you closer and at the right level for that great shot.

Overall I’m happy with the progress I have made but still have a lot to work on. Continued practice will be key in maintaining and improving both diving and photography skills.

Dive Sites

As I am still relatively new to diving I don’t see as much difference between dive sites as someone with greater experience will. I noticed that by the end of the week I was becoming aware of the differences; types of coral, steepness of the bottom, how much sand, marine life and so forth. My favorite site was Bari Reef where we saw the spotted moray eel and where we had seen 2 more on our guided dive the first day.

 8/21 Bachelor’s Beach (two dives)

Bachelor's BeachBachelor's Beach

8/22 Salt Pier

Salt PierSalt PierSalt PierSalt PierSalt Pier

8/23 Bari Reef (two dives)

Bari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari ReefBari Reef

8/24 Andrea I

Andrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea IAndrea I

8/24 From the Bellafonte Hotel Pier (about Corporal Meiss)

Pier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel BellafontePier at Hotel Bellafonte

Rental Equipment

We had rented a truck from Hertz as we were quoted a better price than from the folks at VIP Diving.

We have our own, masks, fins, dive computer, regulator with pressure gage and booties.

The rest of the gear that we needed – tanks, weights, BCD and shorty wetsuits – we rented from VIP diving.

Camera Equipment

I decided on the Olympus TG-5 with the PT-058 case and a UFL-3 strobe. Note that you will also have to purchase a fiber optic cable and an arm to attach the flash to the camera case. For my first underwater system I liked the idea that the camera itself was actually waterproof and I’m not putting an expensive SLR at risk while I’m learning about maintaining an underwater camera case.

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Uncorked Wine Tours, Santiago, Chile

March 23, 2018

Written by Don

Uncorked Wine Tours

Bodegas RE

Wanting to learn a little more about the important Chilean wine industry we decided on a tour of the Casablanca Valley. The valley lies about an hour west of Santiago on the way to Valparaiso and is notable for the marine air that both cools the valley and blankets it with fog most mornings.

Its development as a wine producer has been fairly recent – within the last 20 years – and complicated by pretty regular frosts during the spring and a lack of water. Nevertheless, it now produces some of Chile’s best white wines and a growing portfolio of cool weather reds.

The van from Uncorked Wine Tours arrived at our hotel within 30 seconds of the appointed 8:40 pick-up time. Our guide for the day, Andrea, greeted us and helped stow our luggage as they were going to drop us at the airport on the way back home at the end of the day. We introduced ourselves to the young American/French couple already in the van and headed for the Casablanca Valley.

Bodegas RE

Bodegas RE

Our first stop was Bodegas RE, a very small operation by Chilean standards that focuses on archaic production methods and unconventional wines.  We were handed off to the enthusiastic Nicole, who works for the winery, and she led us on a 30 minute tour of their operations.

Bodegas RE

The winery makes extensive use of 80-140 year old clay amphorae such as were used in the earliest days of Chilean wine production, as well as modern day concrete versions of these same vessels made in a much larger scale. The grapes are crushed and left to macerate in these vessels for several weeks before being transferred to oak barrels for aging.

Bodegas RE

One supposed advantage of this approach is that it requires minimal intervention as the shape of the amphorae promotes a natural mixing action as the fermentation progresses. It isn’t necessary to punch down the “cap” or pump the juice over the must since nature takes care of all that.

Bodegas RE produces unusual blends, including a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir mix, designed to mimic champagne without the bubbles, and a Cabernet/Cinsault blend that supposedly expresses the terroir of the valley.

Bodegas RE

We also looked in on a storage area where they were aging various fruit liquors. This consisted of shelves stacked with large clear glass jars filled with fruit and grain alcohol. The fruit soaks for several years until maximum flavor has been extracted and then the liquor is slightly sweetened with a simple syrup. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to taste any of the result but the whole operation had a charming homemade feel.

Bodegas RE

In the tasting that followed the tour we sampled four of their wines along with a selection of local olives, cheese, bread and their house-pressed olive oil. The wines were all good but their production is very limited and they seem to be more of an experimental/novelty operation than a commercial winery.

Loma Larga

Our next stop was Loma Larga which offered a very different experience. It is a medium scale, family owned winery that makes single variety wines and specializes in cool weather reds – somewhat an oddity for this valley.

Loma Larga

Unlike Bodegas RE this is a thoroughly modern operation with a contemporary production facility filled with gleaming stainless steel vats and an atmospheric cellar stacked with French oak barrels.

Loma Larga

Like most Chilean producers the bulk of their wine is exported and they produce and market their wines based on what sells in the US and other foreign markets.

Loma Larga

Irene, the young French woman who led the tour, was very knowledgeable and had an obvious passion for the place.  She also presided over the tasting of four of their wines. Again, the wines were good but it was also interesting to see how familiar varieties like Malbec can take on a very different character when grown in a different environment.

House Casa del Vino

Our last visit was to House Casa del Vino where we had lunch with wine pairings in their spacious, open restaurant. While elegantly presented, portions were on the skimpy side and the quality was good but not outstanding. We started with a small Chilean sea bass empañada of sorts that lacked flavor. The tuna ceviche was nicely done with fresh salmon.

House Casa del Vino

The squid ink risotto, one of Deb’s favorite dishes, was flavorful but a bit runny, again not extraordinary.

House Casa del Vino

The lamb cutlets with a carrot puree was the most flavorful dish. A nicely done passion fruit crème brûlée for dessert.

House Casa del Vino

A brief visit to their cellar followed lunch.

Over all the tour was very well thought out and professionally done. Each of the wineries was trying for a different result and each had their own spin on the Chilean wine making experience. The contrast between them was enlightening and we surprisingly saw and learned things we hadn’t encountered at any of the other wineries we’ve visited in the past.

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Sleeping and Dining in Santiago, Chile

I traveled through Santiago four times during my six weeks in Chile and Argentina in February-March of 2018, but having visited Santiago on previous trips we did not spend much time in the city. On our first stay we slept in the artsy Barrio Bella Vista near La Chascona, one of Pablo Nerudo’s playful residences. The next two times we stayed at the airport between domestic connections. On our last visit we stayed at a boutique hotel in Providencia.

Hotel Le Rêve

March 22

Hotel Le Reve

The stylish 28 room boutique hotel is located on a charming street in the heart of Providenica with quality restaurants within walking distance. Housed in a beautiful French style town house with ivy covered exterior walls, the place oozes elegance. We didn’t have a lot of time to experience many of their services such as an honor bar with snacks available in the lounge and more snacks available in the kitchen until midnight. They also have a lovely back patio.

Hotel Le Reve

Our room was upgraded to a suite, a true suite with a small sitting room with a couch and desk and a full sized bedroom down the hall with a comfortable bed.

Hotel Le Reve

Everything tastefully decorated as a French town house should be. The large bathroom had an oversized vanity and a separate toilet room. Amenities included a safe, minibar, hairdryer, etc. The towels were plush and sheets soft.

Hotel Le Reve

The breakfast buffet set up in the lounge has an extensive selection of hot and cold items, not as large as at the big business hotels, they only have 28 guest rooms, but still a variety of breads, cheese, cold cuts including smoked fish, cereal and yogurt, cut fruit, pastries, excellent scrambled eggs, crispy bacon (a rarity) and brewed coffee with hot milk available.

Hotel Le Reve

A scrumptious way to start or end a South American adventure, the stay was exactly as advertised, a quality French inspired experience in the heart of Santiago.

Diner at Aqui Esta Coco in Providencia

March 22

The high-end Chilean seafood restaurant was recommended by the desk clerk at Le Reve. The main dining room has super high ceilings and is decorated in a nautical theme with dark woods. There is also an upstairs area which I did not see and the cellar below.

While the cellar has a cozy vibe with stone walls room and dusty bottles of wine behind grates, they cram too many tables into the small space, making it much too loud. In addition they have some of the most ill-conceived dining tables imaginable with legs angled together in front of the diner such that the only comfortable way to sit was the man spread. Not great for women, especially in a dress.

The hotel made a 9PM reservation for us and the restaurant was busy when we arrived on the Thursday evening. Service was leisurely.  The appetizer came quickly followed by a nice pause before the mains.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

We started with pisco sours and the ceviche Enrique with octopus, shrimp smoked salmon and the fish of the day. Although a tasty and reasonably sized portion to share if you are not too hungry, having just arrived from Easter Island it didn’t wow. The preparation was saucier and the fish more marinated i.e., less raw than on the island.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

Don’s conger pastelero was fresh and beautifully done. The eel was presented on a bed of choclo, a dense corn pudding of sorts, and garnished with cherry tomatoes.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

The trout was just OK, a thin fillet of not the freshest fish topped with sautéed shrimp and mushrooms. We also ordered a side of sautéed vegetables which were nicely cooked but nothing special.

Restaurant Aqui Esta Coco

For dessert the lemon mousse hit the spot. Light and nicely tart.

Service was friendly and efficient. This is a fun event restaurant with good food, but stick to the sea fish and not the trout.

Santiago Holiday Inn – Airport Terminal

March 15

Holiday Inn Airport

The typical business hotel with spacious comfortable rooms and good amenities located just across from the terminals is very convenient for incoming and outgoing flights. However the airport was under a major renovation during our stay so I don’t know how the new airport configuration will affect the hotels proximately to the terminals.

Lunch at the hotel was the worst meal of our trip.  Craving a burger I ordered the American Cheese Burger. Everything was way undercooked – the French fries pale and limp, the meat barely warmed through, and the bacon soggy. Don’s Mediterranean salad was mostly lettuce with a few topping thrown on – shredded cheese, a few green olives, cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices. The chicken soup was ok but certainly not worth the price. With two draft beers the total came to more than $50USD.

Dinner

After the expensive and undercooked lunch I was hesitant to try this restaurant again, but after not finding a better solution we tried again starting with drinks in their modern bar. Expensive but first rate with the best pisco sour I’ve had in Chile. Nicely crafted with real egg white froth and laced with the classic bitters garnish.

Dinner was also surprisingly good.

Holiday Inn Airport

We started with ceviche – fresh tuna and a few shrimp garnished with toasted corn and avocado. They were out of the lamb cutlet so I opted for the stewed lamb shank – tender fall off the bone meat with a very mild flavor for lamb.

Holiday Inn Airport

The stew was flavorful but the potatoes grainy, most likely the result of the variety of potato used.

Holiday Inn Airport

Don’s grilled conger with grilled vegies was fresh and perfectly done. This is still an overpriced restaurant but at least the quality of food measures up to the quality of the hotel.

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Sleeping, Dining and Other Logistics, Easter Island, Chile

March 16-21. 2018

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

First impression of Hanga Roa

This laid back town, the only one on the island, is tidy compared to many Chilean villages and along with accommodations and restaurants has all the essential services – ATM, gas station, drug store and grocery store (more of a large convenience store than a real grocery store, see below).

Roads are rough, so having a 4X4 is an advantage. For the first part of our stay the main road through town was closed in one section and we had to wind our way around to get to the Cabañas Tokerau.

Cabañas Tokerau

Cabañas Tokerau

Located on the north side of town, a two minute walk from Hanga Kio’e and seven minutes from Tahai, the sunset gathering spot, I first though this place was a little out of town. That was until it took us just ten minutes to drive back to the airport on the other side of town. Although you could walk to town, in the heat of the day it’s more comfortable to drive. Generally parking was not a problem.

The cabañas are rustic and generally clean if you are not too fussy. We were in the larger one with two upstairs bedrooms that shared a common area below. We were alone for the first four nights and shared the common area with another American couple the last two.

Cabañas Tokerau

The bedroom was big but filled with beds, a queen and two singles, and not a great set up for a couple unless you like laying your things out on an extra bed. The mattress was firm and reasonably comfortable. The room had shelving, a place for hanging clothes and a table for luggage and so forth. The bathroom was average and worked fine except the hot water was a fussy matter. Turning the hot water tap on didn’t always ignite the on-demand water heater. Once we learned the peculiarities we got regular hot water in the bathroom but I never did figure out the kitchen sink.

Cabana Tokerau

The kitchen worked reasonably well. Most of the pots and pans were of decent quality. The cutting utensils were the ubiquitous bad knives found at just about every vacation rental. Appliances included a full six-burner stove, Euro-sized fridge, microwave and a blender. No dish towels or paper towels were provided, just napkins.

While there was a fan downstairs there was not one upstairs and it got quite warm during the day. Generally sleeping was not a problem.

Upon our arrival, Eduardo, the owner, gave us a map of the island and chatted with us about his place and what to do on the island. The best tip was how to get a second visit at Rono Raraku Crater. See post for details. We also used some of his restaurant recommendations (see below).

Breakfast is generally served in the cabaña at 9:00 or 9:30, much too late for me who wanted to be out at first light around 8:30. So they brought us fruit, bread, butter, cheese and meat, and instant coffee or tea the night before and we prepared our own breakfast with the addition of eggs that we purchased at the market.

Renting a car from Cabañas Tokerau

Eduardo, the owner, also rents cars and prefers you to rent a car from him instead of other agencies in town. He says there have been problems with some of the agencies and he will charge you an extra fee if you bring in an outside car. He made an exception for us because he had not told us this previously and he considered Oceanic a more reputable rental agency.

In making our initial reservation I was hesitant to rent a car from Cabañas Tokerau, even though this a common practice on the island, because of lack of formality in the reservation process. Although they were responsive they never sent me a confirmation for the cabaña reservation or charged my credit card for the deposit like they said they would, leaving me to wonder if I really had a reservation. When I sent him an inquiry about the matter he promptly replied telling me not to worry, everything was fine and in the end it was.

I think it would have been fine to rent the car from Eduardo although I don’t know if the credit card car insurance would also extend to renting from the hotel as opposed to an actual car rental agency. There is no direct car insurance on the island. Oceanic charged us 50.000 CLP/day (about $77USD) and Eduardo charges $70 day.

Oceanic Rent a Car

An agent from Oceanic was waiting for us when we exited the airport and took us to their office in town to complete the paperwork and get the car. The big difference on Easter Island is that they don’t offer car insurance. You should therefore make sure it is included with your credit card. This is a good practice that will save you money no matter where you travel.

Central Southern Coast

We had no problems with our little Suzuki Jimny which is the rental car of choice on the island. It handles the roads perfectly fine. Make sure that you check the car with them when you pick it up as they do go over it quite carefully upon the return.

Eating in Hanga Roa

With a full kitchen in the cabaña we ate lunch out and cooked a light dinner at home after sunset.  The supermercado on the main drag, really a mini market, has friendly staff. Ask if you don’t see what you are looking for. They do not have a huge selection and prices are high, but the wine is surprisingly cheap compared to the mainland. Also note that shipments come in in batches and sell out. If you see something you like, buy all that you think you will need during your stay because it may not be there the next day.

For bottles of wine Eduardo recommended the Distribuidora Rarama located on a side street just up from the Latam office at the airport end of town. They have a better selection of wine than the supermercado and sell a selection of frozen meat as well.

Restaurants

I love ceviche and ate it every day on the island. The fish is super fresh and everyone does a great job with it.

Haka Honu

Haka Honu

One of Eduardo’s recommendations. We ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche and a ground fish burger with fries.

Haka Honu

Both were well done. The ceviche portion was huge and would have easily satisfied the both of us for a late light lunch.

Pizza at Miro Restobar

Located opposite the cemetery. There may be other pizza places in town, but this one was convenient with an open terrace dining room and a breeze off the sea. The terrace was less than half full when we arrived at 1:30 but there was only one server and it took over 45 minutes to get our food.

Miro Restobar

 

We ordered the ceviche tropical and a vegetarian pizza. The pizza crust was a tad cardboardy and otherwise fine but nothing great.

Miro Restobar

The ceviche, cheaper than at other places, was also a smaller portion, so not the best value. It was, however, just as fresh as we’ve had elsewhere. Beware they charge 3000CLP ($5USD) for a small bottle of water.

Pea Restobar

Hanga Roa

Despite the great open air terrace overlooking where they surf, there was no one here on a Saturday at just after 1PM. Very pleasant watching the surfers with nice breeze off the sea.

Pea Restobar

I ordered another ceviche, this time the Ha’ari with the fish of the day, kana kana. Prepared with coconut milk it was like the others I’ve had on the island, super fresh and outstanding. The sweet potato chips, however, were not made to order and stale. The rice was rice.

Pea Restobar

Don’s tuna sandwich, ordered seared, was nicely done, although it came with cheese, an odd choice, which he easily scraped off. The French fries were served fresh hot. Pricing is similar to other restaurants in the area with similar settings.

Tatuka Vave

This seaside eatery at the far end of town near the airport was another Eduardo pick. It’s out of the way location has great views with waves crashing on the rocky shore. The service is friendly and it wasn’t too busy on a Saturday just after 1:00. We easily got a seaside table. The food is good and priced about the same as at the restaurants in town.

Tatuka Vave

Don’s daily fish special, however, was a bargain at 5,500CLP ($8USD) and included tuna sautéed with vegetables, served with a choice of salad, rice or potatoes.

Tatuka Vave

I ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche, tuna with tomatoes and sweet red onion, a generous portion of good quality fish served with a small salad and rice.

Flight to Easter Island

Latam’s flight to Hanga Roa is on a 787 wide body with an international configuration. Sitting in the bulkhead row of economy we had plenty of leg room. I don’t think coach would be too bad in any case and is certainly a big improvement over their flight between Santiago and Lima.

Check in was easy and went quickly. Domestic security at the Santiago airport goes very quickly as well. I don’t think they check for anything. You don’t have to take anything out of your bag and the metal detector rarely goes off.

The Isla de Pasqua airport is a tiny island airport with only one baggage claim belt.

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Sights and Attractions in Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

Tahai - sunset

Hanga Roa, the only town on the island, has a great sunset view site nearby,  with three small restored platforms at Tahai.

Tahai - sunset

Although we didn’t have great sunsets during our stay Tahai has a lovely setting and is a fun place to people watch in the evening. Not so many tourists that it feels crowded but just enough to feel like an event.

Tahai - sunset

Pretty sky but not much of a sunset

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tahai is also worth a visit in the morning or afternoon and is much quieter at these hours.

Tahai - morning

Morning

A five-minute walk north of the Tahai is the single moai Hanga Kio’e.

Hanga Kio'e - sunsetHanga Roa (19 of 48)Hanga Roa (20 of 48)

Museum

Hanga Roa Museum

The small museum, now free, is long on information and short on actual artifacts. The guidebook recommends starting your tour of the island here, but I would suggest visiting the museum in the middle of your stay on the island, especially if you have a guide or a good guidebook, as all the informative displays can be somewhat overwhelming without some context under your belt.

Hanga Roa Museum

Moai eye

Hanga Roa Museum

Rongo rongo tablet

Hanga Roa Museum

Female moai

They do have a couple of unusual moia, a moai eye (a rarity), and replicas of rongo rongo tablets that demonstrate the undeciphered writing system of the early Rapa Nui.

Hanga Roa Cemetery

Hanga Roa CemeteryHanga Roa Cemetery

Kari Kari Dance Show

Kari Kari Dance

The companion guide recommends one of the island dance shows, explaining that it is not your typical native costume dance tourist trap because the performers are enthusiastic and genuinely seem to be having a good time. While I do believe that this is an authentic means to preserve the Rapa Nui culture, in rereading the author’s recommendation I noticed that he did not really say that the performances were good.

The performance hall reminded me of a grade school cafeteria turned into a stage. The dancers, while very enthusiastic and athletically skilled, were not good singers. The music, more off-key yelling than singing, grated on my ears. The little French girl sitting next to me had her hands over her ears until her mother found her a pair of ear plugs.

While the performance starts at 9PM you can also include dinner before the show. The dinner guests get the first few rows while the show-only folks get the last rows on the floor and the seats in risers above. It’s a smallish space so there really isn’t a bad seat except for maybe the late comer seats off to the side.

At about 8:30 they start an infomercial about the Kari Kari foundation and their goal to promote the Rapa Nui culture. While a rather dull presentation it gets its point across. The video plays while the guests file in.

You can make your reservation ahead of time but you pay at the entrance.

Kari Kari Dance

The skimpy costumes and Polynesian twerking will keep most guests entertained. Certainty if you are interested in dance and generally like this type of performance you will like this one. If you are doubtful about native costume dances this one will probably not change your mind. I have to admit that I’m negatively biased towards this type of show and generally dislike most native costume dance performances.

Church Services

Church

Also recommended in the guidebook is the 9AM Sunday mass for the intermarriage of Rapa Nui customs and the Catholic Church. Not being Catholic or even Christian most of this is lost on me except for maybe the elaborate feather head dress worn by the priest. The music, especially the singers, is much better than at the Kari Kari performance. While again this is not really my thing it should appeal to most visitors.

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North Coast Walk, Easter Island, Chile

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

North Coast Walk

North Coast Walk

The long walk along the cliffs of the northwest corner of the island, highly recommended in the guidebook for its stunning views and unspoiled landscape, starts at Ahu Tepeu (just past Ahu Akivi in the center of the island) and continues around to Anakena Beach. In order to do this as a one way hike you would need a guide or arrange other transportation from Anakena Beach back to town,  so we did two separate out and back hikes – one starting at Anu Tepeu and heading north and the second, on the following morning, starting at Anakena Beach and heading west. There is no real trail to follow along this coast and sites are not marked so we don’t know exactly how far we walked.

March 20

We left the cabañas just before sunrise to take advantage of as much of the cool hours as possible. Although my heart was at the Ahu Tongariki, anxious to see what kind of sunrise we would have this morning, I really wanted to get some hiking in during the only cool hours of the day.

Ana Te Pahu Cave Site

Along the road to Ahu Tepeu you pass the Ana Te Pahu cave site. They now have the road blocked off a good 10-15 minute walk from the caves and then it’s another 20 minutes to Ahu Tepeu. Although we arrived before the posted opening hours we opened the roped gate to the road and walked in. It didn’t seem to be a problem.

Ana Te Pahu

Entrance to the cave

We got to the cave just before 9:00. There was enough light to tour most of this lava tube but a head lamp is a good idea for the darker corners.

Ana Te PahuAna Te Pahu

The site illustrates how the locals would have used this cave for living. It’s open to the sky in places where they grew bananas and did the cooking.

Ahu Tepeu

Ahu Tepeu

The guide book calls this place a hidden gem. Whether you will agree probably depends how burnt out you are on ahu ruins.

Ahu Tepeu

Set close to the cliffs overlooking the sea to the west it boasts a stunning setting, especially in the early morning when the sun is just coming over the hills to the east.

Ahu Tepeu

Front of the platform

Ahu Tepeu

Large boathouse foundation

The remains of the boathouses are impressive for their size, the largest ones found on the island.

Ahu Tepeu

The back wall of the platform is still intact and shows the interlocking stone technique used, something like at Vinapú, but the platform wall faces west and is in shadow until afternoon.

Ahu Tepeu

There is also an interesting moai head lying next to the platform which would be lit closer to mid-morning.

Walk Along the Northwest Coast

North Coast Walk

From Ahu Tepeu walk along the coast heading north. There is no real marked trail, just follow the coastline north. The way is very rocky in places, but you can’t get lost.

North Coast Walk

Coastline on the way back

At this time of morning it was very pleasant walking along the bluffs overlooking the sea and rocky coast. Though in the early morning the turbulent coastline below is cast in shadow. Views were better on the way back.

North Coast Walk (1 of 1)-2.jpg

Horses and cows graze in the pasture land. The light breeze at our back on the way out turned into a stiffer wind on our return but remained pleasant as the day heated up.

North Coast Walk

North Coast Walk

Chimango Caracara

We went as far and the first two ruin sites that we noticed. As sites are not marked we were not sure which ones they were.

North Coast Walk

The first one had an intact small moai face up.

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At the second there was a mostly intact platform back wall, but only smaller pieces of moai and not the large moai mentioned in the book that is supposed to be at Vai Matá. We walked for about 1.5 hours at leisurely pace from Ahu Tepeu, stopping to snap photos and so forth. The return took us an hour back to Ahu Tepeu and another 35 minutes back to the car.

Walk from Anakena Beach to Hanga O’teo Bay

March 21

The guidebook’s author, James Grant-Peterkin, mentions that Hango O’teo is his favorite spot on the island. He doesn’t say why but looking for a destination on the north coast of the island we decided to check it out.

North Coast Walk (25 of 33)

From the northwest side of the Anakena Beach we followed the road out continuing along the northwest coast. You can either follow the road to the bay, although parts of it are a bit sketchy, or you can keep closer to the coast following various short trails and bushwhacking in-between.

North Coast Walk (26 of 33)

We followed the coast out and the road back. This section of the coastline isn’t as pretty as being on the bluffs the previous morning. It’s not as grassy and there aren’t the cliffs looming over the rocky coast. Still, it’s a pleasant rocky coastline walk.

North Coast Walk (27 of 33)

Ahu

North Coast Walk (28 of 33)

Some kind of dwelling or storage structure

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Remnant of a boathouse

We passed a couple of ahu, with remnants of boathouses and moai.

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You can see the bay from a distance as the point along the shore sticks out and there is there is a caldera above it. There’s a building in the center of the caldera, but we didn’t go that far.

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Instead we found a great picnic spot overlooking the bay with the sun behind us.

North Coast Walk (33 of 33)

North Coast Walk (31 of 33)

Anakena Beach in the distance

We didn’t see a soul until we returned to Anakena Beach. It took us 1.5 hours there and 70 minutes on the return by the road at a leisurely pace.

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Orongo Village and other Southwest Sites, Easter Island, Chile

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

March 18

Orongo Village

Orongo Village

Orongo is a restored ceremonial village with awesome clifftop views. Like Rano Raraku quarry this site is limited to one visit. Unlike the quarry I had no reason to try a second. Open until 8PM during our stay (be sure to check hours as they change) we decided on a late visit hoping for better light and to avoid the morning crowds. This turned out to be a good choice in both regards.

Orongo Village

This was a seasonal and ceremonial site as it was an impractical to live here permanently as it was too far from the sea to catch fish, their main food source.

Orongo Village

The guide book suggests spending some time here which we were prepared to do but there isn’t that much to see here. It’s a stunning setting. Restored stacked-stone houses built in the grass lands overlooking the deep blue sea on one side at the Rano Kau Crater on the other.

Orongo Village

Rano Kau Crater

Orongo Village

Petroglyphs

Orongo Village

Nevertheless the path around the complex can’t take 15 minutes to walk. We went around twice and spent some time contemplating the environment and were still done in less than an hour. If you want the face of the boathouses lit afternoon light is best.

Orongo Village

Be sure to read about the bird man competition in the guidebook for a better understanding and perspective on the site.  The short version is every year they had a competition to decide which tribal chief would be head chief. Each chief would pick a representative from his tribe to compete.

Orongo Village

When the Sooty Terns started to nest on the small island off this end of the island, the competitors swam out to the island to retrieve an egg. The representative that got the first egg back to the main island un-broken earned his chief the position of head chief for the year.

Rano Kau Crater

On the road to Orongo is the viewpoint for the Rano Kau Crater with views into the crater and out to the sea. We stopped by here late morning after visiting Vinapú (see below).

Rano Kau Crater

Vinapú – Late Morning Visit

Vinapú

Vinapú is known for the stone work in the platform which has been compared to that of the Incas. While similar in appearance the guidebook notes that the stonework here is a thick façade rather than large stones set together as at Inca sites. The façade is lit in the morning and remains lit for a good part of the day.

VinapúVinapú

We arrived at Vinapú around 10:30 and encountered a couple of small tour groups. They left before us and we had the site mostly to ourselves.

VinapúVinapú

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