MJ South America Trip Trip Marguerite’s Trip to Easter Island and South America, 2011

Marguerite’s Trip to Easter Island and South America, 2011

In October and November of 2011, Marguerite joined her college friend, Gretchen Turner, and several other women from Atlanta for a 23 day Overseas Adventure Travel trip to Easter Island, Chile, and Argentina. See Overseas Adventure Travel for more info.

Marguerite, Gretchen, and three other travelers did the optional pre-trip to Easter Island, the most remote inhabited island in the world. This was her favorite part of the adventure and a place she had wanted to go since reading Aku-Aku by Thor Heyerdahl in 1960! Since she had surgery for breast cancer in June and then hospitalization for complications of radiation treatment in September, she did not participate in a few of the more rigorous parts of the trip.

Map of the Trip

The trip started in San Diego with a commuter flight to Los Angeles, then with a stop over in Lima, Peru, and a final flight to Santiago, Chile (an 11 hour adventure). After dinner at a lovely restaurant and a good night's sleep, it was off to Easter Island on another 5 hour flight. After a few enjoyable days on the island, it was back to Santiago, then Buenos Aires, and then points south in the Patagonian region of Chile and Argentina. The trip ended in Buenos Aires, again, for sightseeing and a flight home the following day.

Santiago, Chili

This is the "Easter Island group" at the restaurant atop one of the tallest buildings in Santiago. Left to right: Marguerite, Gretchen Turner, Kent Leslie, Susan Gibbins, Veronica Thighe, and our local tour guide Patricia from Santiago.

Easter Island (Isla de Pascua), Chili

There is usually only one flight in and one flight out of Easter Island daily. The island has about 3500 inhabitants and over 40,000 visitors each year. The total area of the island is only 63 square miles and many of the inhabitants are descendents of the original 40 or so Polynesian settlers who arrived by canoe sometime between 800 and 1200 AD. The island was named by a Dutch explorer who encountered the island on Easter Sunday of 1722. The locals prefer the name Rapa Nui (Big Island). It is a small volcanic island formed by 3 distinct volcanoes. There have been many books written about the island, the most recent of which, The Statues That Walked, is by two archeologists, Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo published in 2011. They provide current information about the various theories concerning how the almost 900 moai were made and moved to locations quite distant from the quarry where they were carved. Over the centuries the island was visited by many ships who brought with them devastating diseases (smallpox, measles, tuberculosis), and on several occasions took inhabitants to be sold as slaves. By the time Heyerdahl visited in the late 1950s, the island foliage had been largely destroyed, the moai had all been knocked down during clan conflicts, and the few inhabitants remaining were trying to survive. In 1966, the Rapa Nui people were given Chilean citizenship and things started to improve. Now it is a very popular tourist destination.

The first three photos below are of the coastline and a small island which is key to the cult of the birdman of the 18th and 19th centuries; Marguerite standing near a very large (over 30 feet) moai; Marguerite in front of several standing moai. The second three photos include our last evening on Easter Island where we had a picnic to watch the sunset. This moai was recently brought to a standing position and is a stunning tribute to the culture of the island. In the middle of the row is a movie made of some native Rapanui dancers at an exhibition. The men are absolutely gorgeous and can move their hips better than any of the professionals on Dancing with the Stars! On the last day, Marguerite and Gretchen got in a final bit of shopping at a local artisan shop. The large photo is of the five women and our guide standing among a "Family of Moai" that was restored and erected on a site in the national park.

Easter Island Dancers Movie

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The five Easter Island travelers and our trip leader flew next to Buenos Aires where we were joined by the other 7 travelers for our journey. After a welcome dinner at a local restaurant and another good night's sleep, we embarked on a city tour with a subway ride and a visit to the Buenos Aires opera house. The acoustics are supposed to be among the best in the world and the building is exquisite.

That night we enjoyed a tango lesson at a local studio and then a terrific tango show and dinner. The dancers are all professionals and Marguerite was able to capture some of the dancing on video.

Tango Dancers Movie

Bariloche, Argentina

The next day we flew and rode a bus to the northernmost part of Patagonia, Bariloche, Argentina. We stayed at a lovely hotel where Marguerite treated herself to a massage while the others were floating in a raft down the Limay River. There was also a horseback ride for some of the travelers (Marguerite opted to ride up to the top of Campanario Hill on the ski lift). The next day we enjoyed a lamb barbecue dinner at a Patagonian Estancia (ranch) with an interesting hike before eating.

Lake Crossing to Chile

Because of the eruption of the Hudson Volcano in the Aysen region of Chili in early October, many planes were grounded and busses were discontinued because of the dense volcanic ash. Accordingly, our trip was rerouted through a lovely lake crossing that involved several boats and busses on an all day adventure. We were given personal respirator masks to protect us from the ash when we were out of the bus but most of us didn't like to wear them.

We finally arrived in Puerto Varas, Chile , which is a lake sailing center popular with tourists. We went out in small boats to small islands offshore where there were lots of small penguins! It was great fun to see them walk up and down the rocks and then slide into the water for some food and play.

Day in the Life of a Local Village in Chile

An important part of OAT trips is the "Day in the Life" of a local village. On this trip we visited Chiloe and enjoyed a home hosted lunch with a family. The family had a round house outside their home where they had a large fire pit. They put wood in the bottom and got it very hot, then on top they put lots of seafood (mussels, clams), then beef, lamb, and chicken, followed by potatoes and other vegetables. The food was covered with lots of branches of large leaves and then plastic and burlap bags to hold in the heat. After about an hour, we were treated to a most delicious meal with lots of wine and beer to wash it down! The next day we visited a small school, the "Sol del Pacifico Abtao School" with only 18 students and a very dedicated teacher and many mothers serving as helpers. The children (ages 6-11) had prepared a dancing show for us and took each of us on a tour. I had the pleasure of being escorted by two young men who were taking folk dancing lessons from a local teacher. They proudly showed us their dancing skills with two young girls who were dressed in local costumes. It was a delightful experience to meet these children and to communicate (mostly with sign language) about their school and activities.

Torres del Paine National Park

We next flew south to experience the mountains and glaciers of Southern Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is spectacular and we did several hikes and visits to the mountains and glaciers there. The weather was so clear that we could see the snow covered tops of the Andes mountains -- most unusual for this time of year. We stayed at a lovely old hotel in the National Park and did a boat trip to the glacier where we took lots of photos.

On the afternoon after the glacier experience, we visited the small town of Punta Arenas which is a southern town beside the Straits of Magellan. In reality, all land south of this point are islands associated with South America, with Tierra del Fuego being the largest. We did not visit Tierra del Fuego but could see it from the shore where we visited a replica of one of Magellan's ships, the Victoria. We met the ship builder who had spent several years obtaining original blueprints of Magellan's ships and then used native woods and two other workmen to recreate an exact replica. It was a very interesting experience to go up and down the wooden ladders into all parts of the ship. It was pretty small for 40 men to live together for several months! Marguerite declined to take off her shoes and step into the water but she did sample it with her fingers! When we were there, we were less than 900 miles from Antarctica. George was particularly interested in this part of the trip and would have enjoyed climbing around the ship and putting his feet in the water!!

El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier

We continued our exploration of Southern Patagonia with a bus trip to El Calafate where we enjoyed a dinner and folk music exhibition the first night. The next day we spent a full day at the Perito Moreno Glacier that was absolutely spectacular! The glacier covers more area than Buenos Aires and is almost 200 feet above the water line at its greatest height. It was quite cold and windy but beautifully clear and we were able to see very far.

At left is our whole group: Brooke Heraty, our wonderful trip leader Lucelia Scarpelli (an Italian Argentinian), Cheryl Parlato, John Heraty, Marguerite Dill, Jane Macgregor, Gretchen Turner, Kent Leslie, Martha Shepherd, Veronica Thighe, Susan Gibbins, Harold Leitenberg, and Betty Ellis.

Back to Buenos Aires and Flight Home

Nearing the end of the trip, we flew back to Buenos Aires. Our farewell dinner was at a wonderful Argentinean steakhouse where I was finally able to get rare steak! Even though Argentina is famous for beef, most of the steak I ordered rare came medium to well done -- George would have been happy with the overcooked meat!!

Before we left Buenos Aires, Veronica, Marguerite and Gretchen had a delightful lunch at Broccolino, a local Italian restaurant. Veronica is from Denver so she and Marguerite flew together from LAX to Santiago and from Buenos Aires to LAX.

The flight home from Buenos Aires was 5 hours to Lima and another 9 hours to LAX. After four hours in the LA airport, I finally arrived home! It was a wonderful trip to a very interesting part of the world.

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