Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
We flew in on LAN Chile, the only airline that services the one strip airport on the island. A local told us (not necesarily true) that LAN's contract with the airstrip was just up and as of recently they were sending in a flight everyday, which would account for our dope discount. The sudden increase in flights to the island is to prevent other airlines from sending in flights, thus robbing LAN of its monopoly on the island. It seems to me that this "undiscovered" place will soon be flooded with tourists and with five star hotels, but for now it is a sleepy island in the south Pacific balancing a Polynesian and Chilean lifestyle/culture/language.
The week started off simple and from there became more 'baller.' The first day Molly and I rented bicycles and took the northeast route out to Rano Raraku, the moais quarry. On the way we saw a handfull of fallen moais, their giant noses in the dirt along the coast and sometimes a restored platform with standing moais, their backs to the ocean facing the interior of the island. Most of the moais on the island were carved from the volcanic crater at Rano Raruko and hundreds are still buried in the slopes of the volcano.
The next day we hiked up to Orongo, the old village on the other side of the island on the crater of Rano Kau, the volcano at the opposite side of the island. The village is parcially restored and views three small islets seen from over giant cliffs. We went up on a rainy day and say a ton of rainbows coming out the water and the volcanic crater.
On Sunday we took a tour and went back to some of the sites we had already gone to on our own and got a great history lesson from a local. The barren landscape of the island is startling and even more so when we learned that all the trees were cut down in order to transport the giant moais to their resting places. The Rapa Nui people had become so preocupied with the moais that they ignored the obvious damage they were doing to their home. Without trees they could not build houses nor boats. The land became eroded, the rivers disapeared, and the animals began to die. A once prosperous civilization had fallen to its knees because of their preocupation with building bigger and better statues. The largest moais, still partially carved into the stone mountain face at Rano Raraku is 21 meters tall (69 ft). Without trees they could not transport the moais from the quarry and work stopped suddenly when sustaining life became an immenent preocupation.
Renting a car is a great way to explore the island. We explored some sweet caves with out Suziki Grand Vitara. In the middle of the island are a few giant lava tube caves and on the coast, Dos Ventanas, has a small entrance but once inside there are two windows overlooking the sea from large cliffs.
The last day on the island we went self contained breather appartus (SCUBA) diving. I had never gone before and it was amazing. Molly is certified and apparantly was not impressed by the safety regulations of the company, afterwards she told me that she was instructed never to dive with a company that takes first-timers underwater...However, despite being dragged, literally, by a guide through coral and schools of tropical fish, I survived and definately can see myself getting licensed in the future.
Easter Island is an incredible place that I see changing very quickly. Just recently a 5 star hotel, Explora, was built on the island and construction is under way for more giant hotels. I can easily see the place turn into a top destination spot quickly for the beautifully clear waters, tropical climate, beaches, seafood, surfing, and archiological significance. We were still able to go some of the archeological sites without any other people around. To be alone with seven 4 meter moais standing over your head is an incredible feeling and one that may not last much longer. Just this May the first signs were put up warning visitors not to climb on the ahu and moais. I expect that in few years time the restrictions will be more stringent and the atmosphere changed. We met a guy at our campsite who arrived in December of last year and decided to stay when he learned that a solar eclipse would be visible in 2010 from the island. Trying to find a bed on the island for the event is nearly impossible but I would highly recommend it. He told me he would send me a picture for the extra food we gave him but frankly, I'm not holding my breath.
Up next, Cuzco, Peru and Machu Picchu.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Faceshots and virgin slopes where on the days menu and we skied until we couldn't walk anymore. Valle Nevado's impressive wide open geography made finding untracked powder too easy and I can easily say that I didn't ski a groomed trail all day. Luckily for me, about 75% of the people skiing Valle Nevado are Brazilians who have never seen snow before so the idea of skiing steep powder is extremely foreign to them.
My father and I shredding the gnar
The third day my father and I tried El Colorado and I was surprised by the completely different feel of the mountain. El Colorado and La Parva have a local vibe to them while Valle Nevado is the international destination with the luxury hotels and getaway packages. Given this, 95% of the skiers were Chilean and the majority were beginners.
A word to the wise. Skiing Chile is an incredible experience, however, BRING YOUR OWN GEAR! I told my family to bring there gear and they did not listen. I would say that the gear to rent in Santiago is from the 70's and 80's while the gear at Valle Nevado is from the 90's. If you are a serious skier and you travel half-way across the world to ski, even for a few days, do not expect to have the same choices of gear as you would find at other worldclass ski destinations like Aspen and Whistler. This is Chile afterall and like the hairstyles, the gear is straight out of the 80's.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
My Chilean family greeted my American family in true Chilean form: red wine and empanadas. Although few coherent conversation was had, it was incredible for me to see two very distinct parts of my life come together under the same roof. When it was time to say goodbye I saw a few tears in Katy's eyes and they watched, waving, as the van drive away . The lights from the cerros dipping into the water was our last glimpse. I will miss the colorful city but it is time to move on before heading back home.
My Chilean Family: (from left to right) Alfonso, Paul (otro gringo), Ivan, Me, Katy
The nanny, Rosy, and Me
Thus commences another stretch of traveling before heading home in a month. Right now we are heading north to San Pedro de Atacama. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world and, so I have been told, one of the most incredible. I've never been to a desert before so I am really looking forward to seeing the new landscapes and unlike Valpo, there is a slim chance of rain.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
While my parents gear up for BBQ ribs and baked beans in Connecticut I faced the reality that I only have 13 days left in Valparaiso.
I never thought the time would come when I would start to reflect on all of this. I feel like my life has been a rollercoaster since January and I have been constantly adjusting to the dips and curves. However, these last few weeks I have found myself content and comfortable in my surroundings, despite the inevitable frustration that living in Chile can sometimes deliver.
As I sit in front of my computor trying to write a Latin American Philosophy paper I am reminded of our constant discussions in my Filosofia Latinoamericana class in La Universidad de La Playa Ancha. The class is taught by an incredible human being, by many accounts the most reveared profesor at La UPLA, Sergio Vuskovic Rojo. Recently I found out that Profe Vuskovic was the mayor of Valparaiso from 1970 to 1973. When the dictatorship came to power he was arrested and tortured on the Esmeralda, an incredible four masted ship that was actually moored in the harbor earlier this year. Vuskovic lived in exile after his imprisonment and returned to teach in the public university. Although he usually can't hear what the students are saying and his lectures aren't what we would call "coherent" or "organized," his presence has been extremely dear to my experience in la UPLA.
Vuskovic was a strong supporter of Allende and the socialist movement in Chile before the military coup. The discussion of politics here in Chile is rare and everytime it has come up I have felt unnervingly uncomfortable. The other day I was asking my Chilean father, Ivan, about the Chilean currency. I was asking about the old system and I used the word "dictadura" (dictatorship) instead of the "el gobierno de Pinochet." His eyes got narrow and said, "Dictadura, no habia una dictadura...fue una dicta-blanda." Etomologically speaking, dura, means strong while blanda means soft. It has been pretty evident throughout my stay here that Ivan was a supporter of Pinochet. He obviously did well under the dictatorship as he works in the city government, was never exiled, and is extremely well off. The divide between politics here is scary. He always calls la UPLA communist, which wouldn't be too far from the truth. The student body is radical to say the least.
I recently read an article in the New York Times about a new trend towards the political moderation of professors on college campuses as professors from the 60's retire. I guess going to college now isn't about radical ideas but rather about making a ton of money. In Chile, the majority of the student body is radical but I am unconvinced that it is a trend that can last. There are some students who come to both philosophy classes ever week (imagine that!) and give passionate speaches about socialism and the repression of the masses. There are other students who come in for the rare test and are otherwise absent class. There are the students that love the strikes because it allows them to sit in bed all day and watch telenovelas and finally there are the students that love to throw rocks at the cops.