Grey Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
Grey Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
Beetle tracks
Beetle tracks

As I had mentioned in earlier posts, we ran into some problems with entering Peru due to a mining protest that closed the Bolivia-Peruvian border for a number of weeks.  The detour we selected was to travel back to Chile by bus and then fly to Lima with a stopover in Santiago.  We would have preferred to stop in Lima instead but there was no award availability so we just had to make due with Santiago.

After our visit to Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol, we returned to La Paz and spent one last day there.  The next day we were booked on a 10-hour international bus from La Paz to Arica, Chile so of course this had to be the time when I was to come down with some sort of stomach bug.  Fortunately the bus was mostly on time and we had saw some nice volcanoes along the way.  The only glitch was an extra hour at the border thanks to some older Bolivia lady who thought she could bring a huge load of merchandise (snacks, bottled drinks, etc) into Chile without paying import duty.  Removing her and all her merchandise from the bus took far longer than it should have!

The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.

Arica, the northernmost city in Chile and just a few miles from Peru was pretty nice as border towns go.  The city has a lively harbor with more than its share of sea lions and pelicans.  We found it entertaining to watch the fishermen feed fish scraps to the sea lions as well as the pelicans’ unrelenting efforts to steal some for themselves from the clumsy yet powerful beasts.

Me hungry!
Me hungry!

Flying from Arica to Santiago was uneventful.  It was a late-night flight with LAN Chile that departed around midnight and arrived around 2AM.  It was still much better than a bus ride, that is for sure!  In Santiago we had a day to kill so we visited one of the produce markets.  Lots of vendors were selling fresh fruit juices so we ordered up some lucuma – a new fruit for both of us.  This may sound strange but the juice tasted like cake batter with maybe a hint of maple syrup.  It wasn’t tangy at all nor was it overly sweet.  Lucuma is truly strange fruit and I have to say I rather liked it.

The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.

We took another flight with LAN Chile to get from Santiago to Lima.  This time around I discovered that I could request upgrades through the LAN website prior to check-in thanks to my recently-comped Comodoro status in the LANpass mileage program.  I was shocked when I checked in and was given a business class boarding pass because we were traveling on award tickets issued using British Airways miles.  Normally, when you redeem miles for free flights they are strictly non-upgradeable.  Maybe it was a glitch, but either way I wish I had known to try this before our flights out to Easter Island and back!

Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile

Our connection in Lima was an 8-hour overnight one so we opted to camp out in the airport.  We were able to use the airport’s shared lounge (Sumaq) but unfortunately some displaced passengers from a delayed Delta flight had already occupied all of the nice sleeper chairs in the lounge.  All in all, it was a pretty sleepless night but we did get to take some showers just prior to boarding our flight to Miami.

My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami

We arrived in Miami and within the first two hours of being “welcomed” home we experienced a lengthy immigration queue, enhanced pat-downs, and a full-on TSA meltdown whereby they yell for everyone on the concourse to freeze where they are until the alert is over.  I sure hadn’t missed this circus over the past few months!  What I had been missing, however, was some tasty American fast food.

...and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
…and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
The Trip Home
Food poisoned on the bus, again.  At least I had some Coca-Cola in a little bottle.
Food poisoned on the bus, again. At least I had some Coca-Cola in a little bottle.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
Me hungry!
Me hungry!
Arica, Chile
Arica, Chile
The coastline around Arica
The coastline around Arica
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
At last, a burrito the size of my head.
At last, a burrito the size of my head.
...and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
…and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.


Our time in South America is rapidly coming to a close.  We are scheduled to fly back to the States from Lima, Peru on June 7th for my brother’s wedding.  We thought we had everything planned out, that was until a good old South American protest got in the way.

After leaving La Paz, Bolivia we had hoped to cross into Peru and hit up some of the major sights.  A few days around Lake Titicaca then a short flight over to Cuzco to check out Machu Picchu followed by another short flight into Lima to link up with our award ticket back to the States.  Unfortunately, the border between Bolivia and Peru was closed by large scale protests (about mining rights) in Peru about three weeks ago.  From what we read in the news, all of the possible land border crossings have been closed by the protesters.  Looting, burning cars in the streets, gunfire and what-have-you are the sorts of things in the news.  Not exactly where we want to be.

Most of the other travelers we have met are planning to detour through Chile in order to continue their trips into Peru.  Flying is also possible but prices are sky-high due to the increased demand as well as Bolivia’s crazy ticket taxes.  The vast majority of Peru is still safe for travel but we decided it would be too much of a rush to fit in this detour.  Instead, we opted to visit the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and then use some miles to get from northern Chile (Arica to be exact) to Lima for our flight home.  It is an 8-hour bus ride from La Paz to Arica but that hopefully won’t be too bad.

The only routing available was via Santiago but that was still preferable to many hours on Peruvian buses and giving up our visit to Lake Titicaca.  We will be making a two-day stop in Santiago and then will continue on to Lima, Miami, Denver then finally Montana.  Peru will just have to wait for another trip.  Of course the blog posts will keep coming over the next few weeks…I have quite a backlog of stories and photos to share!


Before heading north to Bolivia we wanted to make one last stop in Argentina to explore the northwest.  Buses from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta, Argentina go via the Jama pass.  The road is relatively new (constructed in the 1990′s) and climbs east from San Pedro to a maximum altitude of 4,400m (14,432ft).  The total trip takes about 12 hours but the scenery along the way is absolutely incredible so it is hard to be bored.

Vicuñas
Vicuñas

After clearing the Chilean border formalities in San Pedro, the bus started its slow crawl out of the San Pedro basin.  Being an Argentine bus, we were able to enjoy a delightful selection of films including direct-to-DVD favorites such as “Blood and Bone” on the climb out of San Pedro.

We reached border about three hours into the ride and then got to unload (people and bags) for the usual border antics.  An exceptionally lazy working dog made a humerous attempt at sniffing all of our bags before he went back to sleeping along the road.  All in all, we were stopped at the border for about an hour.

Once we were on the Argentine side of the border drove for a few hours more across desolate terrain and salt flats.  We passed through Salinas Grandes (Argentina’s baby version of Bolivia’s Salar) and then down through dozens of switchbacks into the Quebrada de Humahuaca.  We pulled into Salta about 9PM and made our way to the hostel.

Paso Jama
Volcán Licáncabur
Volcán Licáncabur
Vicuñas
Vicuñas
Altitude!
Altitude!
Argentine customs facility just after the pass.  The Chilean equivalent is located in San Pedro.
Argentine customs facility just after the pass. The Chilean equivalent is located in San Pedro.
Pulling in to Salinas Grandes
Pulling in to Salinas Grandes
Starting the descent into the Quebrada de Humahuaca
Starting the descent into the Quebrada de Humahuaca

Day 3 in San Pedro was another early morning for us.  We had booked a tour to the lagunas altiplanicas and the flamingo reserve through Cosmo Andino tours.  They picked us up around 7AM and we drove about an hour to Los Flamencos National Reserve.  The reserve is divided into a number of different sections but the first encompasses Laguna Chaxa and the surrounding salt flat (Salar de Atacama).

Salar de Atacama - the third largest salt flat in the world
Salar de Atacama – the third largest salt flat in the world

It wasn’t long before we spotted some flamingos from a pretty long distance (good thing I had my telephoto lens).  As a Floridian, I always knew that the idea of flamingos in the tropics was pure hogwash.  That said, seeing a flock of them feeding in a lake at 7,500ft above sea level really drove the point home!  Another interesting fact about the Salar de Atacama is that it is the world’s largest reserve of lithium.  Something like 30% of the world’s supply of the metal comes from the salar so, if you are reading this blog on laptop or phone, there is a good chance your batteries have material from the salar!

Chilean Flamingo
Chilean Flamingo

After a light breakfast at the reserve we headed to the village of Socaire to have a look around.  The quiet village survives on farming and has a couple of nice churches made of adobe.

Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñiques were the next stop after Socaire.  These brackish lakes lie at 4,300m (14,000ft) and have a mirror-like surface most days.  The lakes are home to a number of different bird species so it is not possible to approach the shoreline.  I was impressed by the fact that there were actually park rangers present to enforce these rules.

Laguna Miscanti
Laguna Miscanti

The final laguna on the tour was the Salar de Aguas Calientes which has a nice blue lake flanked by some strange red rocks.  We had a nice lunch (vegetarian friendly as well!) at this spot and did our best to capture the other-worldly colors of the terrain.

Lunch provided on the tour
Lunch provided on the tour

On the way back to San Pedro we stopped at the village of Toconao.  This was a welcome stop as it took over 2 hours from our lunch stop.  The village is situated along a river which makes it the wettest place in the driest desert in the world.  There are many farms in Toconao but unfortunately we didn’t get to see much as most of them were swept away by a flood earlier in the year.

All in all, we were very happy with Cosmo Andino the operator of all three of our tours (Tatio Geysers, Valle de la Luna, and Lagunas Altiplánicas).  The guides were knowledgeable and spoke fluent English, the food was plentiful and the vehicles were in good condition.  We paid 67,500 CLP (about $135) per person for all three tours together.  This price was a slight discount over the posted prices because we booked all three tours at the same time.  Another tip for other travelers would be to book late in the day as the tour companies are keen to fill the remaining seats in their vehicles.

Lagunas Altiplánicas
Flamingos at Laguna Chaxa
Flamingos at Laguna Chaxa
Salar de Atacama - the third largest salt flat in the world
Salar de Atacama – the third largest salt flat in the world
Three of the world's five species of flamingo
Three of the world’s five species of flamingo
Andean Flamingo
Andean Flamingo
A little bird on short final to Laguna Chaxa
A little bird on short final to Laguna Chaxa
Chilean Flamingo
Chilean Flamingo
Buildings in Socaire
Buildings in Socaire
Laguna Miscanti
Laguna Miscanti
Cerro Miñiques, topping out at 19,400ft
Cerro Miñiques, topping out at 19,400ft
Amy running (she tends to do that from time to time)
Amy running (she tends to do that from time to time)
Laguna Miñiques
Laguna Miñiques
Laguna de Aguas Calientes (it was actually frigid)
Laguna de Aguas Calientes (it was actually frigid)
Lunch provided on the tour
Lunch provided on the tour
Toconao, Chile
Toconao, Chile
Toconao, Chile
Toconao, Chile
A pisco sour to end the day.
A pisco sour to end the day.

We enjoyed sleeping in on our second day in San Pedro.  The only tour we had lined up for the day was an evening excursion to some of the nearby rock formations.

Valle de la Muerte
Valle de la Muerte

The first stop on the tour was to Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) to see some nice canyons and sand dunes.  Some of the large sand dunes are formed against the stone cliffs.  We hiked a little ways along one of the stone cliffs and then walked/ran down the dunes barefoot.  The pictures don’t really convey the size of these dunes but I would say that they were close to 200ft tall!

After the dunes we walked down a narrow rock canyon and explored a small cave.  The rocks along the canyon walls make an eerie popping noise due to thermal expansion/contraction.  Another interesting spectacle in the canyon was the salt crystals that coat the walls.

The final stop on the tour was the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for sunset.  We hiked along a ridgeline to get a nice view of the mountains and the crazy colors made by the setting sun.

Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Muerte
Valle de la Muerte
Walking/running/jumping down the dunes
Walking/running/jumping down the dunes
Not as clean as they were when the trip started!
Not as clean as they were when the trip started!

Shortly after arrival at Tatio.  It is 6:20am and -15C.
Shortly after arrival at Tatio. It is 6:20am and -15C.

We had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get picked up for our tour of the Tatio Geysers, the third largest geyser field in the world. It was dark and cold and we drove for an hour and a half to get the to geyser field.  Our guide and driver prepared breakfast while took photos and waited for the sun to rise.  The geyers sit at 4,321m (14,176.5 ft) so we were both a little winded due to the thin air.  The main reason all the tours visit the geyseys for sunrise is because you can see the steam the best.

After the sun had come up we departed for our second stop, a hot stream fed by water from the geysers. I was too cold to get in the water. Instead, Amy and I dipped our frozen tootsies in the water. It was hot!  Our guide said it was about 35 degrees Celsius.

One of the warm rivers near the geyser field where swimming is possible.
One of the warm rivers near the geyser field where swimming is possible.

We drove some more and got out to walk along the Río Putana. There we saw several types of birds. We also had a great view of Volcano Licancabur.

Our final stop was a hillside covered in cacti. We learned that due to the extreme climate in the Atacama, they only grow about 1cm per year.  That puts the 5m high cacti that we saw at 500 years old!  We hiked into a canyon to see plenty more cacti and a small waterfall.

Our tour ended at 2pm and we were dead tired. We went back to our guesthouse to rest up for another tour we had that night.  A French astronomer has setup a small observatory just outside of San Pedro (in Solor) and he hosts star tours.  The only picture we have from that night was one that Amy took of Saturn through one of the telescopes.  Due to the high altitude and thin dry air, the view of the stars was stunning.

The only picture we have from our star tour.  Saturn!
The only picture we have from our star tour. Saturn!
Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama
Just after takeoff from Santiago.  Sunrise over the Andes
Just after takeoff from Santiago. Sunrise over the Andes
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
The humorously short A320 variant...the A318
The humorously short A320 variant…the A318
Predeparture snack.  Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Predeparture snack. Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Those are some big tires!  Mining is big in this area.
Those are some big tires! Mining is big in this area.
Desolation
Desolation
The ruins of some town.
The ruins of some town.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro

Just after takeoff from Santiago.  Sunrise over the Andes
Just after takeoff from Santiago. Sunrise over the Andes

On April 23 we finally squeezed the last segment out of our LAN award ticket that carried us all over Chile.  The final flight was from Santiago to Antofagasta in the north.  It was a pleasant early morning flight on a cute little Airbus A318 (first time on that aircraft for me).  Service was the usual drink and snackbox affair and arrival into Antofagasta was a little ahead of schedule.

Desolation
Desolation

We bought tickets for a shared taxivan to the center and were dropped off at Antofagasta’s bus terminal a short while later.  We had tickets to take us from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama high in the Chilean Altiplano.  The drive took us across some spectacularly desolate landscape.

The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.

San Pedro de Atacama is a nice little desert town that thrives off tourism.  We stayed at Hostal Sonchek, run by a Slovenia/Chilean couple.  Like most of the buildings in San Pedro, our hostal was built of adobe and had a great open air courtyard in the middle.  We stayed a total of five nights and saw some amazing things out in the desert.  Stay tuned!

Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama
Just after takeoff from Santiago.  Sunrise over the Andes
Just after takeoff from Santiago. Sunrise over the Andes
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
The humorously short A320 variant...the A318
The humorously short A320 variant…the A318
Predeparture snack.  Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Predeparture snack. Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Those are some big tires!  Mining is big in this area.
Those are some big tires! Mining is big in this area.
Desolation
Desolation
The ruins of some town.
The ruins of some town.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro

Santiago and its smog
Santiago and its smog

To be honest, Santiago was a bit of a let-down for me.  It is mostly my fault as I had a preconcieved notion that it would be a mountainous version of Buenos Aires!  Though it is a lively and clean city, it just doesn’t have the same flair as BsAs.  Nevertheless, we still had some great food and fun adventures there.

Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners

On our first full day in Santiago we got up at a decent hour and headed over to Plaza de Armas, the main square in Santiago.  We wanted to take one of the “free english tours” that we saw advertised at the hostel.  There are actually a couple organizations running these tours and they are indeed free though you are expected to tip the guide.

A few minutes in to our “free english tour,” a group of Spanish speaking ladies walked up and pretty much demanded that our guide give the tour both in Spanish and in English.  Surprisingly, he complied.  Now I don’t mind listening to both languages (it is good practice, after all) but the way in which this ladies approached the situation was amazingly tactless.  There were a few occasions when we were making small talk with the guide and the ladies marched up and demanded a translation.  Awesome.  I sure hope they tipped well at the end of the day.

The tour lasted about 4-5 hours and took us past the main sights in the centro, Santa Lucia and Bella Vista.  There was a short 20-minute stop for lunch at some cafe (in cahoots with the tour guide, no doubt) but we escaped that trap and got some cheat eats at a kiosko nearby.  The tour provided a nice overview of the city but if I had to do it again I would seek out the organization that runs the shorter 1-hour version.

Mote vendor
Mote vendor

Amy and I went to see a Chilean movie called “La Vida de Los Peces” that won the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar last year.  Thanks to the Chilean Spanish I barely understood what was going on and even Amy said she only understood about half of what was said.  Chilean Spanish is a good bit faster than Argentine Spanish as they are very fond of slang and shortening words.

Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago.  Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago. Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries

Food-wise, Santiago treated us well.  My favorite (and cheapest) meal was at a stall at the Mercado de Flores where many of the pushcart vendors seemed to be eating.  I had cazuela de vacuna, a soup with beef and a mix of veggies.  Amy managed to find herself some vegan empanadas at one on of the city’s vegan/vegetarian cafes.  Another culinary highlight of Santiago is a drink (or snack?) called mote con huesillo.  It is served on the street and is something in between a drink and a food.  When ordering mote you get a cup filled with cooked wheatberries, a few pieces of peach and then topped with lots of peach juice.  It is a sweet and filling cheap snack that you can find just about everywhere in Santiago.  Perfect for hot afternoons!

Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins

The blog is starting to run quite a way behind our travel progress.  We reached Bolivia yesterday and will be leaving on a 4-day circuit tour to the Salar de Uyuni starting on Saturday.  We will be way out in the boonies for this tour but I am going to do my best to get some posts scheduled today.  That is, if this Bolivian internet connection cooperates!

Santiago, Chile
Climbing Cerro Santa Lucia
Climbing Cerro Santa Lucia
Santiago and its smog
Santiago and its smog
La Moneda - the government palace
La Moneda – the government palace
Amy and the rest of our tour group
Amy and the rest of our tour group
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago.  Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago. Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote vendor
Mote vendor
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Parque Forestal
Parque Forestal

The view from the top of Ascensor Polanco
The view from the top of Ascensor Polanco

After the trip to Easter Island we had a five day stopover in Santiago worked into our award ticket.  We had hoped to spend about half that time in Santiago and the other half in Valparaíso.  Unfortunately, the Easter holiday spoiled those plans.  The man at our guesthouse in Santiago warned us of the difficulties associated with getting there and back again.  He said it wasn’t uncommon for the bus ride to take upwards of 5 hours when it is normally under two.  We took his advice and made a day trip out there on the Tuesday before Easter.  Getting from Santiago to Valpo was a quick and easy process.  A short trip on the Santiago metro followed by a 1 hour and 45 minute ride.  Weather was cloudy and gloomy when we arrived around 10AM but that slowly burned off during the day.

Valparaíso is a stunning city.  The surrounding hills drop steeply to the water’s edge where there is a busy shipping port and a naval base.  The hillsides are covered in houses of all colors that are seemingly stacked one on top of another.  Many of the slopes are steep enough that funiculars, many of which date from the 1900′s, are needed to hoist tourists and locals up and down the hills.

Ascensor Artillería
Ascensor Artillería

We passed most of the day by wandering around the city, riding the funiculars, and enjoying the spectacular views of the harbour.  The neighborhood of Cerro Concepción, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was particularly beautiful.  We also found a huge variety of street art in Valpo.  Even more than we found back in Buenos Aires.  A few people responded positively to my Buenos Aires graffiti post so we made it a point to snap lots of photos to capture Valpo’s street art scene.  Hope you enjoy!  Next up, Santiago.

Valparaíso, Chile
Exploring a market in Valparaíso
Exploring a market in Valparaíso
He needs to find a bigger box to sleep in.
He needs to find a bigger box to sleep in.
The view from the top of Ascensor Polanco
The view from the top of Ascensor Polanco
Ascensor Artillería
Ascensor Artillería

Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse

Easter Island has a reputation for being a very expensive travel destination and in some ways this is well-deserved.  With round-trip ticket prices from the mainland reaching towards $1000, getting there is certainly expensive.  If you can get past the transportation costs (book with miles!) then, with a little effort, the island can be surprisingly affordable.  About the same as mainland Chile.

Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse kitchen

Accommodation options on Rapa Nui range from high-end resorts all the way down to camping.  Though guesthouse prices are much higher than they were a few years back (when a friend of mine visited) we were still able to find a double room with shared bath at a conveniently located guesthouse for 22,000 CLP per night (about 44 USD).  This included breakfast and access to a shared kitchen.

Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers.  Our first meal on Easter Island.
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers. Our first meal on Easter Island.

Prepared food is perhaps the biggest budget killer.  At the cheap take-away places in Hanga Roa you are looking at $10 or more for a meal and at the proper restaurants upwards of $20 or more.  A far more economical option is to prepare your own food.  The grocery store prices are certainly higher than the mainland but it is still much cheaper than eating out.

Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors

Before we left the mainland we stocked up on some staples (rice, lentils, split peas).  During our first afternoon on the island we scoured the minimarkets and found nothing but extremely expensive and bad-looking produce.  We learned later that the produce sold in the minimarkets all comes from the mainland on Wednesday’s LAN flight and we were shopping on a Tuesday.  Week-old vegetables aren’t that appetizing!  A far better option was found the next morning at the town feria were locally-grown produce is sold.  Lower prices and higher quality but you have to get there early to get the best veggies.

Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad.  Made with local produce.
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad. Made with local produce.

Using what was at hand, Amy came up with some delicious meals for us to enjoy and I did my best as sous chef and dishwasher.  We had everything from pasta salad to mango-avocado salsa served over rice to curried split peas and rice with chard.  We cooked once a day and stretched each dish into two meals.  Our total spend on food for our six-night stay for two people was under $45!

Empanada dog.  Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour.  He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Empanada dog. Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour. He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.

The other costs that visitors face on the island are entry fees and transportation.  The good news is that most of the ahu scattered around the island are completely free to visit.  There is a rather steep entry fee to the island’s two park sites (Orongo and Rano Raraku) but you only pay the 30,000 CLP (60 USD) fee once to enter both sites.  On arrival at the airport we were happy to find that the park rangers were pre-selling tickets for 25,000 CLP.  If visiting Easter, keep an eye out for the desk just before the baggage claim area.

The main drag in Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa

As for transportation, there are a number of options.  Of course you can walk to many of the sights that surround Hanga Roa without much problem.  The farther flung sights at the east end of the island are best reached by guided tour or vehicle rental.  With two people, renting a car for the day was a much better deal and we could dodge the tour groups.  Hitching might also be an option (numerous locals offered us rides) to drive down costs even further.

Easter Island is a destination that can be made affordable with a little effort.  Getting to the island can be accomplished with a strategic credit card sign-up bonus or two.  Sightseeing on foot and cooking helps the traveler realize even more savings.  Of course food shopping, cooking, and walking around take some time so I would highly recommend a 5+ day visit.  It is an island paradise, so what’s the rush?

Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau

Budget Summary:

  • Accommodations: $273.68 (six nights)
  • Entrance Fees: $105.26
  • Food: $44.74
  • Car Rental (with fuel): $58.95
  • Internet access: $5.05
  • Total spent for six days on Easter Island: $487.69 ($40.64 per person, per day)

Another travel blogger has posted his budget for a recent trip to Rapa Nui.  Check it out here.

Easter Island – Island Life
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Our room at Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Our room at Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse common room
Guesthouse common room
Front lawn of our guest house.  A large visitor offshore that day!
Front lawn of our guest house. A large visitor offshore that day!
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Breakfast was included
Breakfast was included
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers.  Our first meal on Easter Island.
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers. Our first meal on Easter Island.
Tomato and avocado sandwiches ad guava juice.
Tomato and avocado sandwiches ad guava juice.
Curried split peas and green beans with rice and wine from the mainland (alcohol is expensive)
Curried split peas and green beans with rice and wine from the mainland (alcohol is expensive)
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad.  Made with local produce.
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad. Made with local produce.
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy's favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy’s favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Strange flowers!
Strange flowers!
The daily flight from Santiago
The daily flight from Santiago
The weekly cargo ship from Chile
The weekly cargo ship from Chile
Occasionally cruise ships visit the island.  This is Royal Princess headed for Australia.
Occasionally cruise ships visit the island. This is Royal Princess headed for Australia.
Empanada dog.  Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour.  He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Empanada dog. Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour. He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Local game of fútbal
Local game of fútbal
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
The bay at Hanga Roa
The bay at Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa
Setting of the full moon.
Setting of the full moon.


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