Category Archives: South America

Volunteering in a community in the Bolivian Amazonian Jungle

My first experience as a volunteer, although it was just to photograph the Real Beni community and just a bit of hands-on help, it was by far the most significant experience in terms of culture contact of my trip in South America. My idea of volunteering was different but as I’m passionate about photography I couldn’t say no to this opportunity.

The first thing we did when we arrived at Real Beni was to meet doña Cupertina, our host, the grandmother of almost all the young people from this small community and the mother of Baldemar, the guy who brought us there. We went to find a place to camp, we cleaned the area of branches and leaves, we set our tent and went up the hill, where she had an improvised place to cook, to eat lunch. We cooked food on the fire, fed corn to the chickens and after lunch Baldemar took the boat and went back to Rurrenabaque, where he is running a travel agency, BOA.

So there we were, me and Katerina, curious and a bit overwhelmed. Katerina found this opportunity for us to volunteer while she was searching for a place to paint. She’s an Argentinian art graduate traveling and painting in exchange for board and food and sometimes money. I met her at the hostel in Rurreanabaque and as I was telling her I want to do some volunteering and to have more authentic experiences, and as she saw I’m passionate about photography she thought this opportunity will suit me just fine. Baldemar had this idea of creating a different tour in the jungle, one in the community where he was born, where tourists would meet the people, with their traditions and beliefs, with their customs, their music and eat their traditional food. As this isn’t an isolated community and people go regularly to Rurrenabaque to sell fruits and vegetables this idea seems helpful for them and could be a good cultural exchange. Our part in this was to spend five days with the kids, speak with them about recycling and good practices, and photograph them so that Baldemar can make a presentation of the community back at his travel agency where he had some other volunteers working on a website for him.

From the beginning, I was amazed how kind and open doña Cupertina was, always smiling and always calm. She brought us cocoa pods and we ate the skin of the beans and put the beans to dry to be made powder for the cocoa drink. It was the first time I saw cocoa in the natural form, not in a box already processed, so I was really excited. Next days I experienced the same excitement with the sugar cane we chewed, the pineapples I saw in every stage of growth, the yucca roots which I learned to peel and clean and I wanted to eat each and every lunch.

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Later that day we met some of the kids from the community, first timidly but after we spoke a bit with each other they became very open. We watched the sunset together and they showed us their dog Colita. Those days in the jungle there were mostly about them, about the kids.

First night in the jungle we went to sleep early, mosquitos already were feasting from our blood so we searched relief in the tent. But we couldn’t sleep right away as we heard music from the other community across the river. Next day doña Cupertina told us there is a three-day celebration of a catholic saint across the river, where people pay respects and offer gifts at the feet of the saint statue and then spend the evening dancing. One of the things that amazed me in Bolivia was the strength of the catholic belief of the people combined with their old belief in Pachamama.

At evening, soaked in mosquito repellent, we went with our host to the river and sat there under the clearest sky, with faint music and jungle noises in the background. Doña Cupertina sang two songs for us while smoking a cigarette and told us she likes to sing and dance. One of the songs was about a girl from the jungle falling in love with a boy her parents disagreed with. She has to make a choice and although she loves and respects very much her parents she decides to go deep in the jungle with her lover. Years are passing by but the girl is always thinking about her parents and yearns to see them again. I recorded her and next day when I met one of her sons I asked him to listen. He was impressed, had tears in his eyes when he listened and he sang the same song using his flute. As doña Cupertina is the oldest person in the community I imagined the song might be about her, although I didn’t dare to ask.

Later that evening one of our host’s nephews came to the river to take a boat to cross it to the other side. All three of us went with him and I got a taste of a dancing evening in the community. Doña Cupertina was shining and everybody wanted to speak and dance with her. It was a very joyous evening.

First thing in the morning we woke up hearing the ducks picking at our tent and making noises. When we were getting out from the tent the kids were already somewhere around. Every morning we were trying to wake up earlier than them but with little success. We were eating breakfast together although for them was already the second one and the rest of the day was spend together, going to swim in the river, fishing with worms, playing football, playing with their monkey pet. A big part of the beach was planted with beanstalks because sand is a good place to plant them and it was always an adventure to make sure the ball won’t hit and break them. They showed us the school and brought a world globe and I pointed to where I’m coming from and where I’ve been before coming to the jungle.

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Because this isn’t an isolated community usually when the kids are of highschool age they are going to one of the cities at school, live with a relative there or at a dorm. Until then they have a teacher coming at the community Mondays and leaving Fridays. The kids are separated in two intervals of age thus forming two classes. I asked them what they want to do when they will become adults, not many saw themselves still in the community, some wanted to be teachers or doctors. These types of communities will start to disappear across the world, and with them also their traditions. It’s hard to find a balance, pursuing a good education, a more safe and comfortable life but going back to your family community where your life experience might not mean that much anymore, developing a community but keeping traditions intact.

Some afternoons, when resting after lunch and staying in the shade to hide from the sun, our host was showing us how to make artisanal fans from palm leaves to use when it’s too hot, the type she used to blow the wind on the fire when she was cooking. Each day there were 2-3 tourists coming to make sugar cane jus using a wooden tool she had there. She was bringing the sugar cane plants, then showing them how to use it and helping them. In exchange, she got a small sum of money. After tourists were leaving the jus left was ours to share with the kids.

Saturday was quiet as all of the kids were helping their family to pick food and prepare to sell it in Rurrenabaque on Sunday: rice, coconuts, bananas, cocoa, sugar canes, beans, yucca were some of the cereals, fruits and vegetables they sold at the Sunday market. Although they were excited to spend time with me and Katerina the kids had also responsibilities and were serious about them. By the time we were waking up Brenda already cooked for her brothers the fish she took from the net she had set the night before and Mireja was taking care of her younger brother. Life in the jungle is hard but nobody was complaining. Sometimes at night they were starting the electricity generator to watch a movie from the DVD player. One night they watched Titanic, for the tenth time, they said, and I could hear laughter and giggles from the room the entire family used as a dormitory. Outside, the adults were playing instruments singing songs they passed from generation to generation orally. We made a payment to Pachamama that night, Baldemar brother dug with a machete a small hole in the ground where we put coca leaves, alcohol, and cigarettes, all the good stuff. Seems like Pachamama likes all the vices.

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Saying goodbye was hard, we really had a great time there, and although mosquitos were cruel we enjoyed every moment of those days.

More photos from the Real Beni community here .

Highlights of my 2015

I started 2015 with an amazing idea to travel from Antarctica to Alaska visiting most of the countries while zigzaging my way from south to north. It took me most of the year (with some breaks) to get to Bolivia and Brazil and then I decided I want to see something totally different and I flew to South Africa for New Years Eve. It wasn’t a race to get to Alaska, it was a dream, maybe a bit of a challenge, but as money were less and less I abandoned my idea and went to meet other cultures also.

Nonetheless , my 2015 was amazing and here are the highlights of it, in chronological order and described in moments:

1.Antarctica

I woke up one morning with the screeching sound of something touching  Expedition, our ship. It wasn’t morning yet but it wasn’t totally dark either, a new day was coming. I looked on the porthole window both scared and curious and what I saw is one of the most beautiful views I ever laid my eyes on. The icebergs and pieces of icebergs around us, totally different than the day before, the light before sunrise, the shapes and sounds were making everything surreal, and for me that’s how Antarctica is : surreal. He woke up, watched the magic outside, placed a kiss on my forehead and went back to sleep. It felt warm and magic. It felt like being in another world.

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2.Torres del Paine

The third day of the W trekking is mainly uphill at the beginning. And you go up and up and sometimes you look behind and you are amazed. That’s how beautiful it is. And it makes you forget the park it’s like a boulevard with way too many tourists. It was me , and music, and the guys I ignored a bit those days because of the music and the talk I had with myself, completely absorbed by the beautiful nature.

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3.Bahia Inutil

After seeing so many penguins in Antarctica and already passing Punta Arenas I decided to go back and get the chance to see the King penguins. And that day was a bit of an adventure, but a good and memorable one. We crossed the Magellan Strait but one the way back we got a bit stuck, as the waves were too big to cross it back. The view was beautiful, it was so cold and windy, and I was happy I finally saw those penguins and although people were panicking around I felt free and capable of every single thing I decide to do. I was speaking Spanish also, my broken funny Spanish people compliment all the time (except when a linguist told me I speak a medieval Spanish :)) ).

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4.Perito Moreno

Such a famous glacier and such a rainy day. I was in waterproof but 80% wet, that’s how heavy it rained. But if you just stop trying to find the perfect spot, between all the people and all the selfies, just focusing on the immensity of the glacier, on all the sounds of cracking ice and ice falling in the lake, you realize the rain plays also a part in the magic and feeling wet of rain will always remind you of something special. And I smiled . A truly genuine smile. Because the world is amazing.

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5.Fitz Roy

Still my favorite mountain, although later the Amphitheatre in South Africa amazed me a lot. I still have on my retina the image of the mountain, the lake and how we stayed there for two hours and still didn’t want to go back. How we said we will wait just a bit more for the clouds to pass. And they passed few times but it was too beautiful to leave it behind. How cold was the water and how alive I felt.

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6.Candelario Mansilla

This was definitely a challenge and an adventure, 24 km with 24 kg. Took a bus from El Chalten, a boat, got exit visa from Argentina and walked and walked (first 6km painfully uphill), met a guy from USA on the boat, we crossed many little rivers, me full of mud and with wet shoes, he clean like a spring flower because was always behind, all day us and the maps.me app to be sure we are on the track. But when we got closer we felt the trekking and the mud and dust and tiredness are completely worth it because the landscape it’s completely beautiful. Later that evening I ate one of the best dinner ever (as I trekked all day with only 2 boiled eggs and a carrot in my stomach).

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7.Easter Island

Rapa Nui. For me it’s always Rapa Nui and people don’t know what I’m speaking about. Watching sunset during my first day there with beautiful happy people around. On a very tiny beach. Dog trying to eat my camera as I was doing a time lapse. I empathised with those young guys and I felt there are no worries in the world worthy of my attention. Rapa Nui is one of the most magical places I ever saw.

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8. 5592m altitude

I ended up spending almost two weeks in Atacama, each and every day with a beautiful story. But the one I like the most is the one when after struggling to breathe and very slowly climb Lascar Volcano I’m not tired anymore, I’m just happy to be there, the highest I ever got with my own feet,the first active volcano I climb, ignoring the sulphur smell and smiling huge smiles.

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9.Salar de Uyuni

It’s cold, so crazy cold but I want to jump in this immensity of white. So I change my ski trousers and my goose feather jacket with summer colorful clothes and I jump, for this place is surreal too.

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10.Real Beni

Real Beni is the name of a natives community in the amazonian jungle north of Bolivia and although I really love the kids from that community and I fancy the idea of seeing them again, the special moment I have in mind is the one when our host, Cupertina sang to us. She’s the grandmother of all the children I met. At night, near the river, listening the wind and watching the clear skies, with a million mosquito bites, with a million thoughts, I hear she starts to sing and she gets all my attention. She sings a song about love, and choices, about nature and life. I feel nostalgic.

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11. Flying over Rio

More exactly flying over the ocean next to Rio de Janeiro. And turning, and increasing or decreasing speed as my instructor showed me. Freebird. Too short but life it’s made up of moments.

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12.Iguazu Falls

As the legend says:

“Once upon a time, a Guarani warrior named Caroba, who was in love with a pretty Indian maiden named Naipi, took her into his canoe and fled the village, paddling for all he was worth down the Iguazu River.

But Caroba was not the only one who was enamoured of the fair Naipi. She had also attracted the romantic attention of a forest god. When the forest god saw Caroba paddling downriver with Naipi, he was angry.

To try to stop Caroba, the angry forest god made the land under the river disappear. Naipi fell out of the canoe and dropped over the edge. She landed at the bottom, and turned into a rock. Caroba turned into a tree that overlooks this rock. Where the river bottom disappeared or fell away is the site of Iguazu Falls.”

Everybody it’s going back for the train but I linger there hypnotised. It’s not a cliche, it’s one of the most powerful sites I ever saw.

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The brazilian side of Iguazu Falls

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The argentinian side of the falls – Garganta del Diablo

 

 

 

Carretera Austral – the most scenic landscapes in Chile

Chasing sunshine and getting rain

I started this beautiful road from the very beginning (or end) , in the south , after I crossed Lago O’Higgins with a boat from Candelaria Mansilla. After 7 km with a bus I got to Villa O’Higgins, a place I read much about and one of the reasons I trekked 23 km with all my stuff. I knew about many beautiful trekkings in the area and dreamed a lot about this place. I imagined myself taking a nap in the grass with the sun warming my body. But in the 4 – 5 days I spent there it rained almost all the time. Nevertheless the place is really beautiful. And I did a short trekking there because rain is not really melting. There’s no ATMs there but I was lucky and managed to make a deal with the girl from the boat I took from Candelaria Mansilla, she had a POS and took some money from credit card and gave me cash. So I had some money for a while.The hostel I stayed in Villa O’Higgins , El Mosco, is really nice and the people who run it are really helpful and know many trekkings.There’s only 2 buses per week and they go to Cochrane. But before going there I wanted to go to Caleta Tortel.

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Midway to Cochrane is an intersection and from there are 22 km to Caleta Tortel.

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Unesco Patrimonium village and some bad luck

The driver of the bus stopped once and showed us salmons swimming up the river. That was a first for me. After sailing the Pacific the salmons were swimming up the river to get to  a mountain lake where they will lay eggs and die, there, in their birth place.

Going to Caleta Tortel I met a chilean couple, they were going there too. So here we are, all wet, raining heavilly, hitch hiking with all our stuff for 2 hours because there aren’t many cars and the few that were passing were full. We found shelter under a bus stop foyer where one day others in our situation wrote “dedo o baricada” and we laughed thinking we will sit in the middle of the road to make cars stop if needed. When one car stopped and driver said they have only one seat available in the car the couple decided I should better go first. Got quite fast to Caleta Tortel and went to informations to ask about a tour either to glacier or to Isla del Muertos and to ask about a recommendation for hostel. It didn’t went very well. She couldn’t recommend anything but showed me a book with options. And about the tours she said is shoulder season and there aren’t many tourists, so I have  to find a group and then call to the boats, because she has only private phone and cannot call. Alone it would have been too expensive. I went to find a hostel in the rain and stopped to a guesthouse I remembered from the book. It was very basic but I was supposed to stay there only one night so it was fine. Did’t had much money left, only one night of food and accommodation , and no ATM until Cochrane. I went for a walk, the place is very nice, there are no streets, just wooden bridges and wooden ladders. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s UNESCO Patrimonium for it’s uniqueness and the foyers made from wood. The experience with the guesthouse was quite weird, I was the only tourist there, it was cold and I had rain in every pore after a week of rainy weather. The woman there was quite weird, but maybe my spanish wasn’t that good. Next day I checked out and read in the sun for 2 hours. It was such a nice, warm and happy sun.

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At the time of going with the bus they said they have to wait for few more people, and that proved to be a bad moment for me, although I found it later. When I arrived in Cochrane I noticed I’ve been robbed. But by the time I noticed and said about it everybody left. The bus was small and didn’t had designated space for luggage, therefore everything was on the backseats and everybody was with the back at their luggage. When we waited for some people I went outside to smoke and some other people joined me. It was only a local woman with her kids there. That’s the only thing that comes to my mind as what had happened. They took the cover from backpack, unzipped the vertical zip, took whatever was closer, zipped and put cover back. I went to the police in Cochrane but they said is useless. So I just had to forget about it.

Trekking 26 km to convince myself to let go

I was so unhappy with myself because of being robbed, and only thought about it. But there’s the beautiful Tamango National Reserve very close to Cochrane. I trekked 26 km all alone and by the end of day I convinced myself to let go. It could have been worse and I will be more careful the next time. And I cannot change anything. I saw there the most clear water ever.

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A chilean guy from the hostel gave me the cable I needed to charge the bateries from my camera. He was my hero. It would have been so difficult to find that cable and for sure not sooner than Santiago.

There’s another nice trekking close to Cochrane but again couldn’t go because you need a car to drive you for 50 km and pick you up after 2 days. Alone was too expensive. And there wasn’t any place to rent camping gear, but someone offered to borrow, so that could have been solved.

Peaceful in Puerto Tranquillo – the best sky of the month

Decided to move north, to Puerto Tranquillo. The drive to there is maybe the best one I had, the landscapes are so beautiful, all mountains, lakes, forests. The Lonely Planet guide says Route 40 is a must in Patagonia, I say Carretera Austral is a must. Route 40 in going through steppe but Carretera Austral is in the most beautiful part of Patagonia.

After quite bad accommodations and many cold showers I went to the nicest hotel in Puerto Tranquillo, not very expensive and anyway only for one night. The trip to the marble caves was so very nice but I think is better to go there with a kayak, you can spend more and better time this way. After the marble caves I wanted to go to a place supposed to be very nice and you can do a nice trekking. I tried to hitchhike for a while but I gave up and went to have lunch. I spend my evening reading near the river. The weather was fantastic.

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At night I saw one of the most beautiful and clear skies and felt a bit sad because I had a tripod with me which I couldn’t use because when they stole from my backpack they took also the mount of the tripod and that’s not a very easy thing to find in Patagonia.

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I waited next day for the bus to go to Cerro Castillo from 11 to 12 and when it got there it was full from Cochrane. So I had to hitchhike for hours, gave up, went to buy something to eat and the lady from the shop called someone and sent me to a hostel where a guest was going with his private car to Coyhaique. Went there and the guy was nice enough to offer me a ride, bit skeptical at the beginning but convinced after he heard I’ve been robbed. Although I wanted to stop in Cerro Castillo for trekking I had to change my plans again and go to Coyhaique because the village seemed deserted, no information office, no place to rent equipment, no tourists. In Coyhaique I went to the national reserve close to town, nice but not impressive. At the bar all the bartenders had t-shirts saying in spanish something like ‘it’s a waste of time to rush in Patagonia’ : “quien se apura en la patagonia pierde el tiempo”. It sounded so true, I had a good laugh and decided to reorganize and take it slow.

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My first kayak experience

My last destination on Carretera Austral was Puyuhuapi. Although is famous for the thermal baths I just let them for the last moment and then found that I don’t have time for it, and also I’m not the biggest fan of thermal baths. You can get there with a bike, I know people who did it and it was nice. Instead, I went to the National Park, trekked a bit and saw a very nice hanging glacier. Another day I rented a kayak and that was an adventure. All started nice, weather was fine, we saw dolphins, but on the way back the weather got bad, sky was grey, wind was fast and lake had big waves. Although I panicked a bit and kept saying “it’s not safe” at one moment started to rain and waves got down and we finally got back to the town and had a good laugh about the adventure during the dinner.

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Dissapointing boat trip

I went back to Coyhaique for 2 or 3 nights because I had reservation on a boat from Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. The whole time I just relaxed on the hammock and read.

The trip on the boat is better on the other way around, from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco, there are fiords to be seen but on my trip we passed them during the night. People were very happy with the food but didn’t liked it. Also, I had the cheapest ticket on the boat and my bed was literally on the hall. So I would recommend a better bed/cabin. I heard many good things about this trip but my experience was a bit disappointing. If it wasn’t shoulder season and if it was less rain I would have kept going north on Carretera austral. And that’s the same reason for skipping Chiloe. But one day I’ll go back, in better weather and maybe with a rented car.

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Rapa Nui

I dreamed about Rapa Nui ever since I applied during faculty for a cigarettes contest to win a trip to one of eight wonderful places. I chose Easter Island because seemed so much different and mysterious from all I knew. And I haven’t won. Because I’m not a lucky person. But I’m a person who enjoys daydreaming and tries to make the dreams come true.

So here I am, traveling from Antarctica to Alaska trying to visit most of the countries. And of course I wouldn’t skip Rapa Nui. Being in Santiago is as close as you can get to the beautiful island. And cheapest. I met many people during my travels who told me I should skip it because there are many other places beautiful but less expensive. Or if I still want to go there I shouldn’t spend more than 4 days. And so I did and big mistake it was. Because Rapa Nui is one of the most beautiful places I ever saw and felt. And it has such a good energy. And although it’s part of Chile now, the island is geologically part of Oceania and the people who inhabited it first came from Polynesia, therefore the culture there is polynesian and you can feel it everywhere. And as a first advice I say people going to the island should spend at least 7-8 days, because although you can see almost everything in 4-5 days it’s also wonderful to spend some days on the beach relaxing and feeling the energy of those places. And maybe it’s rainy and grey when you plan to see the sunrise at Tongariki so it’s good to try again another day. Needless to say that the flights there are quite expensive, but if you get there at least you can spend some relaxing days without rush.

The flight to Easter Island was the first flight I took in almost 3 months and I was quite excited about it because at my last job I was flying every month and got used to it, not flying for 3 months was quite weird. And the funny thing is that they had a problem with the plane, so after sitting for more than one hour in the plane they told us we have to change it with another one. We arrived on the island 3-4 hours later than planned, at 2-3 am. Some of the hostels were offering flowers collars to the guest, my hostel didn’t but it was so nice an atmosphere around.

In the morning I ate the most delicious banana for breakfast straight from the garden on my table. I spoke a bit with the hostel owner and got amazed about how intelligent the people from the island are. This guy studied mathematics and is a teacher on the island. Also people there speak several languages, travel a lot and most of them go to Santiago to study in the University. The island in clean, nobody is begging and there are no rich or poor people, everybody has an average house and an average car. People are relaxed and happy and very friendly and caring. Also they don’t lock their cars because there’s no stealing. I felt there as safe as I could be.

At the time I was there , last week of April, the people from Rapa Nui were taking care of the Rapa Nui National Park and somehow they got rid of CONAF which is the chilean forestal corporation. The entrance was free but before my arrival it was around 50$. So this time I was lucky.

I walked up to Orongo and saw the crater of the volcano and the mash inside and also the petroglyphs there and after that I went to a moai site few km far. Went back to the town, ate and met some nice people from the island. We enjoyed together the evening and after that I went to see the sunset at another moai site. I was actually impressed about how many people came there to see the sun going to sleep.

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Next day I went to the church with some people from the hostel because they said it’s supposed to be nice and authentic to participate at the sunday mass because there was some singing involved. It sounded interesting but getting there I was amazed with all the people and the songs and mass in their language, in Rapa Nui. Women had flowers in their hair and the priest thanked for participation in at least 5 languages. After the mass finished we met outside some young people singing. The priest blessed them and they asked us to join them at the coast and we went singing in the middle of the street. At one moment I thought they might be singing for money but actually we received juice and they told us we can have lunch with them because they are organising a table with food to share and we can bring whatever we want and spend evening with them and play some instruments if we are in the mood. We listened them singing but after that we took a rented car and went to see more moai sites and then enjoy Anakena, the biggest and almost only beach they have, which is located at the other end of the island. Coming back to town we listened more Rapa Nui music and ate delicious ice cream from a guy who dreams to have a business where people can come to eat icecream and read.

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Waves

We tried to see the sunrise at Tongariki ( this is the site of 15 moai, the biggest and most famous, restored by japanese) but without much success because the morning was cloudy and grey. And the rest of the day was about making a new tattoo ( actually adding a flower to the fairy I already had). I guess the artist is very appreciated because people were queuing there. But it was rainy (may is the wettest month in the island and it was almost may) and it was a good way of spending the day. After getting the tattoo we went to watch the waves which were very impressive, high and breaking on the rocky coast.

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There are also caves you can visit, many moai sites, two quarries and a very interesting museum. I also participated at one of their shows with traditional dancing and I found it to be very nice although I’m not very sure all of it was traditional. My last day there started very early, just to check the sky is clear to decide if I should try again the sunrise at Tongariki. And the sky was so very clear. The owner of the hostel drove me there for half the price of a taxi and waited a lot for me there and also at Ranu Raraku, the quarry where the moai are coming from.

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I enjoyed everything about Rapa Nui until the very last moment, just before going to the airport I went to sent postcards and one more time to the beach, to say goodbye and promise I’ll come back.

I met in Rapa Nui the happiest and most relaxed people in my travel, interesting history and saw amazing waves and beautiful landscapes. Downside is that I spent too little time but one day I’ll go back and stay longer for sure. The thing to be aware is that all the moai standing are restored because in Rapa Nui was a civil war between the tribes and all the moai were put down. But this makes it even more interesting.

El Chalten – capital national del trekking

After I saw Perito Moreno Glacier the logical itinerary while traveling north was to stop in El Chalten for more trekkings. The plan was to spend 5 days there and to cross border again from Argentina to Chile at Los Antigos/ Chile Chico. The hostel I booked , La Comarca, is probably the cheapest hostel in Patagonia but it’s nice and decent. And the guy was ok when I said I will leave on day earlier. The wifi is incredibly slow in the whole town because is remote and the internet is through satellite. As soon as you come in town there’s a big sign welcoming you in the national capital of trekking. And so it is, around El Chalten there are many options of day or multi day trekkings.

First thing I did was to book the ice trekking on Viedma glacier for the next day. It rained all evening but I kept faith I will have good weather on the glacier. We got to a mini port with a bus and to the glacier with a boat. Getting closer to the glacier we had big waves splashing the boat and a group of chinese turists making funny noises like they where in a roller coaster. Big fun though.

At the glacier we received the crampons and we started to slowly walk together. That was a thing I didn’t thought beforehand. We were maybe 15 tourists and we had to have the same rhythm, me, the other young people, the 60 years old lady, the guys doing a selfies and so on. Luckily they were ok with me walking around and taking photos while the rest were slowly advancing. All in all it was my first ice trekking and I think it was very nice for a first. At the end we drank Baileys with ice from glacier. The weather was sunny and nice and the glacier is very beautiful. Still I think is better to do ice trekking on Viedma, less tourists than on Perito Moreno.

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Again I had a very sunny day trekking to Laguna de los Tres which is in front of Fitz Roy Mountain. I trekked and spent amazing time with very nice people. We stayed almost two hours at the lake taking tens of photos, having lunch and just relaxing. Fitz Roy is the most beautiful mountain I saw by now and we were so lucky with the weather. When we finally decided to return to El Chalten we looked a bit back and stayed half hour more. It was so hard to leave.

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DSCF0890I knew from Lonely Planet guide about a trekking from El Chalten, Argentina to Villa O’Higgings, Chile but I thought is too complicated to carry all my stuff for more than 20 km. But while trekking to and back from Fitz Roy I decided to go and get some info and try it. Getting informations about it I felt like I definitely want to do it and because I didn’t want to come back for my stuff later I planned to take everything with me. Unfortunately I had to leave one day earlier because one of the boats is only once per week, therefore I had only one day for trekking close to Chalten, and that day rained all day and I stayed in the hostel. But for sure one day I will go back there.

For the cool trekking the logistic is like this: you take a bus from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto, cross the lake with a boat (or trek around the lake but you must have a tent), get the stamp in the passport of getting out of Argentina, trekking for 22 km, first 3-6 km are worst and quite steep and the rest is kind of earth road, and then you get to Candelaria Mansilla , get stamp and welcome from chilean immigration, walk one more km and stop to a farm where you can either pay for a basic room or camp, get boat next day to the beginning of Carretera Austral and bus from there to Villa O’Higgings. At the farm lives a guy and his mother and they also prepare 3 meals a day. If you don’t want to buy from them you should carry food from El Chalten because there’s no shop in Candelaria Mansilla. All this is not cheap, it cost me around 200$ for bus and boats, and the room and meals are just bit cheaper than hostel and restaurant food in El Chalten. Very important is also to have sufficient money because the first ATM is in Cochrane and that’s quite far. And they want chilean money, not argentinian or dollars.

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woodpeckerThe trekking was very rewarding, we saw beautiful landscapes, ate calafate berries when I felt like crying because backpack was too heavy, made many cigarettes breaks, ate everything I had with me, photographed woodpeckers, filled my shoes with mud, had lots of fun with an american anthropologist who has a contagious laugh, got my iPod in the mud, cleaned it with a stick and it’s still working, made lots of photos and felt very happy arriving at destination where we had delicious dinner and hot shower.

But next day wasn’t any boat due to bad weather so we just relaxed and hoped it’s not more than a day delay. And I met there so many people doing this cool but challenging trekking with bicycles, sleeping in tents, traveling solo or in couples, lots of stories and lots of beautiful people of all ages.

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Because I had no money left I convinced the lady selling tickets on the boat to take money from my credit card and give me money from the people who paid ticket with cash. Her POS was the only one in a very big radius.