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Entries about sunsets and sunrises

MOAI MOAI MOAI MOAI aaaaaahahaha

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I don’t think I could contain my excitement as we started to descend on to Easter Island, I have my face pressed up against the window desperate to get my first glimpse of the island.

When we landed and got off the plane, it felt like we had arrived at a tropical holiday destination. It was boiling hot, bright blue skies and palm trees everywhere. You can drive around the entire of Easter Island within about 90 minutes, so we arrived at our hotel in less than 10 minutes after leaving the airport.

We were excited to hear that we had arrived during the middle of carnival, so we should head down to the main street to watch the parade at 5pm. What we learnt this day and as we experienced for the entire time we were on Easter Island is that the locals have no bloody clue when it comes to what time things happen. 5pm rolled around, then 5.30pm, then 6pm, then 6.30pm – but this point we were bored out of our minds sat on the side of the road waiting. There were plenty of people dressed up (well more like undressed) walking along the road to join the parade and we could hear a band but nothing much else happening. At 7.15pm we decided to go and find the parade ourselves, as it was just taking too long. At the other end of the street we finally found the band who were being lead by a truck, which was moving about 2 meters, stopping, letting the band play 2 or 3 songs while men (wearing nothing more than a modesty towel and body paint) performed a dance similar to the hakka, then they moved forward again and repeated the process. If we hadn’t of gone to find the parade I don’t think they would have passed our original spot until about 8pm.

Following the band were carnival floats depicting the islands history, more dancers, other bands and lots of tourists half naked dressed up and joining in the fun. It was certainly a sight to see!

The following day we had a private tour booked to explore all over the island and hear about the ‘Easter Island heads’ which we now know are called Moai. We were told so much, I don’t even know where to start…

1) The island was formed by 3 volcanoes erupting over 750,000 years ago.
2) The island was inhabited in around 400AD by people from (they believe) French Polynesia who’s island was sinking and they needed to find a new home.
3) The Rapa Nui people consisted of 15 clans and around 40 people per clan (so approx. 600 inhabited the island at the beginning). Each clan was ruled by a clan leader, they had their own territories, they were all ruled by 1 king and all lived in harmony for around 500 years.
4)The Moai were ordered by clans to be built in memory of their past clan leaders.
5) The clans paid the builders in food and water (it was considered an honour to build a Moai).
6) Each Moai took 9 months to carve then up to a year to transport to its platform on the island.
7) The Moai were carved directly out of the mountain side and then slid down to the bottom of the quarry using logs and rope, from there the detail was finished and then they were moved to the clans.
8) On average a Moai could weigh up to 75 tons.
9) The Moai you see on the postcards that look like heads, are all at the quarry where they were carved, these ones were still in production or about to be moved.
10) They have found 887 MOAI on the island to date, only 288 reached their final destination, 397 were at the quarry and 92 were in transit.
11) Moai that reached their platform were given eyes made of coral and obsidian, which they believed held the power of the dead clan leader it represented.
12) All Moai face inwards to the island to watch over the clan, except one platform of 7 Moai which face the sea, these represent the 7 explorers who found the island.
13) A number of the Moai have a red stone top knot (which looks like a hat) which was carved at a different quarry. It was created much bigger than required then rolled to the platform, by the time if arrived it had worn down enough to be the right size to fit on the head.
We learnt all of this just within the first hour of the tour, as you can imagine we had a million questions for our guide Hugo, who had been studying the Rapi Nui culture for 38 years.

Just before lunch we visited the quarry where the largest number of Moai are, here we learnt more about the demise of the people.

1) Those of importance (royals, clan leaders, sharmans) were forbidden to cut their nails or hair and were not allowed to work. They tired their hair in top knots and held it in place with red clay (hence why some Moai have the red stone top-knots)
2) As the population grew food became scarce (they over farmed and pretty much cut down all their trees for moving the Moai).
3) The last king was considered crazy, he ordered all the best food to be sent to the royal family and what was left was for the people to fight over.
4) He also wanted to have the biggest Moai, one was carved at 9 metres tall but he said it was too small and ordered it to be broken, the second was 15m, which was also too small. The third was 22m tall but was never completed as a civil war broke out, due to the lack of food and the last king’s wishes.
5) The civil war wiped out most of the population, ALL of the erected Moai were pushed over and their eyes removed and broken to remove the clans power from its past leaders.
6) All of the Moai that are now standing are due to various restoration projects over the years.
7) At the end of the war only 111 people remained and all were related or too old to have children, so many women slept with foreign visitors to the island in order to regrow the population.
8) The production of Moai did not continue after the war (due to the lack of people and skills) and the fallen Moai were left broken, in transit or at the quarry were nature grew over and around them (hence why they look like just heads). Some Moai at the quarry are now completely covered by vegetation.

Mind blown – we finished the day with a visit to Anekena (the believed landing place of the Rapi Nui people), which is now the islands beach resort. We kicked back in deck chairs with the best pina coladas we have ever tasted and then went into the ocean, which was like a warm bath.
The next day we were back out again to learn more about what happened after the civil war, we headed to Orongo on the south west end of the island, which is where to bird man competitions were held.

1) After the fall of the last king, the birdman competition was introduced. Which saw a warrior challenge take place each September to select a new ruler.
2) Each clan leader and a select delegation travelled to Orongo in Sept, here they each put forward a warrior representative for the competition.
3) The warriors had to climb down the cliff face, swim 1.5km to a small island and wait for the manutara birds to nest and lay their first egg of the season. They had to capture this egg, swim back to the mainland and climb back up the cliff. The first to do so won the competition and their clan leader then became the new king.
4) This competition ran until around 1867.

Our tour on day 2 finished around lunchtime and we were dropped at a local restaurant for the most amazing (and expensive) lunch. I had sweet potato gnocchi with shredded beef and Lynden had a beef linguine. The afternoon weather was heavy rain, so we didn’t do much else.
For our final day we had a lazy morning and then hired a car to explore more of the island, we revisited some of the Moai from the day before which we hadn’t been able to see well due to the rain, headed back up to the beach for another pina colada and then watched the sunset over the Aku Akapu Moai near the harbour.

Early the next morning we headed back to Aku Tongariki (home of 15 Moai which represented the 15 clans) to watch the sunset. The lady at the car hire place had told us the sun rose at 7am, which we should have checked given the experience we had with the carnival start time…but we didn’t. 90 minutes later we were still stood in front of the Moai waiting for the sun to rise. Around 8.45am we decided it had risen enough and we could go and get breakfast.

Sadly after breakfast it was time to head back to the hotel, check our and head to the airport. It was around this time that Lynden realised his boarding pass said ‘premium business class’, I checked mine and it also said the same! I knew this was an error (I knew I had booked discount economy) so was convinced that when we dropped our bags off they would realise and move us back into cattle class, but nothing was said. We held our breath as we boarded the plane and then they told us to turn left rather than right and then there we were in business class, being given a glass of champagne, big fluffy blankets and a seat that fully reclined into a bed!

It was an awesome way to wrap up our stay on Easter Island, now we head back to Santiago for 1 more day of exploring.

Posted by sdyzart 09:17 Archived in Chile Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises honeymoon chile south_america easter_island mrandmrs

Following the Path of The Incas

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The day had finally arrived, it was time to start our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. Luckily we had a fleet of around 30 porters who would be carrying our tents, food and sleeping bags, plus 2.5kg of our personal belongings (which equates to a few t-shirts, clean underwear, toothbrush and maybe a spare jumper). We just needed to carry our water, snacks, camera and waterproofs. Even though we would only be carrying around 4kg-8kg each (the porters carry 25kg each), we were still nervous about the hike ahead.

To get to KM82 (the start of the Inca trail) we first had to travel nearly 2 hours by bus to the town of Ollantaytambo, which was a gorgeous little colonial town in the Sacred Valley. We had the afternoon here to relax, explore and shop and a few of us decided to get a last minute mini training hike in and climbed the steps at the edge of the town to see some of the Incan ruins that were nestled in the mountain side. That evening after our big hearty meal and a large glass of wine, we all got an early night, the last good nights sleep we expected to have that week.

Up early, we grabbed our day bags and boarded onto the bus to head to KM82, which is where we met our guides Charlie and Marco, our leaders for the next 4 days and finally got to see just how huge the bags were that the porters carried. We instantly felt guilty for them having to carry our stuff (the oldest porter was 72!) but then we saw them pretty much sprint off, giant bags and all and it was obvious they were much fitter and used to the altitude than all of us combined.

Now it was our turn…

Day 1
We had 11km to cover and approx. 5.5 hours to do it. The first part was a slow incline from around 2650m to 2750m above sea level. The weather was good and we had a beautiful 2 course lunch prepared by the porters in T’arayoc before then doing some steep hiking to 3100m above sea level. It was around lunch time that the weather changed and down came the rain. The only up side to this is that it made us hike quicker and we arrived into camp nearly an hour early, but we then had to sit in our 2 person tents until dinner time. So it wasn’t a very eventful evening. The porters cooked up another tasty meal – quinoa soup, followed by chicken stir-fry with rice and hot tea. We when all tucked up in our sleeping bags before 9pm absolutely shattered.

Day 2
Great it’s raining and everything in the tent feels cold and damp – hooray. But there was no time to cry about that because today was going to be the hardest day of the hike and we were all dreading it. Today we had 12km of hiking to complete, climbing from 3100m to Dead Woman’s Pass at 4215m and then a very steep downhill hike to 3850m above sea level. It was cold, cloudy, windy and wet and we had 7 hours of hiking to get to camp. Our guide recommended we get up earlier and hike all the way and have lunch at camp, so we got day 2 done and dusted. By this stage we had all found our hiking rhythm and naturally split into 3 groups / hiking paces. I am proud to say, even though we are the oldest, Lynden and I were in the lead group. We powered off after an epically huge breakfast and reached the first resting point 20 minutes earlier than our guide expected. This gave us a boost and we excitedly hiked on and managed to reach the second resting point in 58 minutes instead of 2 hours. After a round of high fives, celebratory selfies and the boys purchasing a bottle of rum from a small refreshments stand, we wanted to push on and continue the climb to Dead Woman’s Pass (named purely because it looks like a dead woman’s profile…if you REALLY use your imagination). Lynden was also super motivated by this point, as we could see the path to the summit, but mainly because the profile included what looked like a boob with a giant nipple on it, so his goal was to reach that. Onwards and upwards we went into the cloud and mist and before we knew it we had reached the summit and in all honestly we couldn’t really believe it, but another tour guide confirmed that we had completed the worst of the climb and now we just had the steep hike down to camp.

Going down was harder than going up, our knees were sore and the rocks were steep and slippery, it slowed our pace a little but not by much and Lynden and I reached camp at 11.45am (finishing the days hiking in just 4hr 5min). We were thrilled and just as we arrived at camp the skies opened up and down came the rain. As we had arrived to camp so early, the porters were still setting up, so we managed to pile 5 of us into a 2 person tent to play UNO – which got sweaty and smelly very quickly. As it got closer to lunch time and more of our group arrived, we were able to take over the food tent and spent most of the afternoon in there playing cards and talking about the hike we had all just completed.

Due to the rain once again, the afternoon confined us to our tents, but everyone was exhausted, so we all welcomed the down time to rest. After an early dinner, we all happily got an early night as tomorrow was going to be a long day!

Day 3
We woke up AND it was still wet and rainy. Today we had 16km to cover and 9 hours to complete it in. The elevation to start with was small, just a 300m climb to 3900m above sea level and then an almost flat walk to lunch before a steep hike down to 2600m above sea level. Having powered through yesterday, today we took a more chilled approached and as the weather was a tiny bit better we were able to appreciate some of the views down over the valleys (which made a nice change from just looking at cloud). When we reached our lunch stop the sun was out, FINALLY and wow did we get a lunch – it was more like a degustation – the porters had gone all out with the most amazing dishes and then to top it all off they bought out a honeymoon / birthday cake for us and one of the girls in our group. It was a pretty impressive cake – especially considering they had baked it in a pot over a camp stove and decorated it in a tent on the side of a mountain.

Another reason we had to hike slower today is because this was the historic part of the trip, as we walked pass and through so many Incan ruins and each one was different, so our guide had tons of information to give us. The most impressive ruin was just outside of camp, a huge structure built into the side of the mountain and easily 300 steps from top to bottom. The photos don’t do it justice or convey just how big it was, but we were all pretty impressed and we knew this would be nothing compared to Machu Picchu!

Finally reaching camp in the sun, it was lovely not to have to hide away in our tents again. The porters bought around our daily bowl of warm water to freshen up in (they did this every AM when we woke up and every PM when we arrived at camp), we had a simple dinner and got an even earlier night, as tomorrow was the big day and we had to get up in the middle of the night to start hiking!

Day 4
The alarm went off at 3am, up we got and dressed in the dark with just a mini flashlight to help us find our clothes. At 3.30am we were having breakfast and just before 4am we were starting our hike in the dark to queue at the checkpoint to get into the sun gate. The checkpoint doesn’t open until 5.30am, but we were one of the first groups to arrive, so what did we do to kill the hour while we waited…played 10 player UNO by flashlight. It actually made the time fly by (we are all super brutal at this stage when we play) and it wasn’t long before we were through the checkpoint and making our way to the sungate, aka the ‘entrance’ to Machu Pichu. It was a 4km hike and we were all so excited, but it felt like forever to get there. One of the final parts before you enter Machu Pichu is what the guides call ‘the gringo killers’, a VERY steep set of steps. Lynden and I were first to climb them and our guide told us to take our time and not race…so of course we did the complete opposite and ran up them, trying to be faster than each other. It wasn’t a bad tactic as we got them over and done with within less than a minute.

It was then just a short walk until we were at Machu Pichu, we walked along the path, all of us excited and exhausted and ready to see this amazing wonder of the world. When we finally got there…all we could see was heavy cloud and not a bloody thing. Of course we were all devastated, but our guide said this was very normal at this time in the morning (it wasn’t even 8am yet). So we walked out of the Machu Picchu grounds and settled in at the overpriced café just outside and waited.

About 1.5 hours and 2 decent cups of tea later our guide returned and said it was time! So back inside we went and back along the path we walked, hoping that this time when we got to see the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, there was something more than cloud. OMG we were not disappointed, this mystical stone city lay in front of us, nestled amongst the mountain peaks. Bigger and more beautiful than anything we could imagine. It was hard not to cry at the incredible sight that laid before us. At this point our poor guide lost all control of us, as we went into photo and selfie taking mode, we all wanted a million photos from this view point. He finally rounded us all up again and got our attention and took us on a guided tour through some of the most impressive parts of the city. The skills the Incas had when it came to buildings, plumbing, construction was unreal. Our guide said that today archeologists and experts still don’t understand how the Incas were able to build Machu Picchu, man today doesn’t have the same skills as these people once did.
I think we could have spent all day walking around this place and learning about the Incas, but by 12pm, the fact that we hadn’t showered in 4 days and smelt half sweaty and half damp hit home and we needed to say goodbye to Machu Picchu and return to reality.

After a lunch in a proper restaurant rather than a tent with beer and wine rather than coca tea, we dragged ourselves to the station to make our way back to Cusco and a hot shower. The train journey was a few hours and probably the fanciest looking train I have ever been on, which made us feel even more dirty, but it was nothing that cards and UNO couldn’t help us forget!

Back in Cusco, it was a fight for a shower and then an early night and unfortunately I think I am getting sick.

Posted by sdyzart 06:40 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines people honeymoon travel peru inca southamerica mrandmrs

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