We flew into Santiago for a few days on our own before joining Road Scholar's The Atacama Desert and Easter Island-- Different Worlds. [click] means you can click the image for a larger or different image.

This Santiago building, Gran Torre Costanera, is the tallest in South America. It sits near the Rio Mapocho, below which runs a tollway tunnel. [Click]

First of many fine Chilean restaurants: Le Bistrot [click]

The next day, we toured the central Colchagua Wine Region. Viña Montes and Viu Manet had delightful tours and many fine pours. [Click]

The biggest surprise: the incredibly comprehensive Museo de Colchagua, whose beautifully curated collection included this 40 MYA school of fish fossils. [Click]

Magnifiers allow patrons to view amber-embedded critters alongside their contemporary species. [Click]

Among items in the museum's collections are the rare Jurassic Archaeopteryx--perhaps the first bird, Mayan Codices, and Chinchorro Culture mummies, ...

Incas used Quipu (knotted cord bundles) to send messages by runners all over their empire. [Click]

Next surprise: the marvelous food and wine at Santa Cruz' Panpan Vinovino restaurant. ¡Comida Sabrosa!

The next day, we joined Road Scholar for an introductory lecture followed by a tour of Santiago, including La Moneda Palace. [Click]

We watched Cueca dancers at the Plaza de Armas. [Click]

Next stop: Valparaiso, home of the Chilean Legislature, many funiculars, a UNESCO World Heritage historical area, a bustling port around which we took a cruise, and my first local Chilean Stout. [Click]

This floating dry-dock can haul large ships out of the water for maintenance. [Click]

Valparaiso has 8 working funiculars, down from 26 that operated until the 1950s. [Click]

After a fine lunch that included four local, dark brews selected from the many available at La Stampa de la Negra, we returned by Cordon-studded hills to Santiago. [Click]

Following a lecture on Chilean history and culture, we flew to Calama over colorful volcanic landscapes. [Click]

Only Antarctica is drier than the Atacama Desert. These few plants near San Pedro de Atacama sprung up after a rare rain.

Normally, water in the Atacama comes from springs (oases) fed by Andes' snowmelt. So a heavy rain a few weeks before we arrived damaged adobe structures not designed to withstand a deluge. The plaque on this house claims it was the home of Pedro de Valdivia. [Click]

Mud-plastered rock or adobe walls line the dirt streets of San Pedro. [Click]

The Gustavo Le Paige Museum's collection of pre-Hispanic regional artifacts includes handheld snuff trays Atacameños used to snort coca leaf. [Click]

Let's guess. Why is this called the Salt Range? [click]

Marilyn peeked over encrusted rocks in a Valle de la Luna canyon. [Click]

We hiked to the top of a ridge to watch the setting sun cast shadows over Moon Valley. [Click]

We climbed up the Pukará (Fort) de Quitor, one of the last strongholds of the Atacameños in their battle against the Spanish, commanded by Pedro de Valdivia. [Click]

San Pedro has a lovely skyline. [Click]

We had yet another delicious meal at Ckunna, then walked about Ayllú de Coyo. (Ayllú is an Incan term for a local community).

On to Tulor, a buried Atacameño village about 2.5 millenia old, excavated by Gustavo Le Paige.

Our excellent local guide and instructor, Nelson, walked us through the village of Toconao, where many buildings are made of liparita, a volcanic ash. [Click]

Note the modified Model-T and a satellite dish. [Click]

On to Soncor Salt Flats to see flamingos. [Click]

Other animals live in Soncor, including this lizard. [Click]

We saw this huge earth-hauler (64 wheels under its trailer!) on our drive to Antofagasta, where we caught a flight to Iquique. [Click]

Iquique's port was filled with fishing boats and cargo ships, together with various beggars. [Click]

This Esmeralda replica is a museum and memorial to Arturo Prat, who was killed at Iquique in the War of the Pacific against Peru. [Click]

The Municipal Theater of Iquique was built of "Oregon pine" (Douglas Fir) that arrived as ship ballast. [Click]

The Iquique Regional Museum exhibits Incan and Chinchorro mummies and deformed skulls. [Click]

Iquique bills itself as owner of the World's Largest Urban Sand Dune, Mount Dragón.

We rode into the nitrate-producing region to explore two abandoned mining towns: Santa Laura and Humberstone. [Click]

Humberstone Saltpeter Works engine. [Click]

After a fine meal at Sumapurieva, we went to the Pintados Hills to see some of Chile's over 5000 geoglyphs. [Click]

The motivation for and meaning of geoglyphs remain a mystery, just as with some modern structures. [Click]

Some fine vintage automobiles were running in the Dakar Rally across Chile. Most of the participants were European.

I never grew tired of the views from my window seat on our flight back to Santiago.

A welcome rain fell the day after our arrival at Easter Island (Rapa Nui): a UNESCO World Heritage site over 2000 miles from the nearest port city, 63.2 square miles area and over 2400 archeological sites!

This carved stone version of the Rapa Nui symbol was outside government offices in Hanga Roa. It appears on the Rapa Nui flag and was apparently an element of the Rongorongo script, which was invented by natives after their contact with the Spaniards.

This complete Moai (statue) restoration with Pukao (hat) and eyes was on Ahu (altar)Tahai. [Click]

Wildlife encounter: this kitten enjoyed playing with a lizard. The island had many free-range cats and dogs.

Our drives about the island took us by multiple restored Ahus and Moai, but most of the Moai were toppled...

...like these at Ahu Vaihu, sometime after Roggeveen visited the island in 1722. [Click]

The quarry where Rapanui carved their giant Moai (on Rano Raraku Volcano) was very impressive! [Click]

Carvers abandoned these Moai in the process of being liberated from the volcanic tuff. [Click]

We hiked over the rim of the Rano Raraku caldera to a crater lake. [Click] My reward for the climb was a cold can of Escudo Lager.

This unusual, early Moai, with a round head, was moved to the eastern side of the quarry. [Click] =>

Fifteen Moai stand at Ahu Tongariki, the largest Ahu on Easter Island. [Click]

Petroglyphs can be found all over the island. This fish is at Tongariki. [Click]

Thor Heyerdahl claimed this wall provided evidence of a pre-Incan connection with Rapa Nui. [Click]

Sergio Rapu described Ahu Nau Nau above Anakena Beach, where legend holds the Rapanui first landed. [Click]

Rano Kao crater lake is topped with many reed mats. Over the lip to the right lies Orongo Stone Village, a Birdman Cult (Tangata manu) ceremonial center restored by American archaeologist William Mulloy. [Click]

Contestants in the birdman contest swam to Motu Nui to procure a Sooty Tern egg.

We returned to our hotel in Hanga Roa via Ana Kai Tangata, a cave decorated with ancient paintings of Sooty Terns.

Here is the view out of the cave =>

The clouds opened up after we got to our room--good timing!

Our final Rapa Nui farewell was to this Moai at the airport => [Click]

To avoid an overlong flight, we spent a night in Santiago, where this version of Moai was in its Parque de las Esculturas. [Click]

After returning to San Diego, we toured three delightful breweries: Green Flash, Wet 'N Reckless, and Rough Draft. 22 ales in a single day with great friends is hard to beat!

Back to Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Up to Ron's Home Page (with links to other travelogues).