This was one of the stops I was most excited about on our journey but honestly I can’t even say why. I think the remoteness is romantic maybe? Easter Island at least to me is one of those places that sounds so far away, so magical that I really wanted to see it for myself. As an added bonus it really broke up our flight travel across the Pacific. An easy 5.5 hour flight from Santiago and then another 5.5 hour flight to Tahiti where we are staying a week and then New Zealand. I need to ease in to the relaxation I guess.
Jen and I had been discussing how to incorporate some yoga into our trip and Jen discovered this amazing Yoga retreat in the Chilean desert. After arriving to Combarbala (5 hours north of Santiago) and spending a night in a lovely hostel, the real adventure began.
We took a bus from Combarbala to Centinela, which we thought was a town. We were anxiously looking out the windows trying to guess which town was Centinela, when the bus pulled over literally in the middle of nowhere. “Aqui?” I asked? “Here?” The bus attendant smiled, and tossed our bags off the bus before leaving us in a cloud of dust.
There was nothing in site of our bus stop. I stayed with the bags and Jen set off down a side road with the instructions to turn around after 10 minutes and come back. Optimistically, I sent her with money to buy water – since we were completely out. No dice – I was reading, sitting comfortably on my pack when she returned. Shortly after, our host pulled up in her truck – we had taken an earlier bus than planned and she wasn’t expecting us yet.
Jen is the real yoga lover in our family, and she has also started doing meditation on our trip. I was pretty much a skeptic of doing yoga every day and also meditating once or twice. When Jen told our friends that we were going to be doing this yoga add-on to our trip, literally every one of them said, “Dani too?”
Surprise! This was my favorite part of our trip so far. I loved almost every minute of it. We were hosted by a lovely Dutch family – mom does the yoga, two adorable kids kept us entertained and a literal zoo of cats and one rambunctious dog where available for hugs at all times. In addition, there was a plethora of donkeys and foxes and cactuses (I guess the cactuses aren’t really animals).
On arrival we got to work setting up the tent with Tanja and the kids. It was a short walk from the house – close enough for amenities and far enough for privacy.
The 4 days were filled with yoga in the morning, amazing vegetarian food, meditation in the afternoon and on two of the days site seeing in the surrounding areas. The family lives in a concrete house that they are finishing up little by little. The electricity is completely solar, which generates enough power for them to use a washing machine and anything else they might need. There is a solar hot water system which mean that showers were a possibility, but with an added twist. Showers are a two person job, with the second person pouring the water over you from a watering can! Fun!
Between camping, no real schedule, kittens, the sun and a campfire every night I was in heaven. The yoga, which I had been dreading, was easy when there was someone guiding me through all the poses. Meditation, I found, was easy when I was in the middle of nowhere, with birds chirping and the sun on my face.
An added bonus was that this area is off of the tourist path, so we got to see some cool things that a lot of people miss. The area is rich with quartz, and a lot of mining is done in the area. We also visited a site full of petroglyphs.
The last night, back in Combarbala, we discovered that our reservation had been cancelled by the hostal. They honestly thought it was a mistake that someone would stay on Sunday and still be in the area 5 days later for a Thursday night stay. No worries, lots of rooms to be had.
We finished our time off with a visit to the local observatory where we were able to see the moon (like the craters on the moon – not just the moon), Jupiter! and also some far away stars (obviously less exciting). The sky in northern Chile is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, as there is zero light pollution, and the skies are very clear.
If you find yourself in Chile, dreaming of a desert yoga retreat look Tanja up! http://www.puntoceroyoga.com
Our central Chilean travels mostly consisted of buses. After flying to Santiago from Lima we over-nighted and caught the next bus to Pucon. We used Tur-bus because it was so damned convenient to be able to buy the ticket right from their office in the Cal y Canto metro station. This was a 10 hour bus and we arrived to Pucon at 7 am. We spent two days in Pucon, and one day in Puerto Varas before finally making our way to long awaited Chiloe!
Lonely Planet makes all kinds of promises of Chiloe being a magical wonderland with fog and witchcraft. It was a pretty great place and there was some fog, but we looked all over and didn’t find much folklore.
We spent the bulk of our time mid-island in Castro in one of our favorite AirBnB stays of all time.
Castro is a great base to explore the middle of the island. We hadn’t really planned anything and so we hit up a tour office to see if we could hop on a tour to either: a) the churches or b) the national park. The lady at Turismo Pehuen was extremely kind to us. Even though all their tours were sold out for the week (total blessing in disguise because it saved us a ton of money) she pulled out a map and proceeded to tell us how we could do this all on our own! Super!
Twice now we have been invited to Chilean BBQ so I can say that since each experience has been identical that it is ‘typical’ Chilean BBQ consists of six things:
- A special Chilean salsa (always homemade)
- Copious amounts of wine
That is all. Really the bread is just to facilitate the putting of meat and salsa into your mouth…since both times, the BBQ was more of less eaten with hands. The meat is skewered and cooked on a fire to be eaten.
Good wine is ridiculously cheap in Chile so the general rule of thumb seems to be a litre a person.
We arrived in Punta Arenas where the highlight was the penguins as already described in great detail by Dani. The other highlight, at least for me, was learning all about the Endurance and Shackleton. Continue reading Patagonia – Punta Arenas