A Travellerspoint blog

November 2019

Around the World in 20 days - seventh stop, Chile

Exploring Easter Island

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We boarded our plane bound for Easter Island and were greeted by a scary, mask faced Pilot along with the rest of the crew dressed up as usual.
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We landed on Easter Island early evening and were taken on a little tour of the island with a quick stop on the way to our accommodation. We were taken to a little settlement which was used temporarily during their annual competition to swim to a neighbouring island and retrieve an egg! As we were such a large group on a very small island we were spread out over 4 hotels for our last night of the tour - thankfully we ended up with a bunch of people we had got to know quite well over the previous 3 weeks.
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We set off early the next morning for our tour of the island and to see many of the famous heads - Moai. Easter Island is a beautiful place and I loved our time there even though it was short. The statues are around 1500 years old and there are hundreds of them varying in size from around 1m up to almost 10m. The largest one, if it had been completed, would have been 21m but it is still lying in the Rano Raraku quarry not quite complete. Some of them weigh over 80 tonnes so it is a remarkable feat that they were transported all over the island and even to this day nobody quite knows how. Many of the Moai have had to be restored as for one reason or another they have toppled over. Some are still lying how they fell but it all adds to the charm. There are more than 900 moai on the island with almost 400 still located in the immediate area around the quarry.
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All too soon it was time to board the plane for the final time.

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Our final flight was memorable for a few reasons.... each flight passengers were invited up to do the safety brief (I had had my turn a few days earlier) and today was Gerald's turn!
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It also happened to be my birthday so the Qantas Crew came and sang Happy Birthday to me whilst making me wear a silly hat and hold a plush toy birthday cake! They then took a Polaroid photo of me and them as a keepsake along with a birthday card.
We flew over the South Island on our return to Sydney and it was looking pretty stunning.
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Once we landed at Sydney there were lots of farewells with fellow passengers. It was hard to believe the trip was over. We made lots of amazing memories and thoroughly enjoyed every destination visited.

Posted by bumblebum 19:35 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Around the World in 20 days - sixth stop Peru

Chiclayo and Trujillo

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The majority of the Constellation Journeys passengers headed to Machu Picchu for the next stop but as we had been there before we decided to take advantage of the alternative destinations on offer - Chiclayo and Trujillo. Once we touched down in Lima our small group of 16 headed off to catch a domestic flight to Chiclayo. We arrived but unfortunately our luggage didn't. Apparently the flight was too full so the airline decided to not to put the bags on as it would be too much weight! Fortunately they came on the next flight.

The first destination we visited was Huaca Rajada (Sipan) which is a Moche archaeological site dating from 50-700AD but was only discovered in 1987 when an El Nino finally eroded some of the tombs away revealing the treasures inside. Apparently, locals woke up to discover the treasures and looting began. One local was too late to the party so reported the others to the police but sadly only 10% of the treasure was recovered. Because of thousands of years of erosion the pyramid tombs looked like hills of dirt but now it is clear to see the area is full of pyramids which are slowly being excavated.

As the area has been excavated the items in the tombs now are just replicas but the site shows how there were burials over 3 levels and that sacrificial ceremonies were part of the burial. All around the site were very cute Burrow Owls, aptly named as they live in burrows.
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We also visited a place called Tucume with a further 26 pyramids including a partially excavated pyramid with ocean themed murals. Tucume also had a small museum containing some of the ceramics and smaller jewelry items that were excavated.
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Later that day we visited Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan which is where all the items that were recovered or subsequently excavated are now exhibited. Sadly I have no photos to share as photography was prohibited but the 'treasures' were well worth seeing. Lord Sipan along with several other people sacrificed with him were buried adorned in precious metals and jewels along with ornate and beautifully decorated ceramics filled with food and drink, carvings and animals such as llamas. It was a fascinating place to visit.

The next morning we had a 4 hour drive to reach Trujillo, another pretty colonial city. We had a quick city stop before heading to see the sun and moon temples and the city of Chan Chan.
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Chan Chan was constructed around 850AD. It is huge, covering around 20 square kms, and is being painstakingly renovated. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986.
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We had a lunch stop by the beach before heading to the Sun and Moon Temples.
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We spent time on a guided tour of the Moon Temple which is located about 500m from the Sun Temple. The Moon Temple is a monument that has been modified during different time periods. As it has been excavated archaeologists have uncovered layers of large multi coloured murals depicting the Gods that they worshipped at that time. It was a very impressive place.
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After a long, busy day we flew back to Lima for a night in the Wyndham Airport Hotel ready for our flight to Easter Island the next morning, but that's a whole new blog....

Posted by bumblebum 15:34 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Around the World in 20 days - fifth stop Colombia

Colourful Cartegena

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One of the perks of travelling on this tour with our own chartered plane was expedited airport experiences. When we landed at Cartegena we stepped off the plane to find buses at the bottom of the stairs. The buses drove us straight to our hotel, we didn't even step foot in the airport! We arrived late afternoon, settled into our room with a pretty good view and had a relaxing afternoon before dinner at the hotel.
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Saturday morning was spent on a walking tour of Cartegena's Old Town surrounded by a 11km stone wall. Cartegena is a 16th century port city on the Caribbean Coast. We visited the fortress first (another UNESCO site) and spent some time exploring and admiring the views from up high.
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The Old Town was beautiful with cobbled streets, colourful buildings and ornate doorways. We saw some very cute red squirrels playing in the trees but I couldn't get a decent photo as they were a bit too far away.
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After lunch we had free time and I had read that Cartegena had some great street art so Gerald and I decided to go in search of it and a couple of our group tagged along. Just outside of the city wall in the new town we discovered an abundance of amazing street art among the colourful buildings and down little laneways.
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After a couple of hours we took advantage of the shuttle bus Constellation Journeys had arranged and headed back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation by the pool before getting ready for our final gala dinner - the next part of the trip would see the tour head off in different directions so it was the last time we would all be together. The dinner was another impressive affair, held outside by the city wall. We were treated to more dancing and delicious food.
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The next day was our sightseeing option and we chose to visit the Colombian National Aviary set amongst 7 hectares of natural habitat. The aviary has set up different eco-systems and has almost 200 species on display. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and had the opportunity to get up close to some stunning birds. I loved the toucans.
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We ate dinner by the harbour that night with some of the group before heading back to pack for an early morning flight.

The crew had a great selection of costumes the next day - coffee, bananas, Ugly Betty and Miss Colombia to name but a few!
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Next stop Peru....

Posted by bumblebum 11:27 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Around the World in 20 days - fourth stop Spain

Barcelona and Montserrat

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Only a 2 hour flight from Malta we arrived in Barcelona at lunch time and so had time to familiarise ourselves with the city at our leisure instead of a guided tour for the rest of the afternoon. We had a wander around the area surrounding our hotel which happened to include the famous Gaudi building Casa Batllo.
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We had dinner in the hotel that night and a relatively early night ready for the next day's adventures.

We began the morning with a Flamenco lesson which was great fun and a good work out to make up for the fact that we were about to go and have churros and hot chocolate in the old town. We walked through gorgeous narrow lanes full of galleries, cafes and boutique shops.
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Today we were given cash to eat lunch wherever we liked, so on the recommendation of a friend, we chose to eat at Els 4Gats which is famous for being the meeting place for famous artists, such as Picasso, through the modernist era. We had a delicious tapas lunch before meeting up with the group for our afternoon tour.

Our first stop was La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's most famous building which is still under construction despite being started in 1882! Work is expected to finish in 2026. The Basilica tells the story of Jesus through its' intricate facades. It is a very striking building with an obvious change in architecture between the old and new.
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Despite having pre-purchased tickets the wait time to get in was painfully long. But it was when we entered the building that I really had my breath taken away - the wait was worth it! The stained glass windows, even on the overcast day that it was, cast the most beautiful colours over the interior of the building. It is just stunning.
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Next we headed to see Casa Batllo's interior on a guided tour. What an amazing and unique building!
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That night we had another amazing gala dinner, this time held in the beautiful Chamber of Commerce. More fantastic food and our entertainment for the night was a trio of Flamenco dancers which showed us how it really should be done!
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We left Barcelona the next morning for a trip to Montserrat, a beautiful place in the mountains.
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Montserrat has had a Benedictine community there for around 1000 years so we made a visit to the monastery.
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Montserrat is also a famous wine region so we visited Codonui, the oldest producer of cava. We had a guided tour of the cellars including a train ride through some of the 20 miles of hand dug cellars.
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We had a huge, late lunch before making the journey back to Barcelona. We were so full we couldn't face eating dinner so just headed out for a few drinks with some of the other passengers from the trip.

The next morning we were back to the airport for the next leg of our adventure. Once again the crew's outfits did not disappoint!
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Next stop, Cartegena, Colombia....

Posted by bumblebum 19:18 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Around the World in 20 days - third stop Malta

Valletta adventures

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We arrived in Malta late afternoon.
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We checked in, freshened up and then headed out for a dinner cruise around the harbour. We boarded our vessel and enjoyed the sun setting over the beautiful old city of Valletta. Our sailing boat came to a halt and all of a sudden there was a huge bang as a cannon was fired followed by several more. It turns out Constellation Journeys had arranged this spectacle for us.
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The next morning we were supposed to do a boat trip to the Blue Grotto but once again inclement weather meant this was cancelled, we had to make do with a photo stop from the cliff top.
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We then headed to the UNESCO World Heritage Tarxien Temples which date back to 3000BC and are one of the oldest freestanding buildings in the world. Parts of the temple are elaborately decorated. The site was used for rituals, most likely animal sacrifices.
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Lunch was in the picturesque fishing village Marsaxlokk. It is the island's main fishing harbour and full of traditional, brightly painted Maltese fishing boats.
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Our next stop was Valletta, another World Heritage Site. Not long after we arrived at the impressive entrance to the city it began to rain. As we were seeing the sights with our guide it absolutely poured down and we got drenched! We were given the option to return to the hotel which I, along with most of the rest of the group, decided to do. Gerald stayed on and visited the Grand Masters Palace and armoury and then St John's Cathedral which he said was ridiculously opulent. I only got a few photos of Valletta before the rain arrived.
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That night we had my favourite gala dinner of the entire trip. We were transported in restored vintage buses and taken to the beautiful 1530 building of the Knights Hospitaller. We arrived to people dressed in medieval costume, trumpet fanfare and flaming torches. A red carpeted staircase led us into a huge reception hall full of canapes and drinks. Then a velvet curtain the width of the hall was drawn back to reveal our beautifully dressed tables. We were treated to an amazing 3 course meal whilst a live band played for us. It was a magical night.
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Our time had come to an end in Malta and the next morning we were back at the airport and more hilarious outfits from our Qantas crew.
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Next stop, Barcelona!

Posted by bumblebum 23:09 Archived in Malta Comments (0)

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