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Chile

Easter Island Expatriate Guide with Covid-19 Travel Report

Wolfgang Holzem

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Easter Island is a small Polynesian island that is a special territory of Chile, annexed in 1888. This island is inundated with archaeological sites including the famous 800-odd stone statues called ‘moai’, scattered on spooky land. These perplexing ‘moai’ creations offer great value to historians and nature lovers that can glimpse land, uninhabited by mankind. It is believed that these ‘moai’ were the creations of the early Rapa Nui. This English name originated from a Dutch exploration recording this on Easter Sunday in 172. In addition to the ‘moai’, Easter Island is a fantastic location offering avenues for water sports, surfing, hiking, horseback riding and the stunning white sandy beaches.

Getting around

Given that the Easter Island is more or less, a raw patch of land and except for the east coast road and the road to Anakena, other roads are unpaved. Outside Hanga Roa, the roads are dreadful. Many roads to archaeological sites are rough and unpaved, but are accessible nevertheless. Public transportation is unavailable. Tour companies offer the most convenient transportation, which can be offered. Motorcycles and bicycles can be used by tourists. You should carry your own water and food supplies.

Top Sight Seeing Places

The ‘moai’ is the unique and most popular attraction and has been declared a ‘world heritage site’, to enable their safekeeping. Walking on the moai or its platform (Ahu) is restricted. Only a handful of attractions require fees, particularly the parks – Orango and Rano Raraku. Entry tickets are available at many locations, including the airport. It is believed that each clan had its own Ahu and on this day, the remnants and ruins are visible, across the island.

The Rano Raraku and Rano Kau are stunning sites of volcanic craters. Rano Kau is an extinct volcano on the south-western side of the island formed of basaltic lava, 200,000 years ago. The Rano Kau has a crater lake. The crater itself spans about a mile and has its own microclimate. Protected from marsh and wet winds for most part of the year, this island is also home to several vines and figs. Though covered in a swamp of floating reeds, it serves as a fresh water source for the island. Most of the moais are created on the slope of the volcanic crater knolls.

Two beaches in the northern side of the Easter Island offer a breath-taking view. Anakena beach offers a great surfing location, while the Ovahe beach is desolated and surrounded by cliffs. Tourists may need to be aware of the treacherous route and walking is the best option. Ovahe is known to go through a sand-bathing phenomenon when all sand from the island gets washed away and is refilled again.

The widely popular Tapati Rapa Nui festival happens in February each year – celebrating the island’s Polynesian culture features an exuberant celebration featuring cultural events, music, dance and more.

Outside the Island

This island itself is tiny and therefore, a few days should be adequate to visit most of the island’s attractions. Piti Pont and Pantu offer animal rides. Seeing Easter Island while seated on a horse saddle is a typical Rapa Nui experience. More so, this is the natural way to visit the attractions A matrix of trails lead to several rendezvous points accessible via horse ride. These horse rides are accompanied by experienced trainers and tour guides. A handful of established tour operators can cater to your eco-tourism need in Easter Island. Enjoy this pristine spot, which is untouched by mankind and you are sure to fall in love with this picturesque destination.

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Former founder of Asiarooms.com and now reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as Thailand, Germany & Switzerland. Born near Cologne but lived in Berlin during my early teenage years. A longterm resident of Bangkok, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phuket. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu.

Chile

Antofagasta Expatriate Guide with Covid-19 Travel Report

Wolfgang Holzem

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The port city of Antofagasta is the capital of Antofagasta province and the second largest city in Chile, with a population of about 350,000. This city is jumbled with numerous one-way lanes, interspersed with Victorian and 21th Century structures and wearied dwellers; yet portrays a modern mall culture. Though the city is a major mining hub, the construction and tourism sectors are witnessing a hustle of activities. Antofagasta boasts the highest GDP per capita, within Chile.

Getting around

Antofagasta is a busy city, located north of Santiago and has one of the best bus transportation systems in Chile resulting, in a majority of the population using the public transport service, on a regular basis. There are at least 13 lines of minibuses in the higher transportation segment, each able to ferry about 30 people. Public transportation is referred to as TransAntofagasta, and frequency of buses is very high in comparison to other neighbouring cities. Most of these routes end in Caleta Coloso (Southern end of city) except in summer months, when the routes extend to outside of the main town to Balneario Juan Lopez. Although other modes of transportation such as rental cars, taxi cabs and motorcycles may be availed, they are not as popular.

Top Sightseeing Places

Terminal Pesquerois filled with blueberry male sea lions that are sniffing at the frequenting pelicans orbiting the savor-emitting crowded fish market. The fish market is located besides the Port Authority in the northern side.
The refurbished Museo Regional de Antofagasto in the refurbished Customs House, previously known as Aduana hosts a two storey history museum that captures the prehistoric and cultural evolutions of Antofagasta, in a succinct manner. Some of the artefacts preserved include paraphernalia from the nitrate era, deformed skull of humans, and tin cans that are assembled as toys. Notable is the logistics centre for military operations of the Chilean Army, dating back to the Pacific war (1879 – 1883) against Peru.

The Torre Reloj resembles the Big Ben of London, albeit smaller and chimes similar to the Big Ben. Its body is interspersed with Chilean and British flags to show the British community’s imprint in Chile and their affiliation to Antofagasta. Landscaped areas with bougainvillea and palms adorn the fountains at the base of the tower and pigeons are a common sight at this site, which is home to the Plaza Colon.

Overlooking the city and south of the Argentina Avenue, one cannot escape the panoramic view around the 19th Century British-Bolivian silver refining plant. The Ruinas de Huanchaca can be accessed from the downtown by accessing Colectivo 3 and alighting at Minas de Plata or the Silver Mines stop. It is located south of the City Centre. Tourists should not miss the ornate Resguardo Maritimo building with chocolate-colored wooden railings built in early 1900s as the coast guard stares at the dilapidated Nitrate Pier (Muelle Salitrero).

Outside the city

Monumento Natural La Portada, this huge offshore arch in a sprawling acreage, resting above a volcanic base shows signs of weariness imposed by the turbulent Pacific Ocean. Tourists cannot afford to miss the Hand of the Desert, a hand emerging from the earth. Located on the westbound lateral branching off the highway, it can be reached by accessing micro 129 route from Antofagasta’s Terminal Pesquero to the La Portada intersection and board a minibus connection or by taking 3 km stroll, in the beautiful summer.

A Quiet Fishermen’s Village is located about 65 km to the North of Antofagasta, where fishing is the mainstream activity and tourists get to see and feel the bustling fishing operations and the overpopulated seals, amidst the petrels and pelicans. This romantic village hosts many marine architectures and a modern port is located in the Mejillones District. Tourists from all over, flock to glance the limpid beaches and the historic customs building, dating back to 1866.

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Chile

Calama Expatriate Guide with Covid-19 Travel Report

Wolfgang Holzem

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Located in the northern part of Chile, this city is one of the most arid places in the world. Situated 2250 metres above sea level, this city has been dubbed the ‘bedroom city’ because most people would stop here for a night’s stay enroute San Pedro de Atacama. Calama is an economic hub as it propels though copper cash; therefore, it happens to be the pride of northern Chile. Signature copper is visible at all places, statues, walls etchings, copper-plated spire on the cathedral and more. The city has deep connections to Chuqicamata, as it inherited mining population from the copper mines of Chuquicamata. Calama is situated between the pre-Andean desert and the Pacific Ocean.

Getting around

Though Calama is situated on the northern banks of Rio Loa, it is by and large accessible for pedestrians. Typically, cabs or taxis and car rentals are the most common forms of transportation. Short cab rides takes tourists to Aeropuerta El Loa and San Pedro de Atacama. Numerous taxi colectivos to Chuquicamata leave from Abaroa near Plaza 23 de Marzo. Those renting cars to visit the geysers at El Tatio might find it hard to travel in car. A truck would be suitable for the rugged roads.

Top Sight Seeing Places

The most important local attraction in Calama is its mining history. The proximally located Chuquicamata, hosts the largest open pit mine in the world. Numerous tours commence near this pit and proceeds to Calama city after an immersion in the mining museum. The museum takes one through the arrival and struggles of the early miners and their numerous sacrifices that have catapulted Chile to international fame.

For those tourists who interested in religious and spiritual living, the Iglesia Cathedral San Juan Bautista located in shady Plaza 23 de Marzo at the end of Calle Ramirez stands the prominent copper- and -pinkish colored Cathedral. Near the southern end of the city center, there are some attractions like the Museo Arqueologico y Etnoloico, which is a small museum displaying the Atacama highland culture, palaeontology and the ecology of this region. Nearby is the Parque el Loa which has a riverside pool and a replica of Chiu Chiu’s church where tourists can unwind and relax away from the confines of a densely-miner town.

As tourists integrate with the miner’s town, one interesting activity is ‘eating with the miners’. The Club Social Empleados has been the dining room of choice for several decades. Here, the miners congregate to consume the unique menu provided daily. Though the dining room does not offer much of variety, it offers a great experience to get to know the miners, firsthand

Outside the city

Located about 100 km from Calama is a hamlet San Pedro de Atacama where the streets are al brown and lush with electric wires arising from tall buildings. Rich with desert around this city, it is the equivalent of an archaeological capital of Chile because like the human population, several of its remains are untouched, and offers great clues to the intellect minds. Needless to say archaeological and anthropological tours have mushroomed in this part of the world. Noteworthy is the Valley of Moon, also known as the sanctuary of nature unique for its morphological aspect of all tourists visiting San Pedro de Atacama. This place attracts huge crowd on full moon nights. The Valley of Death is apparently a sand dune suitable for hiking trips, sandboarding and paragliding.

Chuquicamata is home to the largest copper mine in the world and this mine is an engine to the Chilean economy. A 16 km bidirectional track separates the mine from the Calama city, and this mine supplied over half million tons of copper. On one side is San Pedro de Atacama and another is Calama, as they highlight the existence of different communities which is a tourist ensemble.

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Chile

Concepcion Expatriate Guide with Covid-19 Travel Report

Wolfgang Holzem

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Formally known as Concepcion del Uruguay, it is a strategic city located in the Central Corridor of Chile. It is not only economically important but also a politically significant town, attributed in part to the Chilean Independence Movement. With about 400,000 inhabitants, the manufacturing sector, port infrastructure and coal deposits have been a hot bed of economic activity and the Concepcion has become one of the top few economically powerful cities in Chile. Concepcion reminds the world of its mining past, including the Chiflondel Diablo mine in Lota area juxtaposed, amongst commercial and tourist spots. Concepcion serves as the entry point towards Southern Chile and is the capital of Bio-Bio region.

Getting around

Buses and taxi cabs are able to access almost the entire Concepcion metropolis. The bus terminus is just 10 blocks from the Plaza General Francisco Ramfrez towards the western side. Commuter trains service (BioTren) is available for mid- to long-distance travellers. Since it is a University town, most students speak or understand English, and therefore, it should be easy to ask around as well. Rental cars are also available for those interested in traveling to far away areas.

Top Sight Seeing Places

The Concepcion Basilica is a neo-classical shrine that displays an earthly-pink structure and a sunken crypt based on Napoleon Bonaparte in the Invalides in Paris. Laid out in marble, it hosts a statue of Justo Jose de Urquiza, the first President of Argentina. Majority of the sculptures and paintings, in the church, date back to the time of Spanish civil war!

The Universidad de Concepcion is the third oldest University in Chile and spread over three campuses – Chillan, Los Angeles and Concepcion. The Historical Museum (Galeria de la Historia) and the IsidoraCousino Park have been the foundations for the city of Lota. This museum paints a picture of the Concepcion history and culture, depicting life, 50 years ago.

The political mural La Presencia de America Latina is a great treasure found at the University Art Museum (La Casa del Arte). Designed by Mexican artist Jorge Gonzalez Camarena, who was a student of mural legend Jose Clemente Orozco, the Museum blends the indigenous people’s history and colonization by imperial powers. Numerous art work of Chilean artists are on display.

Chivilingo valley hosts Chile’s first electric plant. Located near Lota, today, this electric plant is a beautiful museum and sports a picnic area. Notable is also the Bauhaus architecture of buildings in the Concepcion downtown area. As Concepcion is an earthquake-prone city, it has been rebuilt multiple times in the past, starting with the rebuilding in the 1930s. The Cathedral facing the Independencia Square is a typical example of Bauhaus architecture.

Outside the city

The ostentatious pink Palacio San Jose located outside Concepcion (33 km), bordered by two twin towers and surrounded by gorgeous green gardens belonged to Justo Jose de Urquiza, the first President of Argentina. This beauty is set around a patio and was intended to showcase Justo’s architectural marvel and wealth to his rivals in Buenos Aires. Justo overpowered his rivals in all aspects and dethroned his rival Rosa, thus paving the way for modern and grand construction in Concepcion. Justo was murdered by a mob in his own bedroom in this palace and this room has been modified as a shrine by his family. Buses ferry tourists from Concepcion and drop 3 km before the palace and reach there by foot or use paid services.

Concepcion is known for its impressive trails and is a favourite spot for mountain climbers and hikers, especially in the Alto Biobio area.

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