Saturday, February 09, 2013

Cusco to Lima to Easter Island

Occasionally on a trip like this, we are at the mercy of the elements. And so it was on the morning of February 7 in the old Inca capital of Cusco when we woke up to pouring rain and a very low ceiling high in the Andes Mountains. No flights were coming in from Lima and that is where our private transport was stationed to come and get us. So our staff arranged for a lecture - in none other than a former chapel on the grounds of our hotel, itself a refurbished monastery. We eventually made it to Easter Island to watch the sunset 2,300 miles out into the eastern Pacific and this is the story of our day.

The chapel at the Hotel Monasterio. In all of my years as a TCS & Starquest lecturer, I had never seen such a setting for a lecture.

One of my fellow lecturers, Barry Lopez gave an interesting talk entitled, "Why We Travel". Some of you may have read Lopez who won a National Book Award for "Of Wolves and Men". I can summarize his lecture by saying that he asked us to share our experiences about this trip. If we do not share them, then the trip is wasted and that sharing our stories and what we learn is the essence of why we are drawn to it. I guess that's what drives me to write this blog while traveling just slightly less than the speed of sound.

After a three and half hour delay, we climbed steeply out of the Cusco Valley and saw first-hand why they do not allow flights into this steep-walled valley when it is cloudy.

Approaching Lima on the Pacific coast, we could see large container ships anchored offshore

And leaving Lima I got a great view of the Miraflores area in Lima. It is a very fashionable district and this was the site of our first nights stay in Lima.

I thought I would include a few shots of the inside of our jet. This is my seat mate for the first half of our journey, Bob F. of Erie, PA. He is retired from General Electric and is a great person to share our time on the jet with. If you look closely beneath his glass of beer, you can see the plug to my computer. Each passenger has a three-prong plug at their disposal to recharge iPads, computers and cameras. It is a very nice amenity.

And here are my fellow lectures from left to right - Bob Smolik, Barry Lopez, and Richard Harvey, our trip physician.

The flight across to Easter Island from Lima lasted about 5 hours. This is a view of the Pacific near the island. I gave my second lecture of the trip, "The Volcanoes of Easter Island". It was well received and prepared us for what we about to see. We only landed 30 minutes passed our schedule - such delays as we experienced in Cusco are often preplanned for and can be managed for.

Here isa shot our the window as we approached the island. This is the Rano Kau shield volcano located in the southwest corner of the island.

Our pilots gave us a one hour tour encircling the island before we landed! Imagine doing a scenic flight in a Boeing 757 around Easter Island. This was easily the finest aerial tour I have ever experienced in my five trips to Easter Island. Here is a view back to the southwest over Poike shield vocano. Note the three lava domes on its northern flank. Rano Kau volcano is in the far distance and this view gives you a look at the longest length of the island - about 15 miles.

A close-up view of Poike volcano and two of its lava domes. These plugs of lava rock are composed of trachyte. In all my years coming to Easter Island I never knew these domes were here but the scenic flight gave me a great view of some of the hidden treasures here.

Fly-over of Ranu Raraku tuff cone where the statues of Easter Island were quarried from. There will be some views from close-up of this volcano in the next posting!

Another view of the Ranu Raraku tuff cone. Take a good look at this view! This is an exotic scene with a marvelous volcano. In the background is the South Pacific Ocean and it is over 4,300 hundred miles of completely open ocean to the shore of Antarctica. Wow!

Finally, a view of the west coast of the island looking south towards Hanga Roa village and the location of the islands runway - the most remote in the whole world and constructed as an emergency landing strip for the space shuttle and over 10,885 feet long.

On the ground, I get a chance to photograph our Explorer jet

She's a beauty! More later

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