Thursday 30 November was the day of the Newton conference. Although I was working a full day, Tammay finished up at 12:00.

By 17:00 I was leaving my desk to meet Tammay who had headed back to St Paul's. We got a taxi from my office for our 22:00 flight to Santiago.

To Santiago

At 14h 40m the flight from Heathrow to Santiago, which was only introduced at the beginning of 2017, was the longest route offered by BA at the time. It was a good job we were flying business!

Ritz Carlton, Santiago

Friday 1 December we arrived at the Ritz Carlton at 11:30am but amazingly our room was ready. After a quick shower we headed out.

We were first ‘fleeced’ by Starbucks who charged £9 for two Frapaccinos (yes we could have gone somewhere else) and then by Santander who charged £6 for ATM withdrawals.

We ventured onto the metro, making our way from El Golf to Baquedano, for the foot of Santiago Metropolitan Park - a small steep-sided mountain rising from the flat plain of the city.

We sensibly tried to take the funicular railway to the top but Tammay was informed it was closed. Little did we realise the cable cars were still running.

The San Cristobal statue

We started out with the steady climb along the road but came across a footpath marked on the map. It was very steep and very poorly defined to the point where we were unsure where to go next.

Undaunted, and picking up a companion (who didn’t speak any English) along the way, we pressed on and finally made it to the top of the mountain. Back to civilisation!

The Santiago Metropolitan Park cable car

After walking around the San Cristobal statue we sensibly took the cable car back to the bottom (on the other side of the mountain), stopping at the Costanera Center mall for a quick snack on our way back to the hotel.

Evening in Santiago

After a quick snooze we went back out for a walk around the block before settling in at the Ritz Carlton bar for Pisco Sours and a few snacks.

Tierra Atacama

Saturday 2 December, an early start before our 10am flight from Santiago to Calama for our next stop at San Pedro de Atacama. The hotel seemed reluctant to order us a taxi and instead offered us a ‘premium’ Ritz transfer. After we said a standard taxi was fine they provided a hotel transfer at the same price.

The check-in queue was really long but pointing at Tammay’s BA Gold card resulting us being ushered along a separate row that took us directly to the front of the line (I was thankful I hadn’t succumb to the urge to duck under the barriers to avoid what initially looked like a zig-zagging route to the back of the long line). Using the priority queue at boarding meant we were at least on the first bus out to the aircraft and therefore had no trouble getting space in the overhead bins.

This was our room at Tierra Atacama. We had a lovely view of the volcano.

Atacama Desert & Tierra Atacama

After checking in at Tierra Atacama we lost no time and went to the spa.

Running Atacama

As the sun got a little lower in the sky I went out for a run around the block with Tammay following on a bike. The town has an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet (2,400m) which I didn’t think I’d notice but only 100m in and I was already breathing quite hard! The 4km run was way more tiring than a similar run near sea level.

Death Valley by moonlight

We signed up for a moonlit night walk in Death Valley with Victor. The light of the moon was just enough for us to make our way along the ledge.

Using a slow shutter speed we managed to get a few interesting moonlit shots of the valley and the landscape beyond - these are in the gallery at the top of the page.

After our walk we arrived at this camp fire where we were served hot drinks.

Moon Valley hike

Sunday 3 December we took a morning hike in Moon Valley with JJ.

Atacama salt flat

That afternoon we went on a tour of the Atacama salt flat including Chaxa Lagoon and the flamingo reserve with Natalia.

We stayed for drinks and snacks while watching sunset.

Hike to Puritama Hot Springs

Monday 4 December we took a morning hike from Guatin towards Puritama Hot Springs with Natasha. I had woken up feeling a little under the weather and sure enough half way through the hike I barfed! Thankfully there was no one else in our group.

Before arriving at the hot springs we saw an adult hawk trying to coax its two offspring away from their nest.

We took an afternoon hike through Death Valley with JJ. We walked the same ridge as on our moonlight hike and ran down two big sand dunes.

El Tatio Geysers

Tuesday 5 December and a very early start. The 90 minute drive to El Tatio Geysers meant leaving the hotel at 5am so we’d get there for sunrise. At 4300m it was very cold even after the sun had appeared. We walked around the two different areas of the National Park and finished with breakfast overlooking the geyser field.


On our way back we stopped at a couple of beautiful lookouts (photos in the gallery above) and also saw flamingos, wild vicuña, llamas and mountain rats/rabbits known as Viscacha.


We also walked around this tiny desert town called Machua.

We had time for a quick lunch back at the lodge before the journey back to Santiago.

We spent the night at the Holiday Inn opposite the airport terminal. Feeling rather unhealthy after a few days of three course meals I went for a run in the gym.

Journey to Easter Island & Explora Rapa Nui

Wednesday 6 December and another early start which almost turned into a disaster when the check in desk told us the flight was closed even though we were there in plenty of time. After a bit of arguing, they found someone to escort our suitcase to the plane and they let us proceed to the gate. On the bright side Starbucks was doing a 2 for 1 offer on their wildly overpriced frapaccinos!

As we boarded we wondered if our suitcase would be accompanying us on the journey. I was amazed they were flying a massive 787 to the tiny Easter Island. Upon later reflection we realised that the plane would have to be carrying enough fuel for the 5 hour flight plus a further 5 hours of fuel in case it was diverted back to Santiago which was basically the closest airport. We were in economy but thankfully the seats were larger and more comfortable than on the flight to Santiago the previous day.

Arrival at Explora, Easter Island

Upon arrival on Easter Island we were greeted by the Explora staff and presented with garlands. We were also very grateful to see our suitcase had not been left behind in Santiago!

We were whisked off to the beautiful hotel.



After checking in we had lunch and a wander around the property.

Ahu Akahanga

Our first "exploration" of the island was a short hike to Ahu Akahanga on the coast. After a short walk and talk around the site we found sundowners and snacks waiting for us. We also found a friendly dog who obediently waited for scraps to be thrown his way.

After discussing our plans for the next day we settled down to a lovely meal.

Ahu Tahai

To top off a busy day we made a sunset trip to Ahu Tahai.

Ahu Tahai

Tammay took a few time-lapse videos while I shot a few photos and the sun slowly went down behind Ahu Tahai.

Sunrise run

Thursday 7 December I woke early for a sunrise run along the coast. There were two dogs in residence at the hotel and this guy ran with me for the entire distance.

I managed to put in 6.8km but little did I realise it was actually a fair distance along the lane from the hotel to the coast. The uneven surface also made it a bit of a challenge.

The Rano Kau volcano hike

We had a leisurely 9am start for the Birdman hike with our guide Juliana. It involved a 20 min ride to Vinapu and Ahu Tahira.

After a short walk around the site we headed up the steep sided Rano Kau volcano. Juliana took off at a decent pace taking us to some beautiful viewpoints of the crater.

The Rano Kau volcano

From the top you could see the Birdman Island (Motu Nui) where the competitors of the original competition went to collect the famed egg. We carried on around the top of the crater before getting picked up by the van and taken the short distance to the old town of Orongo where they have restored 50 of the 52 stone houses.

The Quarry

After lunch back at the hotel we departed on our afternoon excursion to the quarry (with Pepe). This is the site where they believe all of the Moai were carved. We had an interesting walk & talk around the site where we could see many Moai at different stages of the carving process. The walk ended up at another beautiful crater lake. It was then back to the hotel for another large meal (with the group).

Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

Friday 8 December we had a very early start with a 06:30 taxi to Ahu Tongariki for sunrise. There was a slightly rocky start when the driver reminded us we needed our National Park passes but the lodge never actually gave them to us! Luckily we found them with the security guard and made it in plenty of time for sunrise.

Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy. We only managed to get a hint of sun popping up over the horizon before the heavens opened up. We decided to give up and head back for breakfast.

Coastal hike

After a short break we headed out on our second excursion of the day (with Meamea) and it was still only 9am. We drove to Ahu Mahatua where we started a long hike along the coast to Playa de Ovahe.

It was a beautiful coastal walk, pretty rugged but flat. At Playa de Ovahe, the van picked us up for the final part of the journey to the only swimmable beach on the island, Playa de Anakena, which also has a platform of 6 Moais (Ahu Nau Nau) which were the best preserved on the island as a result of being buried in the sand. A couple of the group decided to go for a swim but we decided it was too cold to brave the Pacific waters.

Ahu Akivi

Once finished we headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch before heading out to the caves and coast hike (with Bruno). Firstly, we stopped at the 7 Moais, Ahu Akivi, the only statues facing the ocean.

A cave with a view

From here there was a short drive to the start of the hike which took in two different caves, the second of which had beautiful "windows" out towards the ocean.

Ahu Tahai

The trip ended up in the main town of Hanga Roa, on the beach with Ahu Tahai (which has the only fully restored Moai, with the coral eyes). We then headed back to the lodge and along the way decided that, after two long days covering more than 20km of hiking, we would take it easy the following day...

...but somehow, between then and sitting down with the guide, we ended up booking a sunset trip to town and agreeing to see the guide play in his band at a local bar!

A night out in Hanga Roa

After taking a few night shots at Ahu Tahai we met Jonathan and Stuart at a bar in town.

Me and Jonathan.

A night out in Hanga Roa

Tammay and Stuart.

We also signed up for another sunrise trip back to the 15 (hoping for a clear morning) and another two trips (Top Knot quarry and an "easy" trip to photograph the 15 in the afternoon light.

Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

Saturday 9 December thankfully we were rewarded for our dedication and we witnessed a beautiful sunrise.

Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki

Running back

Following our sunrise experience I waved goodbye to the rest of the group and started out on a run back to the hotel.

Running back

It ended up being a sedate 12km run. Very few vehicles passed by and this time I didn't have a running companion.

Puna Pau

During the morning we took a tour with Richie that made three stops. The first was at Puna Pau, the top knot quarry.

Ahu Huri A Urenga

At Ahu Huri A Urenga we saw a lone moai thought to act as an astronomical statue.

Ahu Hanga Tee

At Ahu Hanga Tee we saw 7 moai all lying down in a row.

Ahu One Makihi

During the afternoon we took a tour with Bruno to Ahu Tongariki and Ahu One Makihi (yellow stone).

Hanga Roa museum

Sunday 10 December and a more relaxed last morning on Easter Island. After breakfast we visited the museum in Hanga Roa (the main town on the island).

We made one final stop at Ahu Tahai and also called at a craft centre where we bought a wooden Moai statue as a souvenir.

Leaving Easter Island

After getting back to the hotel to check-out and have a quick lunch we made our way back to the airport for our 14:55 flight back to Santiago.

We were once again spending the night at the Holiday Inn, but after arriving at 22:00 we only had 5 hours until we needed to be back at the airport to check-in for our flight to Patagonia.

Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa

Monday 11 December and a very early wake-up call for our 05:15 flight to Punta Arenas. Fortunately no drama during check-in this time round and we got another 2-4-1 Starbucks!

After landing we found no one waiting for us at arrivals but a quick call to the travel agents told us that the transfer wasn’t till 10am because we had to wait for another flight. After the 4 hour drive to the Torres del Paine National Park we were given a tour of the hotel before lunch.

It was a beautiful hotel in a stunning location.

Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa

The rooms were lovely with a large picture window with views of Lago Sarmiento de Gamboa.

Lago Sarmiento

A time-lapse video of the view from our room. Clouds rolling over the mountains and across Lake Sarmiento. If only the weather had cleared up during the day!

Horse riding

After lunch we sat down with the guide and signed up to the crazily tough and very steep 26km climb up to the base of the Mirador del Paines. We also signed up for a more sedate afternoon horse ride through the forest. It turned out to be pouring with rain but once we were soaked it almost didn’t matter and we enjoyed the lovely ride. Patrick with Claudio the Gaucho.

Dinner with a view

Back to hotel for a jacuzzi and a swim. Followed by a lovely dinner with a view.

Mirador del Paine hike

Tuesday 12 December started with an early wake up, a quick breakfast and departure for the hike to Mirador del Paine (Base of the Towers) with Felipe and Thomas.

Mirador del Paine hike

We started out wrapped head to toe and ready for the cold. As we climbed and the sun rose in the sky, off came the layers and I was down to a base layer. As the path meandered into the mountains, taking us into and out of the shade, those layers were going back on and off again.

Mirador del Paine hike

At the top of the trail we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the towers.

We were so lucky with the weather which was perfect for the hike. The weather the following day was awful. It would have been a real shame to have reached the top and been unable to see the towers!

Mirador del Paine hike

By the end of the hike we'd all achieved some serious exercise goals!

Cornice hike

Wednesday 13 December and a morning cornice hike with Patro where we saw Condor, Black chested buzzard eagle, Southern Karakara, White throated Karakaka.

During the afternoon we took a hike with Francio along Hunter’s Trail. We saw a lot of guanacos and a skunk. We took a trail just inside the park to some cave paintings.

Grey Lake

Thursday 14 December we took the long and bumpy drive to Grey Lake with Danny. Part way along the drive he spotted a puma making its way up a bank in the distance.

Grey Lake and boat out to the glacier. It was bloody freezing cold and wet!

We had lunch at Pampa Restaurant which was average at best.


Back to the hotel for a swim and jacuzzi. After packing we had dinner with Ryan, an entertaining lawyer from California.

The journey back to Santiago

Friday 15 December, after one final breakfast we left for the 4 hour transfer back to Punta Arenas for our flight back to Santiago. Half way along the drive we again stopped at Hotel Posada, Rio Rubens with its small roadside cafe. We noticed a map of the world on the wall but were still amazed to see the UK at the same distance from the equator as Patagonia!

Upon our final arrival back in Santiago we checked into Hotel Magnolia.

Cocktails at Hotel Magnolia

That evening we relaxed on the roof terrace with a few cocktails. A pisco sour for me!

10km in Santiago

Saturday 16 December and I started the day with a 10km morning run along Mapocho River.

After breakfast we took a walk to the top of Cerro St Lucia.

We walked around the streets of Bella Vista and ended up on a bench in Parque Forestal.

We had lunch at Casa Lastarria, sat outside in a lovely little square.

After lunch we took a walk around Plaza de Armas.

Dinner at The Singular

That evening we stopped at The Singular Hotel for drinks on the roof terrace followed by dinner.

A final run along the Mapocho River

Sunday 17 December I went on a slightly longer 12.7km run along a more pleasant route, once again following the Mapocho River, but this time to the north east.

Cerro St Lucia: Japanese garden

After breakfast Tammay picked up another Starbucks and we planned to relax on the hotel’s roof terrace, however this was closed, so we instead sat in the Japanese garden in Cerro St Lucia and read the Sunday paper.

Santiago Airport