Letter from Chile

by David & Patty Weber

David Weber, our former Managing Director and founder of R. Crusoe & Son, recently led his final Crusoe Hosted Journey accompanied by his wife, Patty. The Webers have been hosting journeys for years, globetrotting with small groups of travelers to Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and South America. Their experiences have had a profound impact on their lives, they’ve made some dear friends in the process, and their groups have experienced delightful and unusual travel.

R. Crusoe & Son will continue the beloved tradition of Hosted Journeys, led now by our new Managing Director, Brett Cumberland. Before digging into plans for his first foray, Brett would like to hear your ideas and suggestions for our next Hosted Journey. You can reach him at bcumberland@rcrusoe.com, or call him at 888‑490‑8001.

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Our recent Hosted Journey to Chile was a 12-day affair, with an optional post-tour three-day extension to Easter Island, one of the world’s most remote landmasses. Our group of 26 included many people with whom we’ve shared time on the road during previous Hosted Journeys. Many of them knew one another as well. It was a rare treat to be able to travel with a whole group of friends.

Chile had been on our radar for years. We’ve been looking forward especially to seeing both Atacama and Patagonia. They did not disappoint. The landscape was spectacular in a way that isn’t like anywhere else. We’re so glad to have finally visited.

Our Hosted Journey began in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. After we’d settled into our hotel (the exceptional Ritz, though there are other great properties in town), we toured the Pre-Columbian Museum to delve into Chilean history. After a wine tasting and dinner, it was off to bed.

There was bustling La Vega Market to explore, and a handicrafts village to peruse before we flew off to the Atacama Desert, a 600-mile long swath along the Pacific west of the Andes.

We had arrived at the driest desert on Earth. Our group spent two nights in the Explora Atacama Lodge, a terrific property with a truly amazing staff.

  • Stargazing in the Atacama Desert is out of this world.

We went to this high-altitude desert to learn about its unique nature, history, culture, and archaeology, and we did so in whatever way each of us chose—on horseback, bicycle, foot, or in vehicles. We examined volcanoes and geysers, petroglyphs and eerie moonscapes. In small villages, we learned firsthand about age-old traditions and heard the local folklore.

And there was the stargazing. Atacama offers some of the most astounding views we’ve ever had of the southern sky. Stars and planets shone in the blackest sky we’ve ever seen—in spite of the full moon. In the company of the expert Explora staff, we took a “tour” of the universe. It was mesmerizing.

Another flight took us far south to Punta Arenas, our gateway to Chilean Patagonia. This was an interesting town, a whaling port and the heart of South America that was developed most quickly by 19th-century European settlers eager to start new lives in the New World. The diverse population—Germans, Italians, Russians, Croatians—came to establish sheep farms and mine for gold. As you can imagine, the culture here today is markedly different from the rest of Chile.

Next, to Port Natales, where we settled into the Singular, a fantastic property built in an old leather factory. What a great experience. The Singular was hip and modern, with a talented chef who fed us extremely well. The hotel designers made it a point to keep the old structure intact, so staying here was like living inside a museum.

We took a boat ride to Serrano Glacier with its amazing views. And, of course, there were options for activities of all sorts—horseback riding, hiking and walking, visits to town.

Then it was time to explore Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. The Cordillera del Paine is the centerpiece of the park, its three jagged “towers” simply stunning. There were waterfalls to visit, vistas to appreciate, easy, moderate, and more difficult guided hikes to complete, horseback rides to enjoy, spa treatments and hot tubs to address tired muscles…

A boat took us to Grey Lake, into which Grey Glacier periodically calves. Here we were treated to a brief geology lesson and a remarkable look around. A few of our more energetic travelers spent the day hiking to the base of the Torre Del Paine, an unforgettable experience for them.

Finally, it was back to Santiago, where a few members of the group headed home, and the rest of us continued on to Easter Islands for a three-day visit.

Easter Island is home to those mysterious moai statues you’ve seen in the pages of National Geographic. During our incredible visit, we were accompanied by Sergio, not only a native of the island, but also one of the lead archaeologists studying the massive moai. He was a perfect guide, explaining the ancient rock statues and how they were moved into position (the scientists think they’ve finally figured that out), as well as illuminating the customs and lives of the islanders, who are Polynesian. It was a pleasure getting to know Sergio and his homeland.

If you love nature, if you enjoy being in the wilderness, if you long to wake up to the splendor of unspoiled surroundings, Chile is a phenomenal country. It is not for those who enjoy sitting and observing or for those most interested in haute cuisine and hours in fine art museums. This is an active destination, so prepare to move!

Interested in visiting Chile? Contact Jane Franklin at jfranklin@rcrusoe.com, or call 888‑490‑8019.

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