When people ask us about a great option for single travelers, we always recommend Easter Island. We can easily match you up with small groups where you can meet other international travelers as you head off on daily explorations of the island's moai (stone figures). For many people, traveling to one of the world's most remote islands is one-in-a-lifetime experience, and one they will never forget.
We always love to hear back from our travelers with trips about our destinations. Here, Myths and Mountains traveler Donovan Wong from Las Vegas shares his thoughts on Easter Island.
How easy is it to walk around the main town, Hanga Roa?
DW: Really simple with the hotel Myths and Mountains booked for us as a base. You could easily do laps around town in less than an hour.
What can you share about money matters?
DW: Check your bank cards for ATM access such as PLUS or Cirrus before you leave home. We had to try a few banks before we found one that would take our particular cards, but it wasn’t an issue. Also don’t be surprised by the cost overall – it’s very isolated, and they need to bring all of their food from the continent. I think we paid upwards of $20 for a plate of spaghetti, as an example, and the rental car was easily over $125 per day.
Are there any foods that are a must-try on the island?
DW: While beef and pasta were okay, seafood was probably the best choice all the way through.
As Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck relates in her book, A Portrait of Bhutan, legend has it that the people of Tshona in Tibet were struggling to cut down a huge mountain in front of the palace of the tyrant Yarsang, in order to bring more light into his palace. No matter how hard they worked, the people were not able to make any progress at all, were desperate to tend their own fields and feed their own children, and were at a loss as to what to do. "Rather than cut down the mountain," suggested a beautiful young woman, Aum Jomo, "Let us cut off the head of the tyrant Yarsang."
Faced with this brilliant suggestion, the people arranged a great feast to honor Yarsang, saw to it that he got drunk, and then decapitated him. Staring down at the headless body of their former tyrant, the people realized the seriousness of their deed, and knew they had to flee their homes. Aum Jomo and their much-loved Lama Jarepa offered to lead them over the mountains to a new home.
Taking their yaks and sheep with them, the people of Tshona traveled for many months through the inhospitable land of Tibet, finally arriving at a very high pass. The majority, too tired to attempt to cross the high pass, turned back, wandering until they came to a wide valley on the top of a hill, that was covered with bamboo and rhododendrons. They named it Sakteng or "land on the top."
Sometimes an experience far from home can be a time for personal reflection and emotional restoration. That’s what Florence Meyers, from Hudson, New York, discovered on her recent Myths and Mountains trip to Myanmar with her husband, Victor.
During their trip, the Meyers’ guide, Saan, invited them to witness a special memorial ceremony for his father, who had passed away a month earlier. “We went to his house and met his mother and his sisters. Community members came to their home, and we all sat in the living room in front of the altar with a Buddha and flowers and other offerings,” Florence remembers. Then five monks were invited to come in. They sat down in front of the group, and chanted, with the community answering. Following the prayers, tables were set in front of the monks, who were served food on behalf of the community. “I had read in one of the guidebooks that the way the Burmese tend to their guests is that they feed you but don’t eat; they just make sure your plates are filled,” Florence says. “That’s what they did, and then they gave each monk an envelope containing money since the monks live only on offerings.”
Once the monks had finished and the remnants of their meal had been cleared away, Florence, Victor, and Saan were invited to sit down, and were treated to a meal in the same way. Along with the wonderful openness of the community, what made the experience even more special for Florence was the fact that her own mother had died two months earlier. “So in the midst of this frenzied two-week vacation I got a chance to sit quietly and think about my mother,” Florence reflects. “It enabled me to witness a ritual in a cultural context that had meaning. I have my own rituals in my religion, but this was Buddhist.”
Professional photographer Mirjam Evers, co-founder of Photo Quest Adventures (PQA) worldwide photography workshops, has traveled to and photographed more than 75 countries. Yet among all her journeys one of the most memorable was PQA’s recent Myths and Mountains trip to Nepal. “Some of the credit has to go to the country itself, the beautiful people and the gorgeous landscapes surrounding the snowy peaks of the Himalaya,” Mirjam reflects, “but I doubt I would fully appreciate the wonder of Nepal without the expert guidance of Toni Neubauer and the local guides.”
Nepal is a photographer’s dream, and Myths and Mountains “went above and beyond our expectations,” Mirjam says. “We were introduced to the real Nepal. We communicated with many of the local residents, experienced the impressive READ community centers, and, of course, were taken to some of the most beautiful places in Nepal, in perfect lighting conditions.” The October 2012 trip was so successful that PQA is already planning a return to Nepal.
Whatever the destination the beauty of travel photography is that, as Mirjam says, “It can celebrate the landscape and the human condition while also exploring larger issues. The travel photographer can address political and social issues while, at the same time, sharing intimate, profound moments that exemplify humanity.”
For travelers wishing to improve their photography, Mirjam offers the following tips:
Although Chile and Argentina do not require visas for US travelers, both countries require travelers holding US passports to pay a $160 reciprocity fee in order to enter. This amount is equal to the amount that Argentines and Chileans are required to pay for visas to enter the United States. To streamline the immigration process, new procedures will take effect at the end of the year in Argentina. It’s important to be aware of these changes since travelers who fail to follow the new procedures could find themselves stranded at the airport unable to enter country.
Starting December 28, 2012, US visitors to Argentina arriving on flights into either of the two airports in Buenos Aires (Ministro Pistarini International Airport, more commonly known as Ezeiza, and Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) must pay the reciprocity fee online in advance. Beginning January 7, 2013, online prepayment of the reciprocity fee will also be required for travelers crossing into Argentina by land and sea (although cruise ship passengers will be exempted from the fee until June 30, 2013). The receipt for prepayment must be shown upon arrival in Argentina. The website for payment is: http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/accesible/templates/reciprocidad/reciprocidad.htm