Last year’s family vacation to Thailand took a slightly unexpected detour from the typical family vacation that one might imagine, quite early on in the trip. Our very first day in Bangkok, my husband (at the recommendation of a travel agent) booked a tour for our family, which seemed promising, visiting all the sights of the city and beyond for the next three days. Halfway into the first day of touring, completely fed up of the otherwise lovely guide’s directions of “okay stop, take picture HERE, let’s go” we feigned sickness and cancelled the remainder of the guided touring, preferring to walk the city at our own pace, at times stopping and admiring a view for an hour, other times merely passing for a few minutes. This set the tone for the rest of the incredible vacation- we strayed well off the beaten track (aided by a combination of the wonders of online research and chatting with locals) and realized how much more we loved it.
Keeping this in mind when planning this year’s trip, we left the beaten track so far behind that paved roads were only a distant memory by the time we arrived back home. We began in Santiago, but only for several hours (all of them spent celebrating New Year’s Eve in an incredibly bright street festival) finding that after coming from the chaos of New York City we needed some time out in the country. We took a small plane to Balmaceda, in the northern part of Patagonia, where we then drove nearly seven hours on dirt roads in order to reach our hotel. Once there, we spent several days roaming the countryside hiking, taking a boat ride into the otherworldly marble caves of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, and generally acquainting ourselves with all the local dogs and horses. One particularly memorable moment was one morning as we were walking from the cabin we were staying in towards the hotel lobby for breakfast, and were headed off by a string of around 8 wild horses. Rendered completely motionless with wonder, we watched, awestruck, as they galloped past us and through the field across a narrow strait separating two small lakes. That incident, which lasted only a minute or two, was so surreal that it seemed as though it had happened in a dream.
From there we continued on farther south through Patagonia, to the Torres del Paine National Park, where a few more days were spent kayaking between glaciers and hiking up the miradors (viewpoints) that seemed to be around every corner. For our last leg of the journey, we took a series of flights that ended with us landing in the most remote airport in the world- Mataveri on Easter Island. We spent two nights on the ethereal island, exploring and experiencing the unreal sight of nighttime sky four thousand miles away from any light pollution.
The two weeks were unlike any other trip we had taken in the past (partially inspired by my husband and daughter’s recent weekend in Iceland)- we experienced some of the most dramatic views of our lives, an extreme sense of remoteness that one doesn’t even imagine to exist in these times, and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met! All in all, not too bad of a vacation...