ESCAPESEEKER “CHILE: LONG, LEAN, and SIMPLY SPECTACULAR!” Story by Mel Gee Henderson with Photography by Weston Hall

Beginning our approach towards Dunas de Chulacao...the beautiful horses at Explora's stables are so well cared explore the unique landscapes of Atacama on horseback, well, it doesn't get any better than this!

Weston's usual "quick draw" outfit enables him to never miss the perfect Kodak--oops, I mean NIKON moment! I've always known he could shoot on snow skis, but shooting the Atacama sand dunes from a horse? Well, Weston, you're taking "drive by shooting" to a whole new level! We're all impressed and grateful for the stunning documentation of our non-stop Chilean adventure!

San Pedro de Atacama, CHILE —  ESCAPESEEKER Advance Research Team prepares to put the finishing touches on our indescribable,  ambitious and unforgettable assignment:  To travel the full length of The Republic of Chile in 16 days, seeking out the most SPECTACULAR ESCAPES this long, lean ribbon of land has to offer!   Chile is 4,300 kilometres (2,700 mi) long and on average 175 kilometres (109 mi) wide. Its diverse climate ranges  from the world’s driest desert – the Atacama in the north from where I am currently writing this report–to it’s more Mediterranean climate, the vineyard-dotted landscape in the center, to a rainy temperate climate in the south–showcasing the breathtaking Patagonia peaks.

Weston Hall, "Escapeseeker" and Roy Henderson, members of the Advance Research, pinching ourselves time and time again at the magnificence of the opportunity we have been given to explore this awe-inspiring country of Chile.

With the tremendous in-kind support of LAN Airlines USA and Turismo Chile, on February 6th our team, comprised of yours truly, Weston Hall, our Chief Stills Photographer, and Co-Executive Producer, Roy Henderson,  began our journey from LAX onto LIMA, changing planes and continuing on to Chile’s capital city–Santiago, where we then boarded LAN’s domestic flight to Punta Arenas.  At Punta Arenas airport, we were picked up by the team from EXPLORA PATAGONIA to begin our 5-hour drive to Hotel Salto Chico, the only  lodge at the center of Torres del Paine,  our first home base while we explore Chile’s breathtaking Parque Nacional.

Waking up to this view of El Paine Massif from our suite at Hotel Salto Chico is the ultimate gift for traveling the long distance. Our team would do it again in a heartbeat! Covering an area of 242,242 hectares (598,593 acres), the park was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, ensuring that its preservation will be enjoyed by future generations. Thank you UNESCO!

ESCAPESEEKER CHILE Research, Part 1: Explora Patagonia, Hotel Salto Chico

Gives whole new meaning to the term, "Room with a view"...You too, can ask for Suite #5

Get ready to GASP! I’m happy to report that upon setting our eyes at this unbelievably beautiful El Paine Massif of Parque Nacional as it is further illuminated by its reflection in the turquoise waters of the Lago Pehoe, no one on our team even felt the fatigue of traveling the long distance from Los Angeles to Patagonia to witness such tremendous natural beauty.   We were welcomed by Rosario of Hotel Salto Chico who made absolutely sure we were happy with our accommodations.  As a matter of fact, we were more than satisfied.  Take a look…kid you not, this image of our room has not been photo-shopped…what you see is what you’ll get when you step into this EXPLORA Patagonia destination!

After unpacking, we were introduced to Cristobal, “Cris” (a native of Santiago) who had been assigned to serve as our guide during the next 3 days of our Patagonia research.  Cris was very thorough at providing us with various Explora excursion options based on our objectives.  Cris explained that Patagonia was very close to his heart, ever since his parents brought him to Parque Nacional as a young child, and year after year his family would return.  As Cris expressed, “Patagonia eventually guided my choice of studies in school and ultimately my choice of profession, as it filled me with such a love for nature, and it doesn’t get any better than Patagonia!”  He adds, “I love guiding for Explora…the people I meet are exceptional, and I cannot think of a better job than telling people about my beautiful country.  It’s also a great way to stay in shape!”

Cris retrieving me from Hotel Salto Chico dock so we can begin our horseback riding experience with the Explora Gauchos. Can you imagine riding through the Patagonia pampas at sunset? Pinch Me Moment # 55! I love the EXPLORA Patagonia life...

We agree Cris.  If only we didn’t eat so much of the delicious cuisine offered to us at every meal, we might have actually lost some pounds.  But after exploring the park each day–often on foot or horseback, and lasting many hours–we were more than happy for the glorious and diverse menu.  You may wonder, how can we eat so well while located in such a remote pristine part of the world?  Well, it’s all part of what EXPLORA calls “Luxury of the Essential.”

For EXPLORA, Luxury is about the experience, not the appearance, as each destination strives to offer luxury by focusing on the essential, on providing exactly what the travelers need to make every aspect of the journey as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.  And that concept also inspires the food that is prepared–original flavors, many from recipes that are indigenous to the region which have been used for centuries by the local people.  The food we quickly discovered is designed to be healthy and well-balanced–exactly what our active bodies were craving –the fuel we needed to continue trekking and exploring.

Elegant, nutritious dining in the middle of the most remote, pristine National Park...simply unexpected, but sincerely appreciated. Roy, Cris, and I make the very tough decision of choosing the Chef's evening special!

If you’re looking to find an ideal “escape destination” that provides more than just a luxurious room…one that offers mind-expanding, soul-enriching, often life-changing experiences that makes you feel alive and well…EXPLORA is tailor-made for you.

Our talented film team cannot wait to return to capture Patagonia’s pristine beauty, and her abundant wildlife in sheer high definition cinematography.  We, too, like EXPLORA, will strive for authenticity and excellence as we pay our cinematic tribute to this incredible region of the South American continent.  CHILE, you sure know how to grab at our hearts, and never let go, from the moment we set foot on your soil, all we want to do is to keep on exploring, delving into your geographic diversity.

GLACIER GRIS...we hiked 13 kilometers to arrive at the point where we were able to board this vessel designed especially to navigate these iceberg filled waters. Millions of years ago, successive waves of geological and glaciological phenomena gave rise to the complex geography of this park, including valleys, rivers, lakes and glaciers such as this one which have broken off from the southern Patagonian ice field, one of the earth's largest freshwater reserves.

Ari Bermann (our Santiago Guest Talent) and Joyce Zylberberg, ESCAPESEEKER Associate Producer-Chile. Ari and Joyce are the perfect examples of Chilean hospitality and kindness. These two extremely bright, hard-working, Chileans may explain why the future of Chile grows ever brighter. I'm thrilled to be able to capture the vibrant energy of Santiago as seen and experienced through Ari's eyes!

But for this ESCAPESEEKER, the real bonus is getting to know so many new Chilean friends.  Your warmth, and ever present, “Hola, Como Estas,” immediately makes even the lone foreigner feel like a part of the Chilean family…and ultimately, it is these Chilean smiles and welcoming eyes that is the window to the country’s greatest treasure:  It’s people!  Our team feels so ever blessed to have the opportunity to share our experience with our travel-loving audience.  I hope you will continue to welcome the world with open arms, as you have our ESCAPESEEKER team.

Con sincero agradecimiento, Vamos a regresar lo antes posible.

Here’s to Endless Blissful ESCAPES,

Mel and the entire ESCAPESEEKER team

PS:  Stay tuned to ESCAPESEEKER CHILE, Part 2:  ISLA de PASCUA, (Easter Island), RAPA NUI, the world’s most remote inhabited island.  It is separated by 3,700 kilometers (2,236 miles) from the American continent at its nearest point:  The Chilean coast.  Pitcairn Island, the nearest inhabited place, is almost 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) to the southwest.  You won’t want to miss a single beat (or picture) of our ESCAPESEEKER report, when we prove once again, that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult, or too SPECTACULAR to reach!

Pre-underwater activities, I thought I better leave some tracks on the sand in case I need to be found. 🙂 🙂

With each Rapa Nui hiking adventure, we are rewarded with an unforgettable view of the endless horizon. That's when you realize just how remote this island truly is!

The RAPA NUI EXPLORA Guiding Team!

With our expert EXPLORA guides, we were able to learn more about the ancient culture of the island, the ancestral archaeological remains of previous generations, especially through the moai, which at last count stands at 1025! The island's mystique is ever present. I cannot wait to utilize nature's light to project the island's mystical energy on film...just as shown on this 15 moai image by our Chief Stills Photographer, Weston Hall.

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