Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Tuesday: Rapa Nui, Puyehue, HydroAysén, & Record-Setting Lemonade

Today’s entry covers a series of recent items on Easter Island, the lingering effects of Volcán Puyehue, the HydroAysén controversy, and the world’s greatest lemonade (by volume; I’ve not been able to taste it).

Rapa Nui Wristbands
Things are changing fast on Easter Island. As I wrote a few months ago, Conaf (Chile’s national parks agency) has instituted a new annual pass (around US$20) that applies to all of Chile’s parks except, unfortunately, Torres del Paine and Rapa Nui. Now we learn that Conaf has instituted a new policy by which every passenger arriving at Hanga Roa’s Aeropuerto Internacional Mataveri will be required to purchase a wristband (US$20 for Chileans, US$50 for foreigners) to visit Parque Nacional Rapa Nui.

The passes will be valid for five days for all sites except the Orongo Ceremonial Village and the Rano Raraku quarry (pictured above), where all the island’s signature moai came from. Previously, those were the only archaeological sites where any charge was collected, and the new pass will entitle visitors to a single visit only to each site.

I’m personally ambivalent about such charges, because I dislike the differential charges for Chilean nationals and foreigners, as it simply assumes foreigners are more able to pay them. On the other hand, given that Easter Island is a relatively remote destination that’s expensive to reach, it’s hard to imagine that the fee difference would be a deal-breaker.

Ash Falling on Cape Town

The ashfall from Volcán Puyehue continues circling the planet and, as of yesterday, it disrupted flights from South Africa’s Cape Town International Airport. LAN Airlines, however, has announced the resumption of flights from Santiago to Auckland and Sydney, though its Argentine domestic operations to the airports of Bariloche, Neuquén, Comodoro Rivadavia and Río Gallegos remain suspended. The Chilean government is permitting evacuees to return to the Puyehue area, where their fields are covered in ash, but the worst victim of the ashfall appears to be the Argentine resort town of Villa La Angostura (where NBA basketball star Manuel Ginóbili has a home; pictured above before the eruption). From photos I have seen, Villa La Angostura is blanketed with ash, while the telephone service has collapsed; the central government has sent five million pesos (about US$1,250,000) in short-term assistance.

HydroAysen: One Step Forward, One Step Back

Following its approval by a government commission last month, the controversial HydroAysén dam and power project in wildest Patagonia (including the Río Baker, pictured above) has hit a judicial obstacle. An appeals court in the city of Puerto Montt has granted an injunction against HydroAysén pending resolution of a series of complaints from lawmakers, municipal authorities, and environmental groups. It is also possible that a number of local land-use referenda currently in progress in the thinly populated Aysén region could prove to be additional obstacles for the company.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Go for the Record
Best known as the cradle of Argentine independence, the northwestern city of San Miguel de Tucumán (pictured below) is where delegates to the Congreso de Tucumán declared themselves free of Spain in 1816. Though it enjoys mild winters, for much of the year it’s a hot, humid subtropical city that was long renowned for its sugar mills. According to the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, though, Argentina is now the world’s largest lemon producer - a fact I did not know - and, on Sunday, Tucumán residents made the Guinness Book of World Records by producing the world’s largest lemonade.

The relevant stats: 30,000 lemons, 1,100 liters of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 470 kg of sugar to produce 5,500 liters of lemonade - breaking the previous record of 4,359 liters in the United States. With high temperatures only around 15° C (roughly 65° F), Tucumanos might do well to save some of it for summer, when the mercury routinely climbs above 30° C (86° F) with Floridian humidity.

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