We left for Easter Island on April 15 and planned to visit the world's most isolated, inhabited island for 6 days. The five hour flight went by relatively quickly but ended with the plane landing in a monsoon-like tropical storm. It is an odd feeling landing in such a remote area, especially at night when everything is pitch black until all of a sudden you feel the plane rattle on the landing strip.
We hadn't made any kind of reservations for accomodations and were pleased to find several local hostel owners pitching their accomodations right where the baggage claim was. We had heard this was the case and gambled on it being so, luckily it worked out because our options were very limited on this island of only 3000 people. We instantly met up with an Australian named Dion who was also staying at our hostel, which was centrally located in the capital city Hanga Rua. Hanga Roa is a small, charming city that acts more like a tiny village. There are many restaurants, bars and tourist stores but they all seemed to be relatively empty most of the time. In fact, the island felt quite empty most of the time.
The island is filled with wild horses and wild dogs. Every road you turn down has another heard of grazing horses on the side of the road, minding their own business without a care of your presence. The dogs will randomly walk up to you and follow you for miles, trotting beside you with the occasional glance up to remind you that they were there. We were told that the dogs can pick out the tourists and know that they have a better chance at getting food from them because they'll give in. So they follow you, and follow you, and follow you. It can get a little overwhelming when 5 or 6 of them start following you and they start getting frisky and wanting to jump up on you, especially the bigger ones. And you never know what kind of disease they may have so you can't really touch them either.
Dion, our Aussie mate, was a great companion on our journey throughout the island and we both really enjoyed his company and his stories as an Australian Navy Captain of a $40 million dollar military ship. We woke up early the first morning and after sorting out food and supplies we set off for a 4 hour hike to volcano Rano Kau where we were greeted by a massive, perfectly shaped volcanic crater filled with fresh water and vegetation. We were also given spectacular scenic views of the entire island from this height. We explored the area and ended our adventure with a cold beer on a patio overlooking the surfers and the northern horizen.
Of course one of the main attractions of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is called by its original people, is the mysterious ancient Moai statues and archeological sites that are scattered throughoout the tiny island. Being the worlds largest outdoor museum, we were eager to explore the island more and see the infamous Moai statues. So we teamed up with Dion again and rented a car for the day. Originally we had planned to rent ATV's for the island exploration but renting the car ended up being a brillant move because we weren't even able to see half of the islands treasures while travelling by car.
The clear highlights of the more than 20 archeological sights that we visited were Rano Raraku and Ahu Tongariki. We actually visited these areas twice during our brief stay on the island. For some reason you just cannot get enough of them when on the island. Rano Raraku is known as 'the nursery' because it is were the majority of the Moai were created. The moai were carved out of the side of the volcano and transported around the island. How is up for debate and thus the mystery of the moai. Rano Raraku has an eeriness about it and it definitely makes you scratch your head as to how and why these statues were made. There is a 21 meter giant moai, the largest ever carved, that is still attached to the earth, never fully completed. It is said that there are over 300 moai, including those never finished, abandoned or broken, throughout the Rano Raraku area. It truly does boggle the mind, especially after learning that it would take approx 30 men almost one full year to complete one moai statue!
Ahi Tongariki, the platform of 15 moai statues in a row, takes your breath away when you first come face to face with it and the landscape surrounding it. It is actually quite overwhelming. They are by far one of the most impressive things we've seen and experienced on our trip to South America.
We later visited the white sandy beach of Anakena where we were greeted with yet another platform of moai statues, all very different from the previous. I can go on and on about these archeological sites but it just does not do it justice. Even posting the pictures cannot capture the sheer size and detail. Do yourself a favour and look up the moai on Easter Island and learn about them and the mystery that surrounds them.
Nicole's birthday occured during our stay, which was somewhat intentional, and she went horseback riding up to the islands highest peak while Cameron and Dion went on a long 5 hour hike to the same point. The maps given to Cameron and Dion were not accurate and they had to literally make their own path through knee high grass with volcanic rocks hidden underneath. It was difficult with the intense sun beating down without a tree for shade in sight, but it was definitely a rewarding hike that will not soon be forgotten. In fact, it has been labelled as 'the world's most isolated hike on the world's most isolated island in the world'!
The island used to be very lush with vegitation and trees but their inhabitants used so many of the valuable resorces that this is one theory why they became extinct. While the men were on their hike, Nicole was galoping through the fields on a half english half western saddle. We went out for Nicole's birthday dinner and enjoyed an expensive bottle of Chilean red wine, ate ceviche (raw fish marinated in oils, lime and chili) and topped it off with creme brule and cheese cake; hands down the best meal we've had on the trip so far (and the most expensive).
Easter Island does not feel like its a part of Chile at all. It is its own country with its own identity and culture. With that, we wanted to experience the traditional Polynesian dance and music so we went to a live show. We were in the front row and were so close to the dancing that one of the male dancers sweat actually hit us. Pretty gross. But it was a very interesting show with a lot of skin (the men that is), loud chanting and tribal worshipping. The men were very into character and acted as if they were primative warriors pumping themselves up for battle and showing off their strength and ferocity, like wild animals. The women seemed less involved, almost like they were the in the background. I'm not sure that that was intentional or not but it could have been an illustration of the culture which was primarily male dominated. Dion was actually called up on stage to dance, which was also a show in itself.
Easter Island is jam packed with things to do. In fact, being there for only 6 days was our only regret. We crammed in as much as we could do each day but still weren't able to go for a scuba dive and mountain biking session; which were both on the list of things to do prior to arrival. Our days were full of adventure and we just didn't have enough time to do all of the many things that this tiny island has to offer.
The island is full of rolling green and brown hills and rocky volcanic cliffs that lead to deep blue crystal clear water with crashing waves. It is like no other place that we have ever been, nor will we ever experience anything like it again. It's tough trying to explain the beauty and mysteriousness of this tropical island, trying to capture it in words. I guess you'll have to visit the island to experience it for yourself!