Published: November 26th 2009December 1st 2008
Easter Island (otherwise known as "Rapa Nui" or "Isla de Pascua") was a must do stop for us despite the expense of getting and staying here. Magnus has wanted to come here for years and San still remembers talking about it over their second date together. So off we embarked on our first flight in over 3 months.
Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, (Tahiti and Chile), making it one of the most isolated places on Earth. It is best known for the giant stone monoliths, known as Moai, that dot the coastline. The early settlers called the island "Te Pito O Te Henua" (Navel of The World).
We arrived at this triangle of volcanic rock in the middle of the South Pacific and were immediately greeted with the sweltering heat and the owner of our hostel who presented us with garlands of flowers to wear. We were immediately struck by how chilled out the locals were and how beautiful the island was. It appears that almost the entire population of Rapa Nui (yes, nearly all 3000 of them) live in Hanga Roa which is the main village. We stayed in a little hostel
which was mostly filled with the owner's extended family. It is strange that this little village with its dusty street should be boarded by a large international runway and airport.
We decided that as the weather was so so beautiful that the best way to see the island was to hike on the first day and set up a route which would take us to the only Moai which were built inland looking out to sea (all other Moai have been build on the coast looking inland). The hike was pretty spectaular. Initally we came under attack from a large bird who was swooping down on us (it was actually very scary!). We were struck by how many archaelogical sites there are around the island, where you can be virtually alone as the only people visiting.
An often overlooked but particularily fascinating and "otherwordly" aspect of Easter Island is its extensive cave systems. After seeing the inland Moai at Ahu Akivi we headed toward the coast deciding to stop off at some of these underground caves on route. While there are a couple of "official" caves that are quite interesting in their own right, there is also real
adventure to be had in exploring all of the numerous unofficial caves. A person left without a torch/flashlight will be immersed in utter blackness with little hope of finding their way out soon...if ever.
Trying to find the "official" caves was a bit tricky and initally we headed into the darkness of the wrong cave which was spooky enough, even before the point where Magnus suddenly said "its full of massive bones in here". San has never left a confined space so quickly. As we headed back to the path we noticed a truck pull over and a few people heading down into a cave. Ahhh, so this was the one we had read about. We headed in and it was pretty amazing (especially as not full of bones!).
TThe hike back round the coast was beautiful and there were plenty of archaelogical sites along the way. The ocean looked so so blue and clear from here, just amazing.
In the evening we decided so see some traditional dancing and had some dinner at the restuarant next to the hotel where the food was cooked in a pit dug into the ground. The food was lovely, but
was was so memorable were the dancers. The ladies were like Hawaiian dancers with gentle swaying to the music, but the men. Well. The men were just incredibly energetic with the terrifying energy of warriors. Just fantastic to watch. (And we will try to forget that San was dragged up to dance with them. Twice.)
We drove around the following day in a hire car. Again the whole day, although filled with sites, was peaceful and not at all touristic as most of the time it was just us alone with the Moai. We saw the crater where all the Moai are carved, everywhere you looked you would notice that a crack in the rock was actually a mouth or the start of a nose. In fact everywhere we looked we could make out faces carved into the volcanic crater. After visiting the crater we drove to Tongariki where there are 15 standing Moai and then to Anakena where there is a white sand beach and Moai with topknots.
On our final day we visited Orongo ceremonial village in which the annual birdman ritual would take place. From what we could gather the strongest men from each tribe
would scale down the vertical slopes, swim out to one of three small islets in shark-infested waters, and bring back the egg of the nesting sooty tern unbroken. The one who did this successfully was considered the Birdman of the year and their tribe would have priveleges for the year.
Although we visited on the footing that a trip to Easter Island is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Moai still beckon and I hope to return someday.
There are more photos below