Published: November 13th 2011November 10th 2011
Day 6 - Easter Island by bike
When we woke up to the chicken chorus it was nice to see they'd given us a lie in until around 7.00. The sun was shining and it promised to be a nice day. Over breakfast we formulated our plan for the day before donning our cycling gear and setting off. Whilst there were no helmets provided, they did give us a spare inner tube, pump and tyre lever for emergency repairs.
We firstly headed down towards the seafront, and to see Hanga Roa Otai and further along the coast to Tahai where there is a good example of a boat shaped house and the Moai has eyes (the only one on the island). These are not the original eyes but it does give you a good idea what they must have looked like. We attracted the attention of one of the stray dogs which followed us round the complex despite only having one eye, before making out way back onto the main street to pick up supplies for lunch. We decided to make our sandwich at the hotel and leave the remainder of the ham and cheese in the fridge rather
than take it up to the volcano.
We set off for Orongo the site of a village on top of the volcano and Rano Kai the volcano with a large lake filled crater, and on our way passed a couple of other sites we decided to leave to later in the day. The road upto the volcano is not tarmaced, and has lots of potholes and stones which made the going difficult. Also it was hot, and the incline quite relentless. However, with lots of stops, and walking some bits that were simply too steep to cycle we thought eventually reached the top, or so we thought. A foray into the undergrowth revealed that the actual Orongo site was further round, we had reached the edge of the volcanic crater - this was 324m high but to visit the historical site we would have to travel a little further yet. The view was simply magnificent, and whilst we were weary from the cycling the view across the crater made it worth while. The crater has a bite out of it, which we thought was from the eruption, but the information boards revealed that it was erosion caused by the
sea that had done this. We decided to continue on, as we were hungry, and stopped at the benches inside Orongo to eat. This is within the National Park and used the other part of the ticket we had purchased at the airport. The weather threatened a couple of times whilst we sat there, but nothing came of it, and by the time we had finished, the sun was out again.
Orongo has a reconstruction of 54 houses from just after the period when the Rapa Nui people had destroyed the Moai. Instead they turned to another belief, that of the "Bird Man". In essence, the two tribes each elected a representative to take part in a competition, the head man of the winning tribe being declared the leader of the island. This involved swimming across shark infested waters from Orongo to one of the rocky outcrops, retrieving a bird egg from a sooty turn and returning with it - fastest to complete wins. Looking at the swell of the sea, and the steepness of the cliffs whoever would have had to face this it would not have been an easy task. There was also an exhibition which has
pictures of what the people consider to be the "stolen Moai". This was taken from Easter Island and it now housed in the British Museum. Looking at the photos, it looks like a really good example.
The National Park have formulated a small trail around Orongo which we followed, and there were a number of excellent examples of the houses. This is also one of the places you can see a number of good examples of petrogliphs - pictures carved into the rocks. These were mainly of the Birdman symbol. This also takes you to the edge of Rano Kau, where we were able to get another couple of good shots of the crater and the 11m deep lagoon at the bottom.
We eventually got back on the bikes and headed down again. It was mostly free wheeling, avoiding the rocks and the very dodgy cattle grid we came up against. At the bottom, we called in at the CONAF plant nursery where they are trying to save native species to the island. Unfortunately all the signs were in Spanish, so we continued to our next destination.
We went to look at some cave paintings at Ana
Kai Tangata, which was a bit of a scramble to, but we could see again the symbol of the Birdman in red paint. On the way back to the hotel, we cycled past Te Ata Hero which is right next to the working harbour. The local rowing club were taking delivery of about 40 brand new two seater and eight seater canoes with supporting outriggers. It was clearly a big event, as there was music playing and a few flags up.
We wearily cycled back up the hill to the hotel, to collapse into the shower and sit and rest. We had however, miscalculated the strength of the sun and the effect of the wind, both of us looking a little "tomato" like at the end of the day. Once we had recovered slightly, taking a shower and lying on the bed we sat out with a well earned beer and we spoke at length with Kay (the lady in the room a couple down from ours), who had had two days private guiding from James, an author, who had taken her round the island. They had looked in depth at some of the flora and fauna. As Kay
had not eaten either, we decided to find somewhere together, and set off into town. Whilst having a look at some on the menus, it suddenly dawned on us that a lot of the shops and restaurants were in darkness. There had been a power cut. When we enquired as to how long it might be off, they simply said maybe one hour, maybe two, maybe more they did not know. This meant that some of the menu items were off, as need electric, but anything grilled was okay. We fixed on a restuarant we had walked past earlier, who said that he was still able to cook the entire menu. Whilst we chose our dishes by candlelight, and sampled the local beer, the dark stout version, the electric came back on. The food really was excellent - again huge portions, we had a really good evening and we walked back to the hotel before saying goodnight to Kay hoping to get a good nights rest before another day of cycling.
There are more photos below