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Published: February 4th 2011
Friday Feb 4th, 2011
South Pacific Ocean
Latitude 26 degrees 34 minutes south- Longitude 115 degrees 7 minutes west
We have left Rapa Nui in our wake as we head west. Rapa Nui is what the native people call Easter Island. We had an absolutely fantastic day exploring the island and visiting with the local people. Jane and I walked into town from the tender dock which was an easy hike of about a mile. The island is actually part of Chile so the local people speak Spanish. It began to rain and so we ducked under a covered pavilion near the waterfront. A whole group of local children emerged in unison from what looked like a school with their surfboards. We later learned that this was a surfing competition which was part of a two week cultural festival. We stood transfixed as they caught wave after wave on the break that was cresting right offshore from the town dock, not three hundred yards from where we were standing. Eventually the rain subsided and we walked up the hill further into the town of Hanga Roa. I decided since it looked like the rain might linger throughout the
day that we should rent a car to explore the island. We found a small rental agency on a back street and I went in to negotiate with the owner. Luckily I remember some Spanish because he spoke no English. In ten minutes we were on our way in a small Suzuki hard top jeep. Easy, straight-forward driving on well marked roads was the order of the day. Some sections were very rough, with plenty of rocks and ruts, but most of it was well paved and free of any traffic. The biggest hazard was the hundreds of horses which roam the island. We saw a few cattle, but by far the largest population of animals is horses. No one seems to know why they raise so many horses.
The Moai are the large stone statues carved by the ancient peoples out of solid volcanic ash and moved into special sites all over the island. Some of the neatest were at a gorgeous beach on the north side of the island. We saw statues all over the place and a lot of the island is barren from the natives cutting down all the trees to move these statues. The ancient
people are all gone and it is surmised that they died out from wars and starvation as a result of the deforestation and the fact that they spent most of their time building statues and not growing food.
We drove all over the island and saw much more than others who took one of the organized tours. Plus, the feeling of independence and freedom having our own vehicle was especially nice on this remote island. Easter Island sits 3700 kilometers from Chile and 4000 kilometers from Tahiti. So, it is one of the most remote places on Earth and it feels like it. Extinct volcanoes, strange statues and a completely unbroken horizon in all directions only add to the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere. We found the pace of the island to be very relaxed and the local people to be outgoing and friendly. This tends to offset the feeling of isolation. However, if I was stuck here my whole life, I would probably go crazy and start building strange statues also.
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