Easter Island - miles from anywhere!

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December 18th 2018
Published: December 26th 2018
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M - Easter Island really is a long way from anywhere …

Easter Island is one of those places neither of us ever dreamed we would visit. As young kids we both had seen the pictures of the Moai Statues looking out to sea that the island is famous for. Never did either of us ever think we would visit the island of Rapa Nui as it is known locally.

Getting to Easter Island - we knew it was a long, long way away, a big thanks to friends Robin and Adam for convincing us earlier this year that it really was worth the trip! Some mention of great Pisco Sours I believe?

I don’t think it really hit either of us just how far out into the Pacific Ocean this island actually is until we approached it on a packed 787 Dreamliner after a 5 hour/over 2,000 mile flight due west from Chile. The day prior to that we had crossed over into the southern hemisphere after a 9 hour flight due south from Houston to Santiago so by then we really were pretty disorientated.

The Easter Island flight is similar to flying from NY to San Francisco over nothing but water and then realizing that once you pass this tiny island there really isn’t anything much else until you hit Australia in another 6,000 miles! It was a great flight on a virtually new airplane but I’ve never heard so many people applaud the landing. Or it could be the delayed relief of boarding the flight after the chaos of Santiago airport at 5.30am in the morning. I’ve never seen a flight load of people pushed through immigration as if it was normal. Tip get there earlier than you ever dreamed and take some beta blockers.

Apparently the Chilean Navy send a supply boat every couple of months but the only realistic routes are flights from Tahiti (not that easy to get to itself) and a daily flight from Santiago on LATAM. It really is remote and it’s tiny. It’s less than a mile wide (the runway runs right across the whole width) and not much over 10 miles long but they still land a 787 on it!

On arrival, after walking across the tarmac and through the tiny terminal we were greeted by our host with a real Lei, see the pictures. Not one of these plastic ones you get given on other islands. The flowers in the lei smelt great which was good because we didn’t after a couple of days of travelling/sitting in airports. Perhaps that’s why they give them to you? This was probably the first indication to me that this Pacific Island would be pretty different to the Hawaiian islands I had visited and was expecting to compare them too.

The first day we explored the only town, Hanga Roa. Most of the activity is on one main street a block from the harbor. Lots of souvenir shops, little restaurants and mini-supermarkets. We like to try the little whole in the wall outlets We were rewarded with the best empanadas we have ever eaten. Over the next four days we tried most of the flavors the lady had to offer – tuna and cheese, chicken and cheese, beef and olive and just tuna. The daily selection often being dictated by what had just come out of or was about to come out of her oven! We have found that Chileans seems to be able to make great pastry for their pies but this lady’s pies were a little larger and well stuffed with meat. Believe me I have eaten a lot of pies and these were pretty amazing. Her bakery shop is set back to the right of the little memorial corner at the bottom end of the main street.

In order to be able to scoff more of her empanadas we decided we would need to up the exercise levels. So for day 2 we rented bikes and cycled out to Rano Raraku. We think it was about 20kms each way along the seafront. On mountain bikes with the rolling terrain, sun and wind it requires a little effort but was well worth it. There are about three hundred Moai at the quarry in various stages of construction. There are so few tourists on Rapa Nui that there were probably well less than a hundred people wandering the site and if you time it right you can usually get shots of the Moai with no-one in them. We spend about two hours at the site. Looking down on the clear blue waters of the bay and the statues of Ahu Tongariki is very relaxing. It is also worth following the path up to the left away from the main group of Moais on the front slopes of the volcano as it takes you over the rim and into the caldera. We took a few phots but they really didn’t do the colors of the grasses in the caldera justice.

The bay and the statues of Ahu Tongariki are a popular spot for watching sunrise. We decided cycling two hours back the next morning to be in place before a 7.00am sunrise was a little too masochistic so for Day 3 we rented a car. This is very, very easy to do on the island and we were able to use the car to do a complete loop of the rest of the island during the day and visit most of the viewing points.

The clouds weren’t working with us for the sunrise at Ahu Togariki so the sunrise shots are not that spectacular although the Ahu of the fifteen Moai itself is. Some of the Moai at this Ahu are enormous. Top tip – get there early for the sunrise to see the full range of colors.

The clouds however did make for some interesting pictures of the Moai at the beach Anakena which we were able to enjoy totally to ourselves for the first 30 minutes. Well I say ourselves there was the obligatory small pack of dogs. On our round the world trip in 2011 we began naming the dogs Alan as it seemed wherever we went a similar looking mutt would pop up. This trip has been no different in that respect. At this particular venue it was a dog we eventually called ‘Artful Alan’ that followed us around.

AA had the soppy look and flopping at your feet routine off to a tee. So much so that he even cracked Kate’s normal ‘no feeding’ rule and I had to break out my last pack of Turkey Jerky for him. AA gobbled it down like he hadn’t been fed in weeks. We strolled around a little more and AA duly followed. He then saw that two other tourists had arrived and were sitting on the sand 50 yards away. Without even looking back he bolted off in their direction and within seconds was working the same routine. Kate had been conned and he was then christened ‘Artful Alan’ much to my amusement.

Having the car also enabled us to get to the start of bottom of Ahu Akivi which allowed us to hike to the highest point on the island, Terevaka (510m). The hike up took us as good hour. Much of the first half of the hike is straight up and was a good test of our lungs. The panoramic views of the island from the top were well worth it. Beware though that it gets windy up there. Tip – just keep straight up the wide path and continue past the first couple of mounds on your left. You will know you have arrived when you get the large pile of wood and the sign …

For day 4 we hiked from our accommodation through town up to the caldera at Orongo. Orongo is the site of the cult that overthrew the Moai worship and was the starting point for the annual Birdman event. You can also drive up to the view point and the museum but again we needed to earn those Empanadas! It took us about forty minutes from leaving the road to get to the viewpoint over the caldera. This is spectacular. Another fifteen minutes to go around the rim to the small museum.

We rewarded ourselves on the return to town with a fantastic lunch right on the water at the west end of the runway at Tataku Vave (local meaning is counting waves). The Rapa Nui ceviche that I had for my main course was huge, very tasty and very well priced. Note they are closed on Sundays. They also do a great Pisco Sour!

As I said at the beginning Easter Island really is a long way from anywhere. Is a visit to this reactively unspoiled island worth it? In short, if you have the time/money and aren’t expecting a US resort style experience but enjoy something a little more rustic then definitely yes.

PS - apparently only 1 of the couple of hundred plus statues that actually made it to their Ahu actually looks out to sea. The rest look back at the villages of the people they represent. We checked lot of them!

We have both seen the statue in the British Museum. It turns out that this is a pretty small one at only two meters high and weighing a few tons. It is however a very important one to the Rap Nui as it has historical carvings on the rear. Guess what … they want it back! So we signed their petition.

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