Volcano, sea view, large swimming pool. We'll take it.
We built our whole round the world flight schedule around Easter Island. After 8 months on the move, we have seen quite a lot and are starting to get blase about some of the places we have been so that it gets to the point where high expctations are dashed quite easily. So it was fair to say that we were more than a little worried about having booked for a whole week on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.
But before we get into our thoughts, a little geography lesson.
Easter Island, though politically part of Chile, is very much part of Polynesia. It sits on the Pacific Plate and is made up from three separate volcanic eruptions which gave it a distinctive triangular shape. The Pacific Ocean is already rising up its shores, but this has less to do with global warming than the fact that the Pacific Plate is being driven under the South American Plate as the Earth's crust moves, dragging Easter Island down with it.
We reckon it will be gone in less than 75,000,000 years, so if you are thinking of a visit, start planning now.
Easter Island (Isla de
As a rugby team, big, but slow. Their positional sense is poor too.
Pascua to the Chileans and Rapa Nui to the Polynesians who found the place - despite what Thor Heyerdahl thinks he proved with his little stunt on the Kontiki) is the most remote inhabited place on earth.
3,700km from a continental landmass and almost 2,000km from any other civilisation it gives the place a slightly eerie feel. It could be the last place on earth, except they have Internet, Wifi, ATMs and a working airport, unlike most of Europe for the time we were there. The airport spans the island and you can look at the statues while sitting under the thrust of a jet taking off ... quite "Wayne's World".
Take yourself away from the mod-cons though and the Island has a rugged feel to it. Despite being mislead to believe it is just a bare volcanic rock, we found it very green and while no doubt missing a few trees used in the making of the Moai which give the island it's claim to fame, there are certainly plenty of wooded areas. It is true to say that it is covered in lava fields. Most of the time you step foot off the road you find
Sunset at Tahai
We just never get bored of sunsets
yourself climbing over volcanic rock.
We only hiked one of the volcanos, Rano Kau, but it gave us the wow factor slightly missing in New Zealand. 324m high, a mile across, filled with water and a part collapsed crater wall giving views of the ocean behind, you can't help but be awestruck.
We spent a morning in Orongo, the Islanders ceremonial village where two smaller (virtually inaccessible) islands can be seen. It was here that they competed to gather the first bird egg of the migrating terns each season ... and as reward for the winner, the title of "Birdman" and leadership of the island and all its tribes. Maybe the UK could use this sort of challenge to decide the outcome of the Hung Parliament? Who wouldn't want to see Messrs Brown, Clegg & Cameron jump off Tower Bridge, swim to the Thames Barrier and climb its barrages to grab the keys to the lower chamber? You could probably charge for it and clear some of the budget deficit at the same time.
But we digress, we were here for the little stone chappies, not the landscape or politics.
OK, not so little. One Moai
In Rano Raraku
And that's just his head
measures 10m standing, and El Gigante is 21m long (but he is still lying in the quarry, imcomplete). Everywhere you go along the coast there is evidence of Moai having been erected, or were at least on their way to being delivered. At one estimate nearly 900 dot the island, though only a small proportion are standing (all as a result of restoration) and most are in several pieces - testament to the frayed tribal tempers which saw nearly every one trashed in a hissy fit in the 1800s. Those few that survived the tribal tantrums apparently got knocked down by a tsunami.
Although it meant getting up at stupid o' clock and dogding the abundant potholes while racing along in the dark, it was worth seeing sunrise at Tongariki where the 15 standing Moai give a mystical air. They are the most impressive single site on the island. Of varying sizes, they look magnificent and though at 7am we were sharing the view, it wasn't quite the crowd we had at Angkor Wat.
Sunset at Tahai was simply perfect - though the one with the eyes was just a bit too freaky for Nic's liking. Three Ahu,
Being watched everywhere we went
holding 7 Moai, face away from the water and the sun turns up some magical colours as it sizzles into the ocean behind. Mind you, just sitting at our campsite with a beer and watching the sun (and moon) set was pretty spectacular.
The tribes even took the time to put statues at the only decent beach on the island, Anakena. So we topped up our tan while being cultural. It was here that, once again, the French proved that rules couldn't possibly be made with them in mind and when challenged about his flagrant disregard of the ceremonial platform by walking all over it, a Frenchman simply got abusive with the park ranger, throwing accusations of trying to bribe him (?) and we watched with amusement as he was manhandled off the site. It's not like they are so small you have to get up close for a photo!
We spent most of our week perched on a moped visiting as many sites as we could. Our worries that it might be a bit excessive to spend 7 days gawking at broken stone men were completely unfounded. We honestly didn't get close to becoming bored. We hope
Moai beach volleyball team
that says more about the island than us!
Airport check-in is a doddle here. With a maximum of 2 flights a day, you simply watch from your hostel until you see the plane coming in to land then pop along to the airport (about a 5 minute drive), buy some souvenirs, collect your boarding card, and Santiago - here we come. And LAN are the dogs doodahs compared to Qantas.
Santiago was Nicola's first view of South America and she thought it rather European. Which it is really. Plenty of wide open spaces, a slick metro system and good modern buildings next to the grand colonial ones. The only thing is, unlike most of Europe which tends to have a basic grasp of English, you have to speak Spanish or get very good at charades.
We only spent 4 days in mainland Chile, all in Santiago. North is desert (and we had seen a fair bit of that in Mongolia) and as it is heading into winter here, Patagonia is getting a bit inaccessible. Also, the earthquake which devasted parts of the country south of Santiago meant travel was a bit difficult. Not entirely altruistically (Nicola wasn't keen to spend any more time camping) we left our tent for the people still rendered homeless after the disaster.
Next we are off to Mendoza in Argentina via one of the most spectacular border crossings in the world.
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