Island Magic

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June 28th 2011
Published: July 31st 2011
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Day 158 – 162

The flight details say that we must be at the airport 3 hours before the flight and we stupidly believe this and get a taxi at 5am. Hence when we arrive at the airport we are unable to check in and spend the next 2 hours waiting and wishing we had stayed in bed longer. However we do get great seats and the LAN plane is fully equipped with a great range of films which make the next 5 hours fly by. The landing is spectacular as we circle the island and we can even make out some moai looking very small from this height.

We are greeted by Claudio from the hostel with the traditional flower necklaces and we are soon on our way to the hostel. After a quick tour of the main town Hanga Roa (takes 5 mins as so small) we sit down to plan our short time here. The image of the island I had was a barren landscape in the middle of nowhere with some impressive Moai statues dotted all over the place. However the island is actually a wonder in itself, as created from 3 volcanoes which give a dramatic coastline of volcanic rock with clear blue seas crashing against it. There is also plenty of vegetation (people are attempting to reforest parts of the island) and wild horses living off the grasslands. This combined with the Moais and history creates a truly magical island.

As we only have 2.5 days on the island we plan our time here like a military operation determined to see everything. First thing we head to explore the coast and Moai’s nearest the town and we are quickly joined by a stray dog who acts as our guide. This is most fortunate as along with everything else on the island tours are very expensive and out of our budget. Our first close up experience with the Moai is pretty cool (5 in a row and 1 on its own with restored coral eyes). An unexpected downpour means we have to retreat and hide under a rock, even the dog joins us, but 10 minutes later it is passed and back hot sunshine. We carry on walking exploring the coastline till we are gasping for something to drink (I left the water back at the hostel) and decide to head back to town where we grab some supplies. (water and pot noodles- way too expensive to eat out) We also go and hire a jeep for the next day to explore the island.

As we tuck into our pot noodles (well a Chinese version) we watch an information dvd followed by about 30 minutes of the not so famous straight to dvd film produced by Kevin Coster about the Rapi Nui culture and birdman competition that used to be performed on Easter Island. If you’ve not seen this film don’t it is truly awful.

The next day we decide to head to the other side of the island near Ahu Tongariki (15 reconstructed Moai’s) to catch the sunrise. So bleary eyed we climb into the jeep and try to navigate the small island in the dark, as Claudio has told us it’s impossible to get lost. Five minutes later we realise we have taken the wrong dirt wrong and are now lost. Quickly turn around and head in the right direction slightly concerned by the heavy cloud cover and occasional lighting that flashes across the sky. It isn’t the best sunrise due to the weather but the setting is stunning and we get some great photos before speeding back for breakfast.

After breakfast we retrace our steps at a slower pace stopping at all the different sites that either have Moai standing laying and in different states of disrepair. The thing about the statues is that only a few of the 900 odd statues have been reconstructed as they were originally destroyed or pushed over during the various tribal disputes that plagued the island. We also visit some Petroglyph’s (symbolic carvings made in rock) which are quite hard to actually see. Feeling tired we head to the beach to relax and are greeted by Ahu Nau Nau (6 Maoi’s with top knots).

On the way back to town we head to the same spot as yesterday to watch the sunset behind the Moai’s along with all the other tourists on the island. Sunset lasts for well over half an hour and does not disappoint. Afterwards we have fish dinner at a nearby restaurant which is really nice except for the eye watering bill.

We wake feeling that we need more time to explore this magical island so we head to the LAN airlines office to try and delay our flight back. However it turns out that we (well I) have made a mistake with the days and we actually have an extra day hooray. Feeling happy we head off in the Jeep to explore Rano Raraku which is basically the island workshop for the Moai’s and a volcano crater with a fresh water lake. Here is the highest concentration of half finished half buried Moai’s including the largest at 22 metres. Afterwards we continue exploring before heading to the museum which to our surprise is really cheap and full of lots of information. After a slightly weird lunch (long story) we head back to the beach safe in the knowledge that we have another day left to explore.

For our last full day we have saved one of the best sites Orongo which is based at the site of the volcano Rano Kau. This is the location for the famous birdman competition where the winners representative tribal leader would get to rule the island for the next year. The rules are simple; climb down 300 metres of sheer rock face then swim for a few hours in shark invested water to a rocky island where you wait a few weeks for the first sooty tern (a migration bird) to lay an egg , the winner is the first person back with the egg.
Basking in the glory of having an extra day we decide to take a break from the Moai’s and go for a 3 hour walk up the highest hill on the island (510 metres). This sounds simple as there is supposed to be a trail although it is not mark and there are no sign posts. These results in us getting lost and not being sure if we are walking on private land, although as we are heading for the highest point we just keep heading up. Funny moments are when I stand on a wasps/hornets’ nest and Em runs a mile, Em choking on an empanada and getting chased off a field by about 30 wild horses. However despite nature’s best efforts we make it to the top and enjoy the 360 view of the ocean and actually being able to see the curve of the earth.

For the afternoon Claudio and the family at the hostel have invited us to go fishing with them which is something they do every Saturday. We stop on the way to collect firewood for the bbq we will make later to cook the fish on. Full of enthusiasm we grab our cane homemade fishing rods find a suitable location on the rocks and wait. I can feel lots of fish trying to bite but they just keep stealing the bait and I retreat empty handed. I see Em excitedly shouting that she has something and by the way the rod is bending it looks like a big one and another woman tries to help by tugging on the rod causing it to break in half. It is very funny especially when admits that she thinks it was just hooked on a rock. Luckily the family have ‘some I prepared earlier’ fish as no one catches anything. So after all the fishing excited I sit down and learn how to gut fish with just my bare hands and no knives the result is very fishy fingers but apparently I have a natural talent, (Em decides to just watch) We place the gutted fish on the stone oven that the family have created and after about 10/15 mins the fish are ready and we eat with our fingers off rock plates Flintstone style.

As we delicately eat the fish which is excellent Claudio asks us to save the fish heads for the Mother of the family. When we reply of course, it’s for the fish soup? He informs us no... She just likes to eat them, apparently they are the best part. We carry on chatting away till after sunset then head back to the town for cake and coffee.

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