Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Keu Henua

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 13 January 16th Rapa Nui - I'm rudely awaken on the airplane after 30 minutes after take off. The lady shakes me and gives me an immigration card, great, thanks! Now I'm up, hang on, they are serving food!! It's 2am and I can´t sleep, so I flick through the entertainment and find the Franz Ferdinand album, You Could have it so much better. Awesome album! This was my album for riding the New York Subway, well before my sony walkman broke.

We land on Easter Island at 6am. Immigration is super slow. I'm greeted by Elvira from the cabins where I'm staying and she puts a flower necklace around my neck. What a friendly way to be greeted. I then suffer from the single man discrimination, as I have to wait at the airport while they look after two couples who are also staying at my cabin. Even though I'm through immigration, I am the single man, and the single man can wait. Anyway, I chat to Elvira, she tells me that LAN have only recently started the flight from Lima to Easter Island, so that's why it was super cheap. However, it took 5/6 weeks of constant phoning and emailing LAN to get the flight. The website is not user friendly. Anyway, I'm here now.

I'm dropped off at my cabin at 640am, I'm feeling very tired and advised breakfast is at 830am, I said in a mumble, 'I'll see'. Slept till 1130am. Wake up feeling very strange. Have I just wasted a day? Is it Monday or still Sunday? Very strange. Chat to Elvira's brother Max, he has three deep gashes on his body. One on his shoulder, on on his cheek and one above his eye, still bandaged. He apparently landed on coral while surfing, but he laughs about it. His cuts look painful. He advises me about hiring a bike from the cabin, and that the island is too big for a bike, maybe just cycle around the western part.

I head to town, to grab some lunch and plan out my next few days. Lunch is at Te Moana, in the town of Hanga Roa. It's not like a town you and I imagine, it's a couple of streets, with a few shops, car rental shops, gift shops and restuarants. It's right on the beach as well. I end up having a $4 can of Sprite and a $28 curry!! Ouch! They weren´t kidding when they said it was expensive!
Right, down to business, I was thinking of hiring a bike for tomorrow and then going on a full day tour the following day to see the rest of the Island. Hmm, I'm not convinced about the bicycle, but I figure it would be a fun way of seeing the Island.

I spend the rest of the day exploring the town, the sea front and come across my first Mo'ai! Amazing. I can't help but think of 'night at the museum' stupid I know, but I'm also so happy being in the middle of the Pacific looking at this enormous Mo'ai! I wander further up the coast but eventually make my way back to the cabin. I book my bicycle, organise my tour and find out sunset is at 930pm, so I have a few hours for Siesta time!!

At 9pm, I find myself some cheap dinner at a restaurant with a balcony, so I can enjoy the sunset. I also buy a local beer, with beer funds from Pete, thanks buddy! As the sun begins to draw to a close, it's another one of those moments where I just sit there and appreciate the unique place I have found myself in. At 946pm the sun sets, so so late. The days are so long and you cannot help but feel more alive and awake with the day being longer.

Easter Island is paradise. The setting, the surroundings, the people, the food, the atmosphere, the weather, the Mo'ai. Simply Wonderful. Everyone is so laid back, there is no rush on the Island, no-one is hassling you for get in their taxi, or rent a car, or eat here, or go on this tour. If you want a tour, great, if not, not a problem. This type of atmosphere is felt with every person you come in contact with, and the strange thing is, with a population of only 3900, it's not long before I'm waving at the internet cafe guy who is walking down the street.

I end the night early, I need plenty of sleep for my bike ride tomorrow, one which I'm in two minds about. On the one hand, I'm so excited to have the freedom to cycle anywhere, on the other hand, it's been a while since I was on a bike, and pain is inevitable!! I fall to sleep, I can hear the ocean crashing onto the nearby beach, the cabin area is peaceful and the air is cool.

Day 14 January 17th - I wake early for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a slice of cheese rolled up, a slice of ham rolled up, three slices of tomato, a sliver of yellow pepper, two bread rolls, coffee and some freshly squeezed juice. I take my time over my breakfast, partly avoiding the upcoming bike ride, but partly as two couples nearby were discussing the Golden
Globe results.

I get ready for my bike ride, pack a bag of suitable items, chose my attire, and then grab the bike. As I do, Elvira wishes me 'Good luck!' I thank her and peddle off. I stop at the top of their drive and.... hang on, did she just say good luck?? What does that mean? Good luck because clearly I am unfit and not the correct size to ride a bike? Or good luck because she knows what kind of day I'm in for?? I figure the latter.

Anyway, I head north, my first point of call should be the caves of Ana Kakenga. The bike is pretty tough to ride, I notice the front tyre is not fully pumped up, it takes a few minutes to get used to the gears and of course, it is the smallest saddle in the world!! I cycle for about ten minutes, making good progress. I come to a crossing, I head left, realise it's a private farm, turn around and head the other direction. I'm now following a horse back tour. Perfect, I'll just follow them for a bit. Within 5 minutes, they were gone. Disappeared into thin air. I'm now on a field of malten rocks. There is no cycle track and I've no idea where I am. Oh well, never mind, it's only 10am, I'm sure I´ll find my way.

I drag the bike over rocks, through gaps in the rocks and through bushes. I'm start to see some horse crap, so figure I'll follow that. It turns out that over most of the island, wild horses roam free. I pass a guy moving ten horses south, he smiles at me, I bet I look a mess already. I manage to find a gap in a fence, then another, and a road. A beautiful beautiful dirt road. Within 30 seconds, I find the caves of Ana Kakenga. Well, I find the entrance!! I ended up cycling to the cliff face, and peering over the edge to find the cave. I even climbed down two parts of the cliff thinking this was how you find the cave. It was at this point I saw the remains of 3 horses on rocks at the bottom of the cliff. One looked like he had just fallen a few days back, one was a sack of skin, the other, just bones. I figure, I should stop climbing the cliffs and head back to the road. It was here I found the cave. Amazing.

Back on the road, in peddling motion, I feel so free. I haven´t felt this kind of freedom for so long. I have the Island all to myself, no guide, no rules, just me and my bike. I think of ´Where the Wild things Are', I feel like Max in his Wolf costume, except there are no Wild Things, just my bike and 900 Mo'ai. The track Capsize from the film adaptation of the book rings through my head as I peddle with freedom around this stunning Island. This is paradise!

Next point of call was Motu Tautara. These caves that were used for shelter. The picture you see represents one unfit lazy monkey needing a rest from an hour on a bicycle, my butt was now starting to feel the pain.

The roads are long, but there is only one road. The occasional cars passes by, at a slow pass and kicking up so much dust that I have to stop and look away. I cycle pass fields of agriculture, cows grazing, wild horses trotting around, in the distance are mountains, I can see the ocean still behind me. The sky is blue, there are a few clouds and a fairly strong wind. Well, strong enough to make this ginger gringo jump off his bike and push, on a flat surface!! Pathetic!

Next on the cycle adventure, the seven Mo'ai of Ahu Akivi. I'd seen the odd Mo'ai here and there, but none together like this. The site is unique because the Mo'ai are facing the sea where they normally face a village. This set face the sea as well as a village. At the equinoxes, their gaze meets the setting sun.

I'm so excited at this point, I jump back on the bike and can't wait to meet my next site of interest. The route includes various stops, to stand and gaze at this mysterious Island and the beauty that it holds. I pass a couple of cows on the way, they don't seem too interested in my 'mooing' and stop again to appreciate the wildness of my surroundings.

I'm drinking my own water. I picked up some clorine tablets for my trip and filling up from the tap with a tablet is two is much cheaper than $4 for a bottle of water. The water does not quite taste the same, but when it's 28 C and you've been cycling, it doesn't matter what the water tastes like.

The route to Puna Pau is slightly downhill, I can rest my butt and stand up on the bike, man I'm in some pain!! Puna Pau is a site where they crafted some of Mo'ai from the ground and then transported them around the Island. I get to the site in a mess, I've come over all weak and faint. There's a 50 metre climb to the top of this hill, and it must have taken me ten minutes. I take a quick snap and see a bench near where I parked my bike. I needed some shade, rest and water!

I lay on a bench infested with ants for around ten minutes before I realised. I suck down some more water, pop a couple of pain killers for my butt (I figure another 4 hours of cycling and if I can't feel my butt will make it easier) and limp off.

From Puna Pau, the track all the way back to downtown Hanga Roa is downhill and is tarmac! Anyone who passed me, would have seen an uncontrollable hysteric ginger gringo laughing all the way down 3 kms of road. It's funny how the smallest of things can feel so satisfying, like rolling downhill at pace, gently resting one cheek at a time on the saddle!

I get to Hanga Roa. Half my route is complete. I need somes sugar. Grab a fanta and watch the locals swimming in the ocean. My legs are a mess, black at the bottom, covered in dust. My poor trainers, from their first use on a mud soaked All Points West Festival, NJ in 2009, to the muddy trail to the Kouang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos, they've been through the mill!

I resist an ice cream for now, that will be one of my rewards later on this afternoon. That, and a dip in the ocean. Before I move on, I need to find a bicyle pump. I stop at a bike rental place and a sweet young girl understands my 'bike pump' action. We end up making a little chit chat. She asked me where I was going, so I showed her on the map where I had been and where I was going. I tried to help her pronounciate the English for Volcano. The tyre was pumped and I was off. My next point of call is the crater lake of Rano Kau and the village of Orongo. My map showed a distance of roughly 4kms, so not far. What the map failed to articulate, was the gradient. In my semi-conscious peddling state, it didn't cross my mind. I find the road at the bottom of the uphill climb. It still hasn't sunk in how far I will need to travel.....up!! I'm off the bike and pushing, it's only been ten minutes and I've made little progress. A packed blue mini-van drives by.....if only they had some room. I look back again, a truck!!! A truck! How can I look more pathetic for them to take sympathy and pick me up? I drop my shoulders and push my bike likes it's the weight of an elephant. Of course, they stop, demand that I put my bike in the back and climb in. I reluctantly agreed, haha! Sweet sweet motorized vehicle. We climbed and climbed and climbed. I think it might have literally have taken me a day to push that bike up, well in the state I was in. The view from the back of the truck was awesome too, although I mistakenly forgot to hold on, we hit a pot hole, gringo and bike are flung in the air. I manage to push the bike back down and land on my butt. Ouch! We reach the top and I am very very very grateful to the driver. I ask how much and he replied 'nada'. Luckily for me, they are building a house at the top of this giant crater, so I thumbed a lift from two electricians. So lucky or according to Christophe (my guide the next day) I have good Mana ( n: [of Melanesian & Polynesian origin]:  nature’s balanced
and positive energy, motivating force or power; in humans, derived from
manifest accomplishment or acquired through education, then exhibited
with respect and humility in rapport with others and with nature.)

It is worth the climb to the top, well after the shock of forking over $60 for the national park. Unfortunately, the lonely planet guide was published before the increase from $10 to $60. I grumble for a few minutes till I see the crater. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Words lose me. It's while I'm lost for words that I realise I've lost my small 'Animal' water container. I hate losing things. I hate it. It's one of my flaws and I must learn to deal with it better. I mean, it's a 4 quid plastic container. It's the 2nd item I've lost in two days, I lost a pen at Lima airport, a nice pen. I guess I'm disappointed in myself for losing the item, not knowing what happened to it, but as long as it's something small and meaningless, then it's ok. (Although that didn't stop me searching the track all the way down the mountain, I figure it jumped out of the side of my bag when we hit that pot hole). Anyway, enjoying the view, I finally was.

I took a quick look through the old village of Orongo before I'm whizzing slowly back down the mountain, still especially grateful for my luck of a passing truck. Back in town, I treat myself to a chocolate ice cream, that melts instantly down the hands, but wait, yes, I have wet wipes!! Back at the cabin, I change quickly into my swimwear and head back to the beach. I decide on a square rock formation, that is slightly protected from the waves but still has the ocean floor, rocks, fish and seaweed. The water was icy cold and a perfect antidote to a hot day of cycling, struggling up hills and exhaustion. I float around for a while, watching kids jump off the rocks into the pool and parents looking on with great care.

Finally siesta time! I debate whether I was going to have dinner. When I woke, my mood was awful, yes, I needed dinner. Dinner on a credit card always feels better than handing over more cash. I catch another sunset, just awesome from my seat at the end of a small pier type structure.

I walk past restaurant after restaurant, none taking credit card. I walk and I walk and my face grows longer and longer, sniff. At last, credit card and wifi, prefect. I chose Pisi fish (white meat) with a black squid ink pasta dish on the side. Tasty tasty, with a couple cans of ginger ale. The waiter did question me 'you know it comes with head and tail', 'Si Amigo, bring it all out'. I'm  reminded of my time in the Bahamas, a sore butt (from 4 hours on waterslides) and fresh fish as well. Hobble back to my cabin and lights out. It's been a long time since I felt proud of myself, the last time being when I solely organised my transfer to NY from Newcastle, but to have cycled around Easter Island, understanding the feel of the roads, the distances, the constraints, the beauty and more importantly the Mo'ai, unbelievelable. I went to sleep feeling very proud.

Miles walked very few
Temp 28 C 81F
Miles cycled around 36kms.

Day 15 January 18th - I wake sore. Oh man. I also wake with burning sensations on my calves, hands, nose and arms......hang on, oh pants, I badly burnt. I did cover myself and reapply, but I am a lobster, ready to eat. My legs are stiff, my butt hurts, I have bruises on my inner thighs, oh man what a mess. Luckily, I have the luxury of sitting in a mini van being guided around the rest of the Island. At breakfast, I sneak out my bread rolls and will save those for lunch. This place, as I mentioned before, is not cheap. I meet Christophe, my guide for the day. He greets me and asks how my cycle ride was? How did he know? I see his blue mini-van, and it's all clear. He said 'oh man, we saw you struggle, at the bottom of that hill, you looked so tired, but then before we know it, you´re jumping out of a truck'. We laugh at my complete lack of fitness and inability to cycle uphill.

Christophe has lived on the Island for 4 years, before that, 5 years in Tahiti. He is French but does not like France. He adores the Island and loves to surf. He met his girlfriend on the Island and she has finally moved in with him from their long distance relationship between Easter Island and Santiago. He speaks fluent French, English and Spanish and undertakes our guide in English and Spanish. His passion for the Island, it's history and culture makes for an awesome guide. I was not for one minute bored or uninterested.

We pick up 4 guys from Peru, one tall guy from Holland (they're always tall!) a super cute Brazilian girl and her boyfriend and 3 Koreans, one whom was very pretty.

First stop on the tour was the beach of Anakena where there are 7 Mo'ai facing away from the ocean.

Christophe tells us some history of the Mo'ai and explains the reason for the red coloured hats on top, they depict a great leader who had long long hair that was wrapped around his head. Many of the Mo'ai were destroyed during internal conflicts, ie my tribe beats your tribe, so I'll knock over your Mo'ai to show power. The main purpose of the Mo'ai was to protect the village but also to look upon the village.

The beach at AnaKena was extremely alluring. White sand, small waves, a great spot to relax.

Between Anakena and our next destination of Ahu Tongariki, we expierenced about 30 seconds of a sudden heavy downpour. It lasted every so briefly and by the time we were out of the van, it was hot sunshine again.

Dazzling in scale, Ahu Tongariki is another site consisting of 15 Mo'ai, along the longest Ahu (platform) built against the ocean. It was destroyed by a tsunami in 1960 but a Japanese company Tadano agreed to re-erect the Mo'ai in the early 1990s. It's at this point that I notice that they all seem to be whistling, or were whistling till we turned up. You can just imagine them all whistling away the days and nights, frustratingly unable to see the ocean behind them.

Luckily we see the site before 5 coaches turn up. A chartered plane landed today, it will stay for 18 hours before disappearing. According to Christophe, you can buy a 27 day around the world ticket, and you'll constantly jet between locations and historical sites. Not quite my cup of tea, but maybe, when my cycling butt has given up, sure I'll pay up for being pushed around for 27 days.

It was time for lunch. We head to Rano Raraku and find some shade. At last. I'm fully dressed, long trousers, long sleeved top and I'm desperately trying to protect the roasted top portion of my hands. I keep reapplying sun block, but I can't help but feel them sizzle again. My lunch consisted of the two bread rolls, I wasn't particularly hungry, the Brazilians shared some ruffled chips and I let one of the Korean girls borrow my spork. I have everything I do. No-one needed the universal sink plug but I am a prepared little gringo.

After lunch, we head into the 'nusery' where half-carved and buried Mo'ai are found. Of 900 Mo'ai on the Island, 400 are found here. The Mo'ai were quarried from the slopes of this extinct volcano. It has been suggested that it would have taken around 2 weeks to quarry a small Mo'ai, but the big 21 metre one, around a year to carve, let alone to move. We were shown various techniques for moving them, all involved the help of the Islands 15000 inhabitants at the time, plenty of patience, logs and sweat. There is only a small population of 3900 now, mainly involved in tourism and the national park. From the volcano, we can also see the 15 Mo'ai of Tongariki where we were before lunch. An awesome setting.

After we finish observing all the unfinished Mo'ai outside of the volcano, we trek into the volcano. Involving a slightly steep climb and passing guys holding bunches of what looks like the largest leeks in history. Inside the volcano of Rano Raraku, it was very similar to Rano Kau that I saw yesterday. A lake filled crater with splendid scenary and around 30 wild horses drinking from the lake.
There are a few Mo'ai inside the crater, but these were formed by less artistic people at the time, to practice the skill possibly. The large leeks are part of an Easter Island Triathlon. Some dudes have to swim the lake with this board made of the giant leeks, run around the crater twice, weave in and out of old Mo'ai and then some more running. The top two win respect.

The tour has lasted 6 hours, I'm feeling a little sleepy from exposure to the sun for most of the day. One by one we are dropped off back at our cabins. I thank Christophe for this awesome tour and tell him I will happily recommend him. Everyone on the Island knows Christophe, so if you're thinking of heading to Easter Island, fly from Lima and ask for Christophe.

A shower and a siesta and it's time for credit card dinner time. All day I have been thinking about pizza. I go to the same Wifi restuarant...and no pizza. Sniff Sniff again. I went for beef wrapped around lobster with banana chips and rice with a couple can of lemon stone beer. Very very tasty! I'm not the biggest fan of the banana chips. Ever since my first trip to Peru in 2006, where I think I was eating them everyday, they now make me reach.

I head back through the town one last time and catch one final sunset next to a Mo'ai. It's been another great day, a great tour and great food.

Miles walked 1.26
Temp 28 C 81 F

Day 16 January 19th - My flight doesn´t leave Easter Island till 1pm and my hosts, won't drop me off till noon. Perfect, my kind of people, arriving at the airport just in time is my normal philosophy. Breakfast is followed by one more wander into town before I do what Christophe advised the day before. Find a spot on the Island and just sit, relax and enjoy the Mana.

I find a place to lie out in the shade at my cabins, I have a big dog for company and a very cute little ginger cat. There is a chicken with 7 chicks walking around the area, and a couple of horses munching on some grass. I sit and stare out to the ocean for around two hours. I think about my time on the Island and how friendly and welcoming the people are. Normally I'm busy planning buses, hostels, where to go next, but I sit there in a daze and at total peace. Well, besides the little ginger cat scratching me after a tickle.

Max drops me off at the airport and it's farewell to Easter Island.

Of all the places I have been so far in my short time, Easter Island will rank as the most relaxing and friendly place I have ever seen. An isolated world in the middle of the Pacific, blue skies and peaceful streets create a wonderful experience that will live long in my memory.

Back to Lima.
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El on

Great blog entry Tony, looks absolutely amazing!

mum and andy on

that was a fantastic blog ant,mum says she is so proud of you..easter island looks beautiful must be the highlight so far ..thats a long bike ride in that heat hope all the soreness has worn of now!!.better luck with the pizza in your next port of call.!!

The Real Toni Border on

Ahhhh mate well jealous!!! Sounds like you are having a great time.....keep up the blogging....

Pete on

It bugs me to loose things as well..I am constantly checking to check that I still have them even though I looked just 5 mins ago. If you are going to loose something then better it is a $4 waterbottle than something more expensive!

Kimberly on

Great blog Ant! I really enjoyed it and amazing pictures too!

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