Moai and Four Seasons in One Day

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Before we embarked on our Latin American journey some good friends showed us a high-brow travel article about Easter Island from one of the Australian national papers. From memory it used the word "nothing" frequently, and actually said very little of use about Easter Island, in fact close to "nothing".
Well, having visited Easter island, can I tell you that "it is what it is"- an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an interesting mix of Polynesian and Latin (Chilean) culture with a fascinating geological and anthropological history.
Is everything from food to accommodation expensive? Yes, moreso than mainland Chile (about 30% more). Does it seem insular, or a little parrochial? For us yes, and like all tiny islands it would be difficult to pass more than a couple of weeks here unless you discovered love, or a lifetimeīs passion for Moai (the iconic statues). But then again, what do you expect from the most isolated inhabited island in the world, 3200 km from the nearest land (Chile and Tahiti)?
We spend 5 days camping in the main town on the island, waves breaking in our backyard, enduring frequent changes of weather, from brilliant sunshine to drenching rain and gusting winds. At times it seems as if our tent is collapsing, and the noise is like pounding drums punctuated by a sound like horses tripping over the guy ropes.
The landscape is stark, mostly treeless, but much greener than we expect. What trees there are seem stunted. Apparently, when the island was deforested, the fertile soil was washed away, and this has hindered efforts to reaforest with native species. Small volcanic cones rise out of the otherwise undulating hills and everything is tempered by the shimmering light reflected off the clouds and water.
Our time passes quickly, most of it spent walking around the island accompanied by bored dogs, stumbling over crumbled stone walls and fallen Moai. We try to comprehend how a civilisation managed to move the giant Moai tens of kilometres without cranes and trucks. You stand next to them, hands on the worn stone, staring up at their massive faces and visualise teams of men dragging these giants on tree trunks, trying to avoid breaking a mammoth nose or ear - it seems an impossible task!

The old quarry where they carved the Moai is an incredible site. Unfinished, half-revealed faces stare out of the rock, and other statues lie fallen, or buried up to their necks in soil contemplating the grass. Itīs the kind of place where the more you look, the more human and individual each Moai becomes.

Back in town, we are lucky enough to catch the Easter Island 2007 Triathlon, an event with a very mixed bag of competitors battling the wind and rain. They range from internationals with the latest equipment, to locals who ride on heavy, rusty bicycles and run in bare feet. Of course it's an international who wins, with his wrap-around sun-glasses, brand-new running shoes, and a bike helmet optimised for wind-drag. But the locals are very proud of their sons who finish the run accompanied by hugs from proud parents, and loud island music.
And what else is there to do if the rain is unrelenting or you want a break from visiting the archeological sites? There is one cinema on the island. It shows the same film Rapa Nui (a story based on the birdman and rapanui history of the island starring Kevin Costner) several times each week - good on first viewing, but not subsequently unless of course you really like Kevin Costner. Or, if you're up early enough you could buy and cook some fish from last night's catch. The tuna, eaten sushimi-style is excellent! You could also go horseriding for 7-8 hours if your buttīs up to it, or even take a dive if itīs in your budget.
In a way weīre pleased to leave the island and return to civilisation, but as the plane takes off Iīm already missing the ageless faces of the Moai and their quiet solitude.
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