Navel of the World
Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
224Trip End Ongoing
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Flying across the Pacific we had a fair bit of turbulence, with the Captain flicking on the seatbelt sign a number of times, not that any of the other passengers took any notice. Then finally out the windows of the plane we could make out some statues by the beach
In this case it probably wasn't a good idea as most of the people on Easter Island, we quickly realised, are related in some way. For the next three hours we hiked around town and pretty much everyone knew that we'd been offered a "good room" for a "reasonable price" at the original hostel and that we had completely "misunderstood" her. Finally at a hotel we were offered a room at a five star price, but when we asked if they had a cheaper one (we'd mentioned the rip off lady and found the one and only person not related to and not a fan of the original lady) she said she'd ring a friend to see if she had any spare room. Yes we were in luck. Her friend arrived quickly and we jumped into the back of her ute for a lift to the residence. When we arrived the room looked great and the price was too, that was until she said the price was per head
It is well documented that there is a national park fee that all visitors must pay on arrival to the island, unfortunately the only place to pay it is a two hour hike by foot or 30 minute drive. We decided to hike up to the ceremonial village of Orongo, to pay the $10 USD fee and along the way realised that most people don't seem to do this trek, as the track was pretty overgrown. On the track we found a visitor's ticket from the previous day and decided we might try to pay for just one ticket that way if we were asked we had two tickets as evidence. On the way to the ranger's station we walked along the ridge of the Rano Kau volcano. Extinct for many a year, the bowl is now a cool looking swamp. At the ranger's station we bought one ticket and signed in. To be honest we think we got ripped off paying just one fee as out of the plane load of tourists arriving everyday the book only had about 10 to 15 names in it each day
On the way back into town we walked to the Ana Kai Tangata cave that is supposed to have cave paintings inside. We reckon you'd have to have a very keen eye to spot them. We also continued up the beach to see the Tahai moais again, this time in the daylight. Here there are three temples with five statues at one, a single with white eyes and another wearing a top knot (hat). Further up the beach is the Hanga Koi'E moai which looks really cool, standing by itself.
As Easter Island is quite small we figured we'd be able to see more statues by hiking around the island. Alas not. The best way to see them is to hire a car. So off we went to get competitive quotes. We found that the best prices for car hire and food was off the main street. Organising a car for the next day got us thinking of the costs we'd seen on the island. To get a taxi you have to read the sticker stating the separate fairs for tourists ($1600 Pesos) and locals ($600 Pesos). We've seen this before in places such as India, but the difference there is nothing when you convert it. Here it's so expensive and with the locals trying to rip you off at every opportunity (in our opinion!)
We picked up a little Suzuki 4x4 and with Megan behind the wheel headed off on the dirt tracks to see more of the famous island's moais. Where do we start? We first stopped at Ahu Hanga Poukura to see a fallen moai, the statue lying face down in the dirt. Onwards to Ahu Tetenga, which is a huge ahu (temple) with another fallen moai. Driving around the island's coast we then came across a deserted Ahu Tongariki. Here were fifteen moai all in a row. The site had been restored by Japan back in 1993 after a tsunami knocked them all down. It was great standing in front of these statues, with no one else around.
Nearby is Rano Raraku, the quarry where the moai statues were carved. Here there are over 400 fallen, finished and unfinished moai still in the cliff face. Again there was no one around. It was great seeing statues still lying within the stone cliff face. Why were they made and how did they move these massive statues to their temple sites? Eventually someone did rock up; the guy repairing the walking track. We were surprised not to see anyone around as it was after 11AM. Still not having our fill of big faced statues we drove on to Ahu Te Pito Kura, the tallest moai to be raised over a temple
Rick decided to take over driving in the afternoon and this made Megan a little bit wary, as Rick hasn't been behind the wheel of a manual car since he got his licence 14 years ago. After a couple of bunny hops and a cloud of dust he was off. It was like riding a bike; you just don't forget. Driving to another part of the island we checked out Puna Pau, the quarry where the "hats" or top knots of the statues were carved. This quarry is miles away from where the statues reside. Further down the dusty dirt road was Ahu Akivi, five moai restored in 1960 that reside on a ceremonial platform, restored in 1960. These are the only moais to face the sea, though as with all ahu temples they also faced a village. Five minutes down the road was Ana Te Pahu, a large cavern in the Roiho lava field. By this stage we were statue'd out and had pretty much seen all the moai we could handle for this trip. It was amazing though that the faces had been carved, each one unique, then been moved miles to their final platforms
Dropping off the car early the nice guy gave us a little bit of a rebate. This paid for dinner at a confused place called the "Bar Restaurant Pub Café Tavake". They served up lovely tasting local food where fruit tastes like fruit and vegetables like vegetables, not the bland mass produced stuff from home.
As we'd seen all the statues we wanted to the previous day we slept in and packed up, getting our way to the airport. The trip out to Easter Island is a long one off the beaten path in the middle of nowhere, but in our opinion well worth the effort to see the amazing moai statues.