Exploring Easter Island.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Chile  , Easter Island,
Thursday, December 16, 2010

In the pitch black pre dawn hour of 6.00am we stumbled out of our hire car along with Brian the Canadian and Marina the Spaniard and followed a little procession of a dozen or so waving flashlights. Marina had the only light between the four of us but as we neared the grassy knoll where the other lights had stopped we glanced to the right and it was a complete "Wow" moment. Fifteen HUGE dark Moai were outlined in the faintly forming dawn first light.

We sunk to the ground, pleased we had remembered to grab jumpers, and set up cameras ready for the dawn. A camaraderie, with the variety of nations present, saw biscuits and chocolates shared around as people bustled with tripods, lens and camera settings, and shared jackets and blankets. The sound of surf crashing on rocks made us aware the sea was not far behind the statues.

The light came gently first, through the heavy cloud cover.  It came as a sort of soaking of soft grays that allowed us to see the Moai's faces in stages. Then the full sunrise eventually lit up the clouds behind the statues making the faces dark again against the startling colours of the sunrise.

Easter Island had welcomed our very late flight with warm weather, ukuleles, scantily clad singing girls and fresh flower leis. A very Polynesian feel! A little hiccup occurred with our booked accommodation of a cabin at Camping Mihinoa  – Marta the owner did not have our name down as coming. There was a mix up with dates. It worked wonderfully to our advantage, because it was their error, we were put in better accommodation next door in the Hostal Tojika owned by Marta’s sister Kati, right on the beach front and for the same price of $40 per night. 

Within half an hour of arrival we were embroiled in a hilarious attempt for us all to have a fire drill. Some officials had been talking to Marta and Kati, saying there had to be fire drill and an emergency meeting  point. So a sign was put up to be the emergency meeting point then all the campers and cabin dwellers were advised the drill was going to happen. But as with all fire drills once you know it is going to happen you just sort of -  wait for it. You don’t want to go back to what you were doing. So Marta is trying to scatter people away, then she needs to think up a way to call us for attention, so she finds a whistle. All is with much laughter and chatter. Eventually she blows her whistle, we all gather at the meeting point and the government official videos the occasion. Job done, the two officials get back in their car and drive off and two minutes later the new emergency meeting point sign has already blown away in the wind and life is back to normal!

Soon after, while discussing with Marta various options for transport, we got into conversation with two other guests mentioned at the beginning of this story, Brian and Marina. Brian the Canadian said he had heard that you have to see the Ahu Tongarika site of Moai Statues at dawn. Marta suggested we share the cost of the hire car between the four of us so we made the plan to go on the second full day of our stay.

The first day saw us having a much needed sleep in and a long walk to see the statues that were close to the main town of Hanga Roa. After our early morning start the next day, Brian decided to return to town with another person who had a car and Marina came with us to see many more of the sites around the Island. We put in a full day of sightseeing but had a bit of a nasty surprise at the National Park. Entrance fee was in the most up-to-date Lonely Planet listed as $10US. On arrival we were slugged a whopping $60US. Now you always allow leeway for things to change but in May this year the park entrance fee went up 600%! It was disappointing that no mention was made by the tourist office nor was it written in any literature. We paid under protest but think it is hard for backpackers on a budget to swallow a 600% increase and in particular couples as this a a each price. To rub salt in the wound they also required an extra 1 USD if you wished to use the loo, come on, not cricket. Thinking back we believe this to be the most expensive national park entrance fee we have encountered in our 60 countries travelled.  

Easter Island is still somewhat of an enigma. Why did the predecessors spend so much time building their Moai Statues and the stone platforms (Ahu) they stand on? They also left legacies of petroglyphs (intricate carvings in rocks) and ceremonial buildings still intact.

The recent history has been quite turbulent. Chile took control of the island in 1888. Up until 1963 the Rapa Nui people were forbidden to leave the island and were literally fenced in. Many died trying to escape the island in tiny boats. The island was run as one huge sheep "estancia"" at that time. Today islanders are able to come and go as they please, but seem to be looking towards independence. The people are so not Chileans by nature, they are very much more Pacific Islanders.

Our four days went very fast and we were quite sad it had not been for longer. It is a beautiful place of crashing surf, rocky cliffs, crater lakes and of course, unique archaeological treasures. Our plane was on time when we departed and its now back to Chile mainland.
Footnote: The Moai, Easter Island, Chile are an official Finalist in the New Seven Wonders Of The World. Rapa Nui National Park is also UNESCO World Heritage Listed.

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