Growing old on Rapa Nui

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, May 30, 2011

After not more than 12 hours in Chile we were back at the airport for our flight out. Well actually despite being a 6 hour flight away and the remotest inhabited island in the world, we were actually staying in Chile, just leaving Santiago.  Our destination: Easter Island/Rapa Nui.  I had been looking forward to going to Easter Island since we booked the tickets way back last year, mainly because it's the most random place to go I think and also because of the big heads and couldn’t believe it was on us!  As it was Kevin’s birthday whilst on the island I had booked for us to stay in a nice place for our week on the island.  Kevin had no idea and started trying to strike up a bargain with people selling their accommodation in the airport when we arrived.  I was a little embarrassed because we would have to pull out of any deal he made so I kept trying to pull him away.  He wouldn’t take the hint so in the end I had to point out the man standing outside with my name on the board.  He looked a little confused but at least it stopped him being unhelpfully helpful.

We went outside and met Paul, the hotel owner, who took us to our accommodation. Paul is an American man in his 60’s (I think!) who first came to the island when he was 16 as a volunteer on the first real archaeological expedition here. He returned years later, married one of the Rapa Nui locals and has been living here ever since. A really nice man and he was a great help to us during our time on the island. Liz had done really well and got us a bungalow all of our own for the 6 nights we were on the island as a present for me. We had our own kitchen, living room and even a deck area! That night we bought some pasta and sauce in the shop and cooked ourselves dinner.

On our first morning we didn’t wake up till about midday! I’m blaming the 'jet-lag’. We were surprised to find a plate of food outside the front door as Liz had done a deal with Paul to get the price down that he would only bring breakfast on the 3 days around my birthday. We were tucking in to our ‘lunch’ when he dropped by and explained that he had thought we looked a bit tired yesterday and didn’t think we’d make it to the shops so gave us some food. Very nice of him! He gave us some suggestions of things to do so that afternoon we walked to the volcano crater south of Hanga Roa and the archaeological site of Orongo. The walk up to the crater was nice and the surprise we got when we came over the crest to see the enormous crater was brilliant. It’s 1.4km wide and 350m deep! We followed the edge of the crater all the way around to Orongo. Perched on the narrow stretch of land with the sheer crater wall on one side and sheer cliffs to the sea on the other, the collection of houses and ceremonial sites of Orongo is very impressive. Built to celebrate the annual ritual of the birdman, the area has some very impressive petroglyphs (rock carvings) and incredible views of the islets and ocean. We headed back down to town as the sun set for another feed of carbs with more pasta and sauce.

The next day Paul drove us to Anakena on the north side of the island so we could walk from there around the coast back to town. Before he left he gave us a mini tour around the site and started explaining some stuff about the moai (the big heads-which also have bodies attached to them). The walk around the coast was great. The ground was pretty tricky as much of it is covered in ankle breaking football sized volcanic rocks hidden in the grass. The coast rises and falls from sea level to high cliffs providing dramatic views of crashing waves and endless seas. The area is also littered with unrestored ahu (the ‘altars’ the moai stand on) and fallen and broken moai. We only met one person on our 6 hour walk, a local Rapa Nui on horseback and we had a little chat with him in Rapa Spanglish. Towards the end of the walk as you get close to town there a couple of caves to visit and one, ‘the cave of 2 windows’, is a pretty tight squeeze in and dark crawl to the a room with two openings to the sea with really cool views. Heading back into town we got to Ahu Tahai just in time for sunset and some nice pics of the moai. Pasta and sauce, again.

Friday was tour day. Liz had arranged with Paul to take us on a day tour around the island to see all the major spots. Particularly Ranu Raraku, the volcanic crater where they carved all the moai, was very impressive. Some of the statues were huge!  Apparently different tribes tried to out-do each other by making ever bigger Moai to protect their villages. How they would have moved some of the left over ones in this quarry is beyond me….maybe that’s why they gave it up!  At about 5 o’clock Liz reminded me that it was midnight at home and therefore my birthday.  It made me happy that I was still in my 20’s when I would otherwise have been 30 had I been at home! It’s the little victories.

Happy Birthday to me! Woke up this morning, 30. Why God, why?! Stress over we headed over the Paul’s hotel to use his internet to Skype my parents. Liz had planned for us to the climb to the highest point on the island but unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing ball. There’s not a huge amount to do on Easter Island when it’s raining so Paul suggested we take a board game, so I’m ashamed to say we spent the lunchtime of my 30th birthday paying scrabble. Immediate maturity. It was actually good craic and we weren’t too bad for a first ever go I thought. Thankfully it cleared up in the afternoon and we walked down to a restored moai site that we hadn't yet seen and then back along the coast for sunset and a few beers. That night we went for dinner in a really nice restaurant and had some amazing seafood. Plenty of wine later and a take-away bottle in hand, we ended up back in the house playing drunk scrabble. Rock and roll.

As you do with a hangover the day after your birthday on a Sunday….we headed to mass.  I hadn’t undergone a complete personality transplant on turning 30, but it is recommended as a highlight of the island as the service is in Rapa Nui. Supposebly.  As we have found out since, we weren’t the only people who dragged ourselves there at 9am only to discover it's actually in Spanish, but at least the songs were in Rapa Nui. Everyone singing along aswell. Only the Irish don’t sing at mass it seems. After we got home, washed and got over our hangovers (well more or less) we headed out to walk up the highest point (Mt Terevaka) that we had missed out on the day before.  Because Paul was out on a day tour we had to get a local taxi to drop us off at the start point, a 5 minute drive up the main road.  Well, there were some communication errors and when we started driving inland and the wrong way we tried to explain again, he said yes, but then when we ended up at the end point and he started heading up the hill in the car we realised why he had quoted us so much for the trip! Once we convinced him that we actually wanted to walk up the hill he realised the mistake and took us to the right place, and made twice as much as he should in the process! The walk was nice enough although not spectacular, but it was cool from the top getting to see the ocean wherever we looked. 

On the way to the airport on the last day we got Paul to stop at the post so we could get some Easter Island stamps in our passports. Worth the 50p each they were. At the airport Paul gave us some cool leaving presents of a shell necklace for Liz and a necklace with a shell and feather for me. We had a great time on the island and would recommend a trip there to anyone who’s passing by!! We'd also highly recommend Paul for both accommodation and tours. His website is 
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