Does it always rain like this?

Trip Start Jul 02, 2009
Trip End Jun 28, 2010

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, November 1, 2009

I first learned of the existence of Rapa Nui (better known as Easter Island) when still in primary school in Trinidad and can remember pictures of moai in a Ladybird book. Some years later an article in the travel section of the Independent that made me aware of the possibility of including Rapa Nui on a cross-Pacific itinerary.  The island features (see Chapter 2: Twilight at Easter) in Jared Diamond's book 'Collapse'  which is the sequel to  'Guns, Germs and Steel'.

The flight from Santiago was about five hours.  I'd heard that over-booking can be a problem on this run so I'd reconfirmed and arrived early.  The check in was busy (some people had a lot of baggage) but there were no problems and before long I'd taken my seat on the plane.  Not long after this, a man in his early sixties rolled up and told me that I was sitting in his seat. "Not so", I replied, "this is my seat".  A check of boarding cards soon revealed that we were both right since the seat numbers were identical (kind of worrying that the software allows this to happen given the current obsession with air travel security).  Concerned about over-booking, I held my ground and until a flight attendant said that I had to move to another seat.  Annoyance about being forced to move evaporated in an instant when the other seat turned out to be in business class.  I'd just started chatting with a friendly Chilean doctor who had also been upgraded (leaving her friend behind in steerage) when a miserable git turned around from the row in front and told us (from across the aisle) to speak more quietly.  There's nothing that people who've paid (or had their employers pay) for business class travel hate more than having to share the business class cabin with The Great Unwashed who've overflowed up from Economy so it was great to have helped ruin this jerk's day.  I resisted the urge to recommend the application of a soothing and efficacious hemorrhoid cream...

I booked accommodation in Hanga Roa upon arrival at the airport and it would most accurately described as 'cheap and cheerless'.  Despite the fact that it was not especially clean, I stayed there for three nights although I would not go back there again if I ever get a chance to return to Rapa Nui.  Before knocking the place too much I should note that this where one of the series of posts on fragment screening library design was written and I suspect that the island does not have a huge community of science bloggers. 

I did two half-day tours and one full-day tour while on the island.  I visited Ahu Akivi on the first afternoon and was already getting a taste of how the weather was going to turn out.  This site is unusual in that the moai face out to sea and there is a quarry nearby that was used to supply the reddish stone that was used for the 'hair'. 

There is a small site close to Ahu Akivi which still awaits restoration.

Then it was off to Ahu Tahai which is on the coast and the moai there face inland as is normal for moai.  I've included a couple of pics of Thais, our friendly and informative guide.  Her father is from the island.    

One of the moai at Ahu Tahai has been restored with eyes and I couldn't resist posing with it.  The second half-day excursion was to Orongo and this was re-scheduled for the afternoon because of the weather the day before.  I walked up a bit of the east coast past Ahu Tahai in the morning and rather bizarrely came across a dead horse and then a dead cow, neither of which got photographed.  I did come across some (live) wild horses and for a significant proportion of the walk was accompanied by a friendly dog who disappeared as abruptly as he originally appeared.

Orongo is up on the crater rim of Rano Kau and was the centre of the Birdman Cult.  Even though the weather was unpleasant it was still clearly an impressive location.  I got chatting to  a friendly Sikh couple who were the first British people with whom I'd talked for about three weeks.  He had a very impressive camera.   

The full day tour stopped first at Ahui Hanga Te'e.  All the moai here are horizontal and await restoration.  

Next stop was Ahu Tongariki, home to the largest group of moai on the island.  These moai gaze obliquely at Rano Raruku from which they had originally been quarried.

We drove up to (the now thankfully extinct) Rano Raruku before lunch and wandered around.  This was where the moai were quarried and, as I understand it, the moai up here were in the process of being moved when things came unstuck.  These days they're just scattered around randomly and of course you can get a lot closer to them than when they're standing on an ahu. I was very glad that the rain held off at this point because there was a lot to see and this was the most exposed terrain that we visited on the tour. 

Rano Raruku is home to an unusual Moai (Tukuturi) who has legs and kneels.  You can see Ahu Tongariki in the photo just behind his head.  There are some some partially carved moai at Rano Ruruku and I'm not sure that I would have volunteered for the job of hacking the last bit out at the bottom.  Perhaps this was a duty for which you got volunteered?


The last stop was at Anakena beach and the rain was just starting to pick up so we didn't linger.
I got back to Hotel Cheap and Cheerless where I'd persuaded Boss Lady to rent me the room for an extra half day (mainly because I didn't want to leave my pack in the living room).  She'd originally said that I'd have to pay for a full night and I naturally said no way.  However, the daily fall off in breakfast quality suggested problems with cash flow and just half an hour after I'd made the suggestion she'd cracked and agreed to a half day rate.  This meant that I was able to shower and get a bit more comfortable for the  flight to Tahiti although my feet were so wet I removed my socks as well as boots on the plane.  The weather had been miserable but I was really glad to have visited.  As the plane took off, I thought about the creators of the moai and how this island had once been a place of great suffering.


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Cat on

Great blog post on Easter Island. I LOL-ed at that hemorrhoid cream comment! Now I am torn between this and Ushuaia.

peter.kenny on

I think you'll enjoy both places although I'd take Ushuaia if offered a week in one or the other. Easter island is so remote and it's a place about which I've known since I was a small child. I don't know if you've had a chance to read the Jared Diamond books (Guns, Germs and Steel; Collapse) but I certainly found them very stimulating.

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