Hanga Roa versus...?

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, June 30, 2005

So I am here now, on Easter Island, on Isla de Pascua, on Rapa Nui (the "big" island), on Te Pito o Te Henua (the navel of the world). It's a tiny island, basically in the middle of nowhere, and one of the most remote places on earth (3700KM west of the South American coast and 1900KM east of Pitcairn Island, the nearest populated landmass). It's a Chilean territory since 1888, but it is actually a Polynesian island. The islanders (I believe there's about 4000 of them) speak Rapa Nui, an eastern Polynesian dialect, as well as Spanish. Many also speak English, due to the number of foreign tourists visiting.

Lan Chile has several flights a week from Santiago to Papeete (the capital city of Tahiti) and vice versa, stopping and letting off passengers on Easter Island. So although the place is incredibly remote and isolated, it's also pretty touristy (especially in the high season around August and January). Most Western tourists seems to be older couples or backpackers on RTW flight tickets on their way to either New Zealand or South America. There's also a big number of tourists from Latin America coming here, mostly people from Chile. It's usually very expensive to fly here (we are not exactly in SLEasy Jet territory), but I managed to get here on a cheaper promotion flight (well, it was still a US $664 return from Mendoza). Being so remote, a Chilean territory, as well as a tourist destination (most people on the island seem to work in tourism, one way or the other), it's also very expensive here. Without doubt the most expensive place I have visited so far on this trip around Latin America.

I arrive late on Wednesday evening, again full of excitement. Ready to follow in the footsteps of Thor Heyerdahl, the great Norwegian explorer. After locating a guesthouse, I check out the tiny town of Hanga Roa (everyone on the island lives here). It takes me about ten minutes to walk from one side of town to the other, and during those minutes I manage to make many random observations...

- More or less every single house on the island is a tourist agency (offering guided tours, horseback riding as well as car, buggy, motorbike, quad bike and push-bike rentals), mini market, guesthouse, restaurant or souvenir shop.

- Yes they have mobile phones.

- They seem to have very reliable electricity, with street lights and even a "football stadium" with floodlights. Although I have no idea how and where the electricity is generated.

- They have an incredibly starry sky, there's no pollution here.

- There's a couple of dive shops on the island. Apparently the diving is very good, with crystal clear waters (again, no pollution) and many endemic fish species.

- Although everything in town is within crawling distance, the locals seem to love their rusty 4WD, pickups and motorbikes, as well as galloping down the main street on healthy looking horses.

- There seems to be three "discos" on the island. Wow, I bet there's some scary parties to be found!

- Stray dogs almost outnumber the locals.

- Long haired guys seems to be the trade of the week.

- I bet there's very few car thieves around.

- I could never live here. It's beautiful, but I would be bored insane in less than a fortnight.

I end the night watching my first live football match in Latin America (yes, I am sad to say that I haven't managed to drag my ass to go see a game yet, although I have been very close several times in both Rio, Asunción and Buenos Aires). The game ends 2-0 or 0-2, but I have no idea who is playing. Hanga Roa versus...? Or maybe Easter Island versus Pitcairn Island (I guess it would take them a couple of months to get here in dugout canoes or on balsa rafts).

Time for bed, I am really looking forward to the next few days!
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