Easter Island: or as the indigenous population call it – Rapa Nui. Picture an island about the size of Jersey. Roughly triangular with an extinct volcano at each point. 3500km from Chile, 4500 km from Tahiti…. in the middle of nowhere….. One of the most remote islands on our planet.
Day 01 – 25/10 – Arrive Easter Island – 21-22c Partly Cloudy
09:20 SCL – IPC 13:15 LAN 841 – 6hr flight
Transfer from airport to (and arranged by) hotel
Check-in Hotel Altiplanico
There is a strange tranquility about this island that I have not experienced before. Everyone seems at peace with themselves but also respectful of others. I’m not sure I’ve really got the words for it.
The plane lands on a runway that occupies the only 2km bit of flat land available and coasts up to to a terminal that is smaller than itself. In fact the $300m dollar plane is probably worth more than the whole island.
Polynesian motifs abound along with recently deliver horse poo in the carpark. For some reason there are many horses on the island. Beautiful horses. The islanders don’t seem to eat them nor do they ride them. Maybe they just like the look of them.
The 10-seater van picked us up and drove the mile and a half to the hotel, quirky but nice. Having checked in we walked to the shore to a Maoi, had a late lunch at a local ‘restaurant’. A few cocktails before dinner then early to bed.
Day 02 – 26/10 – Explore – Sunny
Full day excursion taking in the Ahus of Maoi, their quarry nursery and the only beach, Anakena. Dinner at the hotel restaurant – ok.
If you‘ve ever been to Dartmoor (in England) imagine a nice summer day up on the moor, fairly high humidity, and the cornish coast lapping up next to you. Add some bizarre sculptures and you’re there – Easter Island. It is the most eastern part of the Polynesian triangle with New Zealand and Hawaii at the other apexes.
The islanders are mostly Rapa Nui (Easter Island Polynesian) and a smattering of vaguely unwelcome Chileans. It’s a very tolerant relaxed society – to my eye at least – and thank God no poverty. The island is obviously remote; so some resources are scarce and a ‘make-do’ approach akin to the British II World war experience prevails even to the hotels. They get a monthly ship for their logistics: everything else arrives by plane.
Day 03 – 27/10 – Explore – Drizzle turning sunny
Power failure on Island. Visited Rapa Nui museum then walked through town past airport intending to walk around volcano. In fact after 5km found very nice restaurant just out of town next to what stands for a port. Had a lazy lunch of fantastic local fish then walked back to hotel. Later in evening had disappointing meal in restaurant recommended by guide. Worth checking Tripadvisor but don’t expect gourmet cooking.
So to the nub. The volcanic island appeared from the pacific 3 million years ago and was eventually populated by Polynesian explorers sometime around 1000 A.D. Unusually for the Polynesians they didn’t just rape the island and move on … they stayed. And it was their demise. All the tribes’ universal ancestral worship began to be reflected in sculptural images that became the focus of their competitiveness. 800+ Moaori (pronounced Maw-eye) were completed from a nursery on the edge of a volcano. 250 or so were moved, somehow, to the religious sites called Ahu where, one presumes, they boasted there authority. Ahu are like churches, With a Tapu (taboo) forbidding all sorts of things like universal congregation To keep it for the Toffs. Because the Polynesians had no sense of preservation or land management they eventually ran out of wood which is when anarchy descended. The Rapa Nui started to starve and lost their revere of their ancestors. The Maoi were – carefully – toppled over to remove the supernatural power they provided but without disrespecting the ancestors.
The arrival of westerners in this instance the Portuguese gave the islanders, the obvious benefits of venereal disease, influenza and christianity that, when coupled with the raids by Peruvian pirates and enslavement of 1000 people, brought the community to its smallest with little more than a hundred remaining Rapa Nuis.
Their predominantly oral history (like our gaelics) meant that most if not all of their history was lost. Resulting with the enigma we are presented with today… Why did they bother making all those megaliths?
Day 04 – 28/10 – Pottered about in morning – Sunny day
Fly Depart Easter Island Arrive Santiago
14:55 IPC – SCL 21:35 4.5hr flight
Our 3 night 2 full-day tour was, in my opinion, ample for all but the most keen anthropologists. Nevertheless; a lifetime of memories.
A special thanks to the captain of our departing flight (787 Dreamliner – nice) the cabin crew ‘missed’ the oxygen mask demonstration before takeoff so the captain was obliged to fly below 14000 feet until it was completed. Bearing in mind the island is a ‘one horse town’ with only one flight per day one has to ask oneself why he needed to rush the take off. Nevertheless it was a bloody good excuse to circle the island at 2500 feet until the due diligence was completed. Fantastic.
Next: Valparaiso and Casablanca Wine Region