I didn’t know how to start this next edition of our blog so I asked the Geezer. His response “two shit films later and we were in Easter Island”.
After six weeks of cold weather, we arrive on Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) with day packs full of winter clothes. It hadn’t registered with either of us that we were heading to a tropical island so we swelter in the heat at the airport wondering if we’ve lost the plot. This time around we haven’t booked any accommodation following the advice of various guide books which say that accommodation touts mob the plane when you arrive. Unable to spot a single tout we mooch off into the town with our thick winter jackets and hiking boots feeling stupid.
The island itself is quite small with the barest of facilities which surprises us. The landscape reminds me of New Zealand – black volcanic rocks, the greenest grass, the bluest sea and islanders that look Maori but speak Spanish. The town consists of one main street with a handful of mini markets and restaurants that charge exorbitant prices just to walk in the door. A couple of coffees set us back $10USD which in South American terms is daylight robbery. Slightly alarmed at the expense of the place we come across a moody hostel with even moodier owners – who later redeem themselves by bringing us a fruit shake and freshly baked banana bread because they feel sorry for us being ill from the dodgy tacos we’d eaten a few days back!
We wander down to the ocean and catch our first glimpse of a moai. We are pretty excited –especially the Geezer who has waited for this moment for years. We hang around to watch a fabulous sunset and call it a night.
The next day is Sunday and the entire island has shut down. Even the dogs have disappeared. We can’t find any information on tours and are scared to scratch ourselves in case it costs another $10. We come across several places that rent out jeeps and given that the island is so quiet we decide to give driving on the opposite side of the road a go.
It feels weird at first driving on the other side of the road but I soon get used to it and before long we are flying along towards our first stop – Anakena Beach. The beach is a beautiful backdrop for four moai that are lined up on a platform. The moai have hats on made of red volcanic rock carved out of a volcano on the island. We take loads of pictures and then drive past lots of ruins to Ahu Tongariki, a large open space that has 15 moai lined up on a platform. They are so handsome and stand proud. We spend quite a bit of time there marvelling at the moai before moving on to Rano Kao where the so called ‘unfinished moai’ are. Some of them are still set in the stone from which they are carved while others have fallen and are lying face down. But the ones that really blow us away are the famous moai that feature in most pictures of Easter Island.
We stop at a pasta place on the way back to the hostel where the owner picks fresh basil out of his garden to make our pasta and is playing the Rolling Stones which Geezer dribbles all over. We planned to only hire the jeep for a day but we’ve had such a great time whizzing around the island and there is still more to see so we hire it a second day.
Day two of our driving tour and we head to Puna Pau which is the volcano where the moai’s hats are carved from. There are many hats still lying about on the volcano. Then it’s on to Ahu Akivi where there are seven moai lined up on a platform. These are the only moai that face the water. Most of the other moai on the island have their backs to the water so that they can watch over the villages that used to be there. All that remains of the villages are ruins but the many of the moai still stand tall – some having been restored. It surprises us that so many of the moai are lying in ruins. The most famous ones have been restored but the island has clearly taken a battering after several earthquakes and tsunamis.
The roads around the island are atrocious. It’s pretty much impossible to go over 30kph because they are so terrible. The Geezer takes over the wheel but is relegated back to the passenger seat after getting a bit too excited and fish-tailing the jeep!
We spend the rest of the day driving back around to the moai taking more pictures, soaking in the atmosphere of the island, and trying not to move too much in case it makes us hungry.
By some miracle, despite bags of winter clothes, we have still packed our togs and we finish with a swim at Anakena Beach. The last swim we had was in Antarctica so, needless to say, the water is significantly warmer!
On the way back to the hostel we find a couple of tired looking French travellers standing on the side of the road and drive them back to town. We wander down to the water for another beautiful sunset with the moai at Ahu Tahai and sit in our hostel room eating hot chip butties.
Two shit films later and we are back in Santiago.