Month: December 2019

Easter Island – somewhere I really thought I’d never see.

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As a youth, I never thought I’d get to travel, but I was always inspired by James Bond and the far away places he went to.

In later life, I got the travel bug, had a reasonable job, so I could travel and see some amazing places.

But even in later life, there were some places I thought I’d never see. Easter Island (otherwise known as Rapa Nui) is one of them.

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Although it’s part of Chile, it’s 2300 miles from the capital, Santiago.

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The flight took 5 hours, and I was able to watch 3 films.

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As a visitor, you need to get a permit to stay (maximum of 30 days).

We decided to get one on arrival. You also have to be staying at accommodation registered with the tourist board (so no wild camping).

One of only two times (the other one being Corfu) we were able to walk from the Airport to our accommodation.

On the way we had a look around and saw this Catholic church.

breakfast

After checking into our accommodation at the Aukara b&b, we wandered down to the beach, had a swim, a few drinks and dinner.

In the morning we had breakfast then a day tour our hotel had arranged for us.

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Our guide Leonardo Pakarati, local guide and documentary director.

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The full day tour lasts from 6 to 7 hours and you can visit the main places of interest of the island: Rano Kau Volcano, Orongo Ceremonial Village, Akahanga Village, Rano Raraku Volcano and Quarry, Tongariki Altar and Anakena Beach.

horse

Its possible to tour the island by bicycle (more about that later) instead we travelled around in a 4×4 as there was so much to see and time was limited.

Wild horses wander around everywhere in Rapa Nui.

Leonardo pointed at one with a white face. He said it had been a gift to the Island from Native Americans.

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First was Anakena Beach. Right out of Hawai 50.

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Our first sight of Moa heads “in the flesh”.

Leonardo was passionate about the island and it’s history.

He said the stones are our ancestors. They would be built to face the village so people would know they were being watched over.

He argued that they are not simply statues, but religious artefacts and living things and for this reason, the one in the British museum should be returned (more about that later).

oven

A celebration of some kind was being prepared.

Something I’d read about in the SAS survival handbook, in this case, incorrectly called a Maori oven.

I’d seen one on a bushcraft course in the lakes. You heat rocks by a fire, then dig a hole. Put the stones in the hole, wrap the food in leaves to make parcels, places them on the stones, then cover it all over until the food is cooked.

You might wonder why you’d go to all that trouble. The key is, it requires no cooking utensils and you can cook for 50 or 100 people this way.

mountain

We continue on to Ahu Tongariki.

We park nearby, but before we walk over to see the other Moa, I get a quick photo of this mountain behind us with its clear blue sky.

I was sad that we wouldn’t have enough time to climb it, but it was beautiful all the same.

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The heads with their backs to the ocean, facing the ancient village.

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A shot capturing the whole vista.

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The first settlers arrived in canoes which they fashioned into this basic form of shelter.

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Our next location Rano Raruku.

From this hillside many of the Moa were carved out of the rock, so its nicknamed the head factory.

empanada

But it’s lunchtime and we decide have some lunch.

A chicken Empanada and a bottle of beer made on the Island.

Easter Island – somewhere I really thought I’d never see.

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Rano Raruku, a wide open space with trails to wander around.

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Leonardo shows us one of the heads that was half constructed lying down to get an idea of how they were made.

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Standing three feet from these amazing objects was a breathtaking experience.

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I even got to see these two guys. Featured on the front of travel guides and airport posters, they are the iconic image of Easter Island.

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Rano Kau a 324m high extinct volcano.

It’s possible to walk all the way around it.

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Orongo ceremonial village.

Soil floors and low doorways. They were reconstructed in 1974.

The main occupants were part of the Birdman cult, but more about that later.

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At the village, a small museum.

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Inside, this image of the 4 ton Hoa Hakananai’a one of the most spiritual of the Moa, being loaded onto HMS Topaze to be transported to the British Museum.

Leonardo had visited the British Museum while making one of his documentaries. He had spoken to the curator, who had produced a receipt and said that the Museum “owned” the statue.

It’s quite an emotional matter for the people of Rapa Nui, I found an article about it here.

island

Looking out from the village is this small island Motu Nui.

The Birdman cult was based around the Tangata Manu competition. There would be a race to the Island to retrieve a Manutara bird egg.

Many would die climbing the high cliffs or be eaten by sharks while swimming. But the winner who arrived back first with an intact egg, got to be leader of the tribe.

As I write this, here in the UK, we have an imminent general election. I have to wonder if this isn’t a better form of leader selection.

rooftop

After a fantastic day, we are dropped back at our room for a shower and change, before heading out for the evening.

A perfect steak and a glass of red wine at La Taverne du Pecheur with a table overlooking the ocean.

The end to a perfect day.

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After breakfast. We still have a full day and fly back to Santiago in the morning.

So we decide to rent some mountain bikes and explore the coast.

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Ahu Tahai overlooking Cook Bay.

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Two hours ride later, and were still seeing Moa and the coast.

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We stop off at the Rapa Nui museum.

Crime is so rare on the Island that nobody locks up bikes, so we do the same.

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Inside, lots of interesting things to see and loads of stuff about the history of the Island.

The most interesting thing for me was this display.

I had no idea that the indigenous people of New Zealand and Hawaii are linked to the people of Rapa Nui.

Their estate is made up of this triangle, and people would have been sent out in canoes to find far away places to set up villages.

Sort of early colonisation if you think of it.

drinks

It’s thirsty work riding a bike in the sunshine, so we stop for some refreshments.

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One slight problem is that the salty air had corroded the gears on my bike.

I think if I was going again, I’d take some WD40.

We pedal back along the coastal trail.

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We pass by this music festival on our way back.

Nikki loved it, I thought it was audible vandalism but I got a drink and enjoyed myself all the same…

Hand back the bikes and walks  back to our hotel with a goodbye dinner planned by the ocean.

airport

With sadness, we head back to the airport.

I pop into the souvenir shop and buy a miniature Moa for my mantle at home.

But like Nikki said, at least we’ve been and not everyone can say that.

And…

If your going to be sat in an airport lounge for two hours, I don’t know a nicer one than this 🙂

A truly incredible place, highly recommended by everyone here at johnsunter.com (basically me).