04.08.2010 - 06.08.2010 7 °C
Easter Island or Rapa Nui always held many childhood fantasies of mysterious rituals and rugged remoteness. I never thought I would ever make it there for real, but somehow we managed to just about include it into our route between Tahiti and Cuba.
We didn’t manage to book a room ahead, not for lack of trying, but everything had been solidly booked out from 2 mths before. Tripadvisor had given mixed reviews about most of the places. I tried to manage my expectations and figured the worst scenario would be camping which could be quite fun even in the chilly evenings.
We found all our worries were for nothing as, there were about 3 counters promoting local pensions. A lady sold us and a Swiss guy rooms ($20 a night) at the same pension on the other side of the main high street in Hanga Roa. She drove us there and also sourced us our own jeep for $30 for 24 hours. We had had an overnight flight and with only one full day in Easter Island so we were rearing to go.
Our pension was a little semi-detached bungalow in a large garden of other mini bungalows and a towering long hydroponic pepper patch. Our bungalow consisted of one room and a shower/toilet. It was clean enough and had the usual array of health and safety hazards. The window from the toilet looked onto the main kitchen. The kitchen was a compact with the only basics which led onto a terrace with a dining table. On the other side, a door from the kitchen led into a living room for the lady who served us breakfast and took our payment. She was a lovely granny like local who spoke no English but was very caring, serving strong hot coffee at every opportune moment.
We sat down at the terrace table and had our coffee to set us up for the day. We chatted to a Swiss guy and a Chilean guy about their travels while we looked past the garden. We could see a Maoi on the horizon. The air was undeniably fresh with heavy icy water droplets.
As soon as our red jeep arrived we were off around the island. There was no insurance , so everyone drives carefully. We needed to get money and the book had portrayed some complicated foreign exchange issue. We found the local bank as mapped by the book. After Julian threw a marginal frustrated fit as he had waited in a very long queue and then tried in vain to organize some cash from the bank unsuccessfully, we drove around the corner and found a brand new spanking red Santander branch. A well to do man inside showed us how to use the ATM – easy peasy. I have to say the Lonely Planet for the South Pacific islands was pretty crap – they really need to publish a new edition.
Hanga Roa was compact but busy little centre, with a sprinkling of tourist shops, hotels, eateries and car rental places. It seemed very carefree with kids playing infront of buildings and packs of dogs and wild horses trotting about. Tourists in all-weather anoraks and woollies and wellies trapsing around. Also I noticed just off the town, there were a number of crazy surfers boarding in the choppy freezing sea.
We followed the coastal road from Hanga Roa from the west to the north-east of the island. Most of the roads were good but some were dirt tracks.
We drove as close as we could to the nearest site. This lush emerald field was known as the Tahai Ceremonial Complex. It was just breathtaking. Hoards of wild horses seemed to be roaming free with their maine blowing in the wind. The Moai with a piercing stony glare had a back drop of formidable midnight blue waves crashing frothily onto the scraggy black rocks. I was impressed.
All of the Maoi dotted around Easter Island, to me were spectacular, so not sure I can do them much justice in the photographs or this blog. All I can say is they were all amazing and at a rush, we did manage to see everything we wanted to in 1.5 days.
Just a few things to note, the petro glyphs in the cave are definitely worth it. Also the one surprisingly amazing sight which blew us away was the crater lake of Rano Raraku in the southern tip of Easter Island. It is filled with rain water and plantation but looked like it is filled with glistening jewels. Also, try and get to the sites before the coach loads do, so best to start early.
We did as much as we could before it got dark. We walked back into town for dinner. The highest rated restaurant from the book was closed but we found a sort of italian restaurant. It was probably subzero and after we sat down on the terrace, we realised that there were no actual rooms. The view and the sounds were beautiful but jeesh it was freezing. Also, I think they forgot our order because it took them about an hour to serve us, still the food was not bad.
We were pretty tired by the time we walked home. A rather haggered alsation met us at the entrance and decided to become our dog. He lay on the doorstep of our bungalow, and protectively barked most of the night.