Easter Island wasn’t really on my radar for this trip, but on a whim one day I decided to look at last minute fares from Santiago. We were almost to the city and it’s the only place you can fly to Easter Island from. I’d read some blogs suggesting last minute fares are the best way to save money and that the cost of travel on the island itself isn’t actually all that bad….
And, well, a week later we were on our way…
Roberto generously allowed us to store the bikes at his place while we were gone, and knowing they were in good hands let us go have a great trip to an extremely remote and exotic part of the world. I found a place online where we could camp for about $9 per day per person and we stocked up on food to take with us in order to keep the budget in line. Food and supplies on the island are extremely expensive, so I’d read that was the best way to keep costs under control.
It’s a small island, only 63 square miles-ish. So you can actually walk, hike and bicycle to most, or all, of the island. Another way to keep costs down.
The 5-hour flight took us way out over the Pacific, roughly halfway to Tahiti. And as we flew I was reminded of the fact that Easter Island is reported to be the most remote inhabited place on Earth…wow. Arriving at the airport at the western edge of the island, we were met by warm tropical breezes and a lei greeting from the campground shuttle driver. And within an hour of flying in we were settled into our sun-baked tent and making plans for the week. We wandered into Hanga Roa, the main town, to have some lunch and a local beer and get our bearings.
The island reminded me of Polynesia, and that’s fitting since it is actually part of Polynesia. Long boats/canoes out on the ocean, palm trees blowing gently in the breeze, turquoise water, and the language of Rapa Nui all add to that. Rapa Nui is the name of the island, language and people who are native here. But most of us know it as Easter Island (or Isla de Pascua in Spanish) as it was named by Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, when he first landed here on Easter Sunday 1722.
And the sunsets here are incredible…
Our first full day on the island we hike north of Hanga Roa to go see more of the nearly 900 Moai (giant stone carvings, sometimes referred to as heads) just outside the village. Along the shoreline as we go through town we find lots of stone carvings.
We pass the community cemetery on the way and I think it’s one of the loveliest I have ever seen – surrounded by a lava rock wall, overlooking the ocean and covered in wildflowers.
Not far past it as we walk up a dirt road, we get a fantastic view of Aha Tahai with it’s giant Moai perched on the edge of the sea.
These five giant Moai, as do all of the Moai on the island except for one place, face inland. The idea being that they watch over the people of the island. At Ahu Akivi the 7 Moai face out to sea, supposedly to help guide sailors to the island.
The Moai were almost all carved from a tuff (compressed volcanic ash) quarry on the eastern end of the island at a dormant volcano, Rano Raraku. Moai were given pukao or top knots made to resemble the hairstyle of the men of the island from red lava rock taken from another quarry at Puna Pau near Hanga Roa. Moai were were also given eyes made from white coral, but only one statue on the island still has them.
Rather than bore you with lots of details if you, for some strange reason, aren’t interested….
Wild horses and stray dogs wander freely all over the island. And I had read before visiting that hikers will frequently stumble across the remains of horses. In one blog I read that the sea grass that they eat is toxic to the horses and over time it makes them sick and can kill them. Sad…. But I never asked anyone on the island so I prefer to think it’s not true.
I read in the guidebook that we should try the local empanadas that are supposed to be really good, made from fresh tuna steak and cheese. And they are incredible, especially with the pevere sauce (hot pepper).
We spend 6 nights on the island. One day we rent a car to drive to the far side for sunrise, another we rent bicycles to ride a loop road up the coast and to the banana caves, more Moai sites and to the Pukao quarry at Puna Pau, and a different day we hike up to the Rano Kao crater and to the village of the Birdman cult at Orongo….so we’re just getting started.