Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

moai

baby pineapples - what a great idea!

yum yum

the "Birdman" Islands

sarong is still "spoken" on the island

local guys in the local swimwear

next time we'd like to get here on something more like this

sunbathing moais

moais with the island's only town in the background

Charlie and "Murray", the dog that adopted us

the views from our hike - can't figure out how this ocean...

at the beach Charlie collaborates with a new friend on how to...

we had the beach to ourselves after camping nearby

more boys on the beach

yet another picture for REI

scuba Charlie

the crater where the moais were carved

sitting with my buddy

wah, wah, wah (baby moai crying)

largest group of standing moais


We went to Easter Island because it's a convenient stopover point between Santiago and Tahiti and Sydney. It actually cost $100 more to go this way as opposed to flying to Sydney via L.A., but we figured it was worth it to knock it off the list of things to see. So we didn't have high expectations. We were wrong. This little island turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Quick background on the island: At first the islanders were broken into two tribes who were competing to carve bigger and bigger stone statues (moai). In the process they managed to deforest and destroy the ecosystem of the island which led to starvation of the large population and wars. During the battles most of the moais of the opposing tribes were knocked down. The ones standing today were restored to their original positions, although many remain face planted into the ground. Eventually they came up with an ingeneous idea to stop the fighting: to change the leadership annually with a competition. The competition took place at the end of the "Birdman Festivals". We don't know much about the festivals because the only outside witness was a missionery who promptly set about ending them. The competition involved scaling down a rocky cliff to the ocean, swimming to a nearby islet, climbing onto the islet to procure the egg of some migrating bird (can't remember the name). The first to do so was the winner and leader for the next year.

So we had 4 days here. Our first order of business was to do some scuba diving since the island is known for interesting underwater volcanic formations and crystal clear water. Although on the first dive we didn't see any of the volcanic formations, but we did see coral reefs and pretty fish. The dive master chopped off the spikes from a sea urchin and was surrounded by a swarm of fairly large fish that gobbled it up before the cleaning was entirely over. We also saw a large mushroom shaped coral guarded by a grazing sea turtle. After that we hiked up to the corner of the island where you can see two small islets where the birdman competitions were held. They had pictures there showing how the island may have looked before deforestation. It's hard to imagine the island covered with palm trees as now there are some small eucalyptus groves and otherwise not forested. We camped at an informal hostel which was basically someone's home with a few rented out rooms. It was a great setting and the family was very nice, including the adorable 3 year old daughter, Ka-Tiki.

The second day after several pictures of the standing moais near the main town, we started on a 7 hour hike to the other far corner of the island where the white sand beach is and another group of restored moais. Along the way a stray dog decided to befriend us. He looked just like Murray on Mad About You, so he instantly had a name and we enjoyed his company, assuming he would turn back soon enough. Turns out that dogs on the island think that no self respecting human should lack canine companionship. Murray followed us the whole seven hours. At first we tried not to encourage him by giving him food or water, but as he persevered we finally tried to give him some water. He was only mildly interested even though it was warm and sunny. Anyway, the coastline was deserted and we had amazing views of the Pacific all to ourselves for several hours. We came across groups of horses and some cowboys herding their cows, but that was about it. Along the way we came across a million platforms and a few face planted moais. The beach was beautiful white sand fringed by palm trees and although it was a beautiful Friday afternoon, was almost deserted (there's also a road that leads there). We put the tent up and then went to the beach for a much needed swim. Two local guys waved at us to sit with them, which after 8 months of travelling we were wary about because it almost always leads to some business proposition. Not here. They just wanted to chat and give us coconuts, which one of the scaled up the trees to get.

The next day we had another scuba diving appointment in the early afternoon and weren't interested in another 7 hour hike back to town. We had been assured that hitchiking was common and safe on the island so we gave it a try. Although the road seemed deserted, the first empty car to pass by stopped and gave us a lift back to our hostel. Dive 2 was between the two birdman islands. The shallow shelf between the islands falls off to over 200 feet (70 meters). Diving next to this vertical wall showed how right they were about the great visibility. We could clearly see the bottom, which made it seem deceptively close, although obviously dangerously deep. That night we went to an outdoor event which was the final part of a week long Rapa Nui festival that celebrates the traditions of the island. (We saw pieces of this festival along the way like a road race and a swimming competition.) The final night the queen of the festival is crowned after some musical and other entertainment.

Our final day we hitch-hiked (this time we actually hadn't even put out a thumb before someone stopped to offer us a ride) out to Rano Raku, aka the "nursery", where the statues were carved out of the volcanic rock. Dozens and dozens were left here in various stages of construction. From there we walked to the largest group of standing statues - an impressive site, especially on such a beautiful, sunny day with the dark blue ocean in the background. Before coming to the island we figured you see one statue, two statues, take a few pictures and you would feel like you're pretty much done with it. For some reason that was not the case for us. We couldn't get enough of them, whether standing or grounded or fully restored or not. Perhaps because they went through various phases and not all look alike and come in all sorts of sizes. We wished the island had a donation box at the airport where you could donate to the cause of restoring them all to their original positions.

We heard from many people that Easter Island is a great place, but were never given any convincing reasons why. Now we've joined the bandwagon, but still can't quite put our finger on it. Perhaps because they have the real "aloha" spirit promised in Hawaii but seems to be stamped out by too much tourism. Suffice it to say it's a beautiful place with the friendliest people we've encountered with the added bonus of the mysterious and magestic statues and history.



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