Rapa Nui – part 1

Flying to Easter Island/Rapa Nui/Isla de Pascua

My flight left Quito at 8.30pm, despite checking in online I was still required to be there 3 hours early, which was about as dull as it could be.  Quito international airport is about as big as Southampton airport (well, maybe slightly bigger) and there is nothing to do apart from have the most expensive Subway sandwich EVER and they didn’t even have sweet onion sauce – rubbish!

The next flight was at 1.30am from Lima, Lima airport is equally boring especially when you’d like to be asleep but you’re not sure if someone will nick your bags while you sleep.   Luckily this flight wasn’t full, as upset as I was when 2 americans sat next to me on the flight, I was also the quickest off the mark to ask the air stewardess if I could move seats, safely securing the final empty row for myself by sitting on the middle seat – 3 seats for me! 🙂 I lay down to enjoy my 6hr 35 minute flight….only to be informed that it was only 4hrs 45 😦 British Airways flight information sucks – they blatently can’t count!

Arriving at Mataveri international airport in the dark, I climbed down off the plane and headed towards a small shed – arrivals! Prepared to buy my national park ticket at the airport to save 10% I was surprised to find that it was $50 a ticket, not the $10 my guidebook told me…inflation is high on the island! Needless to say, I didn’t get a ticket and continued through customs to the othe side of the shed.  I was (eventually) greeted by my hostel owners and given a wreath of fresh flowers to wear.  I was driven back to the hostel, shown my bed and quickly collapsed into sleep with no clue as to what the time was.  A few hours later, I surfaced and walked into Hanga Roa (the only town on the island) got some money, bought some water (£2 for 1.6 litres) and went to tourist information to find out about things.  I then wandered for a while trying to find tour agencies (all closed for lunch) and ate and empanada as big as my kindle.  Eventually I managed to book a tour for the next day and due to the fact that I couldn’t actually figure out what day it was when they were giving my tour options, the owner politely asked me if I knew the time so that I would be there at the right time the next day.  I then found out that it was 5.45 in the evening.  I had figured it was somewhere between 3.45 and 6.45, so it was finally nice to know what time it was!

Day 1:

Ahu Tongariki

The first real day (post time zone confusion) consisted of a day tour to the furthest spots on the island.  We learned that the Moai (big stone statues) are tributes to the dead, kinda like gravestones.  They face the family settlements to protect them, this is why all except one set of Moai face inwards towards the island and not out to the coast.  Anyone could buy a Moai, but the biggest ones on the island are mostly kings or important tribal leaders.  Almost all the Moai have ben restored or at least put bag upright after they were all knocked down during civil unrest during the 17th century.

The Moai were all carved out of the same hill (Rano Rakura), there is a ‘Moai factory’ there now with hundreds of unfinished moai in various stages of construction, buried in the hill.  They wer ecarved from the rock, then slid down the hill so that they could be finished (ears, arms, back carvings) when they were stood upright.   They were then pulled down the hill and across the island to their final resting places.  The largest Moai ever is still buried in the hill, but as he’s lying down, it’s pretty difficult to see how big he really is.

In the evening, we (Luca – italian from my hostel and Angeli – american we met on the bus) headed for the sports centre in town where there was a fundraising events to build a medical centre on the island so that disabled kids didn’t have to be flown to the mainland for medical treatment.  It was an evening of traditional dance, which was realyl good.  It featured all 3 of the island’s dance troupes that you would usually have to pay £30-40 to see perform and we saw a bit from all 3 for less than a tenner. Plus we also saw the ladies from the local ballet school.

Day 2:

Sunset at Ahu Tahai

Not wishing to pay a fortune for more tours, Luca and I took a hike to Rano Kau volcano.  It was tough going, mainly because he’s a crazy mountain climber and I’m clearly NOT! It was a nice walk though and the volcano was very impressive.  At the top is Orongo, the ceremonial home of the brdman cult.  Basically, people used to go to Orongo once a year and there was a competition to get the first egg from the tiny island just off the coast.  The person who got the first egg became the birdman and was worshipped for a year and was the most important person for the tribe.  There was also one Moai at Orongo, but British explorers took him home for Queen Victoria :-s The Rapa Nui named him ‘Missing Friend’ this story made me sad.  The Moai lives in the British Museum now, so I think I’ll visit him when I get back and see what the desciption of him says.  On the way back, we walked down the coast, visiting some caves and  the port where the local fishermen were brining in giant tuna for the local restaurants.

By the evening, my legs hurt.  A lot.  In fact, my whole body hurt.  I headed out to Ahu Tahai for sunset, but due my incredibly slow progress, managed to miss the beginning!

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