I’ve always been interested by things a little different to the norm, and the idea of setting foot on one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world intrigued me. The problem was trying to find reasonably priced flights. The first time I checked several months ago, return flights were in excess of $1,000.
I kept my eye on the prices, until the start of the new year when I found return flights from Santiago (Tahiti is the only other place in the world that flies to Easter Island) for about $600. This was enough to tempt me and I bought the flights immediately.
I spent less than 24 hours in Santiago, then was back in the air towards Easter Island, some 5 hours of flying and just under 4,000km out from Santiago. The runway in Easter Island was actually extended in the 1980s by the US for use as an emergency landing strip by NASA space shuttles, and since then it's allowed for full size aircraft to move to and from Easter Island.
Patricia, the owner of the hostel I was staying at (Hostal Vaihere), was waiting for me at the airport, complete with a sign and flower necklace which she presented to me upon arrival. We walked back to her hostel, chatting in broken spanish and admiring the incredible view of the night sky.
On Tuesday morning I hired a bike and planned to ride over to Orongo and see the Rano Kau crater. I rode for a while, stopped when I saw the sign for “Orongo Trek”, locked my bike up and walked the next hour or so to the top, only upon arriving to realise there was a tarmac road I could’ve taken my bike along the whole way. Great. In the afternoon I joined up with a tour group booked via a local tour operator, which took us to Puna Pau, the quarry from which the Rapa Nui locals made the hats for their moai, finishing up at Ahu Akivi.
The moai statues really are incredible to see up close. And they get even more incredible when you learn how they were carved using such primitive tools. Then your mind is blown once more trying to figure out how they moved these enormous and ridiculously heavy things tens of kilometres across the island. I won't try to educate you on the entire history of Rapa Nui, so if you want to learn more, go to the Wikipedia article.
I had a full day tour take up all of Wednesday, taking us to some of the best spots of the island, such as the moai quarry at Rano Raraku. An incredible place where the moai were all sculpted from, and there you can see moai almost everywhere. We visited Tongariki just before lunch, then spent the afternoon at the beautiful Ahakena beach. In the evening I went to a show of local song and dance, and enjoyed a few of the Rapa Nui pale ale beers.
In between scouting the many moai on the island, I visited the local museum, and spent a great deal of time haggling at the local markets for souvenirs. I don't usually buy a lot of souvenirs, and most of the things you see in these places are cheap and tacky anyway. Yet the same tacky items seem to have a bit more charm when you can tell people you bought them from Easter Island.
On Friday I went scuba diving all morning, which included a dive to see an underwater moai (unfortunately it’s fake and was placed there for a movie. Nevertheless, it was still impressive). The second dive took us through some coral reefs, where the visibility was incredible, however there wasn't much marine life to see.
In the afternoon I visited the post office to get a "Isla de Pascua" stamp in my passport, then went to see the sunset down at the beach, before heading over to Hotel Manavai to see a weekly screening of Kevin Costner's 1994 film Rapa Nui. The acting was at times laughably poor, yet it was cool to get an idea of what life might have been like on the island back in it's heyday.
Easter Island is a place I feel extremely privileged to have had the chance (and the money) to visit. However, It's super expensive - I realise just how adjusted I was to South American prices when I baulked at having to pay $6 for a beer - yet you can't blame them, considering the extremely remote location.
It feels more like a country town squeezed into an island, and the way the locals all know each other sometimes makes it feel like you're in the middle of an episode of Postman Pat. It's a place you can quickly slip into the rhythm of. There's little care for time, as most places don't really get going until 9 or 10 a.m., and the fact that the sun doesn't set until 9 p.m. means no one is in a rush to get home either. It's a place I remember learning about in early Primary School, and thinking I'd love to visit, but probably never get a chance to in my lifetime. Now, it gets added to the list of places I've been on this trip, and one that I feel incredibly lucky to say I've seen.