Saturday, 21 February 2009

Rapa Nui

Having worked out that I would have about two weeks in Chile after visiting Mendoza, I read the guide book to see where was worth going. A lot of stuff sounded good, but also sounded like a lot of the stuff I'd already done on my trip. Easter Island though sounded pretty unique, so decided to head there. The flights were pretty pricey, but thought it would be worth it, and I may not be back in this part of the world so should go while I'm here.

It took almost five hours to fly there, but you had your own entertainment system, so for the first time in months I'd be able to watch films, so I decided to take full advantage. After watching some random action movie, there were a number of high brow offerings to choose from, but it was a no brainer, and I opted for The Simpsons Movie. Unfortunately though due to a technical malfunction I would have to wait until the flight home to see the last half hour and whether Homer could save Springfield. Doh! The suspense!

Easter Island - which is apparently in Oceania and not South America - is known locally as Rapa Nui. Its airport was little more than a small building and a big piece of tarmac. Someone from the hostel was there to meet me and immediately I had a big garland of flowers around my neck! I was actually staying at a camp site but it had a few dorms, so I was in there. It was a really nice location right by the sea. After an afternoon sleep, I went for a wander around the 'town' of Hanga Roa. It was the only town on the island and was more of a street with a few shops and restaurants on rather than a town, so was very uncommercial and very pleasant. The annual festival started a week later, so we were able to watch the rehearsals of the traditional dancing that evening, which was pretty good.

Just chilled around the campsite that night, although accidentally drank half a bottle of vodka. Andy, an English guy from my dorm (who actually dislikes scousers more than me!), had what I thought was just the end of a bottle of vodka (stored in a plastic bottle to avoid the attention of customs), but I found out the next day it was a full bottle of cheap, nasty vodka. Oops.

Still, was up at a decent time the next day for a day of culture, a full guided tour of the island to get all the history. The main attraction of Rapa Nui are the moai, giant stone statues of people. There are numerous ahu's on the island which are the stands on which the moai stand, and lots of moai's strewn around the island. Some were just sitting there as if in transit and many were face down and pretty eroded. Some years ago there were no standing moai at all, as they had all been tipped for some reason, but some sites have been restored and seeing all these huge statues was pretty spectacular. It was an interesting day.

Historians and archaeologists aren't agreed on how the huge stone statues were transported from the quarry and eventually stood up, as they weighed anything up to forty odd tonnes, but the guide said it definitely wasn't aliens. Not sure how he know though, because personally I saw absolutely no evidence to suggest it wasn't aliens. It seems like the only rational explanation.

Watched some more of the dance rehearsals that evening, and after getting some food we headed to try and find some open air concert we'd heard about. Unfortunately, we got soaked before we found it. Easter Island can certainly generate a proper rainstorm! After having to shelter for ages, and failing to flag down a taxi back, the rain stopped long enough to get back to the campsite. There were discussions of going out later, but given the weather, we took a raincheck (excuse the pun). Decided to have a brief kip instead and reassess the situation later, but inevitably trying to have a short sleep at 10.30pm ends one way: waking up 4 or more hours later! That put paid to going out.

That day I was barely capable of walking though. I think my feet had reacted badly to all the hiking in Patagonia as when I wore my flip flops in Mendoza, I got loads of blisters on the bottom of my feet, and they seemed to be getting worse. I thought it was just the odd blister, but there were loads on both feet. Perhaps there was some sort of religious significance, but one of the disadvantages of travelling alone is that there is nobody to check whether there are images of Jesus on the soles of your feet.

Had a surfing lesson the next day. I had a surf lesson in Sydney a couple of years ago, and I have definitely got worse since. Completely failed to get anywhere near standing up. There were some pretty big waves and all I really succeeded in doing was getting hit in the head by my board, getting hit in the head by someone elses board and getting sunburnt. I had been given some t-shirt to wear that was at least two sizes too small and it kept riding up; I had to keep pulling it down just to avoid nipple chafe, but lying face down on a surf board (on the rare occasions I hadn't fell off it) meant my back got pretty badly burnt.

Went to a show that evening with Andy which was traditional music and dance. Was really good as they were all in costume too. The bloke's costume was little more than body paint and an ill-fitting pair of swimming trunks, although fellas, I think everyone would appreciate if you did your bikini lines a bit better next time...

Hired a mountain bike the next day and cycled round the island. Its probably only 30k all the way round so very do-able in a day. Stopped at one of the beaches for lunch and a nap, but within minutes it started raining, putting a dampener on that (another pun I hope you'll excuse). Not the first time on my trip I've arrived at a beach and its started raining. It didn't get a lot better either as it rained pretty heavily for two hours so in the end I was completely soaked. My cheap digital watch from Costa Rica, which it is worth pointing out is 30m water resistant, died as water got in it, although it did recover a day or two later. The watch I started my trip with was 50m water resistant, and it died in the rain too!

Went into 'town' that night to a couple of night clubs and its a pretty lively night out for such a small island. Was out until the early hours, but still made it to church on Sunday morning! It is one of the main attractions of the island apparently. Could only stand outside as it was full, but was quite interesting anyway. Went to the museum after then walked up volcano Rano Kao, now extinct, to the ancient Orongo village, now uninhabited.

Sunday was football day, so watched two of the local teams in a six-a-side match. For all I know they were maybe the only two teams on the island. The standard can best be described as shocking! I've never seen such an insistence on playing high long balls in a six a side match. It might have been more successful had anyone been able to trap a ball. But what it lacked in quality it made up for in entertainment value. I felt sorry for the horse though because it normally lives on the football pitch but had to be moved to the side.

My last full day on the island I went horse riding, as this seemed to be the best (i.e. least strenuous) way of seeing the northern part of the island. I had precisely zero control over this horse as it refused to respond to any of my instructions. I think it must have skipped breakfast too as it just kept stopping to eat grass. I tried pulling the reins but it was having none of it. When I did hold them so it couldn't pull its head down, it just sat on its front legs almost throwing me off over its head in the process! And it would only respond to noises made by the guide so I was pretty helpless.

When we got to the volcano - Maunga Teravaka, the highest point on the island - we got off the horses, but I kind of fell off. The ground wasn't where I was expecting so ended up lying there with one foot still in one of the stirrups. I'd love to say I got dragged for several hundred yards at speed before hauling myself back on the horse, but it just stood there eating grass generally uninterested in my clowning around.

When we got back I fared little better trying to get off as when I tried to move my leg over the horses back I got cramp, so had to climb off the horse onto a fence! Was good though and the horse actually properly ran, which was good as it is really smooth. When it galloped I was bouncing around loads, so speed was good. Pity I had no control over it though as at times when I was bouncing around I was pleading with it to go faster but to no avail.

Went snorkelling later around a tiny island just next door called Motu Nui. Not an abundance of marine life but the water was crystal clear, and the contrast in colour when the reef finishes and there is nothing but water (you can't even see the bottom) it looks really spectacular. And with the sun shining down into the water and the silence, it was almost like you were hallucinating, although Mum, if you're reading, I am only guessing because I have never taken hallucinogenic drugs.

And that was pretty much it, as flew back to mainland Chile the next day. Would have been nice to have walked to the airport, just to say you've walked to an airport but it was far too hot, so rode there in the back of the hostel pick up truck. It might have been pricey, but Easter Island was really good and was well worth the visit.

No comments: