Living it up in the middle of the pacific - another amazing place.
Tuesday 9th December to Friday 12th December
This was always going to be way up there on my Highlights list for this trip - as Ive desperately wanted to go here for a long time. Have to say I wasnt disappointed.
Flew out from Santiago ( travelled fairly light as well - left the offending overweight bag at the hotel in Santiago and just took enough for 4 days ; see I am becoming a seasoned traveller at last LOL !!).
At the airport I got offered the chance of an upgrade to Business class for US$300 ( yeah Valerie, remember that discussion we had about waiting for the Airline to offer you upgrades as oppose to requesting them ??? Well, this is the closest Ive gotten LOL)- I was so tempted, but I decided not to bother. Best flight so far - and the first one that had a personalised TV screen infront of my chair. I managed to watch "The Rocker" and "John Q", both were really good and we had excellent food too - the 6 hour flight just flew by, even with an annoying couple snogging next to me and the now customary obnoxious spanish tourists behind me who wouldnt sit down when they were told.
Arrived at Rapa Nui Matevari airport - the only plane in the whole airport I should add ( !!!), and after getting my luggage I found the representative for the Explora hotel who prompty planted a stupid flower Lia thingy around my neck. I was told to head out to the van, where I stood like a numpty for about 10 minutes waiting for everyone else to come through.
Turns out the other 5 people on my mini van/bus were all from the USA - Id actually noticed some of them during the flight, and they were all travelling together. The hotel sort of grouped me with them and to be fair they seemed happy to adopt me so I ended up doing most of my excursions and trips with them.
The Explora hotel was as impressive as the Awasi, but in a different way - they went for a more minimalsist look in the rooms, very 'natural' looking. And we had different guides each day depending on what other guests were doing etc. Not quite as personal a hotel as the Awasi, but still very very nice.
After a fancy lunch ( all very healthy food here - and relatively small portions, but lots of courses !!) we went out on a hike to the Quarry, where all the Moai were carved. Weather was a bit overcast but very warm - and even when it started to rain ( heavily !!) none of us seemed that bothered about getting wet.
Seeing the Moai for the first time was quite amazing - infact even although I saw loads of them over the four days I never lost the excitement. Its amazing that they were carved in stone and moved all over the island, probably with nothing more than logs to assist the islanders in doing so.
Because a lot of the Moa were toppled/destroyed during the 'civil 'war there hunderds of years ago, a lot of them have been restored or repaired but this doesnt detract from any of the sights. I am still at a loss to describe them and think everyone should try and see them at some stage - there's something quite mystical about them, even more so because we dont really know enough about the culture they came from. Although there are conflicting theories most people believe that the island was colonized by Polynesia around AD800 and the stone statues started soon after this. The islanders possibly lived in complete isolation and as a result became obsessed with building these massive stone Moai as a means of showing their strength/power. Their eco-system collapsed due to heavy cropping and de-forrestation, which resulted in two camps of islanders turning on each other, and nearly all of the Moa were toppled .
The Moai are everywhere in Rapa Nui, but we did do more than just visit them during my stay. The Americans were quite into their hiking and walking and so we did a fair bit of heavy duty walking, inlcuding an exploration of variuous caves that made my visit to Potosi seem like a walk in the park. The weather was mixed but the wind /breeze was constantly warm, and the people exceptionally friendly.
Highlights would include the Ahu Tongariki ( the restored 15 Moai statues that everyone sees in all the photos), the Ranu Raraku volcano, all the caves I perilously crawled through, the remains of Orango village ( and the story of the birdman cult that lived there), the smaller 7 Moai at Ahu Akivi and the ancient volcano of Poike ( which I hiked up on my own with two guides - most impressed about that one !!!).
The beaches at Ovahe and Anakena were nice but nothing spectactular, and the number of dead horses we saw also left a bit of a bad taste in your mouth ( the island has less than 5000 inhabitants but over 6000 horses, most of which are wild and viewed as vermin by the locals - we saw one horse tryting to kill itself in the sea, quite a horrible sight actually, and countless others in various states of decomposition. Carrie, one of the Americans wanted to rename the island Island of Dead Horses. She had a point.
I guess I'll remember the Moai more than anything else, and all the people I met. The Americans were very very nice to me, enjoyed meeting them all - especially Holly and her 'Orbit' advert ( one of the best English accents Ive ever heard !!). Also met two lively New Zealanders who came to meet the Americans for dinner - just loved them, and they've invited me and Valerie up to stay with them in Bay of Islands. Think they actually want us to spend New Year with them - Robyn said theres no point to being in Auckland as everyone will be away for the holidays !!!! Have to say, I think she would really know how to party - definitely clicked with them !!! I also did a trip with 3 American pilots who were on business on the island, flying their boss around in a Jet Stream private plane - they were nice guys too, strangely enough one of them lived in Peterhead years ago when he used to fly helicopters. Think his job now is a hell of a lot better - couldnt believe they were being paid to hang about waiting for their boss to decide it was time to move on. Oh, and i did try and figure out who their boss was but they were far too discreet for my liking - wouldnt say a word about him. Im just going to say it was someone famous even if it wasnt.
Think I did a lot of walking/hiking too which Im proud of - and as I ate fairly healthily I left the island feeling very good about myself.
Oh, almost forgot to mention the show we show at MareoTattoo - lots of wild Rapa Nui dancing with scantily clad men and woman recreating traditional dances. Some of it was a little full on actually but very very entertaining. And everywhere we went we heard the latest CD by a local band called Tonga tapi - of course Mr Howlett had to purchase it LOL. Can feel a Rapa Nui party coming on when I return.
Also met a really interesting man in the swanky swimming pool called Jim, from Michigan - we spoke about volunteering in Peru ( which he's done before) and Bolivia and he definitely gave me food for thought, whilst I got my back sunburnt in the Jacuzzi. Swear its easy to forget how strong the sun is here - I was in agony the next day.
Visited the local prison on the way to the airport and bought some carvings done by the prisoners ( I was told it was the best place to get a bargain !!). Quite a surreal place I must say - and its certainly going to be a talking point when I get home and say my purchases have been made by convicts.
The hotel gave me a traditional shell necklace when I left - nice but not as classy as the leather luggae tag from the Awasi. Visted the museum on my last morning, and enjoyed the company of Nico ( Nicolas number 2 - we had the original Nicolas guide for our cave journey !!!) before a very pleasant flight back to Chile. Managed to watch "The Departed" which I thought was amazing ( why have I never watched that before ?? Sure I remember someone telling me that it was a brilliant film - have to agree).
So, I left really pleased that I'd finally seen Easter Island and quite refreshed after my week of luxury in both San Pedro and the Rapa Nui Explora - back to Santiago for the night on 12th before flying to Rio to joing my last tour on Saturday.
Cant believe how quickly time is flying by !!!