Currency is Chilean Peso, but, confusingly, they use the dollar sign! 1 GBP = 1050 Pesos
9/6/05 Thursday. (Paul writes...)
5 hour flight from Tahiti, lost 4 hours on the way. How careless!
Arrived in pouring rain at 10am. Queue for immigration stretched out of the arrivals building, into the rain, so we pushed in at the front of the queue on the pretense we were sheltering from the rain. The tricks you pick up when you watch other trevellers, eh? (I picked the eh? bit up in New Zealand, eh?)
Assembled our bikes in the baggage claim area as it was still raining hard outside and there didn't appear to be much shelter out there. Once we had loaded our bags onto the bikes and approached customs, we realisedthe gs through an xray scanner, so off they came. Luckily, they didn't want to scan the bikes, as we would have had to take them to pieces. We declared the box of raisins I had been carying for some time, they allowed us to keep them, which surprised me a little as they are quite strict on fruit and veg. But its better to be safe and declare if you're not sure as there is a hefty fine if they find anything!
By the time we got outside it had stopped raining and looked a bit brighter, although still very cludy and a strong wind. Had a quick look for anything resembling a bank or cash machine, but there's very little at this airport, so headed off into Hanga Roa, the main town. Actually, its the only town on the island.
We had contemplated buying or hiring a tent to use on Easter Island and in Chile, and our guidebook said there is a shop that hires them out on the way from the airport. We found a hardware/clothes/odds and ends shop, which had a couple of tents, but they were very lightweight and didn't have flysheets, so we decided to first checkout where we would be able to camp. A passing woman said she knew of a hotel that allowed camping, and she was on her way there, so we tagged along.
The hotel (sorry cant remember the name) was on the coast. The young woman running it was very welcoming, and offered us a room for 10000 pesos, or the option of camping for 8000 pesos per night. A quick glance at the wind and rain swept garden where we would camp was enough to convince us that the extra 2000 pesos could easily be justified, especially as it included breakfast.
After dropping our bags in our room, we walked down to the bank, where Rita tried to exchange some Tahiti Francs but tey weren't interested. Managed to get some pesos out of the ATM though, using our bank cards. Solvent again. Its always a little awkward when we arrive in a new place with little or no local currency, although we generally carry a small amount of US dollars for emergencies.
Cycled around the town for a while to get a feel for the place. Very quiet, was our first impression, struggled to find anywhere open for a snack and a beer. Eventually found a small kiosk selling empanadas, like a pasty but with a variety of fillngs and generally deep fried instead of baked. Rita had a tuna and I had a meat. Filled a gap, at least. Cycled out of town a little along the coastto some of the moai (pronounced like moet, the champagne) to the town.
Ahu Tahai is a platform (Ahu = platform, I think) with 4 moai on it in varying degrees of
disrepair. Nearby is a moai with white eyes and a top knot, which is supposedly how most of the moai would hve been finished off originally. The white eyes are made from coral, and the top knot, or hat, is made of a red type rock found only in one place on the island, the Puna Pau crater.
The weather started to close in again and the light was failing as we returned to our hotel to rustle up some soup and noodles for tea.
Friday 10/6/05 (paul writes...)
Reports of the breakfast included in our room rate were not encouraging. Two bread rolls and tea or coffee. But the rolls were home made and fresh and quite filling. And there was a slice of cheese and ham each as well as home made jam. Not bad really.
It had been raining quite a lot overnight, so for today we planned to visit some of the sites closer to Hanga Rua. A lot of the road are, so were told, unsealed, and so my be too difficult to negotiate after a lot of rain.
Cycled souith from the hotel and out of town towards the volcano Rano Kau. Locked our bikes up near the bottom and hiked up the footpath for 45 minutes. Rano Kau is quite an impressive sight, almost perfectly circular crater with a series of small lakes in the hollow 200 meters below the rim.
A path leads along the rim to the south westerly corner of the island, where lies the old village of Orongo. The houses hear are long, oval shaped buildings constructed of granite rocks, topped off with earth. One of the most remarkable aspects was the small size of the doors, they must have been agile to get through them!
On the way back down we met a couple from our hotel, Lee and Vicky, who were on their way up They had been adopted by a couple of small dogs which had taken it upon themselves to escort them to the volcano.
There are a lot of dogs on Easter Island, most seem to wander freely around the island looking for other dogs to play with. Don't know who feeds them but most look quite fit and healthy.
Returned to town by mid afternoon and had a snack for lunch in a pleasant German style restaurant on the main drag.
Spent the evening with Lee and Vicky, and a couple of English girls, Sua and Lisa, who had been on the sme flight as us, exchanging tales of woe and joy about our journeys here.
That's one interesting aspect about meeting travellers in Easter Island, most people you meet have either come from Chile and are on their way to Tahiti / New Zealand, or vice versa. Usually in places where travellers gather, people will have travelled from a myriad of places using all sorts of transport. Here, Lan Chile is the only airline that serves the island, and their schedule is Santiago-Easter Island-Tahiti-Easter Island-Santiago.
Friday 11-6-05 (Paul writes...)
Rita says I'm going into too much detail and boring everybody, so I will try not to waffle so much.
We had planned to cycle around the island today to see all the major sights, but we were unsure of the roads and whether our bikes would be upto it, some people said they were pretty rough in places and you needed a 4x4 to get around. So, we hired a quad bike and set off to the north.
The sun was shining this morning, although there were a few clouds about, but it was the best weather we had had since our arrival.
The most northerly point you can get to by road on the island is a sandy bay at Anakena, there are some restored moai there and a plaque to commemorate the landing of Thor Heyerdahl in 1955, when he sailed here on the Kontiki.
The road east from there was a dirt track, but would have been OK for our bikes. Never mind, it was more fun on the quad bike.
The northern shore is quite desolate, there are a few dwellings spread along the coast, with the occasional Ahu dotted around. We visited the largest moai ever erected on a platform, half way along the coast. It was almost 10 meters tall when it was standing, but appears to be having a lie down now, his red hat laying nearby. I wonder if they will get around to restoring this one some day?
In the south east corner of the island is Ahu Tangariki, a platform with a dozen or so moai. Overlooking this is Rano Raraku, the volcano from which all the moai were carved. There are a large number of moai still in the quarry there, in varying states of completion. The view from the top was quite spectacular as well.
On the way back to town we stopped at several points along the south coast to admire the rugged shore lines composed mainly of rough volcanic rocks, with a heavy sea pounding relentlessly. Our last stop, Vinapu, was hidden behind the airport runway, (extended the USA for use as an emergency landing for space shuttles). Here there are a couple of moai, but also a stone wall built with Inca like precision, where all the stones are carved so that there are no gaps in the joints. I guess this is one of the reasons that Thor Hayerdahl concluded the island was populated by people from South America.
Back in town, we returned to Ahu Tahai for the sunset, seemingly a popular idea as there were about 30 people there also waiting for the sunset. The sun had shone most of the day and it had been quite hot at times, but as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, it soon became quite nippy.
Sunday 12/6/05 (Paul writes...)
Weather not so promising this morning. After our breakfast of two buns with ham and cheese, we set off on our bikes to Puna Pau, a crater from which the red hats, or top knots as they are sometimes referred to, were mined. It wasn't well signposted, but we eventually found ourselves having to walk up a muddy track across the side of a steep hill. As we neared the summit, the skies opened up and we got a severe drenching. By the time I got my waterproof out, it was too late. But at least it wasn't that cold.
After 10 minutes the rain eased, and we peered into the crater to find a number of red hats in varying stages of completion. The one thing that puzzled us most was how they had managed to get the hats out of the crater when they were completed, the floor of the crater over the rim and dwon the steep hill. But I suppose if they managed to move a 30 ton moai 15km across the island, then a couple of ton red rock should present little difficulty.
The walk down the hill was well dodgy, the rain had made the path into a mud slide and we were lucky not to end up on our arses several times. At the bottom we had to spend 5 minutes scraping off several pounds in accumulated red mud.
The rain also made the mud road difficult to negotiate, but the further away from the red hat hill we got, the less slimy the road seemed to get. Must be something to do with the type of soil around there. Dont think we spotted any red earth anywhere else on the island.
The rain seemed to be holding off so we headed north towards Ahu Akivi, an unusual platform in that the moai face towards the sea, the only ones on the island that do. At least thats what we were told, but I reckon that wherever you stand on the island, you've got the sea behind you, even if its 20km away.
The road/track north was quite difficult at times, turning into a rocky surface with occasional large muddy pools, making cycling impossible at times. After 3 or 4 km we had expected to reach a junction, but the road seemed to drag on forever, especially when we had to puch or carry the bikes. Especially as it started to drizzle as well. We were about to give up and return back down the same track when I climbed up a small hill and spotted the platform half a mile away, the jucntion we had been looking for was a few hundred meters further down the track. The road surface improved a little in that it became soother, but was still quite muddy and slippery and our back wheels were frequently trying to overtake us but we managed to stay mounted.
Without the sun and with the drab grey sky and the heavy drizzle, the platform didn't have quite the same appeal as the ones we had seen in glorious sunshine yesterday. But still, we'd struggled this far to get here, so we took the mandatory photos from several angles, they hopped on our bikes and peddled off, heading east away from Hanga Roa but towards the main road, which is sealed.
Made good time, despite the weather, which had turned into heavy rain again. We were already wet, so there was no point sheltering, and once on the sealed road with a slight following wind, we raced back to Hanga Roa.
Back at the hotel, we studied ourselves and our bikes, plastered in mud and grit. Luckily there was a hose in the hotel garden, so we hosed down first the bikes, then ourselves. I shoes were soaked through, despite being gotetex lines )the water has a nasty habit of running down your legs and straight into the shoe= which was a bit unfortunate as they are our only form of footwear.
After a shower we donned fresh clothing, placing plastic bags over our socks before putting our shoes on, then trundled off to a local restaurant for some liquid and solid refreshment.
Monday 13/6/05 (Paul writes...)
Our last breakfast on Easter Island, packed up and cycled the 15 minutes to the airport. The owener from our hotel was there to see everybody off, although I suspect she was also there to tout for new business from the new arrivals getting off the plane we were about to catch.
The checkin process seemed to drag on for ages, the queue barely moving. There were three checkin desks, but only one person sticking the baggage labels on. They didn't have the usual conveyor belt system, the big aluminium luggage containers were parked outside the door 10 feet behind the check in desks, so we could watch our bags being loaded immediatetly.
By the time we got through passport control and into the departure lounge, we found they had already started boarding so without pausing we walked straight out onto the tarmac in up the stairs into the plane.
Ta-ta Rapa Nui, Santiago here we come.
World Tour 2005 home