Easter Island (1)

Tuesday 20/03

A bit before midnight, we start queuing to drop the luggage.

We still have another one hour and a half to wait to start boarding.

Flight departs on schedule, at 3am. What a terrible schedule! It reminds me of the night flights to go from KSA to Belgium…

We all sleep, somehow. Kids are a bit frustrated that they have to sleep: the entertainment programme of Latam is good and they would rather watch movies or play games…

We arrive in Hanga Roa at 1pm (8am Tahiti time). There’s no one waiting for us at the airport but Christophe (the owner of our hotel) arrives quickly after we ask one of the other guys waiting for visitors at the airport to call him.

After a bit more than 24 hours in the francophone world, we are now in a Spanish-speaking environment, for 3 months (Chile, Peru and Galapagos). It’s nice but our Spanish is ‘rusted’ (despite the fact that I tried to refresh it last year with the Duolingo app).

Driving us from the airport to his hotel in his big 4×4 pickup, Christophe shows us quickly around. Nice first impression. It’s definitely not modern. Hanga Roa, the sole town of the island, is a village.

The island is 24km long and 12km (max) wide. There are 7,000 inhabitants.

The hotel (Cabañas Christophe) is nice. We have a bungalow for us, with 2 rooms (bunk beds for the kids and a very large bed for us).

We are all starving (except Jules). We eat breakfast (cereals) at lunch time.

We take a nap. It’s a good thing that we put the alarm clock after 3 hours; we would have probably woken up in the middle of the night. We try to rapidly adapt to the new time zone but it’s not easy. It’s our biggest time difference (5 hours – after a 5-hour flight!) since the beginning of the trip. It’s difficult. We wake up the kids with difficultly and go to town (we benefit from a lift from Christophe). We inquire a bit about rental cars and take money from an ATM. Entel (the national telecom company) is already closed (it’s already 7:30pm) so we cannot buy local SIM cards.

We go and eat to the sushi restaurant recommended by Christophe. We order a lot (a bit too much). What a feast! It’s delicious. We all enjoy. It’s nice to be able to use a bit our broken Spanish and also to be able to learn new words quickly (not like in the other countries where we didn’t know the language at all such as Russia, Mongolia, China and Japan).

We go back to the hotel on foot (40′).

We prepare our 4-day stay with the Lonely Planet and the very detailed and interesting book that Christophe lends to us.

Kids can’t fall asleep. They are still awake at 2:30am! The joys of jetlag…


Wednesday 21/03

We wake up (with the alarm clock) at 8:30am. Kids are obviously tired.

Christophe brings us bread, ham, cheese and salami for breakfast. Kids clearly prefer cereals. Fortunately we bought enough cereals at the Carrefour in Tahiti.

We are impatient to start the visit of the island and to discover the moai, its famous statues.

We rent a car (Suzuki Vitara) for 3 days, from Christophe.

Our first encounter with a moai takes place at Ahu Tautira, which overlooks the fishing port of Hanga Roa.

We then go to Ahu Tahai, a highly photogenic site that contains 3 restored ‘ahu‘ (ceremonial stone platform). With the beautiful morning light, it’s a superb site.

There’s almost no one on these sites.

Some facts about the moai:

  • What? 1,000 statues were built and erected on the island, between 1,000 and 1,600 AD.
  • Why? The locals believed in the cult of the ancestors. According to them, their ‘mana‘ (spiritual energy) continues to exist after the death, with the capability to influence the events long after their decease.
  • Why were these stony-faced statues standing with their backs to the Pacific Ocean? They were erected in such a way as to see the native place and the descendants of the deceases. They look towards the land in order to look after their population and to protect them with their spiritual powers.
  • How were they move (from the quarry) and raise? The moai were not dragged horizontally but moved in a vertical position using ropes.
  • Why were they put on the ground? They are basically 2 theories. The first one is that the tribal wars (due to lack of resources) provoked the destruction of the moai by their enemies. The second one is the loss of faith in the moai. The only moai that are left standing today were restored during the last century.
  • What do they have on their heads? Archeologists believe that the reddish cylindrical ‘pukao‘ (topknots) that crown many moai reflect a male hairstyle once common on the island.

We also go to another site, at the eastern end of the airport runway. One of the ahu features neatly hewn, mortarless blocks akin to those found in Inca ruins (in Cuzco, e.g.).

We come back to the hotel to eat our picnic (the sandwiches prepared with what Christophe brought to us for breakfast), along with tomatoes and avocados that we bought in a street car.

We leave again, to the South of the island, to visit Rano Kau and Orongo Ceremonial Village. It’s very close to our hotel.

Rano Kau is a crater lake, resembling a giant witch’s cauldron. It’s awesome!

Orongo village is perched on the edge of the crater. It boasts dramatic landscapes. It overlooks several small ‘motu‘ (offshore islands). Built into the side of the slope, the houses have walls of overlapping stone slabs, with an arched roof (covered with grass) of similar materials, making them appear partly subterranean. Orongo was the focus of an island-wide bird cult linked to the god Makemake in the 18th and 19th centuries. Birdman petroglyphs are visible on boulders.

We stop also in Ana Kai Tangata, in front of our hotel, a vast cave carved into black cliffs that has rock painting but it’s entrance is forbidden due to falling rocks.

We go and eat an ice cream at ‘Mikafé’, in the diving port. The ‘helados artesanales’ (homemade ice creams) are excellent. This place (Easter Island) is as expensive as our last 3 countries. The ice cream scoop is still at 5 $… Apart from the Philippines, we really didn’t choose cheap countries when we prepared our itinerary…

We drop the kids at the hotel before going to Entel to buy SIM cards. We then go and buy some food (tomato sauce and cheese for tonight’s pasta) and drinks. We have to buy mineral water bottles again, which hasn’t been the case since China. I also buy Coke without sugar, which I discovered in NZ. I don’t fully understand the positioning of this product along the Coke Zero and the Diet Coke but I like the taste. The choice is rather limited in these small mini-markts (no Kellogg’s for example).

We go back to the hotel where we relax a bit. I prepare pasta early so the kids can catch up some sleep. They sleep by 9:15pm tonight.

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