Now that you’re here on this legendary island, don’t get distracted by little things, like sleeping. Even though we didn’t have much sleep on the plane, our hostess booked us a sightseeing bus tour at 9AM (we had arrived at the Cabins around 8:20 after over an hour in the immigration line and a 7-minute drive into town). So, we grabbed a few things to bite that they had left for us in the kitchen and got on our way.
Now, if you think of Easter Island as a tropical destination, think again. It is subtropical, and it can get, well… chilly. It was September or early spring in that hemisphere, and I somehow had managed to lose my sweater at Lima airport the day before. The loss I dearly regretted the moment we got up on the hills at our first stop—the Rapa Nui National Park. A shirt over a tee failed to keep me warm and comfortable due to high winds, and then it began to drizzle—a pattern that unfailingly repeated itself every day over the course of our trip. Well, live and learn. Or at least bring a jacket.
There are two major sightseeing spots on the island, the above-mentioned Rapa Nui National Park, and another park called Orongo; and you absolutely must see them both. Buy the ticket at the airport—there is a kiosk before you enter the terminal—and save 10 bucks. I think it was $50. Other than these two parks, there are other spots you shouldn’t miss, among them Ahu Te Pito Kura where you must have an obligatory picture of you taken with your hands on a magical round boulder. (Lucky me that I didn’t have to remember this name by heart since we are fortunate enough to have Google). There is also Tongariki, which is probably the most dramatic Moai platform on the island; there is a famous “Window”—an ocean view that opens up when you climb down the cave; and of course, there is the world famous Anakena beach that has their own set of Moais (no idea if you can put Moai in the plural, perhaps not).
The weather on the island is really something, or at least it was during the time we were there. It’s like Chicago on steroids. One moment, you’re cold and miserable, the next moment it gets so hot, you want to take off whatever you’re wearing. At least one thing was constant—rain or drizzle in the morning, so no surprises there. The ocean water was rather cold—maybe about 62, and I’m being generous. The temperature didn’t stop us from enjoying a swim, though. In the end, how often do you find yourself on a Pacific Island, right?
There are other things we saw, and I’m positive there are things we didn’t, but that’s cool. This place is so special; you will have a blast even if you’re not really trying.
Even though I have not done this, I believe the best way to tour the island is to arrange a private tour on the day one and see everything; then rent a car and drive around the island to revisit some of the sites at your own pace. Unfortunately for us, the guide we wanted was unavailable; as for a car, we opted for tours instead, since Easter Island is the place where you do need a guide in order to understand things from a historic perspective.
We arranged both our tours at the biggest tourist shop on the main drag. It’s in the middle of the street, and you won’t miss it (didn’t necessarily like the owner’s attitude, but the service was OK). While the tours are expensive, as is everything else on the island, it’s not like you have a choice. Just accept it and don’t get pissed when they charge you $70 for a 4-hour tour, $80-90 a day for a basic Suzuki, or $120 for an average dinner for two. The locals will be quick to explain to you something you already realize: everything must be brought in from the mainland, and that everything includes all the food too. There is no sustainable farming on the island, and although you will see dozens, if not hundreds of wild horses everywhere you go, they don’t belong to anyone. My host took us to a place—can’t really call it a farm—that served as a refuge to some farm animals: a pig, some chickens and a dozen or so horses. As he explained to us, he was trying to keep the horses alive and well, and many of them did look like they could use all the help they could get.
Unfortunately, we got to the island during the Chilean Independence day. Unfortunately because the Post Office was closed most of the days we were there—a fact we didn’t realize until the last day. Thus we were left without their cool Isla de Pascua stamp in our passports. Other than that, the ceremony was very interesting and featured local folk dances, a few bands and even a military parade. A nice way to kill an hour or so.
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