Day 10: Santiago/Rapa Nui
Our alarms woke us up at 5:30AM today, giving us time to get ready, eat breakfast, and walk across the street to the airport terminal in the ballpark of LATAM’s aggressive “arrive 3-hours ahead of your flight” suggestion.
Although Easter Island is a part of Chile, flying there is treated like an international flight. First, unlike our other flights within Chile where we had to pay to check a bag, each passenger gets two 50 pound bags included. Because Easter Island is so remote, people take this opportunity to pack and transport essentials you can’t find on the island such as bottles of olive oil, coolers of meat, mini automatic fireplaces, and of course, boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts.
Second, in order to fly to Easter Island, everyone has to complete a form with essential traveler information, where you are staying, and for how long. You then go through immigration, give them your form, and get a stamped immigration document that gets handed over as you board the plane. Without this form, you cannot board, although it is possible to reach the gate by going through the regular security line, which would be bad.
However, do not fear, because we followed the directions properly and boarded the 787 Dreamliner with ease. The flight, though five and a half hours long, went smoothly and gave us a chance to watch some movies and nap. Somehow we even ended up in the nicer seats with a few extra inches of legroom.
We arrived at the tiny airport in Hanga Roa, waited patiently for our bags, and met the Explora folks outside. Looks like we will not be the only people in the hotel this time, as there were four other people in the van with us, and a few family groups back at the hotel. We received our welcome introduction and tour where we learned about the “Big 5″ areas to see on the island – encompassing Rapa Nui culture and the creation of the moai – and had an hour or so to grab a drink and eat lunch.
After lunch, Sebastian took us on a quick afternoon exploration to three different stops. The first was Ahu Akivi, a platform of seven statues which are very special because they are further inland and face the sea. The statues were built as protectors and watchers of the villages, so all moai faced the villages. The only reason the maoi here face the ocean, is because there used to be a village in between the platform and the ocean. Mystery solved.
Next, we took the van down the road to Ana Te Pahu where we wandered thru a cow pasture and climbed down into a lava cave. The island is volcanic – but dormant – so viscous lava and hot gasses once flowed below hardened lava, then cooled, leaving underground caves that are very fun to explore.
Our final stop was a beach with three maoi platforms. One of the maoi still has the white coral eyes in tact, and features a top knot, indicating this statue is among the most recent ones to be built. The other platform on the beach had six “seats,” but only five statues. Nearby, you can see that sixth statue which made it all the way from the quarry to the shoreline only to fall and crack meters from the platform.
With the sun setting, we headed back to the hotel to make our plans for tomorrow and relax before dinner. With more people at the hotel, the guides have to coordinate a bit to ensure that there are enough guides and drivers for all the explorations. We decided to go on a full day hike tomorrow on the north side of the island to the Anakena beach spotting more moai on the way.
The open air Explora hotel is very refreshing, but chilly after the sun sets. Thankfully, the night shift guy, Vladimir, helped us move one of the patio heaters to the table with the working WiFi where we finished the blog before getting some sleep.