'iorana Rapa Nui
Easter Island - a place we wanted to visit so dearly and ... we won't be disappointed! What an island! The island though is quite small - only 163 sq km - but famous all over the world for its almost 900 statues, called Moai. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected.
After a six hours flight from Santiago de Chile we land not only on the longest and widest runway of South America but also on an island, which claims to be the most remote place on earth.
By the time Jacob Roggeveen encountered the island on Easter Sunday in 1722, the island's population had dropped from 15.000 in the previous century to 2.000 - 3.000 people. European diseases and Peruvian slave raiding further reduced the Rapa Nui population to a low of only 111 inhabitants in 1877. Today's population is a bit over 6.000 residents, of whom 60 percent are descendants of the aboriginal Rapa Nui.
The first passenger aircraft landed 1967 and even today there's only one (sometimes two) flight per day. Our B&B host welcomes us at the airport with a Lei. We have arrived at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle, where Leis are very common. We appreciate this gesture and realize that the culture has changed and that people are different from the ones on the Chilean mainland.
Our B&B is only a few minutes outside of the 'main city' Hanga Roa with a beautiful view on the harsh coastline. Stormy weather conditions on the first day - but the following days are nice and sunny.
We hire a small Jeep and explore the island. It takes about an hour to circle the island by car - we shall do this more than once the following five days.
We agree - if Rapa Nui was a cocktail, the ingredients would be as follows:
2 cl South Pacific
2 cl Scottland
a touch of volcanic rocks
3.000 brown horses
filled up with water in all possible shades of blue
... well shaken and decorated with some moai - cheers!
We are fascinated by the moai. We have seen the pictures many times back home and hoped that we won't be disappointed. But believe us - we are overwhelmed and deeply touched by these mystic and amazing stone figures. We especially fall in love with the fifteen moai in Tongariki. It's them whom we visit every day at all possible times - even for sunrise.
The moai at Anakena are impressive as well. Anakena is the only sandy beach of Rapa Nui. It's a very nice beach with deep blue waters. Many people take a swim but the water is still quite cool.
Rano Raraku is the place where all moai were made; we call it the 'moai factory'. At this moai quarry, the moai were first carved in relatively horizontal position into stone and then torn into a hole in the soil in order to rise them and finish the work on their back. Nowadays, only the heads are visible; the rest of the bodies are beneath the surface. The head measures one third of the total hight of a moai. The tallest moai erected was almost 10 metres high and weighed 82 tons. Why the production of moai, who represent deceased ancestors and former chiefs, had stopped all of a sudden, is not known.
The moai are great and certainly the main attraction of the island. But there is far more to discover. Rano Kau with it's stunning caldera is outstanding. The crater is almost a mile across and has its own micro climate. The crater lake has evolved a biotope and is one of the island's three natural bodies of fresh water.
On the third day we climb the tallest mountain (probably rather a hill) of Rapa Nui; Maunga Terevaka. Especially our younger looks forward to this hike as it reminds her of our local mountain back home. It is less steep than 'our hill' in Switzerland but quite similar though. On top of Terevaka (504 metres above sealevel) the view is fantastic and we are able to see the curvature of the earth clearly. Our picnic tastes heavenly and we feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe.
We got quite addicted to Rapa Nui. The people are 'very easy going', the scenery is breathtaking and searches its kind in the world and ... there aren't many tourists. The very expensive flight to Rapa Nui was worth every penny and we hope to visit this remarkable and unique place again some time in the future.