I had always dreamed of going to Easter Island, Chile to see the moai statues but every time I checked the fare price it was ridiculous the lowest I was able to find was $1800 from NYC flying into Santiago, Chile on to EI. But one day in November 2010 I was looking at the LAN website and read about the new flight to EI from Lima, Peru on Wednesday and Sundays. Immediately I booked my ticket not only it was saving me an extra 5hours flight time into Chile but my ticket came out to $845 which was less than half than going through Santiago. I was amazed that there were still tickets available for the Rapa Nui 2011 so I decided to travel from 2-6 Feb to EI.
My flight left Lima, Peru at 330am and we arrived at EI at 8am. The minute I stepped off the plane on EI I felt the magic of the island. It took me a while to choose a hotel but I ended up deciding on the Kaimana Inn because of all the good reviews it had on TA. Check out my review from Kaimana Inn for my excellent experience in the hotel. Since I only had 3full days in the island and 2half days (travel days) we immediately dropped off our bags and went to explore Hanga Roa which is the only village in the island. Just remember the island is 63 sq. mi and its population is estimated at being 4800 which 95% lives in Hanga Roa. We walked along the coast until we reached where the final touches where being down on the stage for the inauguration of Rapa Nui 2011 the next day. The Rapa Nui was being held from 3-12 Feb shorter than the usual 2weeks due to economic reasons. We kept walking until we reached cemetery Tahai. A little further north at “Tahai” was our first encounter with a moai even though these were restored in the 70’s so the visitors where able to see how they one day stood before all the internal conflicts of the island which caused the destruction of many moai n EI. Here you could also find the only moai with eyes, restored but using the same materials as would had been used before. We later went out to dinner and called it an early night because we hadn’t gotten much sleep due to our early flight into EI.
On our first full day on the island we decided to see the eastern and northern part of the island using Aku Aku tours which Marcelo had recommended. They first took us to “Akahanga” where you see moai that have been knocked down due to their conflicts in the past and haven’t been restored walked for a while took some pictures and the guide explained how their homes one day had stood here which you could still see the stonework at the ground. He also explained a little of their early history, the reason why moai where built and their use of caves to hide from enemy clans. The next stop was probably the highlight of the whole trip to EI “Rano Raraku”. Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater which was used as a quarry and supplied the stone from which 95% of the island’s moai were carved. The entrance fee for the Rapa Nui National Park which is basically most of the island was $60USD as of Feb 2011. We walked through the trail and saw many moai a total of 397 could be found in Rano Raraku that where left standing beside the mountain slope and not destroyed in their civil wars. Further up we saw how there were incomplete statues carved from the quarry, you actually could experience the largest moai ever carved (71 feet) and weighing an estimated 270 Tons. As we walked down we got to see a different statue than the moai, it was called a Tukuturi. It’s different because it has a beard and a kneeling posture, is believed to be the last moai ever made.
The tour took us next to “Ahu Tongariki” where one could find the largest stone platform “ahu” on Easter Island a total of 15moais which where all restored in the 90’s. Nice place to take lots of pictures. Our next stop was “Ahu Te Pito Kura” where you could see more moai knocked down. The final stop of the tour was “Anakena” Beach which has two ahus, one with a single moai and the other with six. The beach is nice and the water is very clear considering it’s in the Pacific Ocean it’s probably as close it could get to clarity as the Caribbean. We returned to the hotel and had dinner on the hotel’s restaurant. Since it was 3Feb the beginning of the Rapa Nui festival we didn’t want to miss it. All I could say the performances where amazing won’t go into detail here will write a separate report because this one is getting pretty long.
On the third day on the Island we decided since we had such a wonderful time with our tour guide the previous day we booked a half day tour. The tour first took us to “Orongo” a stone village and ceremonial center of the birdman cult which is not related in any ways to the moai culture and came afterwards. Here you could view 53 stone masonry houses that were restored, the famous islet of Motu Nui where the natives raced to from Orongo to bring back the first manutara egg from the islet. The site also has numerous petroglyphs, mainly of tangata manu (birdmen). The location is just amazing because the whole “Rano Kau” the large volcano in the southern part of the island could be viewed. It’s a dramatic experience to see the crater of such a volcano. On the way down we stopped a couple of times first to take more pictures of the volcano and then again to take pictures of Hanga Roa. Made it back into town did a little shopping took a nap had some dinner and headed to see the 2nd day of the festival.
The festival shows didn’t end until 3am so the next morning we woke up pretty late the next day and we decided to go back to Anakena beach. The standard fare was 12000 Chilean Pesos round-trip you just have to tell the driver what time you want to be picked up. Since its summer in the southern hemisphere the weather was pretty warm and got a nice tan. We decided to head back into town at 5pm and had again a nice meal on the main street and went to see the 3rd day of the festival it was our last chance since we were leaving the next day. The next morning we finished doing our shopping and in the afternoon boarded our plane on our way back to NYC.
Overall Ester Island left me amazed; it’s hard to imagine how such an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has so much culture and history. One could not describe how it’s to see a moai for the first time. I recommend everyone to visit Easter Island at least once in your lifetime it’s an experience you will never forget whether you do it on your own or with a tour guide. Thanks to all the Rapa Nui people for creating such artwork that will last for many future generations.