Easter Island (Sun., 3/15/09) – Isla de Pascua
by Tom Bernitt -- March 18th, 2009
Ruminations on Day ONE of our trip to Easter Island
Jennifer and I had an uneventful but most pleasant five hour flight on LAN Airlines, the national airlines of Chile on Sunday morning. Spacious seating, in-flight meals (with silverware!), and an unlimited full and complimentary (read between the lines) beverage service with state of the art in-console entertainment centers; it beat hands down any one hour cattle-prod flight in the U.S. It’s a good thing, too, for Easter Island is the second most isolated piece of real estate on earth (Hawaii is the first) as it is more than 2300 miles from Santiago and 1240 miles from Pitcairn Island, that island made famous in the 18th century by Captain Bly and Fletcher Christian and their shenanigans.
As the plane approached the small island there appeared to be plenty of trees with open grasslands on this green little spec in the middle of the ocean. The dark blue water turned to a crystal blue encircling the island. As the plane reached the runway the water adjacent to it was making a spectacular show. It pitched into white top waves and splashed more than 30 feet high before it crashed into the volcanic rocked shore.
Georgiana, our Rapanui hostess, met us at the airport with leas and smiles and quickly took us to our six room Residencial Villa Tiki in Hanga Roa, a mere five minutes away, which also is her home. After guava juice and some conversation, we agreed to tour with her around the island.
It was truly a beautiful day in the neighborhood when Jennifer, Georgiana, and I proceeded to hunt down the Moai, the Rapanui word for all those big guys lying around the beach. Easter Island is similar to many of the other semi-tropical island I’ve visited and/or lived on (Guam, Hawaii, Midway, etc.). Wind swept volcanic coasts with a green covering of grasses. Eucalyptus trees (planted in the 1940s/1950s) dominate the center. As the 4000 residents live almost exclusively in the town of Hanga Roa, the majority of the island is a vast unpopulated space with roaming herds of horses and cows (also estimated at 4000, ironically the same population as the people on the island).
Climbing through the Moai on the eastern side of the island is a bit like walking through an outdoor archeological museum as we’ve become so accustomed to thinking of the Moai as treasured artifacts from the past and not just a hundred objects lying on the side of a hill. What was most interesting to me was the not-quite-ready for primetime figures still resting in the basalt volcanic hill waiting patiently to be eventually liberated.
The day was capped off with a swim in one of the more pristine lagoon and beaches in the Pacific; with water so clear you can see almost every grain of sand beneath you.
In all a great start to our visit with more to follow.