Discovering Easter Island 9 – Wrapping up Rapa Nui
October 05, 2016: My final full day on Easter Island, no wheels, no more Moai to see, and no ambition; a good day to relax. As soon as my breakfast was on the table Ramon left for the airport and his job supervising baggage handlers. Two charter flights were leaving that morning and he had a lot of work to do. One flight from Australia hadn’t been on the ground for 24 hours and the other less than 48 hours. These were very high cost private excursion flights and it amazed me that they gave so little time to Easter Island. Even for well-heeled tourists, Easter Island may be a once in a lifetime destination and to have so little time to see the island makes no sense to me.
All in all it was a very slow day, I could’ve taken another tour but the only ones that went to anything new would be the horseback tours that cover the west side of the island where there are no roads; they looked pretty expensive so didn’t even inquire about those. Even though it was nice to have a day with nothing to do, I could have done that anywhere, I realized I had scheduled one day too many on Easter Island; it was too late to do anything about that so I just enjoyed my time to relax.
About 7:00 PM I finally got around to going downtown for dinner. As I got to the edge of the business district, it began to rain so instead of continuing on to the waterfront, I stepped into Tia Berta’s and had dinner there. They had more than just empanadas on the menu so I ordered a salad and skewer of fish. It’s just a small place with a few tables inside and 4 tables on the covered patio area in front where I sat; nearly full with locals, mostly either drinking a beer or eating empanadas. The entire time I sat there and ate my dinner, only two other tourists stopped in and they seemed hesitant about eating there. Meanwhile I watched as tourist after tourist stopped into the empanada shop across the street that looked a little better on the outside, but had lousy food. My own dinner was excellent and cost 18,000 pesos, about $26.00.
October 06, 2016: My flight back to the mainland wasn’t until early afternoon so I had one more free morning to pack and putter about the hotel. I did go downtown once for lunch and stopped into the souvenir side of the public market one last time. To my surprise some of the counters closed before were open for business and had new and interesting wares. One item caught my attention, a hand adz carved from hard wood with a stone chisel tied into the notch. The handle was curved to fit well in my hands and carved with images of the Birdman Cult. The only down side the cost, it was expensive but not as bad as many items of poorer quality I’d seen, they asked 50,000 pesos, about $75. I try to be frugal, some say cheap, when I travel but there are some things I’ll splurge on and getting a quality souvenir or gift is always better than saving money by buying something I don’t really want for less money, so I paid for the stone adz with no regrets.
Back at the hotel after lunch I spent a long time talking with Ramon, he was preparing for a family BBQ so we sat next to his garage where his grill and woodpile were under shelter next to a picnic table. He told me a lot about the island culture and life there and I really enjoyed the afternoon until it was time to go to the airport. I paid for my stay as their guest and as I was leaving Ramon’s mother and wife Josie gave me goodbye hugs and the little princess came up and gave me a big hug and kiss, it was really like saying good bye to family.
Ramon drove me to the airport and as he said goodbye placed a necklace with miniature Moai over my head, just as he had greeted me with a lei when I arrived. We said our goodbyes and I had just a short wait for my flight to Santiago at 3:30 PM; my adventure on Easter Island was over. Rapa Nui was an amazing place to visit and I feel lucky that I can now cross it off my bucket list of destinations.
The early people of Easter Island carved and moved massive stone figures across the island, as the years went by the statues grew from 2 meters to over 10 meters tall. Islanders moved the statues several miles to different locations around the island, leaving many where they fell during transit. Exactly how they were moved remains a mystery but most agree that the legends of Moai “walking” refers to moving them upright and not laying flat on rollers. The forest that originally covered the island was eventually destroyed by both the people’s need for resources and introduced rats that ate the seeds preventing the forest’s re-growth. The destruction of their environment caused the end of one culture and growth of a new cult that could live under the new conditions.
The early culture left wonderful and mysterious clues to their society that flourished for centuries before destroying the ecology of the island that ultimately brought their own culture to an end and led to the Birdman Cult that followed. The end of that culture was the arrival of Europeans that brought disease and more hardship including abduction by slavers until the population dwindled to just a hand full of survivors. From oral histories of that small group of only 111 people comes what little is known of the early cultures; modern archeologists and other scientists still don’t completely understand the islands true story. The history I portrayed here is what I gleaned from what I was told there and read in different sources.
Today the descendents of those few surviving Rapanui and new arrivals from Chile cater to the tourists that come from all over the world to experience the wonders of Easter Island. The difficulties of getting there means there are not hoards of tourist even in high season and prices of all things including hotels, meals and souvenirs are high. Even with the high cost I think this is a wonderful destination that anyone with a sense of adventure should experience.
Enjoy the Journey
Scott C. Ames