Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter Island

Easter Island, otherwise known as Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui, is said to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.  It is a 5-hour flight from its closest neighbor, mainland Chile, or a bit longer in the other direction to Tahiti.  It is famous of course for it’s Maori, over 1000 large heads carved from volcanic rock by an ancient and unique civilization.

I have wanted to come to Easter Island since I learned about it in elementary school, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.   It's a very special place.

Almost 5000 people now live on the island, which is triangular in shape, with a perimeter of 28 miles.  We were most struck by its culture, a very interesting and unique combination of Hispanic and Polynesian.  Islanders recount memories of growing up before a single plane ever landed here, tell stories of their isolation and recall the severe shortage of all supplies.  History in general feels very close here.

Now however, other than fish and a few vegetables, everything eaten on the island is imported.  Food is understandably then very expensive.  Luckily, breakfast of yogurt, bread, fruit and cold cuts was included with our lodging.  It was enough to work for lunch as well.  On one lucky day we got empanadas. 

The apartment itself was about a 15-minute walk out of town but featured views of the ocean and coastline from the living area and long front deck.  It wasn’t fancy, nothing on the island is, but it was roomy and did feature weak wifi if you sat in one particular spot in the kitchen.  Our trouble with the time change was finally resolved as we essentially missed one night of sleep to catch our early morning flight out of Santiago and so were exhausted enough to sleep through our first night on the island.

Also negotiated along with our lodging were 2 half-day tours with its owner.  Our man Paul, originally from Wisconsin, first came here in 1962 to help with one of the early restorations of the Maori.  He had a lot of information and different theories about everything and also criticisms of the some of the restoration attempts.  We did our best to follow it all.  Regardless, seeing the Maori, whether they were stood back up in their ceremonial locations, or still half carved in the mountain, was just super cool.

The island has lots of wild horses on it.  If you live on the island and you want a horse, all you have to do is go get one.   On one very special day we went on a 4-hour ride to the top of one of the island’s three volcanos.   It was a spectacularly beautiful day and the horses were healthy and liked to run.  All in all it was an amazing experience.  My 45-year old body though didn’t respond well.  I was seriously hurting for days afterward.  Still it was worth it, one of the great days of our trip and a well timed high here at the end.

Another highlight was a dance show put on by one of the Rapa Nui extended families.  I have never seen a native dance done with more energy or physicality.  Mark and the kids got to give it a try while I snapped pics.

On our last day on Easter Island though, we received word that our very dear friend had passed away at home.  While it was not unexpected, it was still tragic.  Ted Lewis was more full of life than anyone we’ve ever known, and he was far too young to go.   His wife and daughter are precious to us, and we want to be there grieving with them.  Once again, as throughout our 9 months, we aren't able to be.   Ted was one of the biggest supporters of our trip, but not being there for him hasn't felt good.  This trip has had a high price.

All our love to you - Ted, Andrea and Julia

But we are done for now, seeing the world, and have begun to make our way back.  It will take us nearly four days with layovers to reach Phoenix and a few more after that to get our auto insurance reactivated and make the drive to Los Angeles.

We are coming home (cue music.)

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about how you had wanted to visit Easter Island since elementary school spoke to me. That is how I felt when I went to Greece and stood in front of the Parthenon on the Acropolis. tears rolled down my face as I was in awe. I remember calling my brother in the states and saying "I am standing in front of the Parthenon!" Thank you for reminding me of that. I really enjoyed reading about this visit. My heart and prayers go to you and he family of Ted Lewis. God Bless you and your family as you travel back home. Marisol