Easter Island – a guide and photoblog

I have never felt as isolated from the rest of the world as I have on Easter Island. This adds to the mystery of the Rapa Nui people and how the hell they got here in the first place. It’s a beautiful sort of isolation – a small town feel and an overarching sense of mystery – I love it! 

Maybe it’s the almost 6 hour flight over the South Pacific heading in the direction of Australia (this amazed me- LATAM uses a brand new, massive Dreamliner for the route, so it’s a really pleasant flight), or maybe it’s the welcome you get at the airport as you arrive on the only flight of the day and the host at your hotel meets you with a hearty welcome. Hell, I don’t know, but the entire time I was there I revelled in the islands differences from everywhere I’ve since been. 

I’m going to try and make this post dual purpose – a photo blog and a bit of a guide with practical info as I battled to get solid information before arriving there. 

Flying there:

This is the biggest potential rip off you’ll encounter: LATAM has a daily flight to Mataveri International Airport from Santiago. Beware when booking your flight- DO NOT change the language of the website to English as this identifies you as a foreigner and then the airline charges a massive premium. A MASSIVE one. When I was booking my ticket a few months ago, I initially changed the website language to English and the cheapest flight I was quoted was over £1,300 (more than a return direct flight to Australia from Johannesburg at Christmas time). Then someone told me to keep the language as Spanish. The ticket price miraculously dropped to $450! Can you believe it!?

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They don’t mess around sending a proper plane!

I spent the better part of 3 days engrossing myself with the island.

You have a choice of how to get around the island.

  • Walking is not an option as although the island is small, it’s still approximately 32kms from one side to the other. 
  • Cycling? Yes you can rent a bike but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. The landscape is rolling hills and unless you’re a serious cyclist, I wouldn’t encourage it. 
  • That leaves you with renting a scooter or car. Unless your drivers license explicitly says you can drive a scooter, they won’t let you rent one. It’s funny as I rented scooters all over Asia with not so much as a care being given, but not here. I rented the cheapest car for CLP35000 (R750) a day. I literally got the cheapest, shittest little Suzuki Jimny out there. The thing was a 100 years old and rattled like the end of days if you went over 60km/h. The tyres were bald and the seat belt could only be identified as a seat belt by the presence of a clip on the one end- that’s where the resemblance stopped. Regardless, it served me well and I’m alive to tell the tale. 

In terms of getting around and deciding what to see and when to see it- it’s really simple- the island has 2 main roads and most of the sites are concentrated on these 2 roads. I chose to do one road a day and then spent my third day hiking around Orongo. 

Finally, Easter island is EXPENSIVE. I knew it would be bad but it’s really bad. A meal at a restaurant with a single beer costs around R450. A can of coke costs R40 at a supermarket. So pack a fat credit card, I’m on a diet of bread and butter for the next week. Also bear in mind there is an $80 entrance fee to the island, payable at the airport. 

Now the cool stuff:

Legend has it the Rapa Nui people originated from the islands of French Polynesia and centuries ago, their chief sent out a scouting party to look for new territories. This happened around 700 AD (although some scientists say this figure is closer to 300 AD) and somehow these people survived the arduous trip of more than 2,000 miles at sea on nothing more than canoes! 

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Uncanny resemblance!

They begun developing the island and built Moai (the Easter Island ‘heads’) which are meant to represent their ancestors who would protect them in their endeavors on the island. The Moai weigh tones! Carved out of rock faces and transported all around the island – it is incredible how they did it. Also fascinating is that the Moai all wore head pieces carved out of a red stone. The hipsters out there will be pleased to know they also had top knots. 

Here are some photos from my time there.

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The 7 Moai at Ahu Akivi are meant to represent the first explorers to come and scout the island out. They’re looking out to sea, which is interesting as they usually look toward land to watch over their respective tribes. The weather was pretty miserable for my entire time on the island sadly.

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A front view of the 7 Moai at Ahu Akivi.

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The Moai at Anakena still mostly have their top hats – the red stone placed on top of the statues. They weigh numerous tonnes and are carved separately to the rest of the statue. They weigh tonnes – their placement atop the statues is a mystery.

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There are wild horses all over the island. This little chap couldn’t have been more than a few days old. He was very curious of me – he would walk up to me and within a few feet, get a fright and run away. We repeated this procedure a few times until his rather pissed off mom made an appearance!

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No idea what this bird is, but they are all over the show.

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Over the centuries, numerous tribes formed on Easter Island and there was a lot of fighting between them. Crazy considering the island is so small. Competing tribes used to knock other tribes Moai’s over (head first). The rationale is that Moai represent ancestors who offer protection to a tribe. Knocking the Moai over face first effectively neutralises this protection.

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The island is rugged, isolated and seriously beautiful!

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Another accurate impersonation of a Moai at Rano Raraku – the quarry where the Moai were sculpted.

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A really impressive line up of Moai at Tonariki – one of the main complexes of Moai. The largest one weighs 86 tonnes. All of these were knocked down during the various civil wars on the island but have since been restored. To add context to the weight of the heaviest Moai here, a Boeing 737 (the kind that flies from Joburg to Cape Town), has a maximum take off weight of 65 tonnes!

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Rano Raraku – the quarry where Moai were carved. There are a lot of Moai here that were awaiting transportation to various parts of the island during the civilisations hay day.

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Another toppled Moai.

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When a Moai was toppled, their top hats fell off and scattered the surrounding area.

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More Moai at Rano Raraku.

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Tonariki from a distance – the Moai all looking inland at the village that needed their protection.

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Wild horses near the beach. The island was just showing off now.

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