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What do you do if you’re turning 30 in a city you hate? Well if you are me, and the city you hate is Santiago, you catch a plane to Easter Island.
Easter Island is a pacific island, but a territory of Chile, known for the Moai – stone statues of people – that may or may not have contributed to the collapse of a civilisation (the wikipedia page is fascinating, and there is a book, Collapse – Amazon – which also explores this). Still, it’s not a place that most Chileans get to visit – the taxi driver who took me to the airport told me that to go to Easter Island is a dream for Chileans.
Tuvalu has been top of my bucket list for a while and as I have accepted it’s unlikely that I will make it there this year, it was exciting to go to a Pacific Island at all. Since I started to seriously contemplate leaving the tech industry, a Pacific Island without internet has been a dream – could I live in such a place? Develop Practical Skills? The answer to these things is probably not, but it’s good to have goals. And dreams.
Regardless, flights from Santiago are daily, and not that expensive. Hotels are moderately pricey, and the luxury resorts are extremely expensive. But a nice enough place to stay is reasonable enough that once you’re already in Santiago, why the hell not. I was tempted to leave Santiago immediately and spend 2 weeks on Easter Island, but the internet is notoriously bad so that wasn’t an option because I had too much work on! Instead I focused on being productive in Santiago and took the opportunity to take a bit of a disconnected break once I got to Easter Island. Hotel wifi barely worked, but I had a Chilean SIM card and restricted myself to one photo a day on Twitter [day 1][day 2][day 3][day 4][day 5][day 6].
I arrived on Easter Island super excited, and it was so beautiful. The airport is very chill, and I was met by a driver and a lei (garland of flowers). After checking in at my hotel – Hotel Manavai (bit basic, but great service and tasty breakfasts) I took a cab to a lovely restaurant by the ocean the guy at the hotel recommended (Tataku Vave), ate delicious food, and then walked back and roamed around for a bit, and then had dinner at Te Moana (also very tasty, great bread and virgin pina colada).
The first full day, I took a tour of the island, which was mostly in Spanish. This was pretty exhausting, because my Spanish is not that great! I followed along for a while but it was super tiring and so I eventually stopped trying to follow what was being said and just took in the view. The tourguide was kind enough to explain some things in English! We went around a lot of the major sites of the island, Papa Tataku Poki, Aka Hanga, Ahu Tongariki, in the morning, and Te Pito Te Kura and Anakena beach in the afternoon. There were a lot of tour groups on the same route so sometimes it was crowded, but it was a good way to get a sense of the island. Afterwards I got dinner at Inkai (recommended by the tour guide), which was pretty fab. And then! Very exciting! I made a friend wondering the streets – another woman who was travelling alone. We hung out at Hakahonu Restaurant and decided to go quad biking the next day.
Firstly, I love quad-biking. Secondly, Easter Island is an island that should be seen from an open vehicle. We set off around the island, seeing many of the same sights that we’d seen (she had been on a different tour) the previous day, and also the new to me Ahu Akivi and Ahu Vaihu. It was so fantastic. So, so, so fantastic. At first we got lost quite a bit, and there was a point where we thought this guy was chasing us off and I drove down a road that turned out to be… maybe not a road… in a panic. The only thing was that we had hoped to do a full circuit of the island, and that hadn’t been possible because of the barrier and the panicking. There was some issue going on that I didn’t fully understand, between the government and the Rapa Nui about tourist costs and revenue, hence the barriers and the confusion. We had lunch at La Kaleta (unenthused about the food but the virgin pina colada was amazing) and I had dinner at Kanahau Restaurant which wasn’t great.
Anyway the following morning we got up early, it turns out way earlier than necessary, to go and see the sunrise. We drove out of the town which was a bit scary – there are a lot of dogs running wild on Easter Island, and horses (we saw some dead horses, which was pretty upsetting). The dogs bark and chase you. I’m pretty terrified of dogs so this was stressful, and I may have broken the speed-limit escaping from them. We set off towards the ocean and watched the sunrise next to my favourite moai, one standing alone turned inwards, nearby there is the saddest sight, all these fallen moai, with their hats looking like they are about to fall in the ocean. After hanging out a while there, we continued following the road around to what seemed like the best spot for the sunrise, and got as far as we had the previous day, to the barrier, but the Scary Guy turned out to be absolutely lovely, and after checking our nationalities (I think was the criteria was “not Chilean”), let us continue past. We drove on, determined to do a full circuit of the island. All went well, until the engine cut out. We were far from cell-phone service and cutting it fine for the quad bike to be returned. After some time, it worked again, and so in fits and starts we made our way back to the town… accompanied by a series of men in lycra who I think were on the same route but on pushbikes! Eventually we were rescued by someone who… flipped the dial to use the reserve petrol. Ai!
In the evening we went to see a show, Vai Te Mihi, which was pretty cool. The dancing was incredible! And the outfits!
Last full day on the island, took a hike to Orongo, which is like… a crater. And an old villiage. It’s really cool, and very different from other parts of the island. A long walk uphill in the heat though! We left early to try and get there before it got too hot, which was definitely a good decision! Then we went on a boat for scuba-diving. I don’t scuba-dive, and it was too choppy really, but I like being on boats on the ocean so that was cool. For dinner we went to the fanciest hotel, and ate at the restaurant,
Kaloa Pasta Bistro Hotel Hangaroa. The food was pretty amazing, and the internet was so fast – which was pretty great after 5 days of very little internet!
Last day, I mailed a vast quantity of postcards (turns out if you offer to send postcards from Easter Island, everyone wants one), and had lunch at Pea Bar (food was OK, but no virgin pina colada – sadness), before flying back to Santiago.
I was so sad to leave Easter Island, but I think that amount of time was right. I would love to go back one day. But it did help me realize that I am probably not cut out to live on a pacific island… time for a new goal, a new dream.