Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Where the kings watch

Touching down in Santiago a little after 2am, we had a few hours to wait around in the airport before our next flight – 5 hours out into the middle of the Pacific to Easter Island, or, to use it's local name, Rapa Nui.

We were slightly worried right up until we got into our seats on the plane – flights out are notoriously overbooked and we had heard stories of being bumped from a flight and having to wait until the next day for another. With only 3 days on the island, we were desperate to make the most of them. We checked in online in Lima as soon as we could, but even just one hour after check-in opened, we discovered only 6 or so seats left on the plane. I didn’t feel entirely happy until we were settled in, seatbelts on, and there was no way they could drag me off the flight!

And gosh was it worth it. Rapa Nui is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Aside from the many proud Moai statues dotted around everywhere, which are far more spectacular in real life than I had ever imagined from the pictures I’d seen, the island itself is a rugged paradise. With waves crashing against black volcanic rock formations, gently rolling hills and a few extinct volcanoes, there’s plenty to do and see.

Arriving at 3pm, we didn’t have much time to do anything too heavy for the afternoon, so decided to walk the west coast of the island where a small concentration of sights are located. During just an 8km walk, we saw our first platform of seven Moai (the only to be looking out to sea intentionally, argued to be representations of the seven explorers who set forth and found Rapa Nui), a few caves created through lava tubes which you can crawl into (it’s pretty tight!) and emerge into large caverns, and some individual Moai right next to the island’s only town, Hanga Roa, where we stopped to watch the sun set, framing the Moai in gorgeous yellows, pinks and purples.

Although we spotted a few other people, it was low season on the island, and for the majority of our walk we were completely alone, enjoying the sense of peace the island provides in abundance. A perfect start to our short stay.

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