Last updated: 10/11/2019
Who gives us the tips this time is our friend Flávia, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and loves to travel to amazing places! She tells a little bit about her experience visiting one of the most mystical places on the planet: Easter Island! In the report, Flávia talks about the history of the island, gives tips on tours, accommodation and restaurants. This is a complete post for you to enjoy and imagine your trip to this fantastic place! Let's travel on this super interesting read?
When we planned our wedding, we knew that the honeymoon would be just over six months away due to the work schedule. But a few months earlier, I found out that civil marriage would entitle us to a week off. We could have a mini honeymoon before the official one! But where to go?
We both love to travel and wanted an unforgettable place that would fit into a 7 day trip. We started researching, thinking about alternatives, until I received an email from TAM with a promotion for Easter Island. We had already spoken several times about the desire to know the mystical island and for US$ 498.00 round trip there was no longer any doubt about our destination.
everyone knows that the Easter Island belongs to Chile, but few know that its territory is already on another continent: Oceania. Another curiosity is that it is one of the vertices of a triangle-shaped archipelago called Polynesia. That's right, the same archipelago where Hawaii and Tahiti are located!
WHEN TO TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND
If you look in the available guides, you will see that most of them indicate summer (December to March), but Easter Islanders suggest autumn and spring and, I confess, I agree. The reality is that the climate there is subtropical, with minimums of 28ºC in the summer and 14ºC in the winter. However, one thing that no one tells you is that due to the proximity of the ozone layer hole (south pole) and the very absence of natural obstacles nearby, the ultraviolet radiation on the island reaches the maximum level known to man! So go prepared! The period we were there a cold front hit Easter Island, we lost the beach a little, but it was great for family outings.
The first thing to know is that Easter Island is not that close: it's 4h40 from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago, there an average of three more hours of waiting and then another 6h to the island. Lan does not have exclusive flights there, they all have Pappete, the capital of Tahiti, as their final destination. The good thing about this is that LAN uses new, huge and super comfortable planes for the journey.
A curiosity is that Easter Island was a american space shuttle escape route during the American space program (there are some abandoned NASA buildings there). That's why the Americans built one of the biggest and safest airstrips in the world there! It's even funny, because the airport has this runway and a little wooden house, little bigger than a 3 bedroom house.
Getting to Easter Island is an experience: the entire plane disembarks (that's right, even those who go to Pappete!) and are separated into two lines, as immigration is done there. Those who stay on the Island do not need to go through immigration but need to get in a queue to pay the conservation fee (worth US$ 50) without which you will not be able to enter various parts of the island. You can even skip the line and pay the fee later, but then the price will go up to USD 60. Better to pay soon and just enjoy it later.
RECEPTION AND ACCOMMODATION
One of the things we discovered before the trip is that there are few hotels on the island and these few are luxurious and very expensive. Seriously, seeing the price of accommodation, we even considered giving up on the trip! With time and a lot of research we discovered the peculiarities of the island. For the more detached and adventurous there are some campsites, whose prices are very cheap (around US$ 20/day), but I honestly felt sorry for those people, because it is very cold and windy at night (and it was spring). There are also “bed & breakfast” type hostels and inns, but nothing that has won us over. There are the real hotels, which seem excellent but, as I said, expensive and finally the intermediate option, where most tourists stay: the huts.
The cabins are nothing more than completely independent houses, with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and an outdoor recreation area. They have all the infrastructure you will need, have daily cleaning and tidying and have an administration office that works like a hotel reception, solving any problem, booking tours, etc.
They met us at the airport with a Polynesian necklace made from natural flowers. A charm! We arrived after 11 pm and later discovered that those who arrive during the day already receive this type of gift when getting off the plane, in addition to being greeted by dancers who dance the Polynesian dance (known here as hula-hula). Another strong point of our reception was that, we would discover later, that almost nothing opens after 11 pm on the island and, knowing this, they provided us with an evening snack and left us items for breakfast, even without any meal being included in the accommodation. ! You know those details that conquer you?
THE FIRST CONTACT
On a trip to Fernando de Noronha a few years earlier, we received a very interesting tip: getting there, hire a tour around the island on the first day that will give you an overview and then you can see what you liked best and you can spend more time on it. This is really a precious tip if you are going to travel to a small place because you optimize the other days a lot and immediately discard what you don't think is so cool.
On Easter Island we used the same tactic and it was great! At the time of our arrival, we asked our manager to book the tour to the island for the next day.
There are only two tourist agencies that monopolize work on the island, Rapa Nui Travel and Kia Koe. The price is fixed, US$ 80/day with lunch, and the service is identical, so there is not much to choose from.
The next day promptly at 8 am the van was there to pick us up. We went in a group of 10 people, Americans, English, Germans and a Brazilian. The tour is excellent, and exactly what we expected. It passes through the main points of the island (with the exception of Orongo) and gives an overview of the island not only in tourist terms but also in historical terms, which is very cool! Our conclusion was that we would go back at every point because everything is elusive and worth going back to! Do I think it would have been better to have gone alone and saved the money? Not really, it's one thing to see a bunch of fallen or half-buried moais, or even a round stone or cave drawings, another is to understand what they are, why they are there, what the population's feeling in relation to that is.
Well, I won't describe the sights at this point because, as I said, we'll come back to all of them, I just want to say that it's an incredible feeling to see that wall of moais by the sea for the first time.
The next day we decided rent the car. All cars are 4×4, because although most of the island has paving, there are some places that the resource is demanded. The price is not the cheapest, around US$ 60/day, but it is worth the convenience and freedom that you get. The same agencies that make the tours rent the cars.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
The first thing you learn when you arrive on Easter Island is that it is not called Easter Island, the original name is Rapa Nui, that's what its people call it and that's what it was called before the arrival of Chileans on an Easter Sunday in 1722. Little is known about what happened before that year on the island, all I will say here are traditions passed down from generation to generation. generation on the island, but without historical-scientific proof! That's right, forget everything you've read about the island, when the Chileans arrived there were less than 100 residents, all living isolated in caves fleeing cannibalistic practices, malnourished and delusional, all the moai were torn down, all the documents had been burned , as well as all the belongings of the families that existed in the previous period. There were also no trees. The story told today was passed down by these survivors.
Easter Island is the most isolated point on earth from another point. It is believed that seven original families that populated the island came from the Fiji region. These six clans began to live harmoniously dividing the island into seven territories. The only thing they had in common was the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood of the Rapa Nui boys, who, to prove that they could be valiant warriors, went through the rite of the bird man.
Everything was going well, until they had the idea of building the famous Moais to honor the elder of each family after his death. The Moai, according to legend, would preserve the soul of the elder who would continue to watch over the family. However, families began to compete with each other for the biggest and most beautiful Moai and more and more human and natural resources were directed towards this construction. (To give you an idea, today there are almost a thousand Moais on the island, some of which weigh more than 20 tons). Stems were used to transport the moai and with larger moai, more and more trees were needed until they were all gone. Without trees, the rains were scarce, little agriculture ended. Result: they began to starve and peace between the tribes ended. A civil war broke out and, without food, cannibalistic practices began and the defeated tribes were eaten by the victors. The population, which was already small, began to decline and those who remained took refuge in caves and remote places. They then began to blame the moai for the people's misfortune and toppled all who existed. That's right! Everything you see today was put back on its feet by the conquerors.
Back to the trip….
Let's now go to the unmissable spots on the Island!
If you think of Easter Island, this is the image that appears in your subconscious and the most famous tourist spot on the island is a huge wall of huge Moais (the biggest one has more than 20 tons). They were torn down in the civil war and rebuilt by English archaeologists in the early 20th century. But in 1960, after the Valdivia earthquake, a massive tsunami hit the island knocking them down again. It was only in the 1970s that they returned to their original positions.
Rana Kau and Orongo
Rana Kau is the largest inactive volcano on the island (which has nearly 300!). You can arrive by trail, by car or with a hired tour. We went there twice using the first two ways. The trail is very quiet, an ascent of about 1 hour without any difficulty. To give you an idea, we found a German couple with a 4 year old son! The trail starts at a visitor's post just behind the airport and is very well signposted with several rest stops. We got a ride there from our cabin manager, but if we hadn't, the trail would have been extended by about 20 minutes.
Why do the trail if you can go by car? The tour is very beautiful, it is the highest point on the island and as you go up you will have an almost 360º view of the island and when you get up there you are faced with a horizon that is not straight as we are used to, but semicircular. It is breathtaking…
Up there, regardless of how you got there, you'll find the volcano's crater, perfectly preserved, covered in moss and rainwater.
After a few minutes of contemplation, you should continue up to the visitor center where the entrance to Orongo is located. IMPORTANT: There you will need to present your passport and proof of payment of the fee you paid when you disembarked on the island.
Orongo is an almost intact archaeological park where the ceremonial village where the ritual of the bird man took place is still in an almost original state. It's a return to the past!
Ana Kai Tangata Cave
A cave carved by the sea, where you can see fascinating cave paintings.
Undoubtedly the most impressive point on the whole island! It is a wall of gigantic Moais positioned by the sea. We pass by there at all possible times, but without a doubt the sunrise is breathtaking.
Sunset at Aku Tahai
They are a set of smaller but no less important Moai. They are close to the center of the village and can be reached on foot. The sun sets right behind them, putting on a spectacle. It is interesting how close to the sunset time the tourists start walking in that direction and settle down on the huge lawn waiting for the show.
Another breathtaking tourist spot. Looking from a distance is an immense mountain studded with the heads and half-bodies of moai. Arriving there you discover that it is actually a volcano that housed the moais factory. The statues that are there were either discarded because they did not go through quality control or were abandoned due to the impossibility of transport after the deforestation of all the trees or even had the garment abandoned with the war. There you get the exact idea of why society was destroyed: there are hundreds of moai. Imagine the human effort to build all that!
Important: Contrary to a rumor that emerged months ago, not all moai are full-bodied, the ones found in Rano Raraku are semi-buried with only their heads showing through the sedimentation of the terrain. The island's government has already thought about digging up those statues, but the local population has objected, claiming that the moai as they are there are part of the people's history.
In Rano Raraku there are two enigmatic statues: the only seated moai on the island, which instead of looking at the horizon, admires the sky and a moai with a caravel drawn on its back that it is not known if it was made before or after 1722.
At the back of the wall it is possible to access the crater of the volcano, which today is a huge lake and where the moai hats were made.
To enter the park, you also need a passport with proof of payment of the fee. Don't forget your sunscreen and hat and bring water. Set aside half a day to see everything calmly.
the NASA station
You'll feel teleported to the island of Lost and feel like you've found Dharma Station! It is nothing more than an abandoned NASA station, but the photos speak for themselves.
Theoretically the first moais built on the island and with a peculiarity are the only ones on the island with their eyes facing the sea, this made archaeologists conclude that these seven statues represent the seven colonizers. There are also some caves there, but the road conditions did not allow us to go there.
Ahu Te Pito Kura
I have no doubt that the island is one of the energy centers of the world, I have been to others like Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, but Easter Island is really an exceptional place. I'm still going to talk about the behavior of the island's animals, which for me is one of the most surreal things I've ever witnessed, but another is the Ahu Te Pito Kura or the navel of the world.
Apparently, it is nothing more than a round rock by the sea, located behind a large platform of felled moai. But that's only apparently. When you touch the stone, a kind of electric current passes through your body! They say it's the vital energy of the world, whether it is or not I confess I don't know, but there's certainly something in that stone that's not normal!
Yes, there are beaches on this island! Two paradises to be exact. the first is ovahe, it is almost always deserted because it does not have any structure and it is necessary to walk a small trail to reach it. If you're prepared for it, it's a great place to spend a few hours.
The main beach is anaketa, it is also protected by a platform of moai. It has several Polynesian-style food and drink stalls. There are also several picnic tables arranged among a coconut grove planted there to give a more tropical feel to the place. The beach has crystal clear waters and a pleasant temperature. Too bad it was that on the days we were there a cold front passed through the island.
There are no animals typical of the island, they were all brought by man. But there are thousands of wild animals roaming around (even in the most remote areas!). So if you have a car, be careful. They are dogs, horses and cows. They are always in a bunch and has a very strange behavior: there is always a leader which coordinates the movements. For example, if you come across a flock, you don't have to do anything, just wait for the “leader” to organize the flock and make way for you.
WHERE TO EAT
The food is the most expensive item on the island, but there is an advantage that the restaurants are very similarly priced so there is not much difference in prices between the upscale beachside restaurant and home cooking! So, just choose what you want!
The island's specialty is seafood and fish dishes and, as we are in Chile, the ceviches (fresh!). But there is also a lot of barbecued beef, very seasoned and well done, served with rice and salad, especially on the beach.
There are also two markets on the island with food from all over the world, mainly from the east. Some days we made the option of buying food and making it at home.
Just a curiosity: everything on the island comes from outside, so fruits are non-existent. If you are in the habit of eating a lot of fruit, forget it. Even pulp juices are hard to find and, when found, very expensive!
Kaloa, at the Hotel Hanga Roa, is the most starred restaurant on the island. Sophisticated food and an unmissable sunset.
there Kaleta, also by the sea, with an unmissable ceviche.
Now the most unmissable is the empanada da Aunt Bertha! For you to have an idea I ate there 4 times in 7 days! The empanada is very similar to a pastel but with a thicker crust. My favorite is the fresh tuna. Simply wonderful and giant worth a meal!
Worth trying the local beer. It's far from the best I've ever tasted, but it's worth it. In the market you can also buy beers from Tahiti and Hawaii.