Standing on the edge of the volcanic crater Rano Kau with the wind whipping my hair in my face, I could see the entire length and width of Easter Island surrounded by choppy seas. This is when it feels insanely remote and mysterious to me, as the clouds swirled past and hung heavy over the other extinct volcano tops of Terevaka and Poike in the distance.
Rapa Nui is the most remote inhabited Island and is rightfully called the ‘Belly Button of the World’ for good reason. It’s 2500 miles from Chile in the east and 1200 miles from Pitcairn Island in the western South Pacific seas. The view was incredible and I was still amazed we had made it!
It took a great deal of persuading to get Mr E to spend a big chunk of our travel budget to get here…
When we were planning our South American trip, the conversation went something like this:
Me – “Ooh when we go to Chile, we can nip on a little plane and go to Easter Island, it’s in my top 5 destinations to see in the world”
Mr E – “Are you mad? Do you know how far away it is?”
Me – “I’m guessing a couple of hours on a plane..?”
Mr E – (after consulting Google) “It’s flipping 5 hours and its on a massive Dreamliner aeroplane!”
Me – “great let’s do it!”
Yes – the price of the flights were nearly as much as our main flights in and out of South America, yes – even basic accommodation was expensive, yes – it was 5 hours on a plane with 300 other people..but oh boy are we glad we planned the trip. It was simply fabulous.
This tiny island was formed millions of years ago when over time, three oceanic volcanoes pushed upwards to create this triangular-shaped island. Not only does it have steep rugged cliffs, the dramatic scenic landscapes are strewn with black lava rocks all over, there are healthy looking horses wandering on the hills, plus there is a perfect castaway, gorgeous white sandy beach framed by palm trees and turquoise waters…but it also has the famous ‘Big Heads’!!
These fabulous Moai carved volcano rock statues cover the island. Some have been reconstructed and stand tall but many still remain face down on the ground from tribal wars long ago. Rapa Nui is a blueprint for how to not to live on this beautiful planet Earth!
By spending all their time creating the huge Moai statues, they exhausted their supply of trees, along with soil erosion they couldn’t grow crops to feed themselves and couldn’t build canoes to leave the island. Tribal wars ensued and it must have been desperate times as they resorted to eating each other. The Moai were toppled to take away mana power from the opposing tribes and by the time Captain Cook arrived on the island society had collapsed, it was bleak and desolate in comparison to the neighbouring Polynesian islands to the West. The Europeans also bought with them a dose of smallpox just for good measure to wipe out a few more RapaNui people.
Some 300 years after Danish explorer Jacob Roggeveen arrived on Easter Sunday there are now 5000 people living on Isla de Pascua. The RapaNui people are beautiful, the women wear flowers in their long black hair and the men have strong handsome faces. Traditions are still honoured and the cemetery is cared for with beautiful flowers adorning the graves of their ancestors.
A program of reforestation has been started and the sheltered inner lands are growing corn and vegetables. There’s a relaxed feel to the island, everywhere is tidy and tourism remains at a manageable level, there are no Hawaii style resorts, thank goodness! Some of the RapaNui are seeking Independence from Chile, their flags fly around the island.
We loved our week there, it really exceeded our expectations. The raw beauty of the landscape remains and those Big Heads are truly fabulous.
Click here for our highlights: Rapa Nui Rocks!