March 13, 2006

The Navel of the World

Sunday morning and I´m back in Santiago. The sun is beating down, the sky is blue an I spent the afternoon sitting listening to an open-air concert in the cenre of the city. Kids are swimming in a fountain beside me and ppl are out walking their dogs. It´s a perfect Sunday .
Arrived back at Santiago airport last night after3 blissful days in Easter Island. I can see why its called "the navel of the world". Its the most remote place Ive ever been, and certainly the most mysterious! Had an early start on 8th to get out to the airport. Things run pretty well here in Santiago and it was effortless, helped by thefact that the airport bus left from just near my hostal. The 5 hr flight to the island was so comfortable (LAN are great to fly with!) and the sea below just got bluer with every hour we flew.
Our huge Boeing 767 landed at a little airport the size of Knock airport. I was metin the arrivals hall by Patti, the girl who runs the residencial I stayed at, with a beautiful garland of yellow flowers. It aws a short drive to her place, and when she showed me my cabana, I nearly passed out! It was looking right out on the Pacific Ocean with its wn little terrace. There were little yellow flowers strewn around the room and it was like walking into a honeymoon suite.
Once I got settled and had a quick shower I headed out into the 35 degree heat to get my bearings. I walked into Hanga Roa, which is the only settlement in the island, so its where everything happens really. I stood for about 30 minutes looking out at the sea with my face turned up to the sun, mentally pinching myself because I couldnt believe I was really there. All the locals were smiling and saying hi, and I felt so welcome there. This place is HEAVEN - blue blue skies, hot, sunny, totally surrounded by the Pacific, thousands of miles from anywhere. Everything and everyone is so laid back. The biggest, and maybe only drawback, is that everything is SERIOUSLY EXPENSIVE. Internet access for one hour is $US6 - bit of a shock after Peru and Bolivia! But you just hae to tell yourself that this is a once in a lifetime experience and you just have to go with it. Anyway, after walkingf around for a couple of huors and getting my bearings, I went to a little fish restaurant looking out on the ocean. There I met two really sound American guys who were in Easter Is. to climb the volanoes. Wandered home late with a bottle of wine and just sat o the terrace wathcing the sunset.
The sundoesnt rise until about 8am in Easter Island so you get a great nights sleep. I woke the next morning and found a huge exotic looking breakfast waiting for me on the table outside my cabana. I have to tell you about this breakfast because it is the best Ive eve had. First I was presetned with a weird looking black bowl of red didnt look very appetising but "when in Rome..". Once I tasted it, I realised it was passionfruit - it was delicious! Then I was given deep-fried banans followed by little rolls with avocado, turkey and cheese. THEN came a sort of doghnut like creation with apricot jam followed by little strips of fruit, all washed down with watermelon milkshake and loads of coffee.
At 9:30 I was sort of feeling that I might be able to think about walking again! when Jerome, my tour guide for the day, arrived. He is French but now lievs in Easter Island. He landed here when he was in the military years ago and fell in love with a local Rapa Nui girl. He has been here since. So, we picked up two other girls, one English, one Canadia, and headed off for a full day tour of the island. I hugely enjoyed it, although Jerome wasnt the best guide in the world. He just looked so bored but he was a ncie guy. We covered pretty much all the island that day, saw all the important Moai sites and quarry where the photo for the Pink Flloyd album was taken (see photos!). Jerome also took us to see some pretty interesting caves. The Moai are very strange mysterious looking figures and must have been very intimidating to non-islanders when they were all standing in their full glory. The Rapa Nui people constructed lines of them at various points all along their coastline, but later tribal wars resulted in most of the Moai being knocked down from their ahu (platforms). Many have now been restored but the island is full of fallen and incomplete statutes. The islanders were also cannibals at one point, but I´m pretty sure there are none left now. So, we had a long but very interesting day seeing the island with Jerome. He dropped me back to my place at 5:30 whereupon I had a COLD SHOWER STRAIGHT AWAY!ª The heat is something else!Chilled out for an hour reading and then went to meet the two girls at 8 - we went for some food and spent the evening chatting.
The next morning I woke to the sound of a raging Pacific storm outside. I opened the door and was greeted with howling wind, big waves crahsing up against the rocks, and pouring rain. DISAPPOINTMENT! It could have been opening the door at home! Patti herded us all indoors for a communal breakfast and I ended up chatting to a really ncie Swiss couple. By the time our lazy 2 and a half hourbreakfast was over, the storm had miraculously all but gone! ANother hour later, it was like it had never happened, apart from a few grey wispy clouds fleeing with the wind. So, I decided to hire a jeep for the day and revisit some of the spots we´d seen a day earlier with Jerome. I swang by the hostal to see if Jenny and Kat were up for a bit of exploring, which they were, and aftre getting some supplies for lunch and lots of water, we headed off. We had a really nice day. Kat and myself jumped up and down in the huge waves for hours while Jenny sunbathed on an almost deserted perfectly white beac. Bliss. In the afternoon, we drove to an ancient Rapa Nui settlement for a bit of a history lesson.
Dropped the jeep back by 7 and we then went to see a screening to the Kevin Costner movie "Rapa Nui", but it was in French, which was disappointing.Instead we went for dinner to a really nice place and watched the spectacular sunset. (again, see photos to see the colours!)We got chatting to some people, so a group of the only backpackers on the island (there are very few to be found there. Its mostly rich American couples...) headed back to a hostal nearby and we spent the evening just hanging out and laughing at each other.
After breakfast the next morning, I went for a walk along the coast to savour my last hours on Easter Island. Patti drove me to the airport and gave me a present of a lovely ethnic necklace which I will treasure. The local people there are fantastic - thy are so warm and generous. I would LOVE to think I will go back to Easter Island some day, but its unlikely. It really is a once in a lifetime experience!

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