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Easter Island: free day with a walk to the museum

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We left the alarm off this morning and don’t actually get up until 08:50. We are the last for breakfast, which is a cakey-thing and bananas, ham and cheese. The rolls are much fresher this morning than they have been.

Today is the other free day on our trip, and we have planned our little walking tour. We start along the coast, past the kiddies’ playground (better than any in Nailsea) and some strange porous sculptures with petroglyphs on.


It’s a nice walk, along a good path, the terrain is rocky but flat and the sun is out. There are lots of beautiful wild horses around; the island is full of them. They are not really wild; they do belong to somebody, but are free to wander around as they please. We see one other tourist on our walk, a weird man carrying lots of gear. For the most part we have the whole place to ourselves. It is Sunday morning, so the locals are in Church.


Along the coast is a row of five restored moai on a ceremonial platform, and one solitary statue with its basalt eyes in place. This is how they would have all looked at one time. I try to picture in my mind how the island would have looked in its heyday with all the moai upright and painted. It is hard to imagine. The overwhelming amount of history and culture found on Easter Island far belies its size.






We turn off inland and follow a track until we reach the small museum. Victor warned us that although it is fairly interesting, there really isn’t all that much on display. He is right. We are given a booklet in English to follow the exhibits, and for me the most noteworthy item is the only female moai on the island – its torso had been taken by Thor Heyerdahl, but was returned from Norway in the 1970s.


In the small shop we look for souvenirs for my mum, but at US$45 for a thimble, I’m afraid she goes without. The temperature inside the museum is far too hot with no movement of air. I am glad to get outside. We return to town along the little gravel road, passing many urban houses along the way. It is interesting to see how the locals live.

For lunch we revisit the seafront restaurant from last night. Yesterday I noticed somebody eating a chicken soup and it looked so good I wanted to try one today. It is every bit as enjoyable as it looks; an enormous bowl piled high with vegetables, chicken and noodles. And best of all – not a chip in sight! David also enjoys his spaghetti Bolognese. We watch the surfers in the harbour, and it starts to rain heavily. Again. All the locals are out on the town’s only football pitch for a derby. We have seen at least five different games so far. We were hoping to be able to use the internet in the reception for a short while this afternoon, but it is unattended, they are probably watching the football. Just as well we took our key with us when we went out. After a long siesta we enjoy a drink in the room before going down to Pea Restaurant for dinner. Reported to be the best restaurant in town, we have saved it for the last dinner. I immediately like it when I see that there are several items on the menu that don’t include chips. My chicken comes with rice and pineapple while David’s steak is accompanied by mashed potato. Back at the hotel the reception is again manned and we send a quick message to Pauline to wish her happy birthday. More drinks in the room before it’s time for bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:22 Archived in Chile Tagged walking travel chile rtw easter_island moai hanga_roa thor_heyerdahl Comments (0)

Easter Island: quarry, Aku Akivi, lava tubes and dances

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Today is Saturday and the Post Office should have been open, but it’s not. I am not worried about the last four stamps we need, we should have time before we leave on Monday, if not we can always leave the post cards with reception. The e-mail cafés are still both closed. There is internet access in the hotel, but it’s their working PC and they charge £20 an hour to discourage surfers. Today is sunny and we put the washing on the balcony before walking around town killing time before lunch. We revisit our gay friend’s place, and his service is even slower today than it was last time. I can’t understand how 2 sandwiches can take 45 minutes to prepare, especially as we are the only customers in the café. It isn’t even a ploy to make us drink more, as we can never find him when we want to order another beer. We succumb and use the internet at the hotel. Wonder how much he will charge us for 23 minutes?

This afternoon Victor takes us to the quarry where they made the topknots for the moai. The rock is red, there are a few remaining topknots in place, but there really isn’t much to look at there. When you see the size of the top knot and you realise that this would have had to be raised to be fitted on top of the moai, it makes you appreciate what an enormous undertaking each and every one of the moai were. In all, there are 1015 moai dotted around the island, many of which of course are still unfinished.



At Aku Akivi, we see a further 7 restored moai, the unusual feature about these is that they are the only ones on the island which face out to sea. They are said to symbolise the seven original inhabitants of the island. We meet two other people here, they have walked from town, not a mean feat, and it must have taken them at least 1½ hours. It looks like rain again – I hope the washing on the balcony dries. The tracks here are very muddy with deep puddles; just as well Victor is such a good driver.







One of the more interesting places on today’s agenda is the lava tube cave. During long-lived volcanic eruptions, lava flows tend to become "channelled" into a few main streams. Overflows of lava from these streams solidify quickly and plaster on to the channel walls, building natural ramparts that allow the level of the lava to be raised. Lava streams that flow steadily in a confined channel for many hours to days may develop a solid crust or roof and thus change gradually into streams within lava tubes. If liquid lava stops rising from its source deep within the earth, the still-molten lava moving beneath the crusted-over top of a lava flow will continue to drain downhill and may ultimately leave an open lava-tube cave. Parts of the roof have since collapsed, showing where people lived inside, their brick walls and the gardens they created where there was no roof on the cave. Bananas are growing inside, also tobacco, and you can see traces wood where trees became petrified during the lava flow. These tubes run for 2km across the landscape. It is my first experience of a lava tube and I find it absolutely fascinating.





We return to town via some beautiful coastal views, and it doesn’t rain, but the washing is still not dry, despite having been out on the balcony all afternoon.

I feel very unwell: sick, windy and a runny nose. I drink lots of coke, water and Dioralyte, and feel well enough to pop next door for dinner. It is Saturday night and the restaurant is closed. The only people eating in the hotel restaurant are the resident archaeologists, and I don’t feel inclined to join them. We would have had to pre-order our food early in the day anyway. The restaurant further down the road is also closed, but fortunately the one around the corner on the sea front is open. I have a pizza which is disappointing, but at least it isn’t served with chips. David has Lomo de Pobre (steak and chips with onions and fried egg). We share a bottle of wine and even have a dessert of bananas in rum. Still the bill only comes to £20 including a tip. When the guy on the next table gets up to photograph the (disappointing) sunset, we continue chatting to his friend with the opening line: “which part of England do you come from?” On finding that he derives from Germany, David exclaims in true Fawlty Towers style: “Oh, you’re German….” I resist the temptation to finish the quote ….”I thought there was something wrong with you”. We giggle about this for ages after they’ve gone.

Marcia orders a taxi to take us to Hanga Roa Hotel for the traditional dance display. We notice on the way that the e-mail café is now open for the first time since we got here, at 22:30 on a Saturday night. Nothing makes sense in this far flung place, but I love it!


Hanga Roa Hotel is full of fat, rich Americans, I am glad we’re not staying here! We have front row seats for the performance with a great view of all the dancers. The sound of the drums goes right through me; there is a primitive urgency about tribal drums. The dances are very Polynesian in tradition with grass skirts and coconut shells covering the girls’ breasts. The movements are energetic and sensual, with lots of hip shaking. The men are covered in tattoos and the girls are pretty. During the audience participation, David is chosen by the prettiest of them all.








The same taxi is waiting to take us back to our hotel. I feel sick again and go straight to bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:21 Archived in Chile Tagged rtw south_america easter_island moai polynesia traditional_dancing lava_tubes Comments (0)

Easter Island: Rano Kau, Orongo Ceremonial Village and rain

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

It rained all through the night and this morning there is a terrible smell in our room. It smells like raw sewage and we report it to the reception on the way out hoping they’ll do something about it while we’re out.

At the first site we can still see the red paint on the fallen moai. It is thought that they were all painted at one stage. Wind and rain has damaged so much of these statues and if nothing is done to preserve them, they’ll be completely eroded away in another 500 years. What a terrible thought.

We stop at an extinct volcanic crater to look down at the lake 253m below. It is green and repulsive on the surface but the slopes are wooded and apparently quite popular with walkers. Many have got lost where they didn’t realise quite how far it is.


The Orongo Ceremonial Village is larger than I imagined. There are 48 restored houses in total, each with stone walls, grass roof and low doors. There are many theories about the usage of the buildings; my book says that the contestants for the Birdman title would stay here for a time before the competition. Victor reckons they housed virgins for up to four months at a time before the ceremonies. I do not fully comprehend what they did with the virgins afterwards. It is a very impressive site, of a later date than the moai.





Right out on the thin ledge between the ocean and the crater lake, you can appreciate the bravery of the men who risked life and limb to jump off the cliff, swim to the outlying rocky islands, collect the first frigate bird egg of the season and return as hero and gain the title of Birdman for the following year. The ledge is very precarious in the wind and I don’t linger to peruse at the petroglyphs on the rocks.




It rains buckets all the time we are here, and stops just as we get back to the car. In fact the weather is so bad and the conditions so wet and muddy that we totally miss out the visit to a quarry, and go back via the deep harbour and the petrol tanks. Most items have to be imported to Easter Island, including cars, fuel, clothes, electronic items and many foods. There are no mobile phones on the island as there is no signal.

The blocked drains in the hotel have not been fixed, so we end up moving to another room. This one is nearer the swimming pool, has its own balcony, a telephone and a fan! We put the fan on to dry David’s clothes which are still rather wet from washing them 2 days ago. I am waiting for David’s to dry before I do mine as we have nowhere to dry any more clothes.

Lunch at a little café in the high street is slow but good. I order the local speciality of empanada (a sort of pasty) with beef and cheese, David tries the pizza and we share some chips. More chips. Please give me some boiled or mashed potatoes, pasta or rice. The waiter/cook/owner of the café is tall, painfully thin and has long flowing hair. Initially we can’t work out whether it is a man or a woman, but we decide it is a he and that he is gay. We really don't care about his (or her) sexual preferences, and at £12 for the lot including a couple of beers each, we're not unhappy . There are two internet cafés in town, but they are both closed and no opening times displayed outside. It is still raining. The only thing we can do is to adopt the Latino way of life with an afternoon siesta. The runs are back, I don’t want to block up these toilets too.

For our evening meal we try another restaurant in the high street, and although it appears to be very popular, the menu is rather limited. Apart from chicken and chips, there is fish and chips and also lobster at a hefty price. We choose chicken and chips. I still don’t feel too well, so I eat some of the chicken but leave most of the chips. I hope we soon get something different.

Who’d have believed that we’d get such a spectacular sunset after all the rain we’ve had today. Several tourists congregate at the harbour to watch the sun go down behind the restored moai in the main street.


Posted by Grete Howard 08:07 Archived in Chile Tagged rain travel chile rtw easter_island Comments (1)

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