Friday, June 11, 2010

Easter Island, Part 2: Life

Man, my heart sinks when writing about Easter Island. I could’ve super EASILY stayed many more days. There was a lot of walking yet to do, much left to explore (including some supposedly pristine snorkeling and scuba diving). Christine loves pristine. And that’s a fact.

Easter Island is part of Polynesia. BUT Easter Island ain’t Tahiti. Oh no. The gorgeous beach below, Anakena, could confuse you into thinking this island is a subtropical paradise. But look closer. In this picture, there is only one person in the water. Those on the shore aren’t wearing swimsuits, either. Being the winter season, the air was a bit chilly (mixed with frequent, intermittent rain showers). Perfect walking weather, in my opinion. If you want Polynesian island life to equal tanning time, then Easter Island’s probably not your thang.

So, walk walk walk we did. If you love bathroom facilities, you might not like Easter Island. Well, I guess that’s not true. I like bathroom facilities, in fact I LOVE them and totally and completely prefer them in most instances – I promise! And that’s not to say that your hostel, campground, or hotel won’t have bathrooms, because they will; however, you don’t spend much time in the aforementioned places, you spend it instead wandering this amazingly and wonderfully undeveloped and preserved (again, pristine) island by foot, motorized vehicle, bike, or horseback. Sooo, nature’s bathroom it is!

One of our first hikes was up the volcano, Rano Raraku (attempt at makeshift panorama above). Our hostel had an amazing location overlooking the ocean and not too far from the start of this trail. Rano Raraku was an incredible experience. This dead volcano has a HUGE crater with a lake inside. I can’t describe how big and magical it was. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the island.

View of Rano Raraku, from our hostel:

Most of the shoreline consists of jet-black, jagged lava rock, making the clear blue water all the more striking. Taken on the shore, walking towards the base of Rano Raraku:

Views while climbing:

Feeling out of breath at this point, but feeling great, too.

And on top. Another view of the crater lake...and the ocean. This was taken on our second trip to the crater, with some rare sunny skies:

Our guidebook kept referring to Easter Island as itty-bitty. Therefore, we thought we’d be able to bike it the whole thing in like ten minutes. Sh-yeah right. It’s so hilly (beautiful), and most of the roads are dirt, with huge chunks of volcanic rock. A 4WD vehicle is almost essential (unless you’re superhuman…and some people are!).

We met an awesome father and son (the son is our age) from Washington state who were tenting at our hostel’s campground. They were looking to save money (as were we), so we decided to rent a car together. They were fabulous travel companions. We had a great time with them searching for moai, climbing a volcano/peninsula that is completely overlooked and neglected by tourists (which is AWESOME), exploring lava tube caves, snacking on their four-pound bag of Costco trail mix, and laughing at all the animal encounters.

Clearest waters I've ever seen:

Otherworldly bumpy hills on top of other hills were common landscape throughout the island:

Extinct lava tubes we ventured into:

If you don’t like dogs, then Easter Island would be hard for you. If you’re scared of dogs, Easter Island would be impossible. The island is full of friendly, affectionate (even if unsolicited) canines who will and do happily follow you for miles and hours. They were a lot of fun. There are beautiful wild horses EVERYWHERE. Along the roads, atop the volcanoes, near the beach, you see them munching away on the island’s plentiful supply of grass. They want nothing more than to ignore you, as they’re shy. However, the dogs love to rile the horses, scare them, and get them galloping about. The dogs reminded of Miller High Life-guzzling townies who go cow-tipping.

A few friendly beasts follow. Below, just a random pig at the park entrance:

Author, with dog friend:

Gorgeous horses:

Cattle is (are?) everywhere too. Just like the horses. Usually completely free-range, though the one below and about a hundred others were fenced into a farm at the bottom of a volcano we climbed.

This one stared at us for a good ten minutes before actually moving. Ryan, our travel companion and son of the other Washingtonian, was the driver for most of our trip and had access to an awesome horn that made animal noises. This cow was completely unfazed by our "moo"-ing capabilities.

There were beautiful sunsets every night. And since Matt and I are officially old people now, there's almost nothing we enjoy more than a good sunset.

Leaving this amazing place was a little bittersweet, for we knew we'd probably never be back. I feel so happy that we experienced this dot in the middle of the ocean.