Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Easter Island from our guest blogger and client Alan Anderson

Alan Anderson
Hi Harry,

Just to let you know that we were able to go ashore by tender in somewhat rough conditions yesterday for a wonderful tour of Easter Island. Our tour guide Nikolas Hotu was excellent - he spoke English well and knew his history and the legends of the Island etc. so many thanks for arranging the tour. Below is a draft blog you may wish to use:

Easter Island
My wife and I are cruising across the Pacific to South America from Sydney via Auckland, Tonga, American Samoa, Tahiti, Pitcairn Island and finally the mysterious Easter Island on board the Sea Princess. The ships tours of Easter Island were all booked out so Harry Zaharopoulos from Depth Travel arranged an independent tour.

This was all well and good until the ships rumour mill cranked up about whether we would even be able to get off the ship. One woman claimed that this was her fifth attempt at landing on Easter Island - all the others were cancelled due to rough weather. So anticipation and apprehension were high among the passengers and there was much cheering when the captain finally announced we were going ashore even in spite of 1.5 metre swells.

The tender vessel took us into the small dock at the main (only) village of Hanga Roa. After paying the $80US Rapa Nui National Park entrance fee (each) we met our guide Nicholas Hotu and set off for our adventure with 4 others. All visitors have to pay this fee and I calculated that the Island collected a cool $120k for the day.

The tour commenced with a view of the Rano Kau volcanic crater and a walk around the ancient Orongo Village set atop high cliffs. The village comprises several houses made from slabs of stone all looking out to sea (waiting for the first arrival of the sooty terns). The village was only used once a year for about 3 days by competitors in the bird man
"challenge" where young warriors had to scramble down the high cliffs, swim 2 miles out to an island, collect a birds egg, swim back through shark infested water, climb the cliff and present the birds egg intact to the chief. Rumour has it that the warriors prize was a virgin! Apparently this competition was stopped in late 1880s after too many warriors were lost to sharks or fell off the cliffs.

The rest of the tour involved visiting moai sites all over the island. The weather was hot, humid and mainly bright and sunny so the views were uninterrupted with spectacular coastal vistas. The main moai site is the quarry at Rano Raraku where the hillside is dotted with the famously huge statues, with several still in a state of being carved when the practice stopped abruptly for reasons unknown but it is speculated that there was a civil war and the carvers lost!

The other sites where the statues were placed near the sea are all fascinating, picturesque and mysterious - how did they move these massive statues so far and what do they mean anyway? Conjecture is part of the fascination of Easter Island.

What lessons did we take from this tour:

1. Put Easter Island on your must do bucket list as it far exceeded our expectations - the seascapes are amazing with the sandy beach at Anakena outstanding
2. If you only have one shot at getting there then consider flying from Santiago - ship is too risky
3. Definitely get a tour with a guide as the locals add so much more value
4. There are a couple of high end expensive resorts and there's lots to see and do in a few days.
5. Do some research beforehand- I read "The Island of Giants" which is about Thor Heyerdahl's archeological experiences on the island.