The Magic of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) – [Video]

What a place! If I could beam you there right now, I would, so that you could experience the magic of the island yourself. It’s so hard to describe. In fact, I’ve been mulling this blog post over in my head for months. I’ve started writing it multiple times. But, I fear — and I know — that I simply can’t do Easter Island justice. It’s truly magical and renders me essentially wordless.

And so, I suggest that you turn up your sound and press play on the video that Matt made below. It’ll give you a better taste of our trip to Easter Island that my words can’t.

It’s hard to describe Easter Island because it’s so much more than a tiny Pacific island. It’s so much more than its Moai. And it’s so much more than the beautiful Polynesian culture. Of course, if you took any one of those things away, it wouldn’t be the same. But the land itself, it’s got an energy about it that just makes you feel so alive.

What The Island Is Like

Rapa Nui is tiny – at its widest/longest, it takes about 30 minutes to drive from one side to the other. There’s only one town, Hanga Roa, and that’s where the majority of people live. Basically, aside from Hanga Roa and the occasional farm outside the town, the island is only inhabited by cows and horses roaming wildly. 

The island itself looks like it was pushed out of the water by benevolent and strong beings. Because 3 volcanos formed the island (in the shape of a triangle), there aren’t many beaches. In fact, there’s really only one.

Rather than soft sandy slopes bringing the island to meet the ocean, there are dramaticly black volcanic cliffs. You can see them in the video above.

They’re breathtakingly beautiful, don’t you think?

  

Rapa Nui Hospitality

 Honestly, it’s stellar.

From the moment we stepped off the plane to the moment we boarded a week later, we felt nothing but warmth. Benjamin, the man who owns and runs the hostel/campsite Tipanie Moana (where we stayed), met us at the airport. He greeted us with a big smile and put a flower lei around both of our necks. 

  
It’s part of Polynesian culture and we felt truly lucky to be on the receiving end.

I think that the hospitality that Benjamin, Cinthia, and the other good people at Tipanie Moana showed us helped make our time on Easter Island so special. Everyday, Benjamin would ask us how we were doing, if we needed help, and how we were finding our stay so far. The facilities – showers, bathrooms, and kitchen and dining area – were immaculately kept. And they secured little discounts for things like car rentals and cultural shows for us and the other guests. Even though we were  staying as cheaply as possible in one of their tents, we got five-star service (they even gave us a small lock and sleeping bags to use free of charge).

Everyone was nice. People smiled and said hello, and were just so warm and friendly.

Hitch-hiking culture is alive and well on Rapa Nui. To be honest, it’s no surprise since the island is so small, both in terms of population (about 6,000) and area. Our first day on Easter Island, we were walking along the coastal road (they’re pretty much all coastal) in the rain. A woman was driving by with her kids and she offered us a ride back to town. We happily hopped in and she took us all the way to the grocery store.  

People were always stopping to offer us rides – mostly we walked, but sometimes we accepted and nobody ever asked for anything in return. That’s how Easter Island is. Even the dogs would walk with us for hours on end and we never even gave them food. 

Spectacular Moai

Obviously, we went to Easter Island to see the Moai. They truly are giants!

  

  

   

   

 
    
They didn’t disappoint!

Our Self-Guided Week On Easter Island

As soon as we bought our Easter Island bible — A Companion to Easter Island: A Concise Guide to the History, Culture and Individual Archaeological sites of Rapa Nui by James Grant-Peterkin —  we knew that we would be able to have an amazing time seeing sites on our own (as opposed to paying for tours). 

The book never left us for that entire week. One day we did a self guided walking tour of part of the island – it was 7 hours and around 27 km and by the end of it, we’d picked up 5 dogs! 

  

Two other days we drove around the island. And because car rentals are for 24 hours, we’d rent the car in the afternoon and be able to catch the sunrise at Tongariki, or visit our favourite sites before the tour buses got there.

As we followed along with The Book’s recommended itineraries, we’d read the stories out loud about the Moai that we were seeing. It was awesome.

In no particular order, we saw:

  • Tahai at sunset
  • Rano Raraku aka the Moai nursery
  • Tongariki at sunrise
  • Orongo to learn about the Birdman competition
  • Ahu AKivi, one of the only restored platforms with Moain inland
  • The Rano Kay crater
  • The beautiful Anakena beach with gorgeous Ahu Nau Nau
  • Puna Pau, where the Moai’s distinct red Pukao (topknots/hair) were made
  • Papa Vaka
  • Ahu Te Pito Kura
  • Akahana
  • Ana Te Pah
  • The museum
  • A Polynesian dance performance

  
I’m sure I’m forgetting some spectacular sights in that list as well. I think that with a week, we had a really good amount of time to see the island at a relaxed pace. Anything less and we would have had to have rushed some things or just skipped them altogether, which would have been a shame. If we had a few more days, I could have tried surfing and easily spent more days on the beach. I don’t know if it’s possible to get bored on Easter Island but I don’t think it is.

— Matt and Cyn

Day Two With Our Campervan – Tornquist to Puerto Pirámides

Do you know what kind of thing a Guanaco is? Ya, I didn’t know it was even a thing either until I saw it on the side of the road.

  
It’s a relative of the alpaca but these guys are not domesticated – wild and free, jumping fences all over Argentina.

Here’s the story of how I got to know what a Guanaco is.

Our alarm went off at the hateful hour of 7am. No way were we making the same mistake again. 

Because we were camping opposite a factory, we felt a bit weird about sticking around to make coffee for ourselves. We quickly packed up our roadside bed and headed off to the nearest gas station to refuel our car and ourselves. 

Most of day two was spent driving through boring flat terrain. At least the sun was shining brightly instead of rain. We were even able to cook lunch on the side of the road.

Our goal was to make it to a proper campsite BEFORE it was pitch black. We’re learning lessons left, right, and centre here.

The campsite we had our eye on was on a peninsula – Valdes Peninsula – that was home to penguins. 

The main thing though was that we arrived before dark so we didn’t have a repeat of yesterday’s failed attempt at finding a campsite.

And so…Matt drove over 1,000kms and more than 11 hours. 

We paid our park entrance fee, and headed to town. And it was there on the side of the road that we saw our first group of Guanacos.

We did make our goal. We got to the campsite (which took a bit of finding) at 15 minutes to 7pm. The showers closed at 7pm – and we were desperate for a shower after sleeping on the side of the road! Before we even parked Peppy, we ran into the shower.

After our rushed but hot showers, we set about finding a good place to park for the night. 

And hereto we learned another lesson: Peppy can’t drive through soft sand.

Oh ya, she got stuck. But luckily not for too long. The crisis was averted by Matt’s driving skills and my pushing skills.

Truly, we’re novices at this Campervan-I got through Argentina but at least we’re quick learners!

So, we toasted a successful day with a glass of kind wine and then cooked dinner out the back of our van while the sun went down. 

 

As we were finishing dinner, our oblivious neighbours cranked their annoying music. So we packed up and moved to somewhere quieter. The amount of freedom in being able to do that is incredible.

– Cyn