Reasons to Visit Rapa Nui

Were we leaving sunny Santiago to fly five hours for four days of continuous rain? That’s the forecast for Rapa Nui, the Polynesian island we Estados Unidenses know as Easter Island. That’s because a Dutch explorer stumbled upon it on Easter Sunday while cruising the Pacific Ocean. Since Rapa Nui is what the indigenous people call it, that’s what I’m going with.

But as is frequently the case, the weather report was only partially correct. Our rainy arrival date has been followed by two perfectly beautiful days. And so far, it’s looking pretty good for our departure at noon today. We figured it was a sign that the Moai looked favorably upon our visit.

We have probably all seen one or two photos of these iconic statues, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one surprised to learn that there are more than a thousand of these on the island.

The “man bun” must have started here.

So, for those of you wondering what Rapa Nui has to offer, here’s a short, but incomplete, list in no particular order:

1. Enjoy a Dinner Show

This one was complete with pisco sours, indigenous music and dancers, buffet dinner cooked in a pit and a chance to shake your booty with the locals. Yes, there IS a video, but I can’t upload it now. Did I pass up a chance to dance? I think my friends and family know the answer to that!

Much of the Rapa Nui culture is similar to that of the Maori. Made me want to go back to Rarotonga!

For those of you interested in learning WHICH dinner show we attended, I took a photo of one of the worker’s tee shirts. It has everything you need to know written on his back. You’re welcome.

2. Enjoy a gorgeous beach, with great waves, warm water, and soft, soft sand PLUS concessions with fresh pineapples, smoothies and beer. Oh yeah, and a chance to shop for the folks back home.

Remember the ladies I met in the funicular in Santiago? My new best friends, Shirley and Janis, are fun loving and adventurous. The three of us couldn’t pass up a chance to splash in the very bay in which the king of the Rapa Nui (according to legend) first landed.

3. Experience the Rapa Nui Equivalent of Plimoth Plantation minus the people in costume.

What may look like a stone wall is actually a chicken coop. You remove one stone, and out emerges an entire flock.

The wall is bigger than necessary to hold the flock. This was done to confuse rival tribes. It made it harder to find the magic stone that could be removed.

Another interesting structure is this one.

This is a boundary marker. If you cross it without permission from the rival tribe, you could be killed. Sorta like today’s gang warfare.

4. View Fantastic sunrises

Our driver took the five of us willing to get up at 6 AM to view the Moai at Tongariki. As the sun rose, the light changed, giving us gorgeous views of the sky behind the statues.

5. Have an opportunity to relive your childhood.

Remember when 5 or 6 kids piled into the car’s backseat? We were only able to fit 4 adults: Laura, our guide, and two of my new friends, Karen and Janis. Shirley is holding on for dear life in the front seat as José goes flying across the island. As for me, I’m doing what I usually do: taking pictures.

6. Get a Cool Passport Stamp

7. Learn about the Birdman Culture

I’ll let you read about the birdman competition on your own–I’ll just show you the island to which the competitors had to swim. More importantly, I’ll share the info our guide related to us. The chieftain of the winning tribe got to rule the island for one year. The COMPETITOR, however, did not end up empty handed. HIS reward was SEVEN pure women. How did he know they were pure? A “doctor” crawled between their legs, looked up and made sure everything was in order. If it wasn’t, that “impure” girl got tossed into the ocean. You can only imagine the comments from all of us women. I’ll just say there was quite a bit of laughter among us all!

8. Visit the Quarry from Whence the Moai Came

There are many more reasons, but we are heading for the airport for our flight to Santiago today, and an early morning departure for Buenos Aires tomorrow, so typos and all, if I don’t publish now, who knows when the next opportunity will arise.

WAY South of the Border

So far, our South American adventure is off to a great start. We had been worried that our government would  shut down again,  resulting in TSA being under staffed and flights being cancelled. Once THAT got resolved, we turned our attention to the next potential spoiler, the weather.  

It was hard to believe that yesterday we had a snowstorm bad enough to cause flight cancellations, given that by today’s  2 PM pickup, the roads were clear and dry. Surprisingly there was very little traffic, so  we were at JFK, checked in and through security by 3:30. Pretty amazing.  Right now, we are feeling pretty lucky, especially because OAT was able to get us amazingly inexpensive business class tickets—much cheaper than we could have gotten on our own. I feel like we won the lottery!

My family will not be surprised to learn that despite my lists and careful planning, I forgot something. Not an essential item, like my passport, or credit cards or camera or Mike. Nope. I forgot my iPad. So much for my plan to run down the battery on one device while charging the other. But considering what COULD have gone wrong, this is a minor hiccup. Just be prepared for lots of typos, (or at least more than usual) as I peck out my blog on my iPhone.

We will be in Santiago by 7 AM tomorrow, a day ahead of our OAT tour group.  We built in that extra day because of the aforementioned weather worry, but also because it gives us time to adjust to the 2 hour time difference (Chile is ahead of us, so our bodies will think it is 5 AM when we land) and to get over that disoriented feeling that always accompanies an overnight flight.

It is not immediately obvious from the map above how great the distances are between the places we will

be visiting. Easter Island is 2,300 miles from Santiago, which translates into a 5 hour flight.

From El Calafate to Buenos Aires is 1,300 air miles, roughly the same distance as Boston to Miami. And, like someone whose vacation plans include an extended period in Boston, followed by an equally lengthy time in Miami, we needed to pack for the two climate extremes. We managed to jam everything in—at least I THINK we did. Of course, I also thought I packed my iPad, so we’ll see.

View from the lounge

Our plane is here, so time to sign off. See ya in Chile!