Easter Island (Chile): in the middle of the ocean
The only flight from Tahiti to Easter Island leaves at 2:30 am. Even if this same flight serves Santiago with a stopover on Easter Island, we aren’t numerous. Many of us have 2 or even 4 seats to sleep lying down
Part 1: Travel Diaries
Part 2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diaries
Bio-security: why didn’t anyone tell me about it?
5 or 6 hours later, we are in Chile with a time difference of 5 hours, it is already 12:30 pm. Like all the other islands, a bio-security control takes place. Contrary to Tahiti, the customs officers on Easter Island do not laugh too much, they take the time to ask if we have something consumable in our luggage. After so much insistence, I can’t see myself hiding my jar of New Zealand manuka honey. Verdict: Garbage can! This kind of products aren’t allowed to enter or leave Easter Island. Noooonn! I almost cried when I threw my NZ$60 jar in the trash
The owner of the homestay picks us up by car. I tell her about my misfortune, and she tells me that anyway, when I go to Chile, they will throw everything away too. There is a kind of quarantine on Easter Island, we can bring back food from Chile (boxes, but not fresh food like fruits or frozen meat), but we can’t do it the other way around. When you come from Tahiti, on the other hand, the rules are even stricter
Withdrawal: VISA does not work!
The owner drops us off at a bank to withdraw money; and at the national park office to buy two tickets to the park. It’s really too nice, especially since the park office is quite far from the city center
My VISA card doesn’t work at the ATM, even though it has a VISA logo on it. It was a foregone conclusion, all the guides talk about withdrawing with a Mastercard or Cirrus. As we were expecting, JB takes out his Mastercard from another bank and will manage to withdraw up to 380 000 Chilean pesos, for 4000 pesos of fees. Having several types of cards from different banks: this is a precaution we have taken that is very useful to us today
Yippee! We will not die of hunger or thirst and we will not sleep in the street. Even if supermarkets, car rental companies accept credit cards, we still feel more reassured with cash on us (small precision: my VISA card works when it comes to paying at the payment terminal)
My attempts to communicate in Spanish are a failure. They don’t understand me 😔 It is therefore in a very bad mood that I start my trip on Easter Island
… until I first saw a moai!
At the port, he was there, all alone, surrounded by wooden fences to protect him. So beautiful, so big, and so unreal. We are really on the Easter Island!
We walk to Ahu Takai where we find on the way a platform with 5 moais, and a moai all alone … with eyes (it will be the only one on the island to have eyes like that). On the pictures, we can’t see the colors very well but in real life, the moai hats are all of a characteristic burgundy red color. It stands out very well especially when the weather is nice, and the moai with hats are clearly distinguishable from the others without hats. We will talk about this at length later on
Day 2: Rent a 4×4 to tour the island
Car rental, but without insurance
We go to the Tamanui agency (?! not sure of the spelling, in any case, it’s on the left of the Oceanic agency) to rent a 4×4. The day before, the lady at the reception told us that she would reserve a car for us at 35 000 pesos for the day. It is enough that we pass later than planned so that she gives it to someone else. The notion of reservation does not really seem to exist: first come, first served. It isn’t serious, we take another 4×4 at 40 000 pesos the day
What is quite worrying is that all the agencies in the city offer car rentals WITHOUT ANY INSURANCE. Like someone hitting us, it’s for our own good. If nature damages our car, it’s for our apple… It’s not possible to pay more for insurance. That’s how it is here!
By informing us before coming, everyone assures us that it will be fine as long as we drive carefully and avoid horses and cows. I’m still putting all the chances on my side by paying for my car rental with my Visa Premier card, and telling myself that my Chapka insurance already covers civil liability. And when Google Maps tells me to take the unpaved roads, I choose a longer route to enjoy the paved road as long as possible
We follow the main road and stop where there are archaeological sites. Apparently everybody does the same thing, but we are at most 15 guides included on the same site at the same time, it must be said that Easter Island is so isolated that the number of tourists is very low in spite of its wonders. The number of visitors does not exceed 100 000 per year and many are tourdemondists, like us! It is enough to slow down a little bit to have the moais all alone. There are ticket inspectors in front of the sites. Contrary to what I thought, we cannot approach more than 5m of the moais. Already, the platforms are very large, under the moais there are stones of all kinds; and a garden of round rocks which embellishes the place. The park also has a wooden fence to delimit the area and prohibit tourists from getting too close
It is believed that these gigantic characters embody the ancestors of the clan. There are platforms with at least 5 moais, and others where there is only one moai. The number of moais present on each platform is variable. Almost all of them are close to the side, except for one site where they are inland. It is possible that rich clans dominate access to resources (the coast), while the poor remain inland. Vestiges of the war with the moais of one clan completely overturned, with the platforms vandalized by the winning clan
Contrary to what I also thought, moais are supposed to have more hats than what we see here. It isn’t rare to see on archeological sites hats lying next to the moais, and moais with skulls a little too flat, as if they were meant to have a hat on their head. We do not know how these hats fell, since they weigh about 10 tons, but let us not forget that Easter Island is often victim of tsunamis, and the moais are mostly near the coast
I didn’t know it either (in fact I have the impression that I don’t know anything about Easter Island before coming here), it’s that you can visit TWO quarries where the moais and their hats were carved DIRECTLY in the crater rocks of volcanoes. We can even see several moais being “made” and which have not yet been taken off the “mountain”
One can also see moais and hats ready to be transported to these quarries
But there is no indication of how they will be transported or mounted to their platform. Some people put forward the hypothesis that the race for the highest moais is at the origin of the disappearance of the first inhabitants of Easter Island. Apparently, there was a kind of giant palm tree, now disappeared, which served as a “transport” to roll the moais from the quarry to the platform, horizontally. By destroying the trees to transport the moais, problems begin to appear. The resources are exhausted, the clans declare war, the defeated are eaten by the victors. Another hypothesis speaks of a vertical transport of moais, I invite you to discover this article here: http: //www.maxisciences.com/statue/les-statues-de-l-039-ile-de-paques-ont-elles-un-jour-marche_art27235.html
What is very interesting to see while visiting these careers is to realize that
(1) the “finished” hats observed at the quarry do not have the same shape as those seen on the statues. This suggests that they were finalized once they were transported to the site
(2) the moais ready to be transported are all half buried underground (deposit ? earth flow ?). Excavations have been made to discover that they all have a body. The picture below is an archive photo. The moai in question has been covered again with earth
(3) the difference in color between the moai and the hat is obtained by using two different types of rocks. Indeed, the quarries are implanted in 2 different volcano craters, so the hats will always be burgundy red and the moai always gray
Among these giant statues, there are also hieroglyphs and a rocky form “navel of the world”
Apart from the two careers, we like very much
(1) Ahu Tongariki, impressive with its 15 moais. We had a lot of fun playing with perspectives
(2) Anakena beach, in addition to being idyllic (fine white sand, super blue and transparent water, coconut trees nearby), it is also bordered by majestic moais
(3) Ovahe where we saw a horde of horses at the top of the cliff, looking out over the beach and its tourists in the distance
(4) A distant form that we associate with a whale. But without binoculars, we cannot say for sure
In short, we visited today, in order
- Small moais on the way to Ahu Akahanga
- Ahu Akahanga (the destroyed moais)
- Rano Raraku (moais quarry) + lunch there
- Ahu Tongariki
- Hieroglyphs: Petroglifos Papavaka
- Ahu Te Pito Kura (a lying moai)
- Anakena (heavenly beach)
- Puna Pau (hat quarry)
- Ahu Akivi (only platform inland)
People often forget to talk about it, but Easter Island is also a beautiful coastline
We leave the whole part near the city center overnight
Knowing that the park “closes” at 18h30 (we do not have any more access to the parking lot of each site, even if there isn’t really a door to reach the park), if we had started earlier, we could have been able in only one day, with a 4×4, to visit all the moais of the island. That said, we have 2 full days + 2 half-days so we have plenty of time to see and see again our favorite sites
Day 3 :
We leave early for Rongo. On the way, we stop at Ahu Vinapu, a platform with reversed moais. However, the platform is made in such an advanced way that it apparently deserves the visit. I read an article the day before, but the platform is out of date, it’s hard for people like me to be amazed
We then go to Rano Kau, a volcano crater filled with rainwater and now serving as a natural garden, home to the most diverse flora of the island
1km away, Rongo allows us to visit a village perched on top of the mountain, a place of spirituality. Likewise, for people not very interested in history like me, the visit has little interest, but Lonely Planet ranks this site among the top visits in Chile
We decide to revisit the places that marked us the most: Tongariki and Anakena. On the way, we hitch-hike 3 English-speaking students currently living in Chile. We visit Tongariki all together, we drop them off at the moais’ quarry thinking that they would have no difficulty to find another driver then we go back to the village. 2h later, after a good lunch, stops on the left and right to look at the small moais reversed not visited the day before, we drive towards Anakena. Who do we see on the way? Our three students walking under the sun. Apparently nobody wants to take them by hitch-hiking. As what, 3 people, it is perhaps a little too much to hitch-hike
They are super happy to see us and are OK to go where we want 🙂 We just saved them from a 2 hour walk with only half a bottle of water. After so many emotions, we pose together for a photo in front of the platform of moais at the beach of Anakena. There are 5 intact moais on this platform, we are 5. Perfect!
Small stop in front of Tongariki for one last time. We don’t know when we’ll be able to see them again
It’s already 7pm, it’s a bit stressful for us. We are supposed to return the car at 8 pm. After having deposited our students at the camp-site, we go towards the only gas station of the island which is fortunately always open. Here, they serve us, it is enough just to say “full” and it is good. For 2 days, we paid only 17000 pesos of gasoline
At the time of returning the car, JB gets the contract wrong and gives the boss of the agency the Tahiti rental contract. Against all odds, she pays special attention to it and even asks if she can take a picture of it. She is very surprised to discover the diagram of the car used for the inventory of fixtures and seems to think it’s an excellent idea. If you will soon rent a car on Easter Island and the inventory of fixtures is on the contract, it will surely be our fault 🙂
Direction our new hotel (we changed hotel because the first one has no availability for this 3rd night), our neighbors are two French people going around the world. It is impressive how much the French, tourists or expatriates are everywhere. By the way, the owner of the hotel is Corsica! A small cat meows in front of our terrace to have some pieces of empanadas. He will be offered a small plate of chips that he will eat until the last crumb
Day 4 :
Quite boring day where we just wait for the plane at the airport. An important detail to report all the same: the super sandwich (churrascos I think) with avocado at the airport café, 6000 pesos, it’s a long time since we haven’t eaten a sandwich like that
Part 2: Practical Tips
How to get there?
There are direct flights from Papeete (Tahiti), Santiago (Chile) or Lima (Peru)
How much does it cost?
Unfortunately I can’t inform you, my stop on Easter Island is part of my round-the-world ticket
How do you get around Easter Island?
By car, quad bike, scooter, bicycle (with or without electric assistance), excursion, horseback riding, walking (not recommended) or hitchhiking. There is no public transportation on the island
The rental of a 4×4 (there are only 4×4 anyway), as I said above, isn’t at all insured. Pay with a Mastercard or Visa; and make sure you have a civil liability, just in case… and be prepared to take the risk and pay a lot if you have to. In reality, the risks are low, there is little traffic, the roads are fine (with deep potholes though) but if you are careful, if the car isn’t rotten at the base, everything will be fine. The risk would rather come from dogs, wild horses or cows and bulls crossed on the road. Avoid unpaved roads if possible, and prefer walking to the hills rather than driving
There are 3 big agencies on the island, located on the main street (Atamu Tekena): Oceanic, Insular and Tamanui (??!!! not sure of the spelling, it was our agency); with prices varying between 35 000 and 45 000 pesos a day, it is better to go around the 3 before deciding
I see a lot of people mountain biking, I don’t feel like it at all, under the sun and with sloping roads as a bonus, no thanks. And when it rains, you can’t take shelter, there are no buildings or trees outside the city center. You can also hitch-hike (it works very well if there are only two of us), rent electric bikes, or take excursions (available in all languages)
What did you find odd?
Here, it is forbidden to throw PQ in the toilet, it must be thrown in the garbage. But this is the case for all of Chile and Argentina
How much cash should I take with me?
At least 30 000 pesos/person for the park ticket + enough to pay your hotel (35 000 pesos/night) + cab (3000×2 = 6000 pesos) + SIM card (1600 pesos)
Then, car rentals, gas, shopping, restaurants can be paid by credit card (with or without additional fees of around 3%)
However, in case of storm, loss of communication and inability to pay by card, 300,000 pesos for two over 4 days is a reasonable amount
Which hotel to book?
Contrary to what we thought, it is very easy to book a hotel last-minute. The prices are even more interesting than in Santiago (50€ per night for a double room, private bathroom). I strongly recommend the Atavai hotel run by Antoine, who comes from Corsica. It’s a 15 minutes walk from the airport, 10mn walk from the city center (like all hotels). There is wifi, hot shower with high pressure
TOTAL: 247 000 pesos for 2 – or 320€ – for 4 days, 3 nights, plane tickets EXCLUDED
- Entrance ticket to the park (mandatory): 30 000 pesos/person valid for 5 days
- 4×4: between 35,000 and 45,000 pesos per day. Possibility of discount if you rent 2 or 3 days -> 30 000 to 40 000 pesos. Petrol: 17000 pesos for 2 days
- Quad: same price as the car but you don’t need a license and it’s suitable for 2 people maximum
- Bicycle: from 8,000 pesos/day
- Electric bikes: don’t know
- Scooter: 20,000 pesos/day, but a motorcycle license is absolutely necessary
- Excursions: from 20,000 pesos/half day, 35,000 pesos the whole day
- Transfer to Anakena beach: 15,000 pesos round trip
- Cab from the airport: 3000 pesos
- Hotel: between 45€ and 50€/night, booking in advance is highly recommended because the hotel offer isn’t huge.
- between 12,000 pesos and 18,000 pesos the main course +10% tip. If you are homesick, the restaurant “Au bout du monde” offers typical French dishes for a price comparable to other restaurants on the island. This restaurant isn’t run by French people but by Belgian cousins 🙂
- in the street: 10,000 pesos/meal for two, drinks included
- Raw tuna tartar seems to be the specialty of the area, it is probably the freshest thing the island can offer you, the rest is flown in by plane
- 1800 pesos a large bottle of mineral water (tap water is drinkable but it is disgusting)
- there isn’thing edible at the supermarket, the instant noodles at 800 pesos are of dubious quality. The meats are all frozen, the vegetables wilted and the choice limited.
- To save a little money, if you come from Chile, bring a few cans with you as fresh food will be thrown in the garbage.