2014.3.18There is only one flight a week between Papeete and Easter Island. Operated by LAN, the flight leaves Easter Island to Papeete on Monday and returns to Easter Island on early Tuesday morning. When we planed our trip, all the coach seats were gone, so we had to book the business class. A couple of minutes on the plane, the flight attendant started bringing drinks and snacks. After the plane took off, we lay down the seat and soon fell into sleep. We had a long day.
The flight time from Papeete to Easter Island is about 5 hours. Because there is 5 hours time difference, we landed at 12:30pm. It’s bit of cloudy and breezy, not very hot.
We booked our stay at Cabanas Koro Nui. Our hostess, Nicole, and her boyfriend met us at the airport and put flower leis on us. She asked us if we had brought the National Park ticket. There is a both in the airport near the exit selling the ticket. We didn’t know that and we were not allowed to go back in. Nicole told us we could buy the tickets at Rano Kau as well, it’s just more convenient to get them at the airport.
Hanga Roa is the only town in Easter Island. Turning left out of the airport and turning right at the main road, for 10 minutes, we arrived at our hotel. The hotel is also Nicole’s home. She just lives in the room next to the guest house. The guest house is a two-level bungalow that probably has only two rooms. What we got was the smaller room at the first floor. The room is small and clean. It has a bath room and a kitchen. In our whole 3-day stay, we didn’t feel A/C was needed. If it’s hot, we could just open the sliding door. The natural breeze carried by the island soon cooled the room down. The weather was quite comfortable.
The guest house is called bungalow because it sits in a good-sized garden with plenty of trees and flowers. It’s beautiful and quite. The hotel’s location is ideal too. In fact, it’s in the spot center of the town. Walking 30 feet through a low fence door, it’s the main road. Market, cafe, ATM and the beach are all at the walking distance.
Once we settled, I went out to rent a car right away. There are two car rental offices just two minutes walk from where we lived. I rented a Suzuki Jimny, good enough for 2 persons driving on the regular road. The price is about $65 a day.
Because of the time difference, we didn’t feel hungry until 3pm. Nicole pointed us several restaurants. Out of our hotel and turned left, for only 100 feet, we were on the road by the sea. Turned left again and kept on driving another 100 ft, there is a restaurant called Haka Honu. It’s next to a bank branch office and we got some cash from there. The restaurant’s open terrace offers a nice view of the sea and a small port, port O’tai. It’s a popular location for surfing as well. Right outside the restaurant, there is a lovely moai.
The atmosphere is casual and relaxing, ideal for a quick lunch, and the food is delicious too, with large portions. We actually came back again the next day.
We went to Rano Kau after the lunch, before the main road ends at the airport, we turned left and drove along the road. At the foot of the hill, there is a ranger station. This is the only place where you can buy the national park ticket besides the both in the airport. The ticket is $60 per person, but the station was just closed at 4:30pm.
Kept on driving, we started climbing the hill. At about a quarter to the top, there is a place where the shoulder is wider so you can park the car by the road. Easter Island is in the triangle shape. Rano Kau is an extinct volcano located at the very southwest corner. From here you can see both the west and south side of the island.
There is a crater lake at top of Rano Kau. The view of the crater lake itself is surreal. I will show more pictures in the next blog. Next to the crater lake is a small museum, which is also the entrance to Orongo. Orongo is part of Rapa Nui National Park. The ticket is required to enter. However, the ranger was taking a nap in the station at the time of our visit. Ticket is more strictly checked at another major attraction of the island, Rano Raraku.
Standing outside of the museum by the rim of northern slope, it’s one of most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world. Vast, lonely, the nature shows its power right before my eyes; at my back, it’s the mystic history of surviving story of human race. What a feeling!
We planned to visit Orongo the next day. Getting off the mountain, we were heading to Ahu Tahai. We saw several moais along the road by the sea, Av. Policapro Toro, not far from the town center. One of them even stands on the iron platform with restored eyes. Not sure if they are authentic or not.
Av. Policapro Toro merges back to Av. Atamu Tekena, the main street of Hanga Roa. Keep on driving for 200 feet, there is a hidden dirt road on the left. We parked the car at the road end and walk down to Tahai, one of major restored ceremonial sites of the island. The site can also be accessed from south through the cemetery, or from the north next to the museum.
It’s about 6:30pm local time. Just as we walked down the slope, it suddenly started raining. We tried to sit by a low wall to take it as the shelter from the rain, but it didn’t help much, so we decided run back to our car. Easter Island is not on the path of cyclones but rain always comes and goes. It never lasted for more than 15 minutes during our stay.
We drove north to the road by the museum. We tried to drive further north by the coast but the road soon was blocked by the gate. Vehicles are not allowed from here up to Ahu Tepeu, which seems to be reachable from Ahu Akivi.
It’s a good time to visit Ahu Akivi. There is only one road leaving the town, the one running parallel with the airport. The road is clearly marked. We turn slightly left to Rano Raraku and Anakena direction. For about 5 minutes, the road first splits at the right to Rano Raraku; continue driving for another couple of minutes, the road on the left leads to Puna Pau and Aku Akivi direction. This section of the island is covered by grassland, dotted with several small volcano hills. The road is paved in good condition. For another 10 minutes, we arrived at Ahu Akivi
Ahu Akivi contains seven statues of equal size. Almost all moais on the island are raised along the coast facing inland, Ahu Akivi is unique in that it’s the only major sites away from the coast with moais looking over the sea. The statues were built around the 1500s. According to the legend, these 7 statues are the Rapa Nui’s ancestors who originally located the island and settled here. Ahu Akivi is not as popular as other moai sites. We got almost only ourselves there with the beautiful sunlight rendering the surroundings in golden color.
We left the site at 8pm and tried explore further to the coast. The road is unpaved with many potholes. We soon gave up. We returned back to Tahai at 8:30pm. It’s the most popular place to watch the sunset, but the cloud was too thick. No sunset to be seen.
We had our dinner at Te Moana. It’s located at the back of the port. The best feature it has is the large open platform facing the ocean. The dishes are with large portion and very delicious too. Recommended!