A backpackers trip from the 9th March until the 16th March 2010.
LAN are the only airline to fly to Easter Island/ Rapa Nui/ Isla de Pascua - an island with 3 names! Booking as far in advance as possible is recommended as flights rise in price the closer to the date and last minute deals are never available. Always reconfirm flights before flying as the company has a nasty habit of overbooking every flight.
Airport staff appear to fill the seats from front to back so the chances of sitting together are slim, our passengers had to play ‘musical chairs’ onboard and in the end most people managed to swap seats to sit beside their friends. The food, service, seats and entertainment onboard were very good and our 5 hour flight soon passed.
Return flights for 2 people from Santiago cost us £700 - these were the cheapest we could find!
You can book accommodation before coming over but we preferred to find somewhere on arrival - the flights are met by guesthouse owners who have information and photographs to show you. We decided to stay at Ana Rapu Guesthouse - a nice place owned by a very friendly and helpful family. We stayed in a en-suite room that was clean and comfortable, breakfast was included, there is a functional but uninviting communal kitchen and fridge for guests to use.
Cost per night for this room is 25,000 pesos including a breakfast of bread roll, pancake/cake, banana, jam, tea or coffee.
A 4 minute walk takes you to the centre of town but be warned that food is VERY expensive here - so we brought over pasta, rice and sauces for our evening meals to help save on costs.
Price examples -
2 ice lollies from a mini market cost 3,200 pesos ( that’s almost £4 ). The best and cheapest ice cream in town can be found by the harbour where a generous one scoop tub costs 1,500 pesos.
Two empanadas and two cans of coke in a simple cafe cost 5,600 pesos ( around £7 ).
A 6 pack of beer costs 3,700 pesos (£4.60).
SAG only restrict fruit and vegetables being brought from the mainland so fill your rucksack
with packet and tinned foods to save money.
Getting around - We decided to rent a car for 24 hours, sharing the cost with another couple - it gave us the freedom to go at our own speed, to where we wanted and it kept us out of the fierce sun. We used MOIRA rental on Av Te Pito O Te Henua and we rented a 4 door 4x4 car for 24 hrs - 35,000 pesos. The car must be returned with a full tank - we used 6,300 pesos of gasoline for the day.
You can rent a car for either 8 hours or 24 hrs. It is a long hard day to see everything on the 24hr rental.
TOP TIP - Take photographs of your rental car before you drive it to prove damage already there.
Dangers - wild horses roam the roads so be careful when you drive at night. Be aware that drink driving and poor driving skills are a problem on the island - the islanders insist that insurance is not available on the island but our rental car owner had left his insurance papers in the glove-box!
Accommodation - 175,000 pesos (£218)
Sightseeing - 12,000 pesos (£15)
Food and alcohol - 59,630 pesos (£74)
Car rental - 42,500 pesos (£53)
Fuel - 8,150 pesos (£10)
Presents - 35,000 pesos (£44)
Other - 8,000 pesos (£10)
TOTAL COST- 340,280 pesos (£424)
While Nessie received ‘open heart surgery’ we flew over to the island. Our trip began at Santiago airport which has been damaged by the recent huge earthquake - large tents form a temporary basic airport.
The tiny isolated island welcomed us with hot, humid and sunny weather. We unpacked quickly and went for a stroll around the hibiscus lined streets of Hanga Roa - the main town with a population of only 4,500 permanent residents. The famous Moai stone heads of the island stand guard of the volcanic shoreline as the indigo waters of the Pacific crash against it.
The next day we visit the local church where traditional beliefs blend with Christianity, then the museum for some useful information on the history of the island. We end the day on the shoreline watching the sun set behind the giant stone head of Ahu Ko Te Riku.
Thank goodness our room came with three beds!
Hanga Roa being watched over by Ahu Akapu.
Ahu Ko Te Riku at sunset.
We have met another British couple, Jen and Andy, so we arrange to rent a car between us to share costs. At 6am we meet up to drive to Ahu Tongariki for a very special sunrise, but we arrived there far too early and ended up stumbling around the rocky ground for 40 minutes star gazing and getting spooked by the site.
After sunrise we drove to the volcanic quarry Rano Raraku where the stone moai were cut before being transported to their shoreline locations around the island. We lost count of the stone heads that remain frozen in time at this lonely site overlooking the distant shoreline where Ahu Tongariki stand. Giant stone eyes seem to follow our every step around the site where the moai heads stand or lie frozen in time.
We were met by the armada police, who had raced up the road with their lights flashing to stop us leaving - a tsunami warning - we were told to drive back up to the high land of the quarry site.
After a twenty minute wait we decided to ask the staff for information, they told us a 7.7 earthquake has hit Chile again and that a tsunami is due to strike our island at 3pm. Considering it was only 10am we decided it was probably safe to carry on with our tour but we changed our route to make sure we would be on high ground from 2pm onwards.
We drove to the guesthouse to collect our passports and some valuables, just in case, then we drove up to Volcan Rano Kau. By then the road was quite busy with locals driving toward the forest above town, their pickups packed with food, water, blankets and some possessions - even the wealthy yachts that were moored in the harbour had fled out to sea.
Volcan Rano Kau is a stunning site - the ceremonial village of Orongo sits on the edge of the huge water and reed filled volcanic cone. Birdmen petroglyphs decorate the rocks overlooking the gorgeous waters of the pacific ocean and the lovely deserted islands just offshore - it really is a magical place. We noticed the sea ‘flatten’ but saw no wave - probably because we were overlooking the west side of the island and the wave would have hit the eastern shore.
By 3.45pm, assured that it was safe to go down, we drove past the forest again where some of the town’s residents were now partying and getting drunk as hell.
At the northern end of the island we visit the seven stone heads of Ahu Nau Nau who stand on the white powder sands of Anakena beach surrounded by palm trees - it’s a gorgeous place to spend some time swimming in the sea and picnicking.
Finally we drive inland to visit the oddity of the island - Ahu Akivi the only stone heads to face out to sea and be placed inland. It’s a good end to a superb day and it leaves us wondering about the islands history - several questions remain unanswered about the culture and history of this tiny paradise.
The next day we met someone from the huge wealthy yacht which has returned since the tsunami alert - it’s National Geographic and they are here to film on some small islands to the south. It seems they were issued a ‘all ships warning’ of a 45 metre tsunami wave - our guesthouse sits only 30 metres above sea level so we are grateful there was no wave.
Most tourists only visit the island for 4 days so we are long term guests with our 7 day booking - Andy and Jen leave, we spend some time chilling after our big trip, eating ice-cream, shopping for souvenirs and contemplating what to do next. We enjoyed our trip so much that we decide to rent a jeep and do it all again - visiting some new sights and revisiting some favourites!
Tsunami safe ground above Hanga Roa.
Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki and Rano Raraku quarry views.
Volcan Rano Kau and
Ahu Nau Nau at Anakena beach and Ahu Akivi
Ahu Te Pito Kura,
and Ahu Nau Nau again!
Dave in search of the lava tube caves of Ana Te Pora......
Our trip ends with a Sunday service at the church where the saddled horses wait patiently in the shade of the trees.We can’t remember the last time we saw a church with standing room only or a congregation that wore exotic flowers in their hair - very Polynesian.
We are sad to leave our ‘host family’ - they have been unbelievably welcoming.
It’s been a great trip.