Night one: We arrived on Easter Island around 10:00 local time and Miguel, our Air BNB host, met us at the airport with flower necklaces. We hopped in the van and headed to our home for the week. We couldn’t see much from the windows since it was so dark outside but we were just so happy to finally be here! Miguel offered to stop at the supermarket, but we told him we have two suitcases of food so we should be good to go! He laughed and joked that we certainly wouldn’t die of hunger (: We had to stock up on food in Santiago because everything on the island is crazy expensive since it has to be flown in and it’s 2,000 miles off the mainland. Our cabaña has totally exceeded our expectations! We have a living room with TV (which we won’t be using cause duh Easter Island), a kitchen and small dining room area, a bathroom, and a bedroom with 3 twin beds and Eric sleeps in the twin bed in the main room. How lucky are we?! We unpacked all of our food and stocked the fridge and pantry. We put some water on to boil for tea and for my decongestant dissolvable powder (lol). The powder causes drowsiness and I also popped a benadryl in an effort to tackle whatever the heck is going on with my body. Also, I haven’t told you yet that the flight was a lil rough. The horror stories of old men falling asleep and snoring on you actually happened to me. Plus, when he was a big dude and when he was awake his selfish elbow took up my whole armrest leaving me all scrunched up for the entirety of of the 6 hour flight. Whatever, I’m over it (: The other horrible part of the plane ride was that they offered free wine or beer with dinner and I couldn’t partake because I had to drink water and OJ (again, an attempt to cure myself- this time with vitamin C and hydration). BUT, the worst part was the ear popping. I got a massive headache during our descent and since my sinuses are broken, my ears refused to pop. I went without hearing for the rest of the night. Okay, I had a little hearing, but most everything was a dull lull. Woop dee doo. I so badly wanted to take a deep breath of the island air but again, my cold prevented me from such pleasures. I’m fine, really. Anyways, back to la cabaña. I was super giddy at the end of the night, probably cause it was past midnight Santiago time and also because of the Benadryl and nighttime decongestant, so I was giggling at literally everything. I was the first person to take a shower. I turned on the water and it was like Old Faithful erupted right there in the shower! The shower head shot off and came crashing to the floor and the hose piece spewed water out with such force that it soaked the ceiling. I quickly turned it off and commenced dying of laughter while trying to explain what had happened to Jalen, Eric, and Alyssa. Giddy Reilly was having a ball. I tried in vain to fix it many times and at one point a grey circular thing got washed down the drain (this was probably an important piece, crucial to fixing the shower head but it only made me laugh more). I ended up just showering with the hose part. It was great. When we went to bed Eric shut the door between our room and his room/the living room. But after a couple of minutes he said “um guys, did any of you just hit a light switch?” We all said no and asked why. Somehow or another the light above his bead had turned on. He decided it was a ghost, and went back to bed, this time with the door between our rooms open. I fell asleep with a steady flow of air through my left nostril and a slight recovery of hearing in my left ear. Celebrate the little things y’all.
Day One: Today was incredible. We woke up because A LITERAL ROOSTER was crowing outside of our window. Haha! What is life? Whatever, we were all so amused we didn’t mind the early wake up. Also, I woke up with most of my hearing restored and an unclogged nose! *celebrations* We made a killer breakfast of scrambled eggs and avocado toast and apple slices and waited outside for Miguel to come give us a tour of the island. We rented bikes and reviewed how to get to the main downtown area and did a small loop around the Hanga Roa (the nearest town). After that we were on our way! We started at Tahai, which is a cluster of 5 Moai statues, and two single Moai. We were gawking at how incredible the sight was! We were accidentally the worst Americans ever though We walked down a little ramp area to the edge of the ocean and climbed all around the rocks, putting our hands into the chilly water and taking in the size of the pacific, the crashing waves, and the landscape of Moai behind us. More people showed up and explored as well. As we were leaving someone said they didn’t think we should be climbing there. Turns out in our obsession with the view we completely missed the “don’t pass this sign” sign. And we had most definitely passed it. We felt so guilty for luring others in too! But, now we know, and we are very cautious to check the signs for walkable versus prohibited paths. After Tahai we continued our bike excursion towards Rano Kau. We took a path along the coast the whole way there. Again, the grandeur of the ocean was perfectly astounding. We drove with salty sea air in our faces and stopped a dozen times to take pictures and drool at the view. I would like to brag on this group because we are killing the navigation and directions game. We are all comfortable enough to stop and ask locals and we whip out our maps and carry on our way like professionals. Go us. We passed a really neat site along the way, called Ana Kai Tangata. This is a cave believed to be connected with the bird man ritual. I’ll explain what that is later. It is also rumored that some cannibalism took place in said cave, but it hasn’t been officially confirmed. The cave was wonderful. You could see paintings of the manutara (Sooty tern- the bird which the bird man ritual is centered around) on the walls. However, my favorite part was sitting in the cave and watching the waves crash into the cove. Incredible! We had a little stray dog friend along for this part of the journey. He was precious and befriended Jalen immediately. Above the cave we looked out into the clear blue waters of the Pacific and could see rocks under the water for a good ways out. There are very little people here and I love it. You’re really able to soak up the natural beauty around you without the hassle of crowds and in near silence. Shortly after Ana Kai Tangata we parked our bikes and started the walking trail, Te Ara O Te Ao, to Rano Kau. The trail was 3.7 km but it kinda kicked our butts because it is straight up all the way to Rano Kau. Of course we persevered because straight up means a lovely walk down at the end(: It was so delightful to look back along our way because a beautiful panoramic view of the island’s east coast unfolded as we climbed higher and higher. We passed cows and these really cool bean plants that jingled when you brushed them. Once I discovered the bean music I made a point to bump into every bean plant I saw (: I am a child. We were thrilled to reach the top and the view made every step worthwhile. Rano Kau is the Island’s largest natural wonder. It is a dormant volcano that is now a wetland partially filled with water and many grassy patches. The majority of the island’s biodiversity is housed within this crater. Super nerdy and wonderful. A short walk around the crater took us to Orongo which is a village also involved with the birdman ceremony. The ceremony took place once a year typically in the spring. The strongest men in the area would swim out to Motu Nui, where the Sooty Tern typically nested, and wait for days until one man found the first egg and returned with it to the main island. Motu Nui is a mile off Easter Island’s coast. Also, the Pacific is chilly and imaginably difficult to swim. Plus think about how in the world you would go about swimming such a distance carrying a sacred fragile egg. It’s crazy to think about the culture of these people who came before us. The man who returned to Easter Island with the bird egg was titled the bird man and lived the rest of the year in ceremonial reclusion. I love it. The town of Orongo was where villagers resided during the bird man festival. Sacrifices and rituals took place here. There are also 56 houses with very small doors that were built and used for lodging during the ceremony. Eric got a whistle blown at him when he accidentally stepped off the path. It was quite entertaining. We finished the Orongo loop and took the walking trail back down to where we had left our bikes. Eric had accidentally left his phone in his bike pouch and it was there when we returned. I feel so safe on this island! The people are all incredible and kind and relaxed. Before we drove home, we met and chatted with a couple travelling for a few months. One was from New York and the other was from London. It is so fascinating to hear people’s stories and what brings them to Easter Island from their own little corner of the world. We stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few things, including the shrimp we made for dinner. We cooked a paella mix with the shrimp. Oh so yum! But before we cooked it, we had a minor disaster. Eric had gotten out the big gallon jug of vegetable oil in preparation for pan searing the shrimp. He dropped it, and although it didn’t tip over, it splashed out ALL OVER him. He was completely drenched. There was oil in his eyes, on his face, in his hair, and on his hands. Naturally I was practically rolling on the floor laughing. I had to guide him to the sink to get the oil off of him. We mopped it off the floor as best we could. Then, just before dinner, homeboy stubbed his toe really badly on our couch. It was just a rough night for Eric in general, however, it was quite an entertaining evening for the rest of us! We watched the sun set next to a single Moai a short walk from our house. I am constantly drooling over the Pacific. It is magnificent and powerful and so full of life and personality. Before heading to bed we made plans for tomorrow. Eric and I have decided to be really intense and bike to Tongariki at 6 in the morning tomorrow for the sunrise and for sunrise yoga. Alyssa and Jalen have refused to be ridiculous with us so we’re planning on them renting a car and meeting us at Tongariki at a more realistic time. I must go now and sleep so I’m fueled up for tomorrow. Cross your fingers!
Day Two: So this morning I was up at 5:45. Eric and I had an egg and toast for breakfast and then we struck out at 6:15. Shoutout to LATAM airlines for the in-flight pillow. My butt hurt so bad from yesterday’s biking and I ended up stuffing it in my pants to cushion the seat for this morning’s 14 mile jaunt. I looked ridiculous but it was one of the best decisions of the day! It was completely black outside. We lit the path with our flashlights. The sky was absolutely incredible! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way so clearly before. We had to move quickly, but every time I had the chance I looked up and was repeatedly awestruck at its size and beauty. The farther we biked, the more beautiful the sky became. There were lots of hills, and on the downhill portions I tried to use my brakes as much as possible because there were so many potholes and rocks that I was worried about hitting one with too much speed and taking a tumble. Eric, on the other hand, coasted the whole way down. He was going so fast! On one particular downhill section two cars passed us. I hit a pothole just before they passed and I swerved a bit which was quite frightening. Then, after they passed us, the flashlight mounted on my bike flew off and broke into lots of little pieces. Good. I came to a stop and fumbled around to turn on the flashlight on my phone and continued on my way. Now only one little problem…I was coming to a stop sign with the option of taking a right turn or continuing straight and Eric was nowhere to be seen. I pulled out my map and tried to figure it out but I was absolutely clueless. I was in a minor stage of panic. I shouted for Eric. Nothing. Then after about a minute I saw a little light on the horizon. Could it be? YES, Eric. Someone’s looking out for me! (: We regrouped and kept moving. The last leg of our trip was along the ocean. The Milky Way shone above us and although I couldn’t see, I could hear waves crashing on the rocks to the right of me. Such an amazing and indescribable feeling. I sang praise and worship songs for the last 20 minutes of our ride! The sky started to lighten and for the last bit we didn’t need our flashlights. My backside was essentially numb at this point, but we had come too far not to continue. Finally we veered left and I could just make out 15 Moai along the coast. We made it! It took us about an hour and 40 minutes to get there. We parked our bikes, removed our seat cushions, and wobbled down to the foot of the Moai on our spaghetti noodle legs. This was the most crowded I have seen any place on the island, and we were just talking 40 people here for the sunrise. It is so wonderful how serene this place is! Eric set up his yoga mat and stretched while I moved around taking pictures as the sun rose above the horizon. Then I commenced taking pictures of Eric doing yoga in front of the Moai during the sunrise. (: So touristy, yet so perfect. About 15 minutes after the sun made its grand entrance, all of the tourists left Tongariki. We were the only ones there. I took off my shoes to let my socks dry out from all of the morning dew. We had a little dance party and enjoyed the picture perfect view of the Moai against the coast at dawn. While we waited for Jalen and Alyssa to come with the rental car we explored the rocks along the coast. We befriended a stray dog and he hung out by the waves with us. Alyssa and Jalen showed up around 10:30 and after some more photo ops, we loaded up in the car and began our explorations for the day. Our first stop was at Rano Raraku, the major rock quarry on the island. Here we saw abandoned Moai and some Moai in progress. We also learned the significance of the red hats that some of the Moai wear. The people who constructed them had very long hair that they would wrap atop their head and then cover it with red powder, so the red hats are supposed to resemble the local’s hair. After the quarry we went to another crater that is the second dormant volcano on the island. There was a small group of horses with three foals next to the little lake. Very peaceful! After the quarry and the crater we got empanadas before heading to Anakena. We learned that Anakena (the beach along the north side of the island) is where the original king of the Moai people first made landfall on the island. The beach is covered with palms and white sand. We’re pretty sure all of that was brought here to please the tourists, but we loved it. I brought my bathing suit, but after dipping my toes in the (freezing cold) water I decided that that was plenty of ocean exposure for me! I headed up the side of the hill and hung my eno in some trees. There were four happy little horses up there with me and after downing my turkey sandwich I had the best nap in the world. About an hour later we decided to terminate our naps and keep moving. We passed Moai along the way, but our big stop was one of the cave systems. They were dark and damp and totally fun to explore! The way out was by crawling through a bush up to the main ground. Only bumped my head a few times! On the walk back to the car I met a fantastic woman named Rosalie from New York. She is 77 years old and has been traveling the world ever since her husband passed. She’s been to Antarctica and Nepal and India and a ton of other amazing places. She is in great shape and is so precious. A real joy to chat with! After the caves we drove home. Alyssa and Jalen stayed at the cabaña and Eric and I took the car back to pick up our bikes, which we had left at Tongariki. We came home to an incredible dinner cooked by chef Alyssa herself! Can you say spoiled? After scarfing it down we ventured over to a good spot to watch the sunset. I still cannot believe this is my life right now. I feel so blessed to be experiencing this remote corner of the world in its entirety. I am overjoyed.
Day Three: This morning Jalen and I woke up early and took the car out to Tongariki for the sunrise. I was driving and feeling real good about myself until we arrived at Anakena. AKA we were WAY far away from Tongariki. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Honestly there were so many warning signs that I didn’t even catch on to. For example, we weren’t driving along the ocean, rather we were passing through fields. Also, we never passed the stop sign where I got lost from Eric on the bikes yesterday morning. Perhaps the most obvious thing was this horrendous smell that I remembered from the day before. We passed the smell on our way home from Anakena. But sadly I didn’t register any of this until we were at the beach. We kicked it into high gear and sped to Tongariki. We made it just in time! We laid out Eric’s yoga mat and sat and watched the sun rise once again. It is so breathtakingly beautiful here! We came home to a bang up breakfast of potatoes and eggs. Then it was time to return our wheels to the car rental place. We gassed her up and then hung out in town for a little bit. The girls all went souvenir shopping while Eric did a scuba trip. Once we had made all of our purchases, we stopped for an helado soft (soft serve) before heading home. I had the swirly kind, which was a mixture of chocolate and frutos del bosque. Yum! Since we did so much the first day, today was our day to relax and not worry about missing out on things. So we all climbed into bed for a quick nap once we got home. Our plan had been to make a picnic lunch once Eric had returned from scuba. Unfortunately the picnic never happened because we all DIED. Seriously. We slept until 4:30, but we have no regrets. Obviously our bodies were not used to being pushed so hard – sleep was the only answer. Even though I probably could have slept until morning, I forced myself out of bed and joined the others on a little adventure walk along the coast. On our way out we were spontaneously blessed. I glanced down at my feet and out of nowhere a little fluffy nugget had joined us! “Oh my gosh, guys. Stop!” I yelled. We turned around only to see two more puppies racing towards us. I’m talking the size of your hand puppies. After loving on them, our energy was totally restored. A bigger dog joined us for our hike. That has been one of my favorite parts about this island. There are dogs everywhere, and if you say hello to them, they just join you on your journey! They’re great company and just so darn adorable. We walked along the cliffs edge for about a mile until we reached a high point where we could look out at the island’s coast and of course sit and enjoy the waves. On the walk back storm clouds rolled in but luckily we were just misted on. We summoned the puppies again on the walk back. Those lil sweeties made my day. Back at the house we whipped up a strange hodge podge of the food we had left – mac and cheese, shrimp, fries, mashed potatoes, and beans. Yes two potato dishes. Don’t judge us. We did enough exercise for this right? We were aiming for refried beans so we left them to boil while we enjoyed our dinner on the porch. We got carried away and were deep in conversation when a horrid smell drifted from the door and into my nose. The beans! I ran inside and cut the stove off and brought the awfully smelly pot outside. Eric attempted to mash them, but immediately after sampling a bite, he spat it out. Apparently it tasted like ash. Woopsies! Our night was bean-less but what we lacked in beans we made up in conversation and laughter. I’m so cheesy. I love it.
Day Four: We slept in today and had the rest of our potatoes and eggs for breakfast. We showered and returned our bikes and while we waited for our AirBNB host to come drive us to the airport, we looked over all of our photos from the last few days. Miguel finally arrived and loaded up our bags. He hit a dog on the way to the airport! So sad! But we all tried to be calm about it. I checked out of the back window of the van and the dog was okay, just holding one of his back legs up. Besides this incident, Miguel was a phenomenal host! If you’re ever going to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), tell me and I’ll put you in touch with him! I am so grateful for Chilean Independence Day, which gave us the time off of school that we needed to come here. I am so thankful to my parents who so graciously funded this trip. I am so fascinated with this place. Jalen said it perfectly: “the cool thing about it is that the sun has risen and set every day for thousands of years whether we were here to see it or not.” It will continue to rise and set and I am so happy that I can say I spent some time here in the beauty of the island. I have run out of adjectives to describe this place. I cannot wait to share my photos and memories with you all! But for now, I am (potentially) stranded at the Rapa Nui airport… the rain has been coming down steady for about two hours now. If you know me, or know about my Honduras trip, you’re probably just as amused as I am. Seems to be my luck with airports!! The flight has been delayed, and only time will tell if we’re going to be boarding today or tomorrow. But I reckon there’s not a better place to be stranded than Easter Island!
Addendum: My flight was only slightly delayed and we are all safely back in Santiago!