03/02/2008 - middle of nowhere - in the Pacific, 4000km from other civilizations...
Welcome to remote Easter Island in the middle of nowhere! We would have got this update out sooner, but there was a power cut on the Island caused by the tropical stormy weather we have been experiencing the last 24 hours. You will be amused to note that we walked to the internet cafe under the shelter of our brollies! (But still in shorts, so all is not lost)
So where did we leave off last time?... We were back in Quito, Ecuador.
Day 22 (Hotel GPS: S0.2012, W78.4910, Alt 2830m)
Our biggest achievement today was laundry! Clean clothes once again. Huzzah! For our last meal with friends from the Galapagos trip, we made our way to a local Ecuadorian eatery, (though we avioded the Guinea Pig on offer!). On the way we stopped at a small bar where we got 3 ´bigger than pint´ bottles of beer for just $2.50, (around one pound twenty five!). Later we said bye to the Mckinnon clan as they headed home to Canada (and big winter storms). We have also finally stopped swaying from being aboard the boat, which is a relief. Just realised something - this appears to be the first hotel that we have stopped in that actually has plugs for the sinks - what is it about hotels in countries round the world, that seem to think that plugs are bad ideas? Curious...
Day 23 (Top of hill GPS: S0.6637, W78.4844, Alt:4897m, although the sign says 4800m...)
Anita and ourselves took a tour to the Cotapaxi Volcano today, about 90mins South of Quito and our Guide Eduardo drove us there in a little 4x4. It was foggy as we left the city, and so we got few views of the countryside along the way. We entered the Cotapaxi National Park, and it was still a half hour drive along rutted roads until we reached our main destination. Along the way we stopped at a small lagoon, and briefly the clouds cleared to offer us some stunning views of the rugged mountains hiding behind. When we finally reached the furthest point which the car could get, we set out on foot for the climbers refuge at 4800m (around the same height as Mont Blanc). On getting out it almost immediately hit us that this was high-altitude, and it felt as if we were wading through treacle! What was really only a short walk uphill took us over an hour of staggering, and the fact that we were in poor visibility conditions, frequently could not see 10m in front of us, and the Guide who had just headed off at speed to the top did not help! However finally Nicky sighted the yellow refuge hut, and yelled back to the others that the end was in sight - this made the last plough to the top much easier to stomach. We celebrated with piccies at the refuge, and a lovely hot chocolate in the hut. Climbers with all sorts of technical kit dropped in on their way up or down the volcano, but without snow gear and crampons, we would have been unable to attempt anything further. The top is 5897m just incase you´re interested. The same route back down took us just 15 mins of slipping and sliding in the soft volcanic ash, and was considerably more pleasurable than the ascent. The most amusing part of the day was when we stopped for lunch after coming back down, the hotel had packed us a ´box lunch´, but something was lost in translation, we opened the box to find a soggy toasted sandwich, and some very cold french fries that had been cooked some 5 hours before, YUK!!
Cameron also took the opportunity to quiz our guide about the equator exhibition, and apparently it´s local knowledge that both museums are in the wrong place, and that all the plughole spinning experiments are faked. (Sorry folks). The equator is an approximate 13km wide corridor, and the plughole rotation can be very easily rigged in this zone. (But it is a real effect, you just need to be much more than 2 metres apart to experience it in reality!)
A lazy day before our late night flight to Santiago in Chile. We started with a trip to one of the shopping malls in Quito in search of socks for Cameron who cannot explain where so many have disappeared during our travels. With feet his size we were not successful in a country of small folk! Several shopping malls later we gave up and found a Pizza Hut for lunch (bargain dinner costing just 2 pound 25 for 2 small pizzas, 2 drinks and chips with cheese). We´re big fans of Ecuadorian prices! With hours still to go before our flight, we found a bowling alley and enjoyed a few games with Nicky the overall victor. Our best buy of the day was 5 t-shirts for $20 following a tip off from Peter and Karyn (thanks guys!). Finally, we headed off to the airport and were airbourne after Nicky´s short scare where she was named and led down to the baggage sorting area to watch while her main pack was rifled through by the Ecuadorian authorities. And a dog. (A random thing that happends to 5 or 6 passengers on every flight apparently). Very impressed with LAN airlines, though having the exit row of seats may have helped (it pays to ask, and probably to be taller than the natives!)
Day 25 (GPS at Santiago, CL S33.3972 W70.7929, Alt:507m, Hotel: S27.1435 W109.4243, 13m)
Landing early morning at Santiago, we managed to claim our baggage and re-check it in for the internal transfer to Easter Island, kill another few hours at another airport, and set off again. We arrived in the ´middle of nowhere´ around lunchtime to a tiny airport in utter choas with the arrival of so many people all at once. We say arrived, well it appeared we were shot down by the natives as we were coming past. Not like we were in any rush to land being the only plane of the day, but they still managed to nearly break the undercarriage on landing. Anyway a very dusty taxi picked us up (without flower garlands like a lot of the others got-boo), and took us the 5 mins through the centre of the only villageon the Island and to our hotel at Via Moana. We took a stroll into metropolis, and the intense heat and humidity hit us hard, we were a sweaty mess after just a short time. We enjoyed a lovely fish dinner at a small place over looking the town harbour, and watched loads of people surfing and swimming in the warm waters.
Decided we would take what looked like a short hike up to the Rano Kau volcano to see the stunning crater lake (South West of the Island). The walk was great, we found some old cave paintings, and a lovely swimming pool carved out of the rocks where Nicky got her shoes soaked by a large wave that crashed into the pool unexpectedly as she posed for a photo. By the time we reached the crater after a long uphill slog in the heat of the middle of the day, we were shattered, sweaty and filthy dirty but the views more than made up for it. It was exactly as you would draw a crater as a child, just a classic conical form filled with a small lake, the sides were steep and many signs advised us to stay well-away from the crumbling edges. Nearby is the ancient ceremonial village of Orango, HQ of the birdman cult which overtook the island after the Maoi (stone statues) declined in popularity. The long walk home was made bearable by the fact it was mostly downhill but we were more than ready for a cold drink and pizza when we arrived back in town (and free wi-fi - woo-hoo, at dial up speeds - boo!). They do something funny with their time zones in Chile, they seem to be about 3 hours behind normal, Cameron can tell this due to his bald spot sensor which says that 3pm is what would normally be the midday sun - still makes for some lovely sunny evenings!
Another hot and humid day, so we decided to stay closer to town and not walk so far this time! A short trip along the coastline brought us to the petroglyphs and Maoi platforms of Tahai. Here were 5 restored Maoi all together with their backs to the sea (to ´protect´ the villages). One standing on its own had been restored with large white coral eyes which gave him a particularly freaky look! By midday we retired to our room to escape the heat, and only ventured out again late in the evening to find food! We went along to the local Kari Kari traditional Ballet performance (much to Camerons disgust), but thankfully for him, it was a great show of dancing and drumming, and was really entertaining, though we managed to decline the offer to join them up on stage! Definately not ballet in the traditional sense.
Our hotel organised a full day tour of the Island, and we joined 10 French speaking tourists in a couple of mini buses for the trip. Our Guide Richard had to repeat everything twice, once in french and then just for us pair - English! The Rano Raraku quarry where the Maoi were all carved out of the rock was very impressive, there were many Maoi still standiong around, heads poking out of the ground exactly as they had been left years ago when the tribes ran out of money to transport them to their positions around the island. Next stop was the highlight of the day, the 15 restored statues at Tongariki, the tallest of which stands over 10m and weights in excess of 80 tonnes. They were restored in 1995 by a Japanese crane company to demonstrate their kit, and are a truly awesome sight. Last stop for the day was Anakena beach, a tropical paradise edged with palm trees and with its own 6 Maoi standing guard. The waters were warm, and we quickly headed in to the surf to cool down. Back in town that night we were eating dinner when the mother of all rain storms hit the Island, it was incredible, rain poured down and the wind picked up. People outside were running for cover as cars splashed past drowning everyone in their wake! Typically it coincided with the opening event Tapati festival, this runs for 2 weeks every February, and celebrates the Islands´ traditional past including singing, dancing, stone carving and iron-man style competitions.
It´s still raining, we woke thorugh the night as it came and went, unfortunately very humid still, and we were hoping the rain might have cleared the air. Not a lot done today, mostly spent sheltering from the weather in our cabana. A quick trip in to town and the festival area enabled us to see the kids rehersals for tonights show, and watch a bit of stone carving (not particularly interesting, as it takes so long!) The whole island suffered a power cut around lunchtime so once again we backtracked to our room and began writing the millions of postcards we are sending from here!!!
So that´s us for now, tomorrow we fly again to Tahiti for the next 4 nights. Easter Island has lived up to expectations, it is just so different from anywhere else - and the Maoi statues are just incredible to see close up and in place.
More soon, love the soggy travellers who have to go outside now into a torrential thunderstorm - wish us luck! xx