26 Easter Island
EASTER ISLAND. May 2006
The furthest neighbours.
This “Island of statues” is 3700km or 5 hours from mainland Chile by plane. It is the world’s most remote community, with the nearest neighbours (tiny Pitcairn Island of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame) 2000km away. The island was formed when molten lava of 3 volcanoes coalesced. The scenery is of black volcanic rock trimmed with a fringe of white foam from pounding waves. The interior has green grassy hills and wild guava shrubs with lots of roaming horses.
Soon after our arrival we saw our first row of imposing stone statues. They were silhouetted against the golden sun, setting over the ocean
It is believed that the Polynesian people from the Marquesas had the courage to sail into the unknown in tiny boats to eventually reach Easter Island in 300 AD. Thor Heyerdahl’s theory, where he tried to prove, with the Kontiki raft, that the Rapa Nui people came from mainland South America, is no longer accepted.
It was fun to travel in a rented Suzuki to all the archaeological sights on the island of 117 square km. Originally the complexes of large basalt figures (“moai”) had been placed on platforms (“ahu”) facing and “protecting” a village. Some were still attached to the quarry from whence they were carved by means of stone tools. Some massive statues were unfinished and stood buried to the shoulder with their huge faces gazing to the horizon. Some figures had a red scoria rock topknot (like a head dress) on the body of brownish “tuff” rock.
It is intriguing to speculate about how the heavy loads were lowered from the quarry, then moved kilometres away and erected on stone platforms.
We stayed in a cottage with a sea view and in the evenings walked to the main town of Hanga Roa for a meal of delicious fresh fish accompanied by Chilean wine. The colourful song and dance culture with dancers adorned with flowers and feathers, has been preserved. There seem to be elements of Hawaiian hula and Maori haka in the performances.
Our last day was at the dramatically situated ceremonial village of the birdman cult. It is perched on the rocks high above the sea next to a big crater lake. We had seen most of the sights except the second small white sandy beach. Maybe we should have had more than the 4 nights and 5 days…
After we had returned to smoggy Santiago airport, where Dipli had stood for the 5 days, he took us west to look at the popular sea side resort of Vina del Mar. The high rises and the white beaches reminded us of Durban. However, swimming is not recommended; because of strong rip currents and freezing cold water.
We crossed over the high Andes to get to Mendoza, Argentina. Snow delayed us and about 200 trucks (a 4km long queue). It had been cleared when we reached the tunnel through the crest at 3185m. We remembered how we had driven the switch-backs in our Citroen 2CV, 35 years earlier. When we reached the border control, we had no fresh food. We had even shared, early that morning, our last milk with a meowing hungry kitten under our truck. Then the officials did not even look at the vehicle!
In Mendoza a local Land Rover Defender owner invited us to his home and later took Jan to have a spring blade made (to replace the one used near Tierra del Fuego).
We have not found self service Laundromats so far, in South America. When we find a laundry, there usually is no parking or they are closed for a 4-hour “siesta”. When we collected our clean clothes from a “lavenderia” in Mendoza, every item was so creased and crumpled up. All we could do was to go for that rumpled look. (Jan and Rumpelstiltskin!)
“El Futbol.” The “Maradona fervour” is still there! We were staying next to the football stadium. The Saturday night spectators lined up three hours before the match - chanting and singing to drum beats. They were waving banners and had their children dressed up in the colours of the local team. Replicas of Maradona’s no 10 jersey was for sale. More than 1000 police were present. 35 000 people were frisked upon entering. When the Mendoza team won they partied and partied until way into the freezing cold night. (But we aint seen nothin’ yet because the World Cup in Germany had not yet started)
From Mendoza we are heading to northern Argentina – and then towards Paraguay and Brazil.
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