Day 19 - Back to Santiago



Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 05:45

This morning was my last on Easter Island, and I had a few errands to run. First I headed to the post office, where I got my passport stamped – this unique stamp is quite a traveller trophy, and something I’ll definitely be showing off! After that, I had to go to the bank to get some money to pay for my hotel. This may sound mundane, but the bank was quite unique, having all the signs in the Rapanui language as well as Spanish. Also, it only operates limited hours so was heaving during my visit.

My final mission of the morning was to pick up a souvenir for myself. However, before making it to the gift shops I got distracted by the superb tropical weather. I more or less retraced my footsteps from the first day, in order to revisit the sights I had previously only seen in the drizzly, overcast weather. Seeing the Moai at Tahai in the bright sunshine was definitely worth doing, and I’ve taken a set of photos to replace the previous overcast ones. It was at this point that I saw my last proper Moai (there is a small one at the airport), so it felt like this mini trip was truly coming to an end. As for my souvenir hunt, I managed to pick up a miniature Moai carved out of some kind of stone, and complete with topknot – highly appropriate I thought.

Santiago International aside, the airports I visit seem to be getting smaller and smaller on this trip, and I think Mataveri Airport may well be the smallest I ever visit. There are no more than ten flights a week, and most days the plane simply arrives from Santiago, refuels, and then heads back with a new set of passengers. The airport can then close its doors for the day! There were two check in desks and no gates; merely a small departure area right by the runway. This area was open air and featured the small Moai I mentioned earlier, which made for a good photo when the inbound flight arrived. Refuelling complete, it was time for me to take a couple of photos from the runway (the volcano is right behind it), board and say goodbye to Easter Island.

Overall, I think four days on the island was the right decision, especially given the cost of everything here, and the fact I am travelling on my own. That said, it would still be great to revisit in the future and check out some of the more minor sights, including those on the second half day tour I mentioned yesterday. These are also some areas you ideally need a guide to escort you around, including venturing down into the Rano Kau crater, sailing out to the islets by Orongo, and walking across the crater at the quarry. In addition, having enough time to allow for good weather during both a sunset and a sunrise at Tahai and Tongariki respectively. Who knows when that visit will be though! Either way, it has been a truly unique experience and I’m glad I made the effort to visit.

As I type this I am on the plane, almost three quarters of the way back to Santiago. I’m heading back to the same hostel I was at before, where Marc is catching up to me tomorrow morning. It will be good to be reunited, and we plan to see Santiago (remember I held off seeing the main sights before) before heading over to Argentina in a couple of days.

Photos of the day: the moai at Tahai but in the sun this time, a close up, and the plane pulling up at the airport.

Here are some tips about Easter Island for anyone planning to go:

  • If you are only planning to see the archaeological sites then yes, Easter Island can be seen in two full days (with a day travelling either side). On the other hand, if you want to hike all the volcanos, surf, snorkel, visit the islets etc then I would recommend at least four to five full days. The beach at Anakena is also a great chill out spot if you want to make a bit of a summer holiday out of it (especially during the southern hemisphere winter).
  • Bring dollars, lots of dollars, more dollars than you will ever need. Everywhere on the island will happily take your dollars in place of Chilean pesos, and the exchange rate is extremely favourable. In fact, I lost out on many occasions (car hire, hotel bill, guide book) by not having dollars. It seems the islanders value them a lot more than their own currency – perhaps due to more stable inflation. Also, a credit card is no good – expect a minimum of 6% in commission.
  • Again regarding money and general spending, the flight is merely the first hurdle. General living on the island is very expensive since everything has to be sent by plane or ship from the mainland. Expect £20 for a two course meal at a café (I didn’t dare venture into some of the more upmarket restaurants), £40 per day for a car, and expensive souvenirs which cannot be bartered for.
  • If you aren’t getting a guided tour, pick up a copy of ‘A Companion to Easter Island’ by James Grant Peterkin. Without this book I wouldn’t have been able to see the island on my own, and it would have cost me a lot more in tour guide fees! On the other hand, if you want to appreciate the contents of the book, and have a guided tour, James mentions in his book that he still gives guided tours.
  • English is slightly more widely spoken than on the mainland (waiters know the basics for example), but some basic Spanish will still come in extremely handy.
  • If you aren’t sure if Easter Island is worth it like I was, then I can safely tell you that it IS worth it. I had previously been to Machu Picchu on my trip and I definitely found Easter Island to be an all-round more rewarding experience. You get to appreciate a truly unique culture, get up close to hundreds of Moai, and to top it off you are on a sub-tropical island with a great year-round climate and beautiful scenery.

Comments

Wow, an airport devoid of queues and security.
I wonder what the price of property is there.
Is there a Kosher butcher?

Such a memorable trip. Well worth doing.
All we managed yesterday was a trip into Lugano for dinner but today is more adventurous and we are going to Malpensa airport! Xx

An incredible and amazing time - and that's just reading your blog!
Your souvenir sounds a lot better than a fridge magnet!
From what you say a visit by cruise ship will never give enough time to see the island and it's treasures properly we will have to follow in your foot steps and for that we will be referring to you useful tips.

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