LAST DAY IN A CHILDHOOD PARADISE

“…here I was, a few hours remaining on the island…wondering if forever separated me from ever returning again”

The last day of a trip, the getaway day, is almost always a downer. Unless you had a terrible trip, it represents the final few hours of a heavily planned (and, likely, heavily paid) memory-filled journey and you are counting down the hours until that ride back to the airport and the underwhelming anticlimactic end to it all. In many ways, the post-travel blues are cured upon arriving back home, allowing for one to sort through their photos, do some blogging or share the memories with others. But your not home yet…

Well, Easter Island was tough to let go of for me. It represented a lifelong goal achieved. I had made it to the island of the strange statue heads, or so I referenced them as a kid. Nobody brought me here but me (though I always questioned my dad why we couldn’t go to Easter Island on a summer vacation, not really grasping the idea of how long and how expensive a journey like that would be for a family of four). One great lesson (of many) I learned on this trip was that if you always wanted to get to a place, then do it. Don’t wait or it might get put off forever. Well, here I was, a few hours remaining on the island I once only dreamed about, wondering if forever separated me from ever returning again…

I don’t know what kind of pose this is…This was actually one of the more daring shots on the trip, though this “overhang” is not as dangerous as it might look…

OK, enough of this depressing b.s. My new life on Easter Island, of which I met new friends in the Austrian backpacker, Josef, and the Mexican dad and son, Ran and “Little” Ran, was ending just as soon as it began. With our plane leaving at 5 p.m., we still had the museum (eh, museo I mean. I have to keep up with my Spanish) and Rano Kau, the most dramatic volcano on the island and home of the Birdman cult at Orongo, part of the post-stone head era on the island.

View of the islets from Orongo, the southernmost point of land in Easter Island. Looking this way, you’ll hit nothing but Antarctica after this…(and yes, the water was truly that blue).

While most people come to Easter Island to see the heads, Rano Kau and Orongo provide a different look at Easter Island. Carvings of the birdman character (among others) adorn the rocks around Orongo village at the Southernmost tip of the island proper. Three small islets jut out into view from this point;  Motu Kau Kau, Motu Iti and the southernmost point, Motu Nui. It was on Motu Nui that the islanders participated in an annual race to capture the first egg laid on by the Sooty Tern. The film, Rapa-Nui, which is available to watch for free on Youtube, dramatizes this unique tradition.

A sense of scale of Rano Kau (one of the better shots I took on this trip…)

I found myself fixated not only on the islets, but of the view of the endless sea from Orongo. It literally is endless (well, until it hits Antarctica), but this fact still couldn’t convince me (nothing on the trip really could) of how far I was from everything I knew. I guess that’s what comes with being born and raised on a continent, knowing that plenty of land is all around you (or at least near you) at any given time. Behind Orongo is Rano Kau, providing an equally dramatic view into the gloriously mossy freshwater lake that has filled the crater.

The ceremonial village of Orongo

We spent a couple hours touring the site before heading back into Hanga Roa and getting one final dish of empanadas at a local pizza parlor. A ride in the back of a pickup (a first for me) to Mataveri International Airport (the most remote airport in the world) marked a 22-hour journey back…

Below are a few more pictures from my final day on Easter Island. P.S. I highly recommend viewing the Easter Island episode of departures (broadcast on Halogen in the States). They share a very comparable experience to what I did, in that whole “can’t believe we’re actually fulfilling a childhood goal” kinda way.

Mi Amigo! This little guy wouldn’t stop following us after I gave him a little snack

An unrestored shelter at Orongo

A restored shelter with a cutaway view of the inside. Villagers would actually enter these houses through entrances the size of doggy doors…

The hike up to Orongo Village around Rano Kau

Birdman carvings in the rocks at Orongo

The “lip” of the crater at Rano Kau

Steps at Orongo Village

A very interesting “bull-cow” just hanging out near the parking lot…

Orongo Visitor’s Center. Park-goers only get one entrance to Orongo (for their $50 entrance fee)

Josef taking a break to take in the view

One of the few original eyes. Most eyes were recreated as part of the restoration process.

The church in Hanga Roa, a unique blend of Rapa Nui traditions and Catholic symbolism…

Artisans hawking merchandise outside Rano Kau

More birdman carvings

A Chilean National Park truck at Orongo

One more of me at Rano Kau

Ready for the long haul back…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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