March 17, 2009

Chile Easter Island Tips and Tricks

Easter Island (Isla de Pascua to the Spanish and Rapa Nui to the natives) is the most remote inhabited island in the world. It is 3700 km (~2300 miles) off the coast of Chile which translates to a 5-6 hour flight (on regular jet, not small commuter plane) from Santiago and a bit longer from Tahiti. This is why we are so impressed that the Polynesian seafarers found their way from the Marquesas to Hawaii ~AD200, Easter Island ~AD400 and New Zealand ~AD800-1000.

Luggage Allowance
Everywhere else in Chile, we were allowed one 20 kg suitcase to check and one (or 2) "reasonable" carryons. When we checked in for our flight to Easter Island, we were told we could check in two 20 kg suitcases but a limit of 1 carryon weighing no more than 4.50 kg (~10 lb) would be strictly enforced. Fortunately, Teresa had room in her checked suitcase because mine was stuffed to the gills although it only weighed 16 kg. I dumped a few things from my carryon into Teresa's suitcase and the clerk said no, I had 4.95 kg. I dumped a few more things but was still rejected at 4.55 kg. Finally, I got down to exactly 4.50 kg.

Ice Cream
Hanga Roa has some of the best ice cream ever! Normally I associate flavors such as pineapple or mango with icy sorbets, but this was ice cream! This un-named (perhaps Mi Kafe?) coffee and ice cream shop is located on the cove at the corner of Policarp Toro and Te Pito te Henua.

Easter Island Passport Stamp
Up from the ice cream shop along Te Pito Te Henua road is the post office where for 500 Chilean pesos you can have your passport stamped.

Internet and Phones
Continuing up the road from the post office and across the street was our favorite internet cafe. This internet cafe was especially popular with young couples on Sunday evening. Internet fees were obviously low as evidenced by many of these couples smooching and giggling while their internet minutes slipped away. In contrast, the phone cost was relatively high (~7£ for a 8-10 minute call to London). I had no choice since neither Skype (I could hear but the people I was calling could not) nor my mobile worked any better in Easter Island than they did on the mainland.

Tropical Paradise
Except for our last day (where it rained so hard, the entire town lost power and most businesses closed), it was sunny. Wear a hat and bring (and apply) plenty of sunscreen! I sported a 3 inch crimson ring around my neck denoting where I missed during my repeated sunscreen applications.

Roving Packs of Dogs and Horses
We love animals but were a bit intimidated by the numerous dog packs and amazed by the herds of horses cantering down the streets and across school fields. We started saving meal leftovers and feeding any "single" (non-pack) dogs we saw. We do apologize to the dog we fed leftovers from our free lunch (courtesy of LAN because our flight was cancelled) but we got mild food poisoning too.

Two Days of Tours is Long Enough
We had two half-day tours on Day 1 and one full-day tour on Day 2. We saw everything we wanted to see and in some cases, sites we could have skipped (caves, unrestored areas little to view). We enjoyed Rano Raraku (moai quarry), Puna Pau (red scoria quarry), Orongo (Birdman Cult), Tongariki (15 moai), Akivi (17 moai) and Anakena (beach and moai). We are happy we made the journey, but would NOT have wanted to stay longer.

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