Day 5 – 9/6 – Easter Island

September 6th, 2009

Today is one of the rare days that we get to sleep in, so we took full advantage. We have a half-day tour scheduled to start at 2:30PM, so we decided to head into town for lunch around noon. However, it started to rain again, so we ate at the hotel restaurant again.

When the tour bus came for us, we were informed that we couldn’t follow the planned itinerary to see the Orongo (a crater in the southwest corner of the island) because the roads were too slick for the tour bus. Instead, we visited more platforms around the island.

Our first stop was at Vinapu. The platforms here were constructed using the Incan methodology of stacking form-fitting rocks on top of one another. They fit so well that you can’t even slip a piece of paper in between the rocks. It remains a mystery how the ancient Peruvians were able to travel to Easter Island, since the currents from Peru would have forced boats much further north to the Galapogas Islands.

Our second stop was to Ana Kai Tangata. This was a cave dwelling with remains of ancient drawings of sea birds. Since we weren’t able to go to Orongo, our tour guide told us about the birdman cult rituals for which it was dedicated. There was an annual ritual where young men would compete with one another to obtain first egg laid by the sooty tern. They would have to descend a steep cliff, swim shark infested waters, and spend days or even weeks looking for the egg. The first man to return with an egg strapped to his forehead would win his tribe special status and win himself a special mate….a young woman with long hair, long fingernails, and pale skin (all symbolic of woman of high society).

Our next stop was to another platform next to the only shipping port on the island. Freight ships aren’t allowed to dock at the port; instead they would anchor off the coast and cargo had to be ferried over.

Our final stop was at the Catholic Church in town. Four of the people most responsible for bringing Catholocism to the island are buried at the church. Among them is Padre Sebastian Englebert, the same individual responsible for the museum we visited two days ago. And as to be expected, the church has a strong Rapa Nui influence to it. The outside of the church is decorated with ancient hierorglyphics. If one looks very carefully, one can find ancient hierorglyphics on everything in the church — like on the statues, the candle holders, and the baptism bath.

At the end of the tour, we had the bus driver drop us off at a restaurant in town, La Kaleta. I had the Kana Kana (a local fish), and Alice had the mushroom ravioli and also a french fries dish that reminded me of Canadian poutine. It was french fries in a seafood gravy and/or cheese. It was very delicious, but at the same time very bad for you. I am sure we clogged a few arteries eating that dish.

Day 4 – 9/5 – Easter Island

September 5th, 2009

We woke up early and had breakfast at 8AM. Our tour bus picked us up at 9:15AM and we were on our way. Today’s tour was a full day tour. Unfortunately though, there was nothing but rain in the forecast. At our first stop we visited moais that had been knocked down during the East/West warfare of the Rapa Nui tribes. It was believed that the moais provided power, so it was important to take down the enemy’s moais.

On our second stop, we visited a site where fifteen moai statues had been restored on a platform. The platform itself is sacred ground, so we had to be sure not to step on it or touch the moais. The moais represent ancestors of the upper class, as evidenced by their long ear lobes and long fingernails.

On our third stop, we visited Rano Raraku, the rock quarry where 95% of the moais were constructed. The moais that stood here were a little bit different than the ones we saw earlier. They were buried into the ground, more slender, and much taller. In fact, the tallest moai, at 21 meters, can be found here. Another unique moai that can be found here is a kneeling one. It remains a mystery how the moais were transported from the rock quarry. Some experts believed that they were rolled on their backs (similar to the techniques used by the Egyptians). But there have also been historical accounts that the moais “walked” out of the quarries. So other experts believe that the moais were transported standing up using ropes to twist the moais from side to side (similar to the technique one would use when moving heavy furniture).

Our fourth stop was Ahu Te Pito Kura, where we went to see a large magnetic ball. It was believed that the very first settlers on the island used it as a compass and brought it onto the island with them. The ancient people believed that the ball had mystical powers, called mana. If it hadn’t been raining today, we could have placed our hands over the ball and felt a tingling sensation.

Our fifth and final stop was at the beach. At this point Alice and I were soaked from head to toe; so we hopped out of the tour bus, took a peek, and hopped back on the bus. I guess beaches aren’t that impressive when there’s no sunshine.

We got back to the hotel around 5PM and couldn’t wait to take a hot shower. We knew that the hotel restaurant wasn’t going to be any good, but we had had enough of the rain for one day and didn’t want to head out into town. So we had dinner at the hotel and stayed in for the night.

Day 3 – 9/4 – Easter Island

September 4th, 2009

It was another early day for us. Our flight to Easter Island was scheduled to depart at 8:20AM, and we needed to be at the airport two hours before departure since it was an international flight. It was close to a six hour flight, but we gained two hours with the time zone difference. So we were able to check into the Tahai Tai Hotel around noon.

After getting settled into our room, we took a ten minute walk into the one and only town on the island. At this point, we were pretty hungry, so we walked into the first restaurant we could find. We had lunch at the Haka Honu Restaurant where we watched surfers from our outdoor seating. I ordered steak with mushrooms served with sweet potatoes. This steak was definitely better than the one I had yesterday, and the sweet potatoes were also very good. Alice ordered a chicken and shrimp noodle dish. I tried some of her dish, and it was pretty good also. The noodle dish definitely had some Asian influence to it. We both had fresh juice to drink – guava and papaya.

After lunch, we continued exploring the town. During lunch, it got pretty cold because of the ocean breeze, but as we walked further away from the ocean, it got hot. Then out of nowhere we were hit with rain. If we didn’t find tree cover, I think we would have been drenched. During our stroll through town, we saw an arrow sign for a Museo. So we decided to follow the arrows and look for this museum. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally found the Museo Antropologico P. Sebastian Englert.

It was a pretty small museum but also pretty informative. Easter Island is actually formed by three different volcanoes. I also learned a little bit about the Moais (the giant statues of heads for which the island is famous). The historians all agree that the native people constructed the Moais to represent their ancestors. But there are many different theories as to how the Moais were moved from where they were constructed to where they stood.

After the museum, we retraced our steps back into town and did a little souvenir shopping. Now why is it that as soon as you buy a souvenir, you will find it cheaper at the next store? We shopped until 6PM, and then made our way over to La Taverne du Pecheur for dinner. Alice had spaghetti bolognese which was more spaghetti than bolognese. I had Red Snapper Aglioli which came with so many sides, I don’t think I will be able to name them all. The fish itself was delicious. But it also came with a stuffed tomato, garlic mashed potatoes, taro, a stuffed spiky potato wedge, and rice. It was the best meal I’ve had so far on this trip, and I’d definitely recommend La Taverne du Pecheur if you’re in the mood for seafood.

One thing we forgot to do was carry a flashlight with us on our stroll. By the time we finished dinner, it was dark. We managed to get back to our hotel safe and sound, but next time we won’t forget the flashlight. After a long, adventurous day, we were ready to wash up and head to bed. But wouldn’t you know it….no hot water! So we ended up switching to a different room. It’s almost 11PM as I am writing this, so it’s time for me to go to bed. It’s another early start tomorrow.

Day 2 – 9/3 – Santiago, Chile

September 3rd, 2009

Getting any sleep during the flight was an impossibility. It must have been the most turbulent flight that I have ever been on. Sleeping on a plane is already difficult for me, but with my head being constantly tossed around, you can forget trying to get any sleep at all. We landed around 7:30AM in Santiago and were ready to begin our day. We still had to go through customs, collect our baggage, and check in to our hotel.

The first thing we noticed about the weather in Santiago was that it was cold (in the 40s F) and quite overcast. Both Alice and I were feeling pretty miserable at this point, probably from the turbulent flight, lack of sleep, and cold weather. We are staying at the Hotel Orly in the Provencia district, but a room wouldn’t be available to us until 2PM, so we decided to rest up in the recreation room before heading out to explore the city.

We explored the neighboring areas looking for a place to eat. There seemed to be a lot of fast food restaurants, but we were looking for something more. There were a lot of sandwiches, hot dogs, pizzas, and burger joints. Fast food chains from home that were available to us were McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and of course a Starbucks. We finally settled on a bar & grill place called Mamut. It kind of reminded of a Chili’s. Our hostess didn’t speak any English and of course we didn’t speak much Spanish, so that was kind of interesting. Alice wanted some hot water with her meal, but the waitress didn’t quite understand when Alice ordered some “agua caliente.” She kept thinking that Alice wanted tea, as if the order was too simple and that no one would want plain hot water. I found it amusing, since I didn’t think ordering hot water could be lost in translation. I had the New Orleans steak which came with grilled onions on top with fries on the side and one egg over easy. Alice had the Boston burger which was basically a burger with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and bacon. Lunch wasn’t anything special, and nope we didn’t get to try the local cuisine yet.

Sleep beckoned. We just didn’t have the energy to continue exploring, so we headed back to the hotel for a nap. Since we have to get up early the next day, we decided to have dinner early and ate at the hotel restaurant. I ordered the sea bass filet with cream of pumpkin soup. To drink, I had juice of some local fruit that I don’t know how to spell. It had a pinkish/whitish color to it and kind of tasted like pineapple juice. Alice had the chicken filet with ratatouille vegetables. The drink was quite good and the meals were okay.

Day 1 – 9/2 – Travel Day

September 2nd, 2009

My coworker Rocky was nice enough to give us a ride to San Jose Airport, so we met up at nvidia at 1PM. Our flight was at 3PM, so that gave us plenty of time to check in. We had a connecting flight to Dallas Fort Worth, and got in around 8:30PM. That didn´t give us very much time to catch our 9:10PM flight to Santiago, Chile. As soon as we landed at DFW, we grabbed some Wendy´s and Taco Bell to take with us on our flight. Taking the monorail from Terminal C to Terminal D also took quite a while. We caught our flight without any problems, but we did cut it somewhat close.