Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 13: Santiago to Easter Island

Day 13:  - Santiago to Easter Island

Quote of the day: Big heads, anyone seen a big head?

Weather:    Hawaii without trade winds, perfect (it’s getting to be winter here, may be too hot in their summer)

Pics:    Airport art, arriving at a far (far, far) away spot, Explora, 7 heads for 7 people (count, THB, count), along the coastline hike, sunset (way better than the sunrises), and THB has again managed to pub pics turned on their sides

Another great wake-up call: 5am instead of 6am. Not that it matters, THB gets another poor night’s sleep. Changing time zones, even if only an hour or two, is somehow disconcerting. What time is it? Who knows anymore.

Breakfast buffet, included. An odd shaped English muffin: rectangular. THB cannot remember much past that.

The airport, which is 2 minutes away from hotel on foot (and THB already told you that…it’s rough today, very rough), is bizarrely chaotic, even by THB standards (THB has airport chaos standards?). There is a long line the length of the terminal (longer? we can’t see the end) running (yes, the people in the line seem to be running) between the entrance and the check-in desks. Much mis-information from everyone queried. What we finally find out: we swim across the fast moving line and check our bags at the LAN International desk and then get at the back of this monster running line to go through domestic security. We know which way is the end, it has to be in the opposite direction the line is moving. The line is immense and moving very fast. Basically, as long as you don’t have metal on you, when you arrive at the security point you shove your bag through the scanner and walk as fast through the people scanner as you can. It will be two days before they catch someone with a gun going through. Per THB, the vast majority of travelers are commuters heading to work on Monday morning, wearing business casual (few sports coats or skirts).  No kids, few tourists, few older people.

The plane takes off over 45 minutes late and lands on time, 5 hours later. We’ve reached Easter Island and get lei’d. This island is the most distant inhabited island from any other inhabited place. It’s far away on a distant planet, Mr Skywalker (or is that Mr Shatner?).

About 15 minutes of slow van movement, we’re at the Explora, an all-inclusive (and big splurge) 30 room lodge. It’s spectacular architecture: several one story buildings about 20 to 30 meters up from the coastline running parallel to the water. And the buildings are softly circular and inside the walls are covered in long narrow strips of soft white wood. It’s the best spot since we were in the La Remota in southern Patagonia 6 years ago (also with S&A); yes, even better than Blanket Bay.

There’s an orientation, welcome fruit drink and appetizer (polenta triangle on tuna sushi?), a chance to clean-up, and late lunch (we’ve gained two hours from Santiago and thus it is getting to be around 4pm body time…if we had stayed in Santiago to adjust, which we didn’t) of scallops tartare, phyllo with fig filling, grilled tuna, osso bucco and polenta, a perfect green salad and iced tea (sweet and fruity; wine is on offer too) and not much time for dessert (it’s on offer also, at least 5 selections).

Our first excursion is to see a group of seven stone heads (in Rapa Nui: moai…moe-eye) on a giant platform, facing the water.  That’s unusual, apparently most (all?) of the heads were facing inland. Amazing! And, a bit of a reproduction as at one time all the figures on all the platforms had been toppled over when the local tribes were at war (10-14 tribes on a very small island). Only the ones “buried” at the quarry are in original positions.

Then we’re shuttled (the six of us plus the Takahashi’s, a retired couple from Yokohama who are on our same 3 day schedule) to a spot near the water (up on cliffs maybe 50 meters above the ocean. From there, we hike along the cliffs for approximately 3 kilometers and over an hour. It’s getting towards sundown, and after we meet up with the van again there are periodic stops to see the great sunset (no green flash, lots of clouds). With the repeated stops, by the time we get to the next set of heads, it is almost dark. Poor time management? Slow hiking? Who knows…we end up re-visiting this site just before we are due at the airport, in great light, all is good again.

Barely time to freshen up for dinner and complete the unpacking before we’re having our pre-dinner pisco sours and a terrific mini-lamb chop appetizer. Damn, THB could eat a few more of these and head to bed for the night.

Instead, we give in and eat dinner instead. We are so busy/tired, and THB doesn’t take notes, that a day and half later (and beyond, it never comes back) neither THB nor DB can remember what we ate (well, sure, salads because that’s always the same). THB does remember dessert: warm fruit crumble and late harvest sauvignon blanc. Maybe the dessert wine wiped out THB’s hard drive!

Big sky, lots of clouds, and instantly asleep, something only THB appears to have mastered among the six of us.

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