Chile - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 391 (201)
Sunday 3rd April (2005)
We knew that we were in for a noisy night again last night and from that perspective we certainly weren’t disappointed. Some earplugs from the complimentary travel kit that we received on the flight here helped a little to ease the pain but it was another restless night nevertheless.
When it came time to check out, the man of the house was on duty again and he gave us a slip of paper with our bill total written on it. Still a bit groggy from having woken up, I did my best to figure out what the large number printed on the receipt represented but couldn’t quite get my head around it. Sandy and I discussed it and did our best to interpret it based on the exchange rate. The problem was that we weren’t too sure which exchange rate they had used. We had expected to be better off by paying in Pesos since everybody except for the bank were using a rate of exchange that was quite poor but it turned out that they were using the bank’s rate of exchange to charge us in Peso for the room based on the Dollar amount we had originally been told. Essentially, this eliminated any advantage that we might have gained by paying in Pesos to begin with. The difference was just a few Dollars and I didn’t want to make a fuss since these people earn their livelihoods from people like us anyway. I paid the man and we were on our way. Just a short five minute ride later through town, we were unpacking again in our new digs. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how much better off we will or won’t have been for staying in a more expensive place. We shall see.
Kai, the guy that I met and spoke with briefly yesterday when I came over to check this new place out, was sitting there relaxing and we enjoyed exchanging a few more Easter Island travel anecdotes with him. As we were unloading the Jeep and making ourselves at home, a truck arrived full of gas cylinders and unloaded one. The owner’s mother, a very motherly figure that seems to take a great interest in whether all the guests are eating well or not, was pottering about and seemed to be in a bit of a pickle with regards to the gas delivery. It turned out that the gasman needed paying but the owner wasn’t around to do so. After a bit of a discussion amongst us all, Kai handed over about US$60 of his own money. The idea was that he and the owner would settle up eventually. This one and a half metre tall gas bottle would apparently serve the pension’s kitchen and six guest rooms their combined heating and cooking needs for about a month.
We were keen to take back to the road again to further explore the island and Kai came with us again for the ride. We headed due north up to the northern coastline to see what is known as the naval of the world. Apparently a near perfectly spherical geode or stone ball had been ejected form one of the volcanoes and landed near the shoreline. We found the location, which was marked by yet another fallen Moai, but had to search around a bit for the sphere since there weren’t any signs. We eventually found the slightly flattened, one metre diameter stone ball with four smaller stone balls surrounding it and further encircled by a one metre tall, manmade, lava rock wall. It wasn’t especially awe-inspiring and I doubt we would have made the journey all the way up to the north end of the island just to see it but it was interesting nevertheless. Kai was particularly keen to visit the volcano nursery that we visited yesterday so we headed in that direction to drop him off whilst we went elsewhere. We travelled very much slower over the dirt track across the top of the island and made it as far as the fifteen upstanding Moai, where we dropped him off to go wandering around on his own for a while. In the meantime, there is a hilly peak that occupies the northeast corner of the island and our map showed a track leading up and around to the top. I wanted to drive up there to have a look at the views from the top so we agree to meet Kai back at the volcano when we were done. We had to pass through what looked like a farm on the foothills of the gentle, sloping, grassy peak and the dirt track that led up and around this huge mound was very uneven and lumpy. Sandy did not enjoy the ride and we were travelling at a slower pace than we could have walked at times. With the exception of a cluster of trees at one point, the hills were covered in nothing more than tufts of grass. There must have been a couple of dozes cows meandering around the hillsides and we saw plenty of hawks flying about too. It must have taken us well over half an hour to make it up to the top of the hill and the views were indeed quite nice but we also wanted to find the Moai and petroglyphs that our map indicated were near the top somewhere. Petroglyphs are a strange and as yet un-deciphered language of pictograms not unlike the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Examples of these are scattered around the island at various locations and we’ve seen souvenirs that depict them but have yet to see any for ourselves. We found a couple of toppled Moai but never did find the petroglyphs. We kept climbing and climbing and each time we reached the apex of the next hill, more hills kept appearing in the distance so we decided to give up on the petroglyphs here and to turn about instead. The road back down was no less bumpy and I wasn’t in Sandy’s good books for a while.
Back over at the volcano, we met up with Kai again and another traveller that had arrived there by bike. He was toting one of the town’s many stray dogs. Apparently, he had fed the dog a few morsels of his breakfast and this new companion followed him on his bike the thirteen Kilometres all the way to the volcano. Apparently, he had two dogs following him yesterday too.
Near the middle of the island is another grouping of standing Moai and we wanted to take a look at these so we headed back down towards the south again. On the way there, we passed a Japanese cyclist that we’ve seen a couple of times already and she was having a terrible time trying to push her bike uphill and into the wind. Had we had the room, we would have offered her a lift in the Jeep. Our nice and even paved road eventually gave way to another rough and bumpy dirt track as we headed inland a bit but it was fortunately not a very long road and terminated at the site where the upstanding Moai stood. It doesn’t matter how many of these strange statues that I see; they remain a very strange and very odd phenomenon that is just captivating in some way. The volcanic geology of this island has littered it with various caves and these too are highlighted on our map, although extremely difficult to actually locate. One was close by so we detoured just a bit to find it. These natural cave formations were formed as a result of the lava flows from the various volcanoes gradually cooling and this one was large enough to have been used many hundreds of not thousands of years ago by the then inhabitants of the island to hide the townsfolk from marauding invaders. The false walls that they erected to seal off the cave entrances in an effort to keep their presence hidden can still be seen, although these false walls have partially been dismantled – perhaps by the marauding invaders.
Our last island destination for the day was to be back up on the north coast again. A pristine white sand beach in a semi-circular cove is the site of yet another group of standing Moai, most of which still have their topknots in place. This is apparently a very popular place with the locals who flock here every Sunday morning on a free bus service after Sunday mass. The beach was very sparsely populated when we arrived. The fluffy, white sand and warm, clear, waters were so inviting under the heat of the afternoon sun that I just had to take a dip, so I stripped to my undies and dove right in – absolute bliss. The cove is covered with tall palm trees and there are a couple of food stalls selling local cuisine snacks and cold beers. The whole setting was idyllic and certainly much nicer than anything we saw on Tahiti.
After a half an hour of lazing around in the shallows, I did my best to dry off under the sun and we slowly made our way back to Hanga Roa, about a twenty minute drive due south to the opposite end of the island. I had to get the owner to figure out why I wasn’t getting any hot water, once we arrived back home, but he sorted it out in the end and I enjoyed a blissfully hot shower. Sandy went for her afternoon nap whilst Kai and I sat at the laptop looking through some of our travel photos. Kia is a freelance writer and has suggested I look into getting some of my travelogues published. Although there was by now some cloud cover, we strolled down to the shore nearby to see if we could take in the sunset but it was too late by the time we got there. We did see something very odd, however. What appeared to be a small aircraft approached the island and landed at the airport. This is very odd since the nearest landmass is Chile, several thousand Kilometres away. Where did such a small aircraft come from? We later learned that it was a small, private jet that was flying a dozen passengers in from South America.
After all the driving and bumpy roads that I subjected Sandy to today, she was now in the mood to be fed, fed well and without reservation or complaint about the bill so we set out in search of one of the better restaurants in town. We tried the French restaurant that our new pension owner was telling me about yesterday. It was a very chic restaurant with prices to match and I did my best to subdue my misgivings about the cost of the meal, although not very successfully I must admit. I was quite worried that we would end up paying royally for a meagre meal that looked good. We both ordered the filet mignon and it was probably the best that either of us has ever eaten. It was absolutely delicious and quite took me by surprise. I can quite easily see us eating there again tomorrow – even if it does cost us another CLP29,000 (€40).
Instead of returning back home, we wanted to walk off dinner a bit but I had the bright idea of driving into the middle of the island and away from the light pollution of Hanga Roa so that we could enjoy the bright stars out here in the middle of the ocean. The stars have really been out in force here over Easter Island. Tonight, however, there was a thin yet very persistent layer of cloud steadily developing and this sort of hid the majority of the stars tonight. We may try again tomorrow night.