“I consider myself in the top 2% of the luckiest people in the world” a friend once told me while we were sipping whiskey on my boat. I feel the same way after having the opportunity to visit Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited inlands in the world; Rapa Nui as the islanders call it, Isla de Pasqua in Spanish.
In 2006, I was working in Santiago Chile and was feeling quite alone, not being very fluent in Spanish. One Thursday evening, in the hotel, I was bored and decided to go to the bar. I ordered a drink and noticed a couple there and they were speaking English. I immediately introduced myself. The guy introduced himself as Mark from New Zealand and his wife Ra’a, a true descendant of the island Her father was the Mayor! They were a charming couple and we dicussed what we were doing here. They were returning back to the island where they were to resume work on their new home after a much needed geteaway. After a few drinks, he leaned over and whispered to his wife then turned to me.
“We are flying out tomorrow. We would like to invite you to come over this weekend”, Mark offered.
I accepted their offer and when I returned to my room that night, I immediately took them up on their offer and booked a flight leaving the next day after work. This was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
When I arrived in the airport on Easter Island, I was surprised by the dirt floors in the terminal and there was donkey there with a Lei around it’s neck. Scanning the terminal I did not see them and just as I was getting a bit nervous I heard,
“Rob, over here!” Mark and Ra’a were standing beside the donkey. I ran right over. Ra’a slid the lei off the donkey’s neck and put it on me.
We grabbed my bags and headed for their Jeep. The island was magnificent! Moments later we pulled up to a quaint Tiki bar with Reggae music playing. Their friend Steve, a local, had returned home from Mahhattan, finally sickened by modern society and had just opened up his own retaurant.We had a few beers and some Ceviche and settled in. I immediately felt like a Pirate on a remote island mingling with the locals and a few worldy travellers!
From there we stopped by to visit Ra’as family and when we pulled up two men came out, their arms dripping in blood.
“Not to worry”, talking to me while looking at them, “We just sacrificed a goat for my niece’s birthday.” We didn’t even leave the car, which was a bit of a relief for me. They said goodbye and we headed for their home which they described as their very own Outback, on a plateau with miles of soft rolling grassy plains.
All of a sudden we were greated by two eager dogs, one acting ferocious and my defenses went up again.
“Rob, this is our family. Meet Jesus and Mary”, Mark spoke with pride.
Mary was the wild one and when she calmed we exited the Jeep. Their home was made of concrete blocks and had no windows yet.That was their next project they informed me apologetically. We walked into the house to dirt floors. Mark apologized for the crudeness and showed me around while telling me his plans to finish their dream home.
Despite the primitive feel of this little island, it was the most tranquil setting I had ever seen. As the sun was setting, Ra’a was preparing a dinner of local cuisine and a selection of meats to grill.
Mark and I started the campfire while the dogs played. Right at dusk, the sun looked bigger than I had ever seen, the size of the World Fair globe! Everything out here on this small island all alone in the Pacific ocean everything was larger than life!
After a grand dinner we sat around the fire talking of wordly things and drinking while Mark strummed on his guitar. We started making up songs and the peacful setting lended to limitless creativity and expression. At one point I looked up and mentioned how bright the night sky was especially the cloud directly overhead. Mark just laughed and said,
“Bob, that is no cloud mate, that is the Galaxy!”
I had never never seen so many stars in my life and I had a front row seat to the best view of the Milky way few have ever had! I leaned back in my chair fixated on the view for long enough to remove my soul from the worlds civil chains and worries. As he played his guitar I started singing and we started making a song.
“What should we name it?” I surmised. “It has to be a Rapa Nuian Word.”
“Lets call it Manuhia,” said Ra’a. “It means welcome.”
After many cold beers and incredible dialogue we finally retired for the night. I still have the recordings of the song.
The next morning we set off in the Jeep for a tour of the island. The first stop was a crater on the North East end. It was collossal! From there we headed around the island counterclockwise across grassy stretches of land with wild horses running along the beach until we came to a park and headed inland to a hillside where I saw my first moai, a rock sculpture that was at least 30’ tall! Standing beside it, I felt minute. Mark narrated as we walked, explaining that each generation would try to out do the last by making them larger. He said they would use trees and roll them to their location which is why the island was deforested through the years. He went on to say that the original tribes intent was to warn visitors. That is why the moais were facing outward to declare that any one visiting here would not interact with the women of the island. On the hillside there were some that were still in he ground.
“The last few tribes must have become overzealous and made them so big they could not get them out of the ground” Mark commented.
As we continued around the island we came upon the most amazing cluster of statues. “These are the ones most have seen in historical magazines” Mark added.
They also had hats carved on them. He explained that when a Typoon came and knocked them down, the Japanese came and ressurected them, preserving the monument.
Our final stop before returning to town, was a beach where the Moais were facing inward, the only ones on the island in this position. Ra’a explained that these were to remind the women not inteact with visitors.
The culture of this remote island waypoint has been preserved for many centuries because of these rock statues and the Rapa Nuians have maintained their bloodline very well.
I will never regret my spontaneous reaction to their invitation to go where so few have been. It was one of my best journeys and it is definitely one of the great wonders of the world.