I am back in Santiago in the midst of a two-week nonstop experimental cooking, market exploring, smoggy air running, climbing gym chillin, night life going, new friend making sort of vacay in an attempt to get to know Santiago more in depth and furthermore convince myself that leaving Easter Island was not the dumbest decision of my life. During this time I am the luckiest dude because I get to stay with old sport James Woeller. I promised James a shoutout because he would like to get insta-social media-blogger-world famous. So for all the famous people reading this, he’s your man. Clearly it wasn’t me as you’ve been sitting idly by as I practically beg for your attention.
In all seriousness getting to stay in a spare bedroom for these two weeks has been heaven sent. The highlights only begin with a clean shower, laundry, kitchen and knowledge of the past tenants of your bed. Or so I think… But for real, James is pretty much totes the nicest, greatest dude for hooking me up with this accommodation! Also he’s Canadian, so even if he didn’t want me here, he wouldn’t be able to tell me so. Sorry for all my hosts in the future, because James has redefined the standards of playing host. I hope coming home to the smells of me attempting to learn South American cuisine have been the highlight of your life. I’m pretty much a dream ‘stay at home’ spouse. All I ask is for a full-hearted response when I ask how your day was. If you’re not careful bud, you’re gonna lose me one of these days.
But let’s get to the point and stop tooting James’s horn, HELLOOO. I want to talk about my week in paradise on Easter Island (in Easter Island?). You know the island with the massive stone heads that look like this?
Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui, aka Isla de Pascua, is a roughly 20 some mile circumference sized island located in the middle of the Pacific. It is a territory of Chile, because at one point when countries were staking claim to dots on the map, Chile showed up and said “This shit is ours.” That’s imperialism for you. The history of the island is a bit more complex. I am going to attemp to paraphrase a mixture of Jared Diamond and some locals explanation of what went down on Rapa Nui. Let’s be real though, there was some serious alien involvement in those massive heads there, so who really knows what the fuck went down. Anyway, at some point in history, early days post Christ, an island ruler was under pressure to find a new island to rule, because his was running out of resources. So he did what any smart man would do, he sent 15 warriors out in boats in different directions into the Pacific Ocean. 1 of these 15 scallywags found what is now Easter Island. Fast forward a number of years and what do you do on a small isolated island like this, besides build massive heads, or Moai, out of volcanic rock. Whichever tribe builds the biggest head wins. It’s clearly a game of a literal oversized egos.
Unfortunately for these tribes and island, it requires an enourmous amount of resources to build and transport them, not to mention an extraordinary amount of slaves. Who by the way, totally loved carving these fuckers. Especially the party when they put multi-ton hats on top of them at the end just for show. (This is the alien part, because no one really knows how they got the hats on them. My theory is lots of time, energy and slaves.) Once it became clear that building these heads brought no real benefit and the island was running out of resources – trees, food and such – war ensued amongst the tribes and slaves began rebelling. The island population was rapidly decimated from about 10,000 to just over 100. These 100 learned from their ancestors mistakes and haunted construction of the Moai. Instead they briefly continued another traditions such as the Birdman Competion. The annual Birdman Comp is a mighty display of Rapa Nui men’s strength in which a man from each tribe hikes to the top of the local volcano, climbs down the 300 m cliff, swims a mile or so, swims back, climbs back up, and then waits in these awesome looking shelters for the first seagullish bird to land on the island and lay the first egg. The man who gets the egg first, becomes the leader of the island, and his family’s emblem is emblazoned on a big rock.
Please note, all of this is a lose reconstruction of the history and I am almost certainly fumbling it a bit. Real respect is due to the Rapa Nuins. They are a beautiful people with a rich history and pride for their culture. The way I would describe Easter Island is like Hawaii, but with something very mysterious in the air. If you haven’t been to Hawaii, then picture a tiny tropical, mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific, with extra-mysterious stone heads scattered throughout amongst the rocky coasts and volcanic hills.
So as described in the last post, Nicolette and I fortuitously ended up with plane tickets to Rapa Nui after a series of unfortunate events. Nicolette arrived on Saturday and I arrived on Monday night. Late Monday night, because our flight was delayed due to fire fighter strikes in Haiti, the final destination of my plane. But that plane could’ve been delayed as long as they wanted because I was chillin VIP thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and it’s access to airport lounges. I was in open bar chicken nuggets heaven for about 4 hours, with solid wifi and an opportunity to catch up with friends back home.
Finally touched down in Rapa Nui around 2am, after a 5-hour flight consisting of Hacksaw Ridge, 20th Century Women (great film, totally misjudged the title, sorry) and a meal I was too full to eat, I was greeted by Nicolette and a cold Escudo brew. We strolled through the warm humid night to a hostel located in what appeared to be the middle of the jungle. Sleep came amidst the sounds of roosters that never got the memo that they were only supposed to roost at dawn. We woke the next morning and made a non-tropical breakfast of the usual, oatmeal and French pressed coffee. My mobile French press coffee is my most prized possession. If I ever get robbed, please take my phone, wallet and passport, but for gods sake, leave the press!!
Next we located the campsite I had heard about, packed up our gear and moved locations. All of this was done in shorts and a t-shirt, the first time since New Zealand I could truly wear shorts in comfort. Island Life Brah. The campsite was this little plot of fenced in land next to an oceanside cliff. There was a small bathroom with solar hot water showers and a little hut for cooking. It was freakin purrrfect. This island itself has one small town called Hanga Roa when you can get pretty much anything you might need, which really isn’t much. I did all my food shopping on the mainland because everything is quite expensive on the island. My budget was solely for tropical beverages.
I would be hard pressed to detail each day, aside from two specific days. Also the moment when Nicolette road off on a big jet plane, miss ya friend!! The trip was a blur of waking up to the sound of the ocean, sunny breakfasts, island hiking and exploring, ocean swimming, sunset watching, stargazing and late guitar filled nights with fellow campers.
The first highlight day was one of the raddest days of the whole trip. Nicolette and I attained a couple of hogs, aka scooters, for a full day of adventure. There is one main road that loops the island, which can be completed in about 1.5 hours. But along the way are heaps of notable Moai sites and remote chill spots. We packed our hogs with high spirits and salami sandys ready for a day of thrills and chills. Topping out at around 60 kmh, this was not for the faint of hearts. Some real Top Gun stuff.
We hit all the spots, but not without a few gnarly spills and close calls either. Someone was a little cocky after a couple Scoot seshes back home in SF I guess. No pain, no gain though, scoot lyfe! The final site was a set of Moai located on the kind of beach you’d expect to find on a tiny tropical island. Perfect location for some much needed tanning of my Victorian era complexion. We returned to Hanga Roa along 18 km of unreal rolling, tropical, warm, sun setting pavement. We rolled right into a set of hammocks to watch the grand crescendo of the sun melting into the expansive Pacific. After roaring back into the campsite, announcing the presence of a couple of badasses, we parking the hogs and located the perfect spot for a final ceviche meal and Nicolette sendoff. Sun spent and dazed from the danger zone, we crawled into our respective tents soon after to the soundtrack of crashing salty water. It ’twas the dopest of dope days.
The other notable day was my last day. Having spent most of my Island budget on scooters and pina coladas at this point, I was left to walk or hitchhike my way around the island. I linked up with a new pair of French swashbucklers that morning who were also seeking the safe haven of that forementioned white sand beach. We set off from the campsite around 11 am towards the main road. Along the way we stopped for a classic Chilean pino empanada. Immediately after we stumbled upon a small parade which seemed to be showing off the small, yet mighty military prowess of the island. It also featured an classic dance routine of the island natives, punctuated by the women in palm skirts dragging clearly uncomfortable fully dressed soldiers to awkwardly dance.
We caught our first ride in the back of a pick up for a mere 3 min, but as we hopped out, another pickup following us offered a ride. Our second pickup truck was driven by two women, a mother and daughter, (technically only the daughter was driving) who were showing two of their cabana guests around the island. I quote in Spanish to English translation, “we were all too handsome to leave on the side of the road.”
The deal was, we had to go along for the ride while they stopped at the two famous Moai sites. Because we had already been in the sites, the national park pass only allows you in the big sites once to manage traffic, we stayed outside and chatted it up with our new guides. They were a mother daughter duo originally from Chile who run a set of cabanas on the island. The nicest and funniest people on the island!
Back of pickup truck is definitely the best way to travel in Rapa Nui. Our phrase of the day was “Lomo del Toro,” or back of the bull, which is used to describe Spanish hilly or windy roads. LOMO DEL TORRO!! We spent the late afternoon at the beach and cherishing the likely last remaining warm beach, water and sun of my trip. We picked up another set of local hitchhikers for the glorious last 18 km stretch. I think they were offering us a hallucinagenic trip for that evening, but I’m not quite sure. To put the proverbial cherry on top of the day, our guides, Maria and Mother, offered to make us dinner. We spent the evening with fresh food, boxed wine and awesome company.
This kind of hospitality seems to happen too often on this trip. Too often being more than zero. I’m traveling, having the trip of my life, so I feel kinda guilty getting anything at all from people. Each time is equally undeserved and beyond appreciated. With that said, it goes a long ways in making this trip last longer and filling it with memories. I will undoubtably return the favors whenever possible. Not because I necessarily feel like I will directly owe anyone anything, but because it’s awesome to be a part of someone else’s adventure.
I would like to end with a couple haikus to summarize one of the best weeks ever on/in Rapa Nui.
Cous cous with tuna
Oh how delicious you are
Until the next day
Cous cous I love you
What I just said is not true
Sorry but it fit
Please forgive me cous
You are the best camping meal
Pairs well with cheap wine
No, you are not cheap
You know that’s not what I meant
Please come back to plate
Ugh, so sensitive
You’re not even healthy
Just tiny pasta
Cous cous and I have since made up. Just going through a rough patch. Seriously I thought it was a grain though. Wtf.