We were in the middle of nowhere. Deep blue sea below and light blue sky above, only interrupted by the odd wispy cloud and blinding rays of sunshine. At 30 thousand feet it was difficult to spot Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. As the most remote inhabited Island in the world, it’s incredible that it was ever discovered in the first place. Containing only 5,800 residents, 60% of which are descendants from the aboriginal Rapa Nui people, it still feels like a secret, even today. The runway spans the entire width of the island, built in the 60’s as one of NASA’s emergency runways. Most passengers held their breath in angst as we were getting ever closer the end of the runway as the captain made the most of the extended tarmac.
Easter Island is situated in the South Pacific Ocean, as part of Chile, Spanish is the local language and most imports come from the mainland by cruise liner or aeroplane. The cruise liner stops by just twice a year with supplies, but also to drop off or pick up university students studying in South America. The only other way to access the island is by air on the handful of flights that are welcomed every week.
Once we were settled we went out to find the famous, sacred stone heads. As the biggest draw to the Island, we were expecting the Moai Statues to be the epitome of the Rapa Nui ancestral history, and we were not disappointed. Each statue was built as a shrine for the deceased and in tribute to the Gods, and carbon dating places them as far back as 1680 CE. Having signed for an uninsured, old and battered, rented jeep without even being asked for our driving licences, we headed off. Few roads on the island have tarmac, but the bumpy drive was not enough to distract us from the first sight of these incredible stone statues. We drove up to the beautiful Anakena beach, there standing on a large stone plinth were seven Moai statues, like Gods. The large torso’s tower over you as they stand tall and we couldn’t help but imitate their authoritative pose for the camera. Some had eroded over time but still magnificent all the same. All of the statues on the outside of the island, are facing inwards, and some legends say that these were to protect the island and its people from the stormy seas.
The Moai Statues are enough to draw in the tourists, buts it’s only when you spend a little time on this special island that you can discover just what else it has to offer. As if horseback riding and galloping across the white sands of Anakena Beach wasn’t enough, you might want to catch a few waves at Hanga Roa, the local surf spot. Divers can tick off their ‘most remote dive’ ambition in this part of the Pacific where the ocean feels truly untouched. A personal favourite of mine has to be searching the dark night sky, to see the purest constellations possibly in the world, without any tropical cloud cover you will see trillions of stunning stars gleaming back at you, a truly spectacular experience. People even say that when you head to the highest point on the Island – dormant volcano, Mount Terevaka, you can see the curvature of the earth on the horizon. With nothing for thousands of miles, the uninterrupted ocean view certainly gives you that feeling of isolation as you are so far from the civilisation of the mainland.
The Islands tropical rainforest climate means that it’s quite mild with rainfall throughout, although most comes in May. The beauty of it being so remote is that it experiences off shore winds that help keep the Island cool in the summer months. If you can time a visit with the Tapati Festival, held over two weeks in February, you won’t regret it as it’s a true way to get to know the people and history of Rapa Nui. It’s a chance for the island to get together and compete in spear throwing, horseback riding, and triathlons, even singing and dancing. It’s these kind of activities that show off the closeness of the community and make Easter Island so intriguing, if people aren’t related then they are good friends; this Island is a must on anyone’s bucket list!