|Easter Island arrival. Preparing the anchor|
Having stood watch for many stunning daybreaks, I have grown to love the slow lightening of the sky and the sharpness of the sun's first rays. None of these mornings compare to watching the sun rise on Easter Island after fifteen days at sea. It appeared first as a dark landmass, hardly different from the clouds, but larger and higher than I expected. We sailed towards Hanga Roa on a broad reach in calm seas and I sat alone on the cabintop watching the green undulating hills and eroded cliff faces define themselves. I could see trees disfigured by constant wind on the slopes and the spray of waves hitting those dark, porous lava rocks we grew accustomed to in the Galapagos. I watched the sunrise by myself knowing that Max's sleep was too precious even for this sight. I still peeked through the port at him every five minutes to see if he was stirring. When he woke up and tried to come up I blocked the way, covered his eyes and yelled nothing to see out here captain, nothing to see, until he pushed me aside and looking at the view, letting out a sound of astonishment. I know! I said, It's amazing! Max suggested that I make breakfast, the duty of the dawn watchman, but I refused, saying I would never give up this view to be below deck making oatmeal. I got two granola bars, filled up the coffee thermos, and we sat together staring at the approaching coastline.
|Easter Island's mountain tops become visible at dawn|
|Max and I watching the coast line float by as we head into port|
|There is nothing like coffee and landfall|
Hanga Roa is the only port in Isla de Pascua, more appropriately called Rapa Nui by the indigenous tribe who very much own the essence of this island. It's amazing that their creative, deep traditions could be altered easily by the white guy who showed up on a day that happened to be Easter and renamed the island. We arrived the day after Thanksgiving. So what? The town looked clean cut beneath rolling cumulus clouds and crisp air. We could see a few cars going by, restaurant terraces beckoning in the sun, lines of matte black Maoi heads, and then a tremendous, humbling surf breaking in turquoise and white foam. The main anchorage is not ideal as it is in 85ft of water with no shelter from the pacific swell. We radioed in and were received and even offered a free mooring. For those non-salts reading, a mooring equals a sharp decrease in stress.Government placed moorings don't
|Our anchorage in Hanga Roa|
Our first trip in to Hanga Roa in our fodable dingy and little Tohatsu engine was the most terrifying experience of the trip so far. Our nearest brush with disaster. We couldn't even see the entrance between the lines of rollers and surfers in wet suits bobbing like sleek black seals. We only knew there must be one. A fisherman, in a long, heavy boat zoomed by an waved us in. He had long hair in a bun and a curly dark beard: the common aesthetic of the Rapa Nui man. He waved us in and pointed to his wake, so we fell in and followed. We quickly realized how incredibly slow we are in comparison as he disappeared around the corner. At least we knew the way in. I was busy looking over the town trying to decide which lovely terrace was deserving of our first beer, when I saw a heavy swell coming towards us. That wave is going to crush us, I said to Max. There was nothing to do but resign ourselves to the fate. We were going swimming. I imagined two weeks of boat garbage unleashed into one of the world's most pristine surf spots. Max imagined something more practical- how we would get anywhere without the computer that was on my back. The wave hit, breaking
|Max braving the surf after having perfected our entry method|
|After the terrifying rollers, Max ties up next to a Maoi|
The town of Hanga Roa is an easy-going paradise. The Rapa Nui are stunningly beautiful, happy, and kind. The kids are all little surfers running around town barefoot, their waist length hair tangled and ending in bleached brown curls. The women wear flowers in their hair and the older men wear ornamental necklaces. Most bodies are decorated with traditional tatoos of tribal designs inked precisely over shoulders defined by a dedication to surfing or long circulating tattoos winding around thighs and torsos. Something written out in Rapa Nui hyroglyphs. The Rapa Nui flag, white with a red curved image of two heads looking up, is omnipresent. We literally laughed all the way to the bank on our first walk through town, reminiscing about the dingy entrance, stunned by our luck. We found a terrace for our first beer and, looking over the menu, shuddered at the cost of things. I was sure that Max had the exchange rate wrong. In the end, the exchange was 650 pesos to the dollar, and an appetizer at a middle of the road place was 11,000 pesos. Town is very expensive, but there are a few gems that we found.
|One of many street food options available in Hanga Roa|
There's a sandwich place right in town where two guys make amazing food while blasting 90s hip hop and alternating breaks to share a joint they kept outside. The tables are saw mill cut boards hanging from the braided palm frond roof. We ate a fresh Tuna sandwich big enough for two that cost 7000 pesos, then ordered another of beef with onions and cheese with a fried egg on top. Unlike in other restaurants, where a waiter may approach and say, how is everything this evening?, in that false tone, our waiter, bopping his head to the music with heavy eyelids simply makes the Rapa Nui hand signal, thumb and pinkie out, twitching back and forth. The gesture is returned to convey that your dinning experience is satisfactory. He smiles, genuinely happy. The restaurant faces a large rugby field, the focal point of the town, that hosted a tournament for the Polynesians Islanders during our stay. We spent many sunsets there eating grilled meat kabobs for 3000 pesos and watching the games. People went by in cars, on scooters, or bare back on horses, but overall town is quiet except for the tremendous crash of the surf.
Up the main street a little more is Restaurant Chez Ramon where empanadas big enough to make you skip dinner are made to order by Ramon. His restaurant is tiny and nested into a vibrant garden of tropical flowers. He goes about his cooking thoughtfully and slowly, bringing little snacks to hold you over. Ramon has a big heart and an affinity for sailors so much so that this became our home base. We filled all our water jugs there, placed a very economical vegetable order through him, and ate many of his fresh Tuna and cheese empanadas. Ramon can do your laundry for less, rent you a car for less, and really get anything a cruiser may need, for less. If we ever did anything through anyone else, he would admonish us and say, why didn't you ask me?
The remainder of the island provides vast landscapes of partly cloudy skies, green hills, and a coastline of lava rock formations being battered by waves. We drove around the entire perimeter in a couple hours. We climbed to the top of crater edges to peer at lagoons below, visited the ruins of ceremonial grounds, and stopped at many sites of toppled Maoi. The tour gets more dramatic as you continue from Hanga Roa around to the east, leading to the "Maoi workshop" where you can see the sculptures in all stages of production, some half carved out of a cliff face, and other toppled and rolling downhill. This site is halfway up a dramatic crater that rises suddenly from green fields where horses gallop in herds through the bent over grasses with the turquoise sea in the distance, darkening towards the horizon. I am not joking; it's that pretty. Towards the end of our road trip, we found the famous site of the 15 Maoi lined up at the edge of the sea. The site is as amazing as the cliffs and coastline that surround it. You will want to sit and stare for a long time noticing the slight differences between each of the 15 carvings and try to comprehend the scale of everything you are looking at. We sat in the grass and recycled the same conversation we had all week. I can't believe we are here. I can't believe we sailed here. and from Kingston.
|View from ceremonial town at the southwest of the island|
|Our off-road rental car|
|Laura at the edge of volcanic crater|
We are preparing to leave Easter Island today and will spend one more night at anchor, casting off after breakfast tomorrow, December 1. This evening we will take a group of local kids sailing. We are not sad to leave. There is too much to look forward to. The anchorage here is dreadfully uncomfortable at times, dingy approaches leave our hands shaking and hearts racing, and town is just too expensive. Sometimes, just moving around the boat at anchor is a challenge. The hose on the mooring line chafed through and the boat looked like a giant shook it up every time we returned. Out of the six nights we spent at anchor, about half were peaceful with long dinners and bright orange sunsets. This island and people have nested themselves quite permanently in our hearts and we are thankful. For the opportunity to visit such a distant and special place, for the fishermen in feathered head dresses and Adidas hoodies who leave part of their catch on our decks and give me rides, for the little kids riding 12 foot waves like it's no big thing, and for the people who covered these hills in monoliths that remind me of something I am not wise enough to understand or articulate.