Well, what do they have in common you ask? Easter Island!!
Big Heads: This is the reason that most visitors go to Easter Island. These archeological attractions are famous worldwide.
Body Paint: We were lucky enough to be there during the annual two-week Tapati Festival, and we got painted from head to toe and paraded around the town!
Beautiful Beach: Though not blessed with many beaches, Easter Island has one of the best beaches that I have ever seen!
It’s great! And did you know that the reason it is called Easter Island is because it was “discovered” on Easter Sunday? In the local language it is called Rapa Nui.
Getting off the plane 3700 km west of South America on this tiny bit of land on the eastern edge of the South Pacific was quite surreal, I just could not quite believe I was there! Despite being the busiest time of the busy season it was very easy to find a place to stay as all the hostel owners with space come to the airport, and within an hour of landing we had set off by foot to explore the town.
We were lucky enough to arrive on the mid-point of the Tapati Festival and this meant free lunch! The Tapati Festival is an annual 2 week festival celebrating island culture. On the first, the middle and the final day of the festival they do a huge fish cookup and invite everyone to partake for free! After eating our free fish with our fingers from a large leaf we walked a few hundred meters and visited the first of many moais (big heads) and ahu (alters), these ones are just outside of town!
We were able to see the main sights in Easter Island in one and a half days. The easiest way to take in the sights is by rental jeep and we saw almost every important archeological sight in our 8-hour rental period. The main highlight was Rano Raraku, the birthplace of the moai. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of incomplete moai scattered around this extinct volcano. It is an amazing stop. Another highlight was Ahu Tongariki and its 15 restored moai, this sight simply demands to be photographed! The day also included several sights that haven’t been restored; most of the moai were toppled several hundred years ago by fighting between the eastern and western tribes of the island and subsequent storms and tsunamis didn’t help! We spent a second half day walking up from town to the extinct volcano Rano Kau and Orongo Ceremonial Village, the only sight on the island with an entry fee. It has petroglyphs, restored old houses and views of Rano Kau’s breathtaking crater.
So, since the sights only took up a quarter of our time there you must be asking what we did with the rest of our time in Easter Island? Jon went diving. We went surfing. We rented bicycles for a day and took a hard 19km (x2) bike ride to the most beautiful beach ever. We sat around and relaxed and read our books. And we got painted. The final Thursday of the Tapati Festival is the “big day” where everyone strips down to their birthday suits, dons a loin cloth (well, except me, I donned my bathing suit), hops in a vat of mud, gets decoration painted all over themselves, and parades around the town for several hours. This was one of the most random things I have done and it was so much fun – it was much better to be part of the parade then simply spectating!
All in all our six days in Easter Island were incredible. If you ever get the chance to go I highly recommend taking it.