Rapa Nui or Easter Island. This was the place my father said: “You would go there also” and I replied: “I would.” Chile was the country where I stayed for the longest time during my world tour on bicycle. I’ve traveled in this country from south to north, from east to west. It wouldn’t fit not to visit this Island.
Only LATAM Airlines are flying to Easter Island departing from Santiago. There is only one flight per day but its departure time changes. I took a flight to Easter Island and returned on the same airplane after days. The distance of the Island to the main land is 3700 km based to the town Caldera in Chile. The flight takes about 6 hours. As I saw the airplane I said: “Dude, this is one of the intercontinental airplanes”. There isn’t any emblem of the airlines on the plane which is one of the early models of the intercontinental airplanes. The cabin conditioning was a central A/C system, everyone in the plane was freezing and only two movies were shown during 6 hours of flight. One of the movies were for children and the other for the adults was in Spanish without English subtitle. A flight where only a sandwich during flight to Island and a chicken salad on return were served. After the announcement of the captain: “Thank you for choosing LATAM Airlines”, I big smile spread across my face. Dude, are there any other airlines flying to the Island? If there had happen to fly other companies the prices wouldn’t be 1100 USD for sure. Well, it is not cheap to fly to the Island. For a traveler coming to South America, this is a budget for traveling in couple of countries. This is the price for South America-Turkey return flight. On top of it, the prices for accommodation, grocery shopping and restaurants are very high, much higher than that on mainland. In short, this is a very expensive Island to visit. This will be my third island experience during my world tour on bike after Bahrein and Zanzibar.
The Island was beautiful from bird’s eye view. I had arrived in the Island on the last days of the first month of spring (September 23rd, 2018). Getting off the plane the first thing I did was zipping the legs off converting my pants into shorts. It was hot and humid. This small island has the most beautiful airport I have seen so far. It is made of timber and its roof of dried plants. At the entrance original Moai’s (those famous stone statues) welcome the passengers.
It is worth to add this information: One of the two words you’ll frequently encounter in this article is Ahu: the stone platform on which the statues are displayed and Moai: the stone statue.
Since it is domestic flight you can take as much food as you want with you. Normally, it is difficult to enter Chile with food and drinks from abroad. With my friend Viviana we brought all the food and drinks we’ll need for 4 days of stay in this Island. We both had 23 kg allowance per person and our luggage weight was just at the limit. We tried to lower the cost of this travel as much as possible. Let me summarize what we did and did not do during these 4 days of island travel.
Things we did:
Cost to rent bicycle 23 USD/day/person
Cost to rent a car 50 USD/day
A dinner at a restaurant for 2 persons (pasta, fish and two glasses of spirit) 60 USD
Hotel cost for 4 days 272 USD (it is forbidden to set up tent in the Island and this was the cheapest price we could find).
National park ticket valid for 10 days you can buy at the airport which costs 80 USD for foreigners and 40 USD for Chilean citizens
Grocery shopping for 4 days 54 USD (9 L of bottled water, 14 loafs of hand size bread, 10 slices of cheese, 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, 1 paprika, 6 boxes of drink, 200 g meat)
All these make up 539 USD. For a Turkish traveler whose country suffers under economical crisis and the income over his web page is in Turkish currency this makes an impact as if 3315 USD. I wished I would pay for all these only 539 TL. Let me summarize what we undertook day per day:
First day: The airplane landed at around 2:30 p.m. We left our belongings in the hotel and went out. We went to the beach inside the city and then visited the city cemetery. I was quite tired since I had worked at the Meze restaurant in Santiago from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the last two days. Therefore, I felt too tired to walk around or do other things. I needed to rest and get energy for the next days. After strolling around for 6 km in the city we returned to the hotel. The most beautiful sun set happened on that day during those 4 days and we had missed it.
On the second day we visited the southwest of the Island and the city center on foot. During the 23 km long walk we went to Rano Kaou crater from Reinia Karo side walking through the beach climbing to Orongo. There isn’t any road or track which you have to follow using GPS coordinates. Then, after surrounding the crater we descended to Ahu Vinapu. Also, in this area there aren’t any roads or tracks but only small bushes. It is better to walk wearing pants and suitable boots. There are private lands in this region, but it is possible to walk along the fences. We entered the city from behind the airport at the end of the day. The other spots we visited during this day were:
Saint Peter Cape
Poko Poko Coast
Ahu Vai Uri
Ahu Ko te Riku
On the third day we rented 2 bicycles for 46 USD. With the bicycle a helmet is given only and not a pump nor a patch kit. In case of tire burst they come and change the bicycle. You have to keep connected to the mobile network to make a call. At the other end of the island the tire of my bicycle burst, we searched for mobile network signal and called the company, after 30 min they came and changed the bicycle. An extra payment was not required. The other rental companies also don’t give you a patch kit but neither don’t show up to change your bicycle. We were even told if we would tire burst to walk back to the city. I asked the owner why they don’t give a patch kit. He told me that they were giving a patch kit before which were not returned afterwards. “Then ask 6000 pesos for the patch kit costing 3000 pesos when renting a bicycle and return the money if the customer returns the patch kit. If not, you are still 3000 pesos in advance.” The look of the employee was “Dude, why didn’t I think of that” look. In a day we rode 68 km, climbing 922 m on the total and on top of it we walked for 11 km. To which spots we could go in one day riding a bike:
Ahu Huri Aurenga
Puna Pau (The mountain where the hats of the Moai’s were carved)
Ahu Hanga Poukura
Ahu Koe Koe
Ahu Runga Vae
Ahu Vai Moai
Ahu Tu’tu Tahi
Ahu One Makihi
Ahu Tonjariki (The famous Moai)
Rano Raraku (The crater where the stone statues were constructed)
Hiro’s Trumpet (The place where the petroglyphs were found)
Ahu Nau Nau (The famous Moai)
Ahu Aure Huki (The famous Moai)
Anakena beach (The most beautiful beach on the Island)
After this point we returned to the city. Since we’d rented the bicycle the night before at 7:30 p.m. to watch the sun set at Ahu Vai Uri, we had to return it during the day till 7:30 p.m. After riding 68 km, we returned to the shop just on time. Viviana was all in after the two days of bicycle performance. She was unable to talk due to tiredness and every inch of her body was aching. Well, the possibility for us to return to this Island is quite small. Since we are here, it is a must to visit every corner of the Island. I felt pity for her.
On the fourth day Viviana said this had to be the rest day and rented a car. But it didn’t come out that way. This time we drove on side roads which we couldn’t ride on by bicycle and once again walked for 17 km off road.
Ahu Vai Teka
Ahu Hanga Pakurna
Ahu Hanga Te’e
Ahu Tutahi (On the way to this place there were 1-2 intact Moai’s, in the wilderness)
Hare Moa (In this area there is a cave. Around Tonjariki there is another Moai much better in the shape compared to the Moai under protection but since it was not a touristic destination it was not put under protection, you can inspect it closely)
Ahu Mahatua (After this place there is a real hill walk. First you come to small ruins called Taheta and then on the top there are two caves. There is no track, you walk among the bushes. Interestingly, inside the small cave there is the lower body of a Moai. There aren’t any signs around)
Ahu Tau A Ure
The end of the day caught us at Anekana beach.
Back in the city we went to Ahu Ko Te Riku and visited a school called Toki Rapa Nui. In 2016 or 2017 our Chile Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed to the music school opened for girls. Well, I got surprised learning that we supported a girls’ music school located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at the other end of the world. Congratulations.
Whenever we find an opportunity, we should do such things, it is an important issue for the new generation living in our country and abroad. By the way, this school is close to the Ko Te Riku statue. Upon to the story, the king had declared this area for artisanship where pottery and instruments of that period were produced. This school was built close to this area, I must say somewhere outside the city. This school is not only supported by Turkey but also by other countries. This is a music school possessing organic agricultural fields equipped with green energy.
On the fifth day, since our airplane was departing at noon, lastly, we visited the Anthropology Museum and then walked for 5 km. This was the end of our island adventure, but we were also done.
We had walked 65 km, had ridden 68 km on bike and driven 75 km on the island.
It is possible to walk around the whole Island and set up tent illegally by just paying that 10 days valid national park entrance fee. I have heard that a couple of travelers did this.
Things we didn’t do in the Island.
Renting motorbike 25 USD/day
Watching the dance show of Rapa Nui people; with dinner 80 USD, only show 30 USD
Scuba diving 30 USD/30 min
A one-hour tour on horse, I didn’t ask the price.
Renting canoe at different places on the Island.
Guide, we didn’t hire
Till now, I only told about how to go to the Island, what to do on the Island and what we did, shortly.
On the other hand, I want to write about other issues related to the Island. While writing about those issues I would like to remind my dear readers also that:
Gurkan Genc has graduated from the communication faculty, attended certificated programs related to communication; was professionally involved in basketball, volleyball, swimming and snowboard; conducted his military service at gendarmerie commend in Çatalca, Istanbul; after working for several companies established a food company and then handed over everything to travel around the world on bike. Traveling for 8 years the world inches by inches on bike, he has traveled in 56 countries so far meeting with the people, statesmen, press workers and athletes. He is a Turkish citizen reading e-books, making researches and writing for the last 7 years. He has not taken granted for being a traveler, writer, photographer, cameraman or a cyclist! Why did I write this? When writing about details related to this Island or other places, I make use of the knowledge, experiences, human relations and learning outcomes from other factors I have gained throughout the years which I try to share with my own interpretation and point of view. It is not possible that everyone has the same interpretation about the same places. It is quite normal that travelers having their own point of views, having different knowledge about the issues or having different imaginations end in a different interpretation. I never say: “No, it is not like that but like this” for the opinions and observations of other travelers visiting the same region. Well, others may say for my posts for years, I don’t care. I leave the sentence which I would have pronounced for such people to the imagination of my dear friends.
The first research publications about Easter Island discovered in 1722 were released in 1850. The last volcano eruption had occurred 40 000 years ago and the first 3 million years ago. According to some researchers, this Island was occupied for 3000 years and according to others only 2000 years. People reading and researching about world history would know what has happened during last 100 years, 30 of which I have personally experienced and the knowledge about this Island is only 170 years old. That is very new… The knowledge is nothing more than the carbon age tests performed on different figures and statues, scientists listening to the memories of natives learning their native language and memories and observations of explorers.
On present day assumptions and theories related to this Island are still argued. Almost all related to the social life in the Island told by the guides are mythologic. They had used trees to carry the stones, they were cannibal, etc., etc. But none of these were completely proofed yet. The scientists say that they won’t be able to prove! The scientists shared their opinions and the ones performing the carbon tests tried to explain their results as scientifically as possible. Also, the explorers had shared their memories. Let me share my own view.
As I have mentioned above, there aren’t any written records related to the history of the Island. The largest area where the biggest petroglyphs are found is on the north west of the Island in Papa Vaka.
Scientists say that the Moai’s (deified statues) were representing the ancestors of the natives, increase the abundance of sea food, protect the natives and increase the productivity of the agricultural fields. I’m writing “they say”, because the scientists cannot state what happened exactly or why the stone statues were carved in the Island yet.
For example, the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl set sail from Lima, Peru in 1947with his raft Kon Tiki built using the same equipment which would have been by the natives in the Island claiming that: “Polynesians have migrated from South America”. His raft is exhibited in the museum in Oslo which I had visited during my world tour on bike. I had mentioned in my Norway article that it was a good example of what can be achieved believing that it is possible. The distance of Easter Island to the mainland is 3700 km. Thor and his crew had sailed for 101 days on the Pasific Ocean covering 4300 nautical miles and arrived at Raroia belonging to the Polynesian Islands. If he would sail to Easter Island, he would arrive in 54 days. I advise you to watch the movie Kon Tiki. In 1955 Thor flies to Easter Island and takes some small Moai’s to his country Norway. In his researches on this Island he says: “The natives of this Island had come from South America and the people had used trees to carry or push the stone statues”.
I agree to Thor, I also think that the natives of the Island have relation to Peruvian people. I haven’t visited Peru yet, but I have seen photos of the ancient constructions and the stone workmanship in Peru for years. The placement of stone blocks on top of each other neatly so that even a piece of paper won’t fit in between are well known. The same can be seen here. The platforms are called Ahu. We can’t see the same stone workmanship in Australia, Japan and North America. Why I gave these countries as example, because they are the closest destinations the ancient Polynesian would have gone. It is possible to see this workmanship in an area covering Chile in South America and starting from the north of Argentine in Central America. On the other side, I don’t agree with Thor in that trees were used to transfer the statues. Many people also say that the natives have deforested in the Island to carve the stones and carry the statues.
Czech engineer and archeologist P. Pavel proposed in 1982: “The stone statues were carried using ropes” and researched for many years experimenting. (By the way, Pavel being inspired by the voyage of Thor years after conducting such experiments, taking him as example is the amazing side of the story. The courage of a scientist affects other scientists. Exhibition of the bicycle of a Turk traveling around the world used during his Turkey-Japan travel in Koc Museum in Ankara is just therefore meaningful.)
This Island was explored 292 years ago, and researches related to this Island started to appear 168 years ago. As I have mentioned above there is no written history of the Island. The only ruins of dwellings remaining to this period are found in Orongo at Rano Kau. As far as I asked to the guides and the natives and what I have read so far, there aren’t any other constructions in the Island. I must admit that I found this strange. The Near East people of the same period being as skilled as good as the natives in this Island in stone carving had built dwellings. I had long walks around a closed area approved as an archeological site.
This area was outside touristic destination, there was no road reaching. But you could see overturned Moai (stone statute) closely. For years I have been visiting archeological sites and examining the stone constructions. I also read research papers related to the constructions on the area I’m visiting. Thanks to Nuzhet Turker from Mersin University, she has sent me about 10 theses related to this subject. I think that there are other constructions 500 m apart from the sea side inside the island. The post-earthquake and -erosion images of the constructions of the people mastering stone carving in the Middle East living in a period of B.C. were the same as the images of the stones in the area I was walking around. It may be a coincidence. Though it seemed nonsense, German archeologists had conducted researches on what those constructions might be found in that area in Middle East. Furthermore, while examining a couple of photos I had taken on my laptop, my opinion on this issue became clearer. Although many scientists claim that: “There weren’t any big constructions on the Island but only stones”, I believe that there are other constructions in the Island. These islanders were great stone carvers and possessed the necessary construction material.
I found the completely absurd the argument that the Island was deforested for those stones from the beginning on. If you take a closer look to islands society, you’ll observe high amount of genetic disorders. I had got informed about this issue in Bahrein and crosschecked in Zanzibar from a doctor. How many women and men had managed to reach the Island thousands of years ago? There isn’t any knowledge about this issue. It is said that for those stones to be carved at least 10 000 and at most 17 000 people are required. How to feed such a big society? Agricultural fields were required.
Since the leader of the community on the Island wouldn’t have said: “The population increased too much, from now on all people should start use condoms!”, there was a need for food in the Island. Consumption of sea foods or other animals around such a small island, might had affected the ecological balance of the surroundings. What they had done? They had cut the trees on the Island for new agricultural fields, for more production. Well, affecting this balance, cutting the trees resulted in other reverse effects on the ecosystem: the birds migrated, then the number of insects and worms increased and all together this affected the productivity of the agricultural fields. A situation of over-egging the pudding. I think that the crew of the French warship setting feet on the Island in 1722 after sailing for months didn’t bring peace to the Island. I think the male population was killed by weapons and the female population raped. Also, it is assumed that with the warship new diseases arrived in the Island which I’m also of the same opinion. But, as I already mentioned at the beginning, another situation was also prevailing, genetic disorder in the Island.
The Moai’s found around Rana Raraku, the production area of the statues on the Island, had been carved by the workers and randomly placed around the hill before taken to their end destination. But carving works hadn’t been completed and they were never taken to anywhere else. Besides this, all the Maoi’s placed on Ahu’s were facing to the inside of the Island but only one to a different direction. Well, the story starts there..
I asked to one of the officials in the Island: “Why don’t you put the Maoi’s under better protection, they all got ruined due to erosion and getting worse from year to year. There are many other Maoi’s in much better conditions, but you left them as they are and there isn’t any restoration work.” The answer was clear and sharp: lack of resources. Of course, the best preserved Moai is Hoa Hakananai’a housed in British Museum. Easter Island people want the British Museum to return the Moai. But it is impossible to house this giant statue in the museum in the Island. If they place it outdoor, it will soon start to ruin. There won’t any stones remain to visit in the future. Let’s say this way, the Island people try to save the day. By the way, the Island people fight for independence from Chile.
While going on my research and writing this article I notice something (I’m stopping telling at this point). The pieces start to fit in the puzzle and a documentary flows in front my eyes, but this is not a movie scene I’d watched before or a situation I’d seen before. At the end of the movie, I asked myself: “Could this theory be true?”. I call my team mate Enes Sensoy and tell him about this. Enes starts to study. “Gurkan you caught a very interesting detail, I’m researching on this.” After one hour he returns with interesting data. We both said “whoa” on the phone and added a couple of swear words. Enes: “Gurkan, I like it very much, when you mention to me with such interesting things.” He repeated this several times. Hahaha. Then I sent a message about the things we found and our theory to Professor Nuzhet Turker one of my team mates. “Hocam (my teacher in Turkish), I have such a theory and we found this working with Enes Sensoy. I didn’t read anything like this on the theses you had sent to me. Could you have a look whether there is such a relationship like this or not?”. Hocam makes a brief search and then returns to me: “Gurkan, it seems nobody made such a connection. Deepen in your research. Your theory makes sense but need to deepen your research. Then we can write about this and send to related authorities”. I say “Alright hocam” and we drop the subject.
And we start to make small researches with Enes Sensoy. We don’t know whether we’ll come up to a conclusion, but this is what I like to do at most: Traveling while discovering, the way like this. Enes will find out nice routes for me as we did before… I’ll tell the rest of the story, en route. This is my way of traveling for years, nothing has changed yet…
I’m continuing on my journey towards North America… You may click on “trace online” on the main page to see where I’m currently. Warm regards