And so, our time on Rapa Nui has come to an end. In fact, so has this entire trip, to Chile, the southern tip of Argentina, the Antractic Pensinsula, the Orkneys, South Georgia and the Falklands too. Experientially, this must have been our best ever holiday. Nowhere else have we been so astounded, and seen so much that is new.
This map, by Eric Gaba (see citation below), had red spots to show the sites we visited. It also shows the approximate location of our Explora Hotel.
Getting back to Rapa Nui, our fabulous guide, Ata, dwelled on the past, as he was probably paid and expected to do, and didn't show us much of the current Rapa Nui. In retrospect, we should probably have spent another day on Rapa Nui - the Explora Hotel was certainly pleasant enough! - so we could walk around the town of Hanga Roa and visit the marina, to see what present day Rapa Nui is like, and also to relax a bit and better enjoy the hotel facilities!
Is there anywhere else in the world that is more remote than Rapa Nui, or whose history is so interesting but shrouded in mystery? For these reason alone, this little volcanic island is worth a visit. We are very pleased to understabd that the restoration projects undertaken by William Mulloy and Claudio Cristino and others from 1955 have reawakened the Rapa Nui population's self-esteem and pride in their vital contribution to Polynesian history, and, apparently, transformed the island and its place in the world.
This reinvention seems to have led to the annual Tapati Festival, organised "by locals for locals", as a celebration of Rapa Nui's past. We just missed this Festival - it was held from 29Jan - 14Feb 2016, finishing barely a day or two before our arrival. The Festival, which would be wonderful to see, consists of a variety of locally relevant traditional events such as Haka Pei, where contestants slide down a steep hill at treacherous speeds, 80km/hr, on banana trunks. There is horse racing (apparently the gaucho style of riding from South America is popular), a triathlon (run, swim, canoe), and dance competitions. For Tapati, the populace splits into two clans representing the divisions of the original Polynesian arrivals. Fortunately, the destructive competition between clans of the past is replaced by peaceful endeavours which must, for Rapa Nui, be akin to nation building.
Two posters seen at the Explora. The '94 poster may be a reference to a movie that year. The other poster is for the annual Tapati cultural festival, organised "by locals for locals".
And our visit causes us to reflect on the anthropogenic environmental disaster that caused Rapa Nui society to fail in the mid 1700's. Irrational competition to produce ever-larger mo'ai so diminished resources on Rapa Nui destroyed tree species to the extent that the natives could not build canoes for fishing. The absence of trees degraded the topsoil and farming failed. The island could not sustain itself. Overpopulation was the result and led to isurrection and clan wars, mo'ai were toppled in huri mo'ai, and the population was reduced to a fraction. Is this behaviour any different to what is happening in our society today, where city developers seem to prevail over saner heads seeking less growth and sustainable solutions? Where never-ending growth is the target regardless of a finite planet? Where money rules over science? What have we learned? Are we any better?
View over Hanga Roa and Mataveri airport. The airport was improved by NASA so it could be available for possible Pacific rescue missions from its space program.
Back to Santiago, then the Qantas QF28 flight home presumably followed a Great Circle from Santiago (SCL) to Sydney (SYD) to minimise the distance flown. This route sent us way down south towards Antarctica, and south of New Zealand, as confirmed by the Flight Map on the plane's entertainment system when viewed at various times. We never saw Antarctica from the window because, apart from trying to sleep, we were probably a bit too far north and it was very cloudy anyway.
Spectacular view of Chilean volcano from QF28 as we headed south on the great circle route to Sydney.
Rapa Nui map By Eric Gaba (Sting), translated by Bamse - Own work. Shorelines, ponds, roads, trails and airport drawn using Landsat 7 ETM+ imagery (public domain);Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3v2) (public domain);Main references used for the toponymy:prof. William Mulloy's map (easier to read here);Pacific Island Travel map (http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/easter_island/about_destin/isla_de_pascua.jpg);, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2940588