04 June 2020
The primary flight routes to Easter Island are either coming from Papeete in French Polynesia (4200 km / 5.5 hours flight) or from Santiago de Chile in Chile (3700 km / 5 hours flight). The remoteness of the island became apparent during the trip to Hanga Roa, the central city of Rapa Nui. Even the lowest zoom level of the live inflight map would show only a red track on blue water. There was no continental outline or other features on the map. The South American continent started slowly to appear only towards the end of the flight when the map zoomed out.
After hours flying over the water, the excitement was big when I spotted the first glimpse of the little speck of land where our plane landed. I found it remarkable to locate such a tiny remote island in the vast Pacific Ocean even in times of GPS.
So I unboarded the plane with my most profound respect for the ancient inhabitants. They were navigating in small boats between the islands in the Polynesian triangle without today's technology.
Most tourists stay two to three days on the island - depending on the flight times. This duration gives plenty of time to explore all of the island. However, I decided to stay a week because Easter Island was what I expected it to be: A relaxing mix of culture, hiking, and exploring.
A significant portion of the island is the volcanic crater, Rano Raraku. On the crater's sides, there is a quarry where the statues, called Moai, have initially been crafted. Today, quite many unfinished Moai are still present in this quarry. How these statues got transported from the quarry to the seafront is still a mystery these days. Another mystery is the apparent lack of trees on Rapa Nui. Scientists still debate the era of the disappearance of the trees.
The Birdman's island (Tangata Manu) was the scene of the same-named religion. The central cult was an egg hunt on these small islands, which was quite dangerous because many contestants were attacked by sharks or falling from the cliffs. The clan of the first man bringing back an intact egg to the main island would be granted some exclusive rights, such as gifts or harvesting privileges. This birdman cult has been in place until the mid 19th century.