Isla de Pascua

I didn’t know much about Easter Island before going there – it’s one of the few Pacific Islands I could get to on my round-the-world ticket and it has those carved stone heads. To be honest I don’t know much more about it after four days there – the stone heads are called Moai, there are fewer of them than you might imagine and the bases they stand on are called Ahu. Only a handful of the sites marked on the tourist maps with little Moai symbols actually have standing, and therefore photogenic, examples. Those you’ve probably seen photos of are at the Rana Raraku quarry where they were hewn from the rock. Almost all of the surviving Moai are found there. The symbols on the map actually signify an archaeological site, typically a jumble of stones half buried in the grass. You need a pretty good imagination to see them as the archaeologists have described them.

It’s a one-town island. Hanga Roa has the airport, a collection of souvenir shops, some tiny “supermarkets”, several car hire places, loads of restaurants and lots of tourist accommodation. It also has two diving centres. They both use speedboats to get to the dive sites, taking upto about eight divers at a time for a single dive before returning to shore. Both provide full equipment. I did a couple of dives with Orca Diving.

The first dive was at Moto Nui. The water was cold compared with Koh Tao – 20 degrees Celsius instead of 30 degrees. Ten degrees might not sound much but it makes a big difference. Even with a full 5mm wetsuit and hood I was shivering within about five minutes and sucked through my air like it was going out of fashion. But it was worth it. The water was an incredible blue and the visibility was amazing at 60+ metres. There weren’t many fish. I saw puffers, trumpet fish, long nose butterflies and several really colourful moray eels. There were lots of corals too. The second dive was at The Pyramid at Te Peu. Again the visibility was incredible, the water was cold and there were similar numbers and varieties of fish. I had planned to do five dives to get a discounted rate but decided two was enough given the water temperature. It felt strange being a paying customer and not being one of the staff, lugging equipment around and looking after the punters.

For the rest of my time on the island I hired a bicycle and explored. Outside of Hanga Roa there are just two surfaced roads and a handful of dirt roads. The dirt roads are pretty bumpy in places. I cycled and walked about 90km over three days and saw most of the island. It was a nice place to spend a few days. There are some photos in my Easter Island set at Flickr.

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