22 Jan Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Christine Misquitta – South America Travel Centre
Tavi, we might be distant cousins! And with this enthusiastic declaration to my guide, it occurred to me that perhaps, just perhaps, I had seen one too many emotion-charged episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”
To give some context, last year, a DNA test revealed that my family has a miniscule (but nonetheless, surprising) two per cent Polynesian ethnicity. And as Rapa Nui is inherently Polynesian in location and culture, my logic was – thousands of years ago, our ancestors were possibly one and the same. Baffled and bewildered though Tavi may have been, he was far too polite to discredit my questionable-at-best thought process. Instead he nodded in acknowledgement and wisely did not pursue further discussion.
At the time, we were traversing Rano Raraku’s volcanic quarry, which features Rapa Nui’s synonymous moai (the statues of ancestors bygone) at various stages of carving. There are around four hundred unfinished statues scattered across the expansive landscape – not unlike a surrealist painting. So perhaps it was the sheer magic of this south-eastern Pacific land, that made me want to find some connection – however improbable.
Beyond the moai, there are so many other reasons to visit Rapa Nui: the stunning vistas of the Orongo crater lake, the turquoise waves crashing against the coastline, the countless horses roaming freely, the astronomical significance of so many structures, the numerous petroglyphs of the Birdman cult (from a post-moai era). But possibly the most captivating reason of all, is the respect and the passion of the Rapa Nui people for their culture, their traditions, their home.
Orongo Crater Lake
Even if you are visiting simply for the one thousand known moai, you will surely not be disappointed – the scale and grandeur of both the standing and the toppled statues, the coral eyes, the red scoria topknots, the carved bodies to represent tattoos.
After my short four-day stay, I am sure I departed with more questions than answers (and not just about my ancestry!) – but I think that rather lends to the enigma that is RAPA NUI.
Read more about travelling in Chile
The word ‘desert’ usually conjures images of dust, sand and rocks, cactus and scuttling creatures and, while the Atacama Desert in northern Chile has all of the above, it also offers many unexpected surprises. Forget your preconceived ideas of a barren desert environment – Atacama is bursting with exceptional experiences just waiting for you to discover....
I had quite a few activities on my wish list for my time spent in Chile, but horse riding in Patagonia through the remarkable landscape was at the top. On my last day in Chile at Tierra Patagonia I made this wish a reality....