Chile, Easter Island
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Rapa Nui: Come for the Heads, Stay for the Everything Else

We’ve gushed a bit about Rapa Nui (better known as Easter Island, but we’re not down with slave names) in previous posts, but allow us to continue unabated. We loved Rapa Nui. Of all the places we’ve been thus far, it’s the place we’re both happiest we included on our itinerary.

A quick detour: Some of you might be wondering about the logistics of our trip, a topic about which MacKenzie is happy to digress at length but, like, email her if you’re interested so it’s not that thing where two people at a dinner party talk about the TV show that only they watch. Suffice to say that we’re traveling on a ‘round-the-world ticket offered by the OneWorld alliance. The fare is based on the country where you start and the number of continents visited (in our case, four), and from there the only “extras” are taxes and fees imposed by various countries and airlines. So it’s essentially the same price to fly from Santiago to Buenos Aires as it is to fly from Santiago to Rapa Nui, which is a huge boon as getting to Rapa Nui is normally very expensive.

Expensive, but incredibly worth it. Part of the reason the experience is so magical is that since the island is a ways away, even if you’re traveling from the western South America coast, there aren’t as many tourists tramping around as there would be otherwise. Plus the tourists who do make it are largely the types of people who can afford to make the trip, so you see a lot of tour groups of white retirees in quick dry pants. But what that means is that if you’ve rented wheels and are doing your own thing, you can drive across the island and not come across another soul for long stretches of time. That, combined with the jaw-dropping beauty quotient, makes for an incredible encounter.

We were going to rent an SUV, but you couldn’t see our helmets inside the Jimmy.

With all the focus on the moai (the heads), people sort of forget that Rapa Nui is situated in the South Pacific and is a tropical island paradise. On the north side of the island you can pick between a perfect beach with white sand at Anakena and a perfect beach with pink sand at Ovahe. The ocean is bath temperature. The whole coastline (and you could easily cover all of it—or all of it that is paved—in a day) is stunning, with cliffs of volcanic rock and crazy surf action. IOHO, the beach landscapes that we saw in Koh Lanta, Thailand do not hold a candle to Rapa Nui.

Oh, did we mention the wild horses? It’s some serious Misty of Chincoteague shit. Grazing in the grass alongside the road, running in a herd across a distant hillock, standing in your path staring at you with their big beautiful horsefaces—they’re everywhere, and if they don’t bring out your inner 9-year-old Horse Girl, you are most certainly made of stone.

Like the moai (see what we did there?). The beaches, the isolation, the wild horses, and the millions of stars at night would be reason enough to visit, in our book. But of course you’ve also got the insane cultural element with dozens of moai just littered around the island. All the moai were carved at one location, Rano Raraku, and then transferred to other parts of the island. How? Great question. And some of the moai wear topknots/fancy hats that are made of red stone. Those were carved at a completely different quarry. Visiting Rano Raraku is a must since the moai there, unlike all the others on the island, which are neatly perched on platforms, sprout from the ground. The feeling you get there is not unlike the type of eerie, sacred vibe that permeates impressive old churches/mosques/synagogues.

Other things, both factual and experiential:

-The moai used to have eyes made of white coral and black obsidian, materials which, unlike the volcanic rock used for the bodies, did not stand the test of time.

-There’s a particular type of tuna that can only be caught in the waters around Rapa Nui. It is delicious, and we recommend you eat it both in ceviche form and in the tuna and cheese empanadas at Tia Berta.

-A server in Santiago described Rapa Nui men as “babykillers,” which seemed really racist until context clues suggested he meant “ladykillers.”

-A local saved MacKenzie from herself when she went to buy beers, opting, as she is wont to do, for the local microbrew. “Turista?” the woman behind her in line asked. “Si…” “Those are muy mal.”

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