Riding Rapa Nui

Many of you may have seen my pictures on FaceBook, now here's the full story about my trip to Rapa Nui. I'm going to try and do it in just a few long chapters.

I was recently at a loose end in Santiago (Chile) when I had finished leading a group through northern Chile, Bolivia and Peru. I found myself looking out westaward across the Pacific Ocean, on the far side of this vast body of water is New Zealand and Australia but somewhere in between is a tiny pinprick of land - Rapa Nui (Easter Island) a volcanic island which is the most remote place inhabited by people on the planet.

The call of a remote place is just too irresistible for me and I found myself on a plane flying out over the Pacific in the hope that I'd find a motorbike of some sort that I could ride and explore this smudge of a place.
It's about a six hour flight from Chile, endless hours of ocean and then suddenly the island appears.

yep - volcanic with a rocky and rugged coastline.
The island is about 64 square miles, and has a total population of about 5,000 people, most of whom are Rapa Nui - original Polynesian inhabitants. The island is the most far-flung of the Polynesian group which stretches west to New Zealand and as far north as Hawaii.
The island is called Rapa Nui as is the language and the people who have been here for over 2000 years.

We call it Easter Island because it was Easter Sunday that a European first arrived here - he obviously wasn't the most imaginative of people. For hundreds of years it remained very isolated - and we're talking VERY isolated, just one ship a year used to call in with post and supplies. This was until the 1960s when the US was looking around for escape routes for the Space Shuttle. They spotted this remote island in the middle of the ocean and built a large runway - which they never used.

So from having outsiders arrive just once a year by boat the island now has almost daily flights to the mainland thousands of miles away.

I was met by Elias, my couch-surfing host, who had turned up on his scooter

He presented me with a lei (flower garland), a traditional way of greeting visitors and guests. We actually didn't travel from the airport on the scooter as I had a big bag and there were also two other people on my
flight who were being hosted by him so we bundled into a taxi and headed to his house.

Walking from his house down to the coast, I immediately see my first Moai

The giant stone heads which Rapa Nui is famous for, there are hundreds of them dotted around the island.

On my first day, I headed out on foot exploring, and walking into town. Photos don't usually show how windy it is, but this one does...

My hair seems to have a mind of its own, feeling the strength of the wind and looking around me at the cragginess of the volcanic rock, I was beginning to realise that riding a bike here might not be the easiest thing to do.

Further along I spotted my first horse

It was the first of many, this one obviously has an owner, but there are literally thousands of wild horses roaming the island - hmm, another possible biking peril.
The next horse I spotted wasn't quite as hale and hearty

Just the skeleton remained where it had fallen on rocks at the sea's edge. Next up were the human remains - the local graveyard, I've never seen graves like the stony one before.

For a short walk, there was plenty to see, as further on smoke was billowing around, I went to get a closer look, and found a group of locals with a buried bonfire, pile of vegetables and stack of banana leaves. They had created an underground oven using hot stones to cook food, the meat and fish had already gone in I'd arrived just in time to see the finishing touches

The careful placing of the veggies and the final stones followed by the leaves to trap the heat in and create steam to cook the food.

I return to the house to find Elias, my host preparing a distinctly non-vegetarian meal!

A large tuna on the chopping board, he was preparing his signature dish - ceviche. Raw fish marinated in lemon juice, with onions, chillies and herbs added. There are five of us in the house, and as I'm a vegetarian that means just four people to eat all that fish.

I just can't get enough of these heads - known as Moai, they are everywhere, some with fancy hats...

And this is the back view

It's like a compulsive disorder that I've got my camera clicking every time I see some Moai- similar to me and the llamas in South America, and who could forget the chameleons in Madagascar...

I reined in my Moai fetish for long enough to go in search of a bike, and found one

A Honda XR 250 - AKA the Tornado, as it is sold under its Latin American name due to the fact that Easter Island is part of Chile. Plenty of Spanish being spoken in amongst the Rapa Nui here.

It's fun to be back on a bike, though a bit different from the one I was on last week (does this cue for a completely gratuitous BMW/Volcano shot??) I think maybe After all it IS my Ride Report

So I'm now on this tiny Pacific island on a bike that is about a quarter size of the one above, but I'm having a lot of fun

The roads are quiet

And with my own set of wheels I can get to see even more heads - or moai as they are called.