April 15th, 2015


Leaving Easter Island

I got up at 0600 to do all the packing that I could before our dawn trip to Tongariki. Leaving the hotel in darkness at 0730, we reached the rope barrier before 0800. A stocky figure in the gloom declined to lower the rope until a voice from within the tent countermanded his intransigence. About a mile into the park we came across a scooter overturned in the road with a young Japanese woman crouched beside a man clutching his leg and moaning. When I asked W to use her phone as a torch the woman thought that that we were going to call for help and assured us that she had her own phone. At this point the young man sat up and, despite his discomfort, declared that he was alright and that we could leave them. It was clear that we had come upon the immediate aftermath of their fall and that his biggest problem was shock but they seemed to be rallying so we drove on to the great row of moai.

We parked our car near the big blue cladding of the travelling moai and entered the site with a small number of other photographers. Among them was our cheerful Californian. The sky was not offering much colour but I realised that the sun was casting a soft pink light on the clouds above Rano Raraku inland. I walked behind the long ahu but without a boat I could not get far enough from the platform to catch the coloured clouds behind the moai. When I rejoined W in front of the moai I saw the Japanese couple entering the site. He was walking carefully but seemed intact. Back in the car park, their scooter was badly scratched and a mirror was broken but it must have been working well enough for them to continue their journey.

We returned to Hanga Roa bidding farewell to Tongariki and to the head-strewn slopes of Rano Raraku illuminated by the warm light of the morning sun. We refuelled at the only gas station in the island. A Rapanui pump attendant filled the tank and helped me select the most coins to minimise the Chilean change that I would be carrying. The standard unleaded petrol was slightly cheaper than it would be in the UK.

We returned the car key to Estaban in a transaction as informal as our collection of the car. There were no checks, no receipts and no signatures. After a quick breakfast we finished our packing, checked out of our room, and settled our bill. Even though the flight was delayed an hour by the daylight saving change, the time of the hotel shuttle was not adjusted. It was another example of the apparent principle that the hotel was run more for the convenience of the operators than that of the guests. We were a little early and the taxi was a little late. We filled the time by exploiting the wifi in the lobby. We were unsurprised to find that our driver was the same man that had greeted us upon arrival. He was amicable but taciturn and we were soon back at the airport.

With the flight being pushed back an hour, the opening of check-in was also delayed by that amount. There was nothing to do but wait with the dozen or so other early birds. We explored the small gift shop that must have opened for just a couple of hours before each of the eleven departures every week. It was nicely stocked and W found a Hawai'ian style shirt for me bearing blue hibiscus, birdmen, and mock rongorongo text on a white ground.

The business class check in opened some minutes before economy. Having dumped our bags and obtained our boarding passes, we walked into the village along the main street with W taking photos along the way. We went down to the front, past Ahi Ahi and along to Mikafe for a sandwich, our final ice cream and coffee. After about an hour we began the return journey. On Calle Policarpo Toro we stopped to buy a third decorated pebble for my mother. Then it was up the gentle hill and back to Avenida Atamu Tekena, where my bag containing our cameras and a partial change of clothes began to feel heavy in the afternoon heat. The airport departure terminal was a veranda opening onto a verdant lawn with a shady palm tree, a moai and a large carved lizard. It was busy but it did not feel crowded. There were a few small shops selling pleasing gifts and foodstuffs at prices no higher than elsewhere on the island. Michelle was also leaving Rapa Nui on our flight so we spoke to her before I went to the public toilets to change into my clean, dry travelling clothes.

As privileged travellers we took advantage of the opportunity to board the aircraft early and we were promptly settled in our front row seats by an alert personable steward called Kurt. He served us pisco sours and nuts as the other passengers boarded. The drinks were not very good and Kurt revealed that they were from a pre-mixed bottle that he was happy to show us.

At Santiago airport we collected our bags, bade Michelle farewell, and repacked before seeking the left luggage office. We had been told that it was in international departures so we took a lift to that floor and enquired at an information desk where we were told to return to the place where we had been repacking. A very helpful friendly man shelved our big bags and we were soon aboard a public shuttle bus for the centre of town. We were very fortunate in our timing because the comfortable bus was nearly filled and about to depart. We knew that our Hotel Ibis was near Estación Central so we tracked our progress on Maps.Me. When we were nearby we spotted the Hotel Ibis on a corner and the bus stopped almost at its doorstep. The bus stop was immediately beside an open kiosk selling snacks and water. We bought a big bottle of water before entering the hotel.

A man in a waistcoat, shirtsleeves and a tie intercepted us as we entered the lobby and directed us to seating near a young women in Peruvian dress who was rummaging in her bags. The two check-in clerks in their crisp white shirts were both busy. One was helping a customer and the other seemed to be cashing up while the waistcoated man watched them both. Eventually we were called to the counter and while W handled the transaction I watched the Peruvian woman go to talk to a young man who was engrossed with the public internet terminal in the opposite corner of the lobby.

I like the Ibis chain. We were soon in a compact bright clean room on the seventh floor with everything to meet our simple needs. Before we slept I checked the shuttle bus website to establish the details of our return journey and discovered that most of the service would be suspended because of a student demonstration. This was not a big problem because we knew that taxis were cheap but W brightly observed that we need not have spent the extra £1.20 on the return portion of our ticket.