Saturday, January 03, 2009

I'll have a Moai Christmas without you...

I love Christmas in Canada. I know it's over-commercialized and kind of stressful at times, but the decorations, excited kids, xmas baking... can't get enough of that festive spirit. I usually start listening to Christmas tunes in November to ensure a full month of it all.

However, this year I opted to stay in sunny South America for a warm winter and it's just so expensive to fly home. In fact, Santiago has been so hot and summery, that when I noticed Starbucks serving gingerbread frapuccinos and playing Bing Crosby 'Let it Snow', I almost fell over. The next few weeks continued to show American-style decorations, including an enormous Coca-Cola Christmas tree across from La Moneda, the government building (chileans are the biggest coke consumers in the world), but nothing felt like Christmas to me. I knew it was going to be difficult without family at that special time and there wasn`t much work for me, so I booked myself a ticket to Rapa Nui, otherwise known as Easter Island... 4000 miles west in Polynesia, though considered part of Chile.

I arrived Christmas eve, after a long week of work and saying good-byes to students, etc. The only thing in the town open was an internet cafe so I called home where they were watching old home videos, and, I suspect, eating mom`s fudge, Chandra`s cookies, or Aunt Lorraine`s poppycock. What I would have done to be there with them... munching on one of mom's butter tarts... despite it being -30 in Saskatchewan.

After crying myself to sleep, I woke up remembering I was on a beautiful island and probably saved myself 20 extra pounds this year.

I stayed in family-run hostel, where there was only one other guest. At breakfast we were invited to go the beach with the family. The island isn't that big.. only 30 km long and 12 km wide, but the beaches are at the other end of the island so we took the opportunity since there wasn`t much else happening Christmas day. I had forgotten to bring a towel, so searched the few shops that were open for a sarong to use. The island is super expensive.. they really know how to capitalize on tourists. I finally found one fairly reasonably priced and just the right size in a bright shade of sky blue.

Unfortunately, the hostel owners,who have four little girls all under 4, were in the midst of a domestic dispute when the the time came to leave. My fellow traveler and I waited uncomfortably nearby and eventually went with only the disgruntled dad.
My new friend, Kaethe, is sitting in front of my first-seen set of moais on the ahu platform near Anakena beach... what an amazing thing to look at when floating in the water. It was terribly hot that day so spent a great deal of time in the water then laid on the beach with a good book. Ah Christmas! After a couple of heavenly hours, while reapplying sunscreen to my gringa skin, I discovered a strange shade of blue on my stomach. Upon further inspection, it turned out my whole body and clothes were covered in blue dye from my reasonably-priced sarong. It certainly didn't spoil my day, but I did spend several hours later trying to rinse out the sarong and scrub it off myself. In fact, it took 3 days to lose it off my hands. I literally had a 'blue' Christmas.

I went to church, but missed the mass later on. There were beautiful wood carvings and fresh flowers making it smell wonderful.

There is still a lot of mystery pertaining to these gigantic statues, including how they were erected. They're made out of volcano rock and the tallest one is 33 feet and weighs almost 30 tonnes.
Kaethe had rented a car so invited me along the next day to tour the island and check them all out.

This one is my favourite. It's been restored to what they believe was a finished product, with large white eyes and top knot, possibly depicting the hairstyle of the 10th century. Most of them are right along the coast, but facing inland, maybe protecting their villages.

I bumped into a couple of my buddies from work who were also enjoying Christmas there. Not too tough to spot these gringos.

The quarry where all the moais were made is a mystical place - almost like a graveyard with so many different, unfinished moais. It felt like they were looking at my while I wondered around them.

Maybe this one is my favorite. I like his lips.

The ahu on Topanagi is very impressive. It's named after a Japanese company which restored them... most of the moais were damaged from tsunamis and war. My plane was filled with Japense people... apparently it's been a hot destination spot for them for the past two years.
See the horses? There are over 6000 horses on the island which are all branded, but most run wild.. getting into people's gardens and on the highway. Some of them aren't doing so well, and sadly, I saw two dead ones. Apparently, because they don't have enough water in the summer, and all they eat is grass, there's too much of chlorophyll which causes them to commit suicide.
Aren't they important looking!

More than horses and moais, the island has a lot to offer, including a site of an ancient civiliazation complete with petroglyphics, caves, and this crater lake, which has fauna of citrus trees, olive trees, and rumour has it, sweet-tasting water. Lonely Planet said I could hike around it, but I had to turn around at the edge by the ocean. No worries, was a lovely view and at one point, I could see the pacific ocean in three different directions.

I had the privilege of meeting some local Rapa Nuians who were having a fish bbq near this spot. I was even serenaded by a few guys while watching this amazing sunset.
Most of them are pretty friendly, seeming to appreciate the tourism, although a few of the women weren't too keen on me. I won't speculate. On my last night, I was invited to a farewell party of a guy who is going to Paris to participate in an exposition, showcasing Rapa Nui dance, music, and wood-carving. When we arrived, they were listening to Bryan Adams and getting high. Later on, when the party really got going they put on some Don Williams. They love country music here.

Anyway, can't say enough about this magical place. I'd love to go back some day, and, though it didn't feel much like Christmas to me, there's definitely a spirit in Rapa Nui of it's own. Iorana and peace be with you.


At Saturday, January 10, 2009 8:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Belated Xmas Greetings and Happy New Years Lisa!
Once again, very impressed with your adventurous spirit...amazing photos!

At Saturday, January 10, 2009 10:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Lisa.Have a great trip through Peru and Columbia. Be careful there. I can,t wait to read about it. Great pictures. Thanks. Dad

At Monday, January 19, 2009 10:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like a great trip! I was waiting to see a pic of you covered in blue dye though. Glad you took a trip for Xmas and enjoyed your break. Hope all is well and I miss having adventures with you! Hasta luego amiga! Sara

At Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:54:00 PM, Anonymous Amber said...

We missed you at Christmas, Lisa, and could have used your help with the mountain of baking - no worries though your mom will probably have some still left in the summertime.

Looks like you had a cool trip - and I tell ya a hot Christmas on the beach sounds pretty nice.


Post a Comment

<< Home