June 1, 2016 – An Addendum – Moais Ho!

June 1, 2016 (An Addendum)

I’m seeing stars.  And everything is blood red.  I’ve just conked my head getting into the shuttle van.  It feels like I should have amnesia… and that would be preferable to the throbbing pain that shoots from the tips of my hair follicles through my skull and into the very roots of my teeth.  The loud “THWACK” of cranium on steel echoes through my noggin and I’m unsure if time has just stretched or if that’s post-traumatic flashbacks ensuing.  I do know I’m a bit of a jerk to my Mom and my fellow passengers as I cradle my noodle and rock back and forth in the van’s bench seat, wishing things were going in a slightly different direction.

I’m feeling off… and that may be due in part to the ongoing sleep deprivation that would give a run for money were I Steve McGarrett in that episode of Hawaii 5-0 in Wo-Fat’s water chamber.  But the reality is I’m feeling a little under supported by Travelling Fit on this adventure.

After no one met us at Santiago, and asking at the Cocha tour group desk that I had listed on my form, I was unimpressed with that group’s unfriendly non-helpfulness.  We eventually dealt with the check-in and baggage issues ourselves but it was a rough omen for the day.

On the plus side, we ran into fellow marathon adventurers Mark and Karen Bras and Joanne Follett at the SCL to Easter Island gate.  Always nice to see some friendly faces… even if I apparently may be shunned for using Travelling Fit instead of Marathon Tours for this particular adventure.

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Upon landing on one of the most isolated inhabited islands on earth, I was glad to meet the Easter Island Marathon race director and chief advocate Rodrigo and his wife Marcella.

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We waited around for another three-person group to get their luggage and bikes as they had booked directly through Rodrigo and his tour group.  It was getting into the shuttle van that had me thinking I might as well have been Fred Flintstone having an identity crisis thanks to a bowling ball to the head.

Once at the hotel, we had a few snafus but nothing untoward.  Room 46 was a single queen size bed and we had asked for two beds.  The hotel had to give the new room a onceover but soon moved us into Room 44… a number Mom and I always associate with our Panama Canal cruise tablemates.  For them, and in their honor, we snapped this photo, complete with baffling hotel etiquette instructions:

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I wandered out to the local mini-mart as I was a little worried about grabbing even a short nap.  I didn’t think I had a concussion from the shuttle van but I also didn’t NOT think I had one.  It just seemed prudent to keep moving a bit before committing to a bit of a snooze.  So I went and bought two Diet Cokes (AKA Coca-Cola Lights).  The clerk asked if I wanted “pequenas” or “grandes.”  If someone asks if you are a god, you say, “yes!”… and if someone asks if you want a grandes Coca Cola Light, you bet your sweet bippy the answer is “yes!”  As an added bonus, on the walk to and fro, I was able to snap my first Moai picture:

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Upon my return bearing 4000 Chilean peso currency Coca Cola Lights, we did have our half day tour at 3 PM.  Our guide Christian and driver Gabriel were both delightful.  However, we were the only people picked up at this hotel and then we went over to where Marathon Tours is based.  The MT folks filled three and a half buses.

The ensuing three-hour tour took us to three separate stops around the island.  The first was to the largest volcano and its caldera, locally known as Orongo.

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From there, we headed over to the ocean side of the area to hear tell of the Birdman Cult and Hunger Games/Survivor gameshow of the last 200 years of self-rule.  This annual contest had each tribe on the island put forth their best competitor who then trained for three months before embarking on a physical and mental challenge to capture the first egg of the returning migratory bird and return it to Rapa Nui proper.  The first champion to do so would bring his tribe’s chief to the king’s throne for the next year.  Kevin Reynolds would make a not-entirely successful film about this contest, appropriately called “Rapa Nui.”  I’ve been meaning to show it to Mom for months and have it on a USB stick.  Maybe we’ll watch it while we’re on the island.

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As part of the training and the contest, homes were built near the cliff face starting/finish line.  These buildings had low entrances that required occupants to crawl into the carved out/built up rooms.  I told Mom given my experiences today at the airport that I’d definitely conk my head getting in and out of those houses!

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This was followed closely by a quick photo opp at Rano Kao, a view of the wetlands of fresh water inside the caldera.

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We ended the day at Vinapu to see two ahus, the large platforms for a series of Moais.  Here toppled Moais destroyed during the great war of tribal factions in the mid-19th century were strewn about the grounds, figures lying face down as insults to conquered rivals, partial heads exposed to the sun amidst the grassy fields.  Of all the Moais on the island, apparently four are female carvings and one such one was here, albeit missing its head.  The majority are male figures, indicative of the patriarchal society.  Indeed, as part of the Birdman Cult contest, selected virgins from tribes were secluded inside caves to whiten their skin and make them “more pure” as prizes for the contestants.  Even in the Polynesian triangle, the abhorrent notion prevailed that the more white skinned, the more pure a person.

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Here’s me with an exposed head, an up-close and personal Moai encounter.

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We were promised many more Moais on the morn!  Fingers crossed this isn’t a repeat of the Philip Island Penguin March in Australia, wherein we were promised scores of penguins coming ashore and dutifully sat in metal bleachers only to witness three (3) penguins come out of the water in an hour span of time.

The tour itself was good but then everybody got dropped off at their posh hotel for a race briefing and Christian said he’d take us back to the Taha Tai.  All that would be fine as my itinerary said we would have a race briefing in our own hotel’s lobby at 6 PM.  After sitting there for 15 minutes, Mom had the very reasonable idea to ask at the desk if they knew anything and they called around trying to get details.

Rodrigo turned up a few minutes later, apologizing, saying the desk was supposed to notify him when we returned.  The briefing was little more than a quick update on the itinerary and reassurances that there were more people staying at this hotel starting tomorrow.  I actually felt a lot better after this 5 minute briefing and discarded my sternly worded letter to Travelling Fit lamenting the lack of support and information; I still feel A LOT of the stress could have been alleviated and avoided with a bit more front-end communication and details, but things seem to be working out.  Fingers crossed that continues going forward.

We asked Rodrigo for a restaurant suggestion and he offered the same place that Christian had recommended on our half day tour – Restaurante Haka Honu which was 600 meters up the road, right next to Santander Bank.  We walked the shoreline line, admiring the setting sun and the general solitude of the island; Haka Honu offered patio seating with a front-row-center view of the disappearing astral body.  The portions were huge, the mojitos were strong, and the experience was entirely pleasant.  I have no idea what it cost – 41,500 Chilean currency amounts which I *think* averages out to about USD$60 but I’ll have to check that.  Given the need for alcohol and sustenance, so be it.

20160601-ADDENDUM (24)It’s an early night tonight – jetlag and fitful airplane seat sleep means I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open.  But I did gaze up into the darkened heavens.  The lack of light pollution and a relatively clear sky made for a starry night that was rivaled only by what I had seen in my head when I conked it on the shuttle van earlier.  Everything come full circle and then spins right round.

Tomorrow – Moais and More Moais, Oh, My!