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My Day of Living Dangerously: Part 2 - Impromptu Caving and No Helmet Motorbiking

CHILE | Sunday, 7 August 2011 | Views [1532]

By the time I had finished my horse trek of doom, I didn´t have time to make the 5 hour uphill hike to Orongo, so headed over to the Tourist Office and got them to arrange a taxi to take me up. The driver seemed nice enough and spoke Spanish slowly and clearly enough that he was good to practise my conversational skills with. On the way up, he stopped for photo ops and told me all about the history of the Island. Orongo was fabulous. I know I sound like a bit of a broken record, but anywhere you go in Easter Island you honestly get an amazing view and gorgeous scenery, and I loved every second of it.

The volcano crater, which looks a million times better in person than in photo

Orongo is on the west side of the island wand was the site of a ritual called the Birdman competition. Its location choice is due to the fact that its where a beautiful volcano crater is, that is supposed to contain the elixir of life, and two little rocky islets off the coast. Each year, young men would swim out to the islets and await the arrival of the Maku Maku bird. Whoever managed to get an egg, swim back in the rough water and clamber up the steep cliffs of the Island was seen as having great mana and would give his chief the authority to command the Island until the next year´s competition (is how I remember it anyway. The details could be off a bit) Orongo is protected under the National Park regulations, and is set up as a walkway around the rim of the cliffs, with benches to sit and look out at the sea and think happy thoughts.

The two wee islets off the coast of the island.

On the way back down, the driver asked me about where else I´d been on the island. I started rattling off places but he brought up some I hadn´t been to. By this point it was 4pm. I´d been planning to wander around town and head back to the campsite to reunite with Katie and Amy but I decided it was my last afternoon in Easter Island, I´ll probably never come back and to throw caution to the wind. What the hell I said - let´s go. It looked like a really short distance on the map but turned out to be in the wopwops. The paved road soon turned into rocky earth that only a 4WD could manage. We trucked along, eventually go there and hiked down to the ahu. While I was all concerned about things being tapu and not accidentally ruining something, he was crawling around, lifting up ancient moai. We sat there for ages, staring out at the sea and listening to the sound of silence, apart from when he sang a Rapa Nui song. It was all very cool and tranquil, sitting there taking it all in.

Eventually, dusk set in and we headed back to the car, when he mentioned there were some caves nearby. I´ve never been a fan of dark, enclosed spaces so when we got there and he pointed out the tiny slit of the hole he wanted us to go down, I was slightly concerned. Luckily, there was a cave with a larger opening and so we headed to the one first. Despite being larger, stepping into a dark, dark cave is still pretty overwhelming and the fear in my eyes is pretty hilarious. I was very comforted by the fact we passed a sign from the local authorities saying they couldn´t guarantee the caves wouldn´t collapse at any second. Always a good thing to read just before heading into the underground with nary a piece of safety equipment, and no one in the world knowing where I was apart from the guy.

Me? Scared? Not one bit.

It took me a couple minutes to feel comfortable, especially because he insisted on walking ages into the cave but there was a strange kind of beauty once we´d sat down and I´d gotten a chance to get used to it. After enough time had lapsed, he suggested we try the rabbit hold cave. I ummed and erred, positive I couldn´t do it, but then decided what was the point of going caving in Easter Island if I wasn´t going to do it properly? How lame, to say you chickened out and to end the story with...and then I was too scared to do it. So down we went, down the tiny entrance into a pitch black cave for another cave session.

See that tiny black spot at the top? That was our only way of getting out.

By this point, I was conscious of the fact the trip has taken hours, not minutes like I´d assumed and it was getting dark AND Katie and Amy had no idea where I was. Also, as any of my close friends will be happy to confirm, I´m utterly useless when it comes to matters of romance (there´s two ways to conducat a relationship with the opposite sex, the right way and the Rachel way.) Oh the stories I could tell of my various ill fated encounters. While we´re on the topic, I also have terrible taste. I´ve been burned so many times, I now just automatically assume any guy I like has some huge invisible flaw. Anyway, the point is I´m constantly accused of being oblivious to guys trying it on. Even in my blinkered state, throughout the afternoon I´d had a few warning signs from the guy, but had written it off as cultural differences or me taking something the wrong way. No, no. The ride home got very strange and awkward, with him declaring his eternal love for me and telling me we´d been spritually married while in the caves. Oh so comforting when driving along rocky country roads, alone in the dark with no one knowing where I was. At one point, he pulled the car to a stop so he could give me some presents while I awkwardly laughed and repeated in a high pitched voice ¨HA HA HA. NO BESOS. Soy traditionale.¨

Luckily, the pious approach worked well, with him satisfied it was ´more romantic´that way. Needless to say, I was esctatic to see the lights of Hanga Roa and turn into the campsite and escape my new hubby. Burst into the kitchen, relieved to see Amy  and Katie, who had been so concerned they were about to send out a search party. 

While I´d been falling off my little shit of a horse and unknowingly entering into the act of marriage in a cave, they´d taken a rogue route uphill to Orongo, scrambling up steep rockfaces. In the afternoon, they´d impromptuly decided to go for a dive. They´d gotten buddy buddy enough with the dive crew that they´d wrangled a dinner invite, so we headed off for a night of expatriate Chilean hospitality (heaps of mainlandes are migrating to Easter Island, taking advantage of no tax and the fact it´s a tropical paradise.)

We cabbed it to the house that the divers shared, where the smell of oil was thick in the air thanks to the various motorbikes and cars in the driveway. They prepared us a magnificent meal of steak, potatoes and homemade mayo, with a lively Spanglish conversation and rude jokes to accompany the food. All three of us were exhausted from our day of adventuring so when the time came to call it a night, the news that the limited amont of taxicabs on the island would be preoccupied for ages was a blow. Vale! It was decided we would be chauffered home via motorbike. I was the first to go, and it was only as we accelerated down the driveway that I realised I wasn´t wearing a helment. Eh, I though, I´ve already survived a fall of a horse and dirty old men today, luck is on my side. 

It was my first time on a motorbike and I loved every moment. The next terribly flawed man I fall in love with will need to possess a motorbike. Zipping around potholes and looking out at the moon and stars, it was a great way to end my last night in Easter Island. It was far too short of a ride, but fantastic.

Home sweet home.

Our last morning was a blur of packing up, scurrying around town to get last minute souvenirs (Easter Island turned me into a total tourist - I bought postcards, two statues and a tshirt) and chilling out, taking in the last of the sea views and chilled out vibe. The campsite´s van took us to the airport, thirty minutes after we were supposed to present ourselves...I love Island Time. It would be fair to say the attitude at Maraveki Airport is laidback - you scan your bags, drop them off and then are free to wander right back outside. We´d been given touristy mini moai necklaces as parting gifts from the campsite, which is nice little keepsake despite no doubt being Made in China.

I was pretty desolate about leaving. Even though I managed to cover pretty much all of it and do everything I wanted to do, I would have loved for two more days as I sort of fell in love with the Island. Anyone who will go in the future - go for a minimum of four nights. Sadly, we eventually had to go through ´security´ and get ready to board. It made me giggle that once the flight started boarding, all the shop owners started packing up and heading home - with one flight a day, your working day is done and dusted rather efficently.

Just before we boarded, I went to the bathroom and had one of those moments where you have a profound moment realisation. Mine was that I had been in South America too long because I genuinely got extremely excited about the fact that 1) I didn´t have to pay for the toilet and 2) There was toilet paper IN THE STALL. You know you´ve been in South America too long when...

Most casual boarding ever. People leaping around, taking photos and ignoring the directions to get on the plane.

In summary (anyone reading these blogs will know I´m not very good at short, sharp summaries) Easter Island was absolutely amazing and I had the time of my life. I´m so lucky I got to go, and even though it occured only one and a half months into my six month trip, I have no doubt it will be the highlight of my entire trip.

Tags: caving, easter island, isla de pascua, motorbikes, orongo, rapa nui



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