Christmas on Easter Island (Day 450)

Sure, it´s a little odd, but, why not?  I spent 3 days, including Christmas, on this tiny spec of an island in the Pacific.  It is the most remote inhabited place in the world.  Officially Chilean territory, it is about a 5 hour flight from Santiago.  Way out there.  This island has a very interesting (and not fully-understood) history, which I will leave to you as optional reading.  It is a magical, eerie place of ancient statues, wild horses, and rugged coastline.

Most people come to visit the moais, massive statues carved from volcanic stone that were erected about 600 years ago.  Archaeologists still debate about how the people of this island moved and erected these mammoth statues, without trucks or cranes.  An incredible feat.  Exactly how they did it, why some of these moais wear topknots, where the topknots came from, among other questions, no one has a sure answer.  But, this I can tell you:  they are impressive to look at and fun to take a pictures of.  Here are a few:

Take me to your leader

The tourist in the picture provides a reference of scale as these 15 moais stare unblinking at the interior of the island.  They were toppled over in civil wars centuries ago, but were restored upright in the 1990s with the use of cranes.

You may have seen Easter Island´s famous moais on TV or in books.  If they looked impressive there, you should see them in person.  Don´t challenge these guys to a staring competition.

Easter Island is a place where people still ride horses into town.  On Christmas Eve, on the way back from the dance club (yes, they have one on Easter Island), friends and I were walking in the complete darkness when I heard a quick “clip-clop, clip-clop” approaching.  Despite being nowhere near sober, I realized what was going on and yelled, “Oh, shit!  Watch out for the horse!” and we jumped to the side.  See, when was the last time you yelled that on they way back from the bar?  I´m going to guess it has been a while… This is part of what makes Easter Island cool.

A couple other quick stories I have on my mind:

— I spent an afternoon hanging out with some fellow Canadians (and one Kiwi — you can never go wrong with one of those guys around) who live in Santiago.  A brother of a friend lives there (long story).  They have a great apartment.  We spent the afternoon by the pool and drinking beer on their balcony.  I cannot tell you how good it is to talk to some people who come from where I come from.  It makes a guy on the road feel not so far from home.

Steve, Kevin, and Chris, good Canadian boys, show off their beer pong setup, which was heavily used that afternoon.  (Missing from pic is Alli and Liam)

— A few weeks ago I was in northern Chile visiting the Atamaca Desert.  I´m told it is the driest desert in the world (how may “world´s -ESTs” am I up to now?  is anybody keeping score at home?  the software engineer in me is sensing an arithmetic overflow…).  I have now skied this desert.

That´s right, you heard me.

I rented some skis, climbed a sand dune with the skis on my shoulder, and ripped it up.  Just as I was about to drop it, I had this conversation with a Chilean guy who sand-boarded often:

Me:  What is skiing sand like?
Chilean Sand-boarding Guy:  It´s like skiing powder snow.
Me (unable to contain my excitement):  Really?  Sweet!
Chilean Sand-boarding Guy:  Well, I´ve never actually skied on snow, but that´s what people tell me.
Me:  Oh.

Drop it like it´s hot!

Well, I can tell you it´s not like skiing powder.  It´s quite slow.  It´s like a south-facing aspect late in the spring that has been baking in the sun all day.  Anyway, I straight-lined it, riding the backseat the whole way, trying to make sure I didn´t go over the bars.  But, just the same, it felt good to slide downhill on two sticks again, ya know?

Right now I´m in the Lakes District of Argentina.  With all its trees, lakes, and mountains, it looks a little like Canada.  I feel at home.  From here I am going to head south, all the way through the Patagonias.  I have been looking forward to this part of the planet for a long time.  The trekking is going to be epic.

Last reminder:  if you are bored tonight around 11:30pm Easter Standard Time (8:30pm Pacific), you should have a drink with me.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and will have a great New Year.  May 2010 be good to you.

Your favourite World Traveler,

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6 Responses to Christmas on Easter Island (Day 450)

  1. Boris says:

    Happy New Year Shawn. Keep it real for all of us.

  2. ida says:

    Yes you are my favourite world traveling traveler Shawn! Especially since Bart went all serious and corporate on us again :)I haven\’t checked your blog in a (too) long time, but I\’m glad to see that you\’re doing fine and that you\’re still doing awsome things. I\’m very envious. Take care!Ida

  3. Phil says:

    Dear Shawn,

    Thanks for the nice report. Do they have tours available on December 25? If not, is it possible to tour the island by yourself on a bike?



    • smartelo says:

      Hi Phil. I can’t remember, but I believe so. You can definitely tour the island by yourself, that’s what I chose to do. I rented a motorcycle, but I saw others on bicycles so it’s possible. It’s a great day checking out the stunning moais and you’ll enjoy it no matter how you get around!

  4. Dick Wilhelm says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Just stumbled across your article recently. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter and the Forth of July on Easter Island several years ago. 1966 and 1967 specifically. Fascinating place to be sure. I know it has changed considerably since then not necessisarily for the better

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