Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1800's Woman

My morning consisted of making up milk powder for fresh milk, making the bread, planting the seeds and keeping an eye on the water tank pump! All this before heading off to school.  I feel like a woman from the 1800's.

One interesting thing was the kids at school got a letter from William and Kate. Apparently they wrote to them last year congratulating them on their wedding.  And now they have replied.

Also I have another wasp sting. My sixth one in 3 weeks.  My hand is very swollen. I've been clearing the 'jungle' surrounding the house ready to plant it out in a vegetable garden and the paper wasps have little nests hanging off plants that you can't even see. I've started a mini nursery to get my seedlings underway.  The rain has softened the ground and it is perfect for planting. Paul took a photo of me when I wasn't expecting it as I scrubbed the mud off everything after gardening. It's not my best look.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Early Rain

We woke early in the morning to hear the sound of rain hammering down on the roof and the thrashing of the banana palms close to our bedroom window. Through the din of all of that we could hear thunder fighting its way to our eardrums. As the curtains flapped with the wind coming in the open windows we saw flashes of lightning.
I looked at my watch to see that it was 5:05 am, made a quick trip to the bathroom and snuggled back into bed. For the first time in 3 weeks I pulled the sheet and lightweight blanket in close. While I was up, Ruth had opened the flapping curtain and now, fine droplets of moisture found their way to my face when the wind gusted.
Since we had arrived the windows in the bedroom have been permanently open, one of them even having a stick cut from the ‘jungle’ around the house to prop it open at its widest to maintain maximum air flow on the warm nights. The insect screens are taped onto the windows to stop the most determined ‘biters’ from getting us so the only way to stop rain coming in through the insect mesh would be to go outside with a ladder to close the windows. I chose to stay in bed. We can mop the floor later! 

When the alarm went at 5:55 am, I checked the thermometer to find that the morning was a ‘cool’ 21 degrees, the coldest temperature we have experienced so far on the island. Actually yesterday morning was about the same and we noticed one family of our school kids arriving with long sleeved clothing which made us smile.

Once it was light enough outside I went to investigate the condition of our driveway. When we arrived 3 weeks ago the driveway was very badly rutted, so much so that riding the quad bike up the last 50 metres to the house needed plenty of muscle power to keep it going in the right direction. To our delight, just over one week ago, Steve Christian had come with a big digger and smoothed it all out for us so that the ride up was more like a highway, albeit a very narrow one. But the rain has spoken once again and Mr Rut is back.

I looked at the driveway in dismay wondering what to do to stop the ruts getting deeper. To help pack down the soil, I decided to ride the quad bike up and down several times as if I was a road construction worker on a compactor. Big mistake! Very quickly the tyres clogged up with claggy soil meaning there was no tread in contact with the rain sodden soil. On the second trip back up the hill the quad bike came to a halt. I felt like a mouse on its wheel in a cage. The wheels were turning but I was going nowhere. Back, back, back down the hill I went until all four wheels were on solid ground. Off I went with a roar of the engine, all four wheels spinning and flicking mud all over the place, slipping and sliding up to the house. Oops, better not park on the concrete, not with all that mud clinging to the underside. Looks like the mud and I will need to become friends. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flapping the Deep Freezer lid

It has been a very busy day for everyone here on Pitcairn island. The 'Claymore' supply ship arrived with all the goods from New Zealand, including our household items and school supplies. Then a second ship arrived called the Princess Danae.  The captain of the Princess Danae invited everyone to go out to the ship for a Pirate Party and barbecue tea. Many of the islanders have taken him up on his offer and I can see the ship all lit up like a Christmas tree out in the harbour from where I am sitting.  It is now nearly 11 pm and the power is still on which is a treat as it usually is turned off at 10 pm. I can also hear the music so it sounds like they are all having a good time.  Paul has gone out there dressed up as a pirate complete with a parrot on his shoulder.
Spot the real pirate!
Pirate Pawl Warren
Paul Shelling

I chose to stay at home after a day teaching in the classroom and so many boxes awaiting to be unpacked back here at the house. I got so hot during the evening as I worked hard carrying boxes and unpacking.  When I opened the freezer to sample the ice cream that has just arrived, the cold of the freezer felt so cool and lovely that I was tempted to stand there flapping the lid and cooling down. Definitely not a good idea!

Inside our house. What a mess. Unloading boxes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Exploring Pitcairn Island

Ruth sitting at the highest point of the island

Exploring Pitcairn Island

With Paul now the owner of a Pitcairn quad bike driver’s licence, it was time to explore the island. I sat on the back of the bike and we went up to the top of the island.  Even though the island is small, being only 3.5 km long, it has a lot of visual impact and character. The views are magnificent and the contrast of colours is wonderful.  The island itself is red and gold rock and the foliage a variety of greens.  The coast line is very rugged and the constant presence of heavy surf crashing in against the coast sets the atmosphere.  The sea is the dominating factor here.  It cannot be ignored and it must be held in healthy respect.
A muddy St. Paul's pool after the slip

At the top of the island we saw old buildings housing short wave radio equipment and nearby, tall aerials, all with an air of quiet neglect, relics of a past era before the days of the internet. There is also a weather station to supply information to the New Zealand Meteorological Service.  This is still in current use. 

Further along we went past the rubbish dump.  This is a dug out area about the size of a school swimming pool.  Black plastic bags full of household  rubbish and old appliances and the usual rubbish that any society has to deal with was there. I guess when that pit is full it will be covered over with soil. 

Wild goats roamed around nearby looking at us curiously.  They did not seem particularly afraid. We went up to the point called Ship's Landing which gives a good view out to sea and from there we could look straight down on Bounty Bay. On our ride around the island we  noticed numerous long drop toilets at various strategic places. 

We felt happy and exhilarated to be here.  

Pitcairn Quad Bike Licence

Our Quad Bike

Pitcairn Quad Bike Licence

The main way of getting around Pitcairn island is on the quad bike. Most families own one and the most common sort seems to be the Honda 300 4x wheel drive. The island policeman Bill Lambie said that we should sit our driving test as soon as possible.  Paul was keen to get his licence straight away but I feel that I need a bit of practice before I am ready.

On the second day Bill led Paul up to Aute Valley to put the bike and Paul through some island manoeuvres.  Hill starts, turning in tight situations, reversing near cliffs and descending down steep narrow places was all par for the course. It was good that Paul passed and is now the happy owner of a Pitcairn Driving Licence valid for one year at a cost of NZ $10.
Road around Pitcairn

Our Garden on Pitcairn

Our Garden on Pitcairn

In order to get the best in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables on Pitcairn, it pays to develop a healthy garden. As I walked around the garden on our first day I was pleased to see fruit in abundance.  There are two large mango trees that are over 80 years old.  The fruit is so high that we have to wait until it drops to the ground before we can collect it. There are paw paw trees growing and a passion fruit vine. Surrounding the house and school grounds are numerous banana palms and coconut trees.

The soil in the existing vegetable garden looked to be in a poor depleted state and the few plants seemed to be struggling to survive. The only thing that was growing vigorously was the oxalis. A decision was made on the first day to establish a new vegetable garden in a different position.  I began the job of digging the heavy hard soil. Carol Warren has the reputation of being an excellent gardener on the island so I went to ask her advice. Many of the islanders have a small garden near to their house but have extensive gardens up at the top of the island where there is better soil and some flat land.

I had a pleasant surprise when a few days later, I saw Steve Christian at the store.  He asked if I would like a scoop of top soil from the top of the island delivered to my house for my new garden. It was a thoughtful gesture and I felt really happy. Within the day Dave Brown drove the loader up the hill to our house with a big scoop of nice rich soil.  The soil is currently sitting in a pile while I clear the ground of weeds and prepare the foundation of our new garden.   

Our Pitcairn Home

Our Pitcairn Home
Our three bedroom home on Pitcairn is lovely.  It was built about ten years ago by a New Zealand builder.  It is surprisingly modern and nicer than I expected.  The overall feeling is of light and fresh air. Every room has large windows that look out on the dramatic landscape.

You enter the house from the rear, through the laundry which has a modern automatic washing machine and a large chest deep freeze, and then into the kitchen. The view from the kitchen sink is out over the roof of the school to the deep blue ocean far below.

The kitchen has a gas stove and oven, an upright fridge freezer and two huge pantry cupboards for storing the bulk food items necessary to live on this island.

In the dining room is a large wooden table with six chairs and a rather dated mustard coloured lounge suite consisting of two couches. There is an upright hutch dresser and two sets of drawers with a TV on top.

The bathroom has a glass shower and a bath.  However, because water is a limited commodity, I imagine having a bath would be an occasional luxurious treat.

There are insect screens on the windows and most doors. Mosquitoes can be a problem.  They are not the malaria bearing type. We are not applying insect repellent every day. When I am working outdoors in the evening or walking in the banana grove then I put some on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First Quad Bike Trip on Pitcairn Island

The Saga Ruby cruise ship disappeared out of sight and I took a deep breath and turned to face the scene before me. Up close the landslide damage sustained on the island over the weekend was fresh and raw. Vast amounts of mud and debris had come down the hillside and clogged the harbour. The usually pristine and clear waters of Bounty Bay waters were churning with clay and silt. Broken banana palms lay along the rocky edge.

Islanders were busy unloading the bags and baskets from the long boat. Quad bikes were being loaded and the long boat was being winched up the concrete slipway into the shed. Policeman, Bill Lambie had the muddy school trailer connected to his quad bike and our smart clean suitcases were loaded into that. Bill indicated that Paul was to be a passenger with him, and I was to travel with Rae Motu, the social worker, as passenger on her quad bike. Rae started the quad bike with ease and I gamely climbed on.

The concreted steep road up the cliff face known as the ‘Hill of Difficulty’ had been cleared and the quad bike went up it nicely. I was surprised that ‘The Edge’, the place where all the classic photos of the Pitcairn landing and boatsheds are taken from, is actually on the left side as you ascend the hill. In my mind “The Edge” had always been the raw red clay clearing on the right, but not so.

Rae kept up a running commentary as went past homes and buildings. “There’s Big Fence where Olive and Steve Christian live” she said. “There’s the Church and the Community Square”. I could have named them myself as I had studied them so often before arrival.  However, when she said “there’s the prison”, I was again surprised. I had imagined that the prison where the men had spent their time as a result of the sex charges would have been out of the community, not right in the heart of it.

The concreted road went further than I had thought it would before turning into a muddy dirt road.  The trees formed a canopy overhead and then we descended down the hill into the cool of the banyans.  The banyan trees were the most amazing trees I had ever seen. The tops towered beyond my sight and all we could see were the strange smooth divided root-like structures.

The road was littered with squashed mangoes and the smell of fruit was in the air. Bunches of bananas were drooping from many trees and I also saw passion fruit vines laden with fruit. From the banyan grove onwards I had to hold on tightly to the rear framework of the quad bike carrier. The road became increasingly muddy and slippery and Rae drove carefully. The bulldozer had obviously been working on getting the road cleared.

“The bridge to the Eco trail is out” Rae yelled. “If people want to visit Christian’s Cave they will have to go down through the school grounds.  Simon has to go that way now to get to his house. I don’t know when that bridge will get repaired.  The harbour is the priority.”
We churned through the mud up the last section. My admiration for Rae’s driving skills grew.  “I’d never driven a quad bike before we came here,” she said.
Hopefully my driving skills will one day be as good as hers.

And then we were there. "Welcome to Pulau" said the sign. Our new home was perched on the hillside above the school. The towering cliff face forming a dramatic backdrop behind the house and the sea out to the front.

What a truly magnificent setting!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Transferring to the Long Boat

Transferring to the Long Boat

Before I knew it I was at the head of the queue. I was glad I had worn my sandals with the good grip and sensible shorts. Instructions were given to me. “Go down backwards.  Follow instructions.  The men will grab you around the waist and at that precise moment you must let go of the rope and let them pull you backwards into the long boat.” I swung myself around the pole and found my footing on the first step.  Down I went keeping my arms bent at right angles, not letting my body become elongated. I listened for the call.  Looking down I could see the surge of the boat rising and falling and felt anxious lest my leg get caught between the side of the ship and the edge of the long boat.

Then I felt strong masculine arms wrap around my waist and I was plucked off the rope and deposited unceremoniously into the bottom of the boat. My eyes widened with fright and everyone on board the long boat laughed.  I didn’t mind.  It relieved the tension. I took a deep breath to calm myself and watched as the next person lowered down the ladder.  It was not a task for the faint hearted. Many people lost their footing as they connected to the deck and had to crawl to a space to sit. Hands reached to steady them and no one was alone.  I was glad when Paul was safely in the long boat with us. The final journey was underway and there was no turning back now.
I looked up, far up there on the veranda deck the rail was lined with hundreds of passengers and it seemed every eye was on me.  I waved my arm in triumph, and in unison, like a Mexican wave every arm raised up in a wave back.  It was an emotional moment and tears pricked the back of my eyes.  I felt like I was saying goodbye to a special group of people. Many had expressed that they wished they were young enough to do the trip onto the island.
The two key men balanced on either side of the ladder in the long boat constantly hauled on the ropes attaching the longboat to the ship, lengthening and shortening the rope as the longboat rose and fell on the surf. The waves were not calm and it would not have been possible for the elderly passengers to have travelled to the island this way. A gangplank on a calm day would be the only way that an elderly tourist could have achieved this. 
Once everyone had transferred we pushed away.  I had read that in the past when the boats were manned by oars the islanders sang a song called “The Sweet Bye and Bye” as they rowed back to their island.  Now in this modern age of deep engine noise it was not easy to speak and be heard. The journey was short and the coming alongside of the concrete pier was an anti climax.  Once inside the shelter of the rounded bulb of the landing the water had lost its strength and stepping ashore was not difficult. I could see signs of mud and debris everywhere. I stood on the end of the wharf and watched the cruise ship depart.  It was an empty hollow moment for me and I felt very vulnerable as I saw the ship disappear from sight.

Pitcairn Islanders on board the Saga Rose

Pitcairn Islanders on board the Saga Rose

Once on board the Pitcairn Islanders set up a mini market place in the ballroom displaying all their wares.  Carvings made from Miro wood were finished to a high standard. Turtles, sharks and replica models of the Bounty seemed to be a common theme. Trading was brisk and it seemed that passengers and islanders alike were happy.  The snow freeze ice cream machine in the cafeteria worked overtime as the Pitcairn Islanders enjoyed the free ice creams.

Paul and I met Hillary Millard and her husband Roger. It was lovely to meet them after exchanging so many emails. They seemed even nicer in real life than I had imagined. Cheerful practical resilient people that had accomplished a great deal of input into the life of Pitcairn Island in the two short years they had lived there.  We sat and chatted and exchanged notes but the pull of the island had me mesmerised and I wanted to be at the rail as the ship circumnavigated twice around.

One colourful island personality stood out from the others. Pirate Pawl was as large as life. He wore a black singlet top, had numerous ear piercings, tattoos and a heavy necklace around his throat. His head had not a hair upon it and to the elderly English he epitomised exactly what their romantic ideas of a genuine modern day pirate/islander might look like.  Elderly ladies were queuing up to stand beside him for a photo as he good naturedly posed with a wicked grin on his face.

When I stood by the rail with my island map in my hand he came and pointed out the features of the island. Many I knew by heart already from the numerous times I had pored over the aerial photos taken last year by the helicopter brought in for the Henderson Island rat poison eradication programme.  By this time my blurred vision was beginning to clear a little and with the help of Paul’s spectacles I could read the map. As we went around the island the damage caused by the torrential rain over the past weekend became evident. Numerous slips were visible and the sea was stained dark red in a number of places.

Another solid presence who had come on board was the island based policeman, Bill Lambie. He exuded an air of competent masculine strength and I felt that he would be an excellent person to have nearby in times of difficulty.

After the trading was over the passengers were invited to listen to a presentation by Pitcairn’s deputy mayor Simon Young.  Simon did not fit the mould of the typical Pitcairn Islander.  He had an English accent and a lean athletic frame rather than a strong sturdy physique.  His long hair was tied back in a pony tail. He introduced himself and said that he was not a naturally born Pitcairn Islander but had immigrated there. We viewed a little of the history of the island and saw current photos of relics from the past.  Pictures of the flora and fauna were shown on the screen. A question and answer time followed and happily I knew the answer to all the questions thanks to the extensive reading we have done before our arrival. The time of transferring onto the long boat drew inexorably closer and finally the time came. The Pitcairn group sang to the passengers and then it was time to go. Nine of the Pitcairn people were remaining on the cruise ship for the onward journey and there were hugs and tears as the farewells were said.

Down on A deck the numerous bags and baskets were passed out the doorway first, all considerably lighter than when they had arrived.  The presence of some of the Pitcairn children on board had added to the successful outcome of the trading. The lone man who had remained with the long boat had successfully caught a number of big tuna and these were exchanged for a box of steak fillets from the cruise ship freezer. The NZ $10 per adult fee that the islanders paid to him also made up for the fact that he did not get to trade on board.

First Sightings of Pitcairn Island

First Sightings of Pitcairn Island

At 9:00 am the rain started in great windy gusts.  Paul and I kept going out on the foredeck hoping for a first distant view of the island but knowing that the heavy cloud would obscure an early glimpse.  And then suddenly, there it was, solid and definite on the horizon, the outline strangely familiar.  The cruise ship was already closer than I had imagined. We were looking directly towards St. Paul’s pool, the very rock formation that we had chosen for our signature picture on our small business card with our contact details. My heart leapt with emotion.  Our fellow passengers cheered and shared our excitement.  I was amazed at how our elderly companions were right with us sharing our adventure every step on the way.  It was as if they were with us in spirit cheering us on and wishing us all the best in our adventure.  In our short stay on board we had met so many lovely people who were all interested in our adventure.  Many had taken our business card and said they would follow our stories on our blog site.

I put the binoculars up to my eyes and immediately saw a yellow scar on the face of the island. I lowered the binoculars and saw the slip was visible to my naked eye even though we were still 40 km away. During the next two hours the island grew larger and larger. Individual rocks and trees could be made out.  The raw landslide looked like a wound and the red soil staining the sea was like the blood washing in the surf. The island looked taller, craggier and more rugged than I had been expecting. The colours of mossy green, yellow ochre and rusty red were vivid. 

Suddenly I saw the Pitcairn Island long boat coming through the surf towards us.  They had made it. The harbour must have been cleared. The launching had been successful! Their boat seemed to be sitting quite low in the water and filled to capacity with people, many whom were wearing yellow wet weather gear. The passengers on the cruise ship lined the rails looking down. The boat looked small as it came alongside. A door on the side of the ship down on A deck opened and the rope ladder was put out over the side.  Heavy ropes were attached to the long boat and strong arms hauled the longboat in closer as it heaved up and down on the swell.  The Pitcairn Islanders began clambering up the rope ladder onto the cruise ship. It did not look to be an easy casual transfer.  The timing of the rise and fall of the long boat was critical. As the boat rose on the swell the ladder was grasped and the person transferring shifted their weight onto the ladder. We could hear cries of distress from a small child as she was passed over.

About  25 people came aboard and then the remaining men still on the long boat begun to roll back canvasses to reveal plywood sheets.  These were lifted up and we could see many bags and baskets stored underneath.  The islanders had brought baskets, wooden carvings, T-shirts and other items to sell on the cruise ship. The bags and baskets were swung up and willing hands caught them.  At last just one man remained in the long boat and he cast off the ropes and began to motor away to spend the next few hours fishing for large tuna to trade on the ship.

These people that we had just witnessed coming aboard were to become our community.  Soon they would become known personalities, and hopefully friendships would be formed. 

Approaching Pitcairn Island

Approaching Pitcairn Island

The morning of Tuesday 7th February dawned and Paul and I were awake from 5:00am.  Every day on the Saga Ruby cruise ship we had been putting our clocks back by an hour, so our sleeping rhythms were confused.  At 5:30 am we were up walking the deck in an anti-clock wise direction.  Seven laps of the ship equal a mile.  It’s a great way to walk and talk and meet your fellow passengers. Paul walked 40 laps which was 6 plus miles. It was extremely windy and heavy cloud kept obscuring the stars and moon. At that time of the morning it is cool and lots of passengers take advantage of the circuit to keep their fitness up. The planet Venus was directly ahead and Jupiter was slightly to the starboard side. We knew it was only a matter of time before Pitcairn would show up on the horizon. Even though we knew we were still seven hours away from Pitcairn we were hoping for an early glimpse.

We had mixed feelings and walking was a good way to help dissipate those feelings of anxiety.  My anxieties centred on the transition we would have to make from the cruise ship and onto the long boat. Every lap we walked, I passed the huge rope ladder.  I had inspected it and found it to be extremely heavy and strong. It was wound up into a huge cylinder shape on the deck and covered with heavy duty covers. I couldn’t imagine how this would be lifted and hooked over the side of the deck. Was there a machine that would lift such a massive piece of equipment? The steps of the ladder were wooden and the shaped pieces with an inset curve for hands to grip were also segments of wood. All the many pieces of rope were linked with strong hemp like rope. I looked over the side to the sea far below and tried to imagine lowering myself down the side. The butterflies in my stomach began to flutter even more strongly. I wondered if the captain would consider lowering the big gangplank walkway just for me if I went to him and explained that I was just a tad anxious?   Probably not!

The effects of the Scopoderm sea sickness patch behind my ear had given me severe blurred vision so I removed it. If I had known the strong side effect of applying this medication I would never have applied the patch. Everything in my close vision was vibrating with a double effect.  It was most unnerving and meant I could not see to read.  Even the large script on the diagram chart of the decks was beyond me.  We had been on the ship for three nights and I still had to refer to the chart to find my way around. The multi-levelled ship had so many corridors and lifts that moving from one place to another meant I had to rely on the diagrams.  The veranda deck was the only level that gave access to the outside.  From there it was possible to climb up two more levels with outdoor seating and deck space.  At the top was the gymnasium.

I decided to make use of the ship’s computer room one more time just in case it would be a few days before I could get internet connections on the island in my new home. I read an incoming email from Hilary Millard, the current school teacher on Pitcairn. She said that there had been torrential rain on Pitcairn over the weekend.  The drought had well and truly broken and there were massive landslides on the Island.  The road from the landing to the top of the hill, known as the Hill of Difficulty, was blocked by a slip and there was damage to many of the dirt roads. The slip that had come down over the road to the landing had filled the harbour with mud and rocks and the long boats would currently find it difficult to launch as the harbour was now too shallow. The slip way was covered with the landslide and the grooves in the concrete that the long boats normally slid down were under mud and rocks. The winch had grit and debris in it. It was unknown whether the slips and harbour would be cleared in time for the visit of the Saga Ruby! The men of Pitcairn were working around the clock to get it cleared in time. 

The email had been sent during the weekend.  It was now Tuesday. Surely we would land on Pitcairn Island this day.  The thought of having to view the island form the ship but remain on board and continue on the ship’s journey to Tahiti with the rest of the passengers was unbearable. If we remained on board it would mean going around in a circle journey to Tahiti, and then flying to Mangareva to join the Claymore supply ship and then once again arriving at Pitcairn but this time in early March. Hillary’s email did nothing to calm my already taut nerves.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Saga Ruby Cruise Ship Arrives in Tahiti

Saga Ruby Cruise Ship Arrives in Tahiti

 It was wonderful to wake up on Saturday morning and to stand out in the street and see the huge profile of the cruise ship, the Saga Ruby, anchored off shore. The taxi delivered us to the Hangaroa port and we were ferried out to the Cruise ship on the ship’s tender. 

 Once on board we were given the ship’s information and key card to our cabin.  Our cabin was surprisingly roomy.  There were twin single beds, two wardrobes, two sets of drawers and a fridge.  The bathroom had a bath with a shower over it and a good sized vanity unit.

 The ship was multi layered with approximately 8 decks.  On board there was a ballroom, a dining hall, restaurant, shop, hairdresser, gym with weights and table tennis and cycling machines, a small outdoor pool plus an indoor pool. 

Numerous activities and classes were offered for the enjoyment of the passengers – all included in the price of the ticket.  Paul and I enjoyed table tennis and the gym equipment.  I went to the computer class and the water colour painting which was great and we both met lots of new friendly people.

Quad Bike Tour February 4th 2012

Quad Bike Tour

On our fourth and final day on Easter Island we hired a four wheel quad bike for NZ $87.00 for a 24 hour period.  They fitted us with good helmets.  We went all over the island and viewed some of the lesser visited historical sites.  By the end of the day Paul said to me “I’m about Moai-ed out”. We had seen so many Moai, - some upright, some fallen, some intact, some broken into pieces, some with a red Pukao top knot on the tops of their head, some small and some huge, all looking remarkably similar.  And I replied to Paul “I’m about quad biked out.” We had covered about 50 km along bumpy dirty red roads all with the hot sun beating down on us.

So we finished with a swim at a small sandy bay and drove back via the inland route through stands of eucalyptus trees which have successfully been introduced.  We called in at the Pukao (top knot) quarry and saw unfinished top knots laying in the grass.

The restaurant with the delicious freshly caught fish served us another beautiful dinner and we sat on the balcony looking out over the sea towards the sunset with a huge Moai silhouetted against the sunset.  A classic postcard picture.

Rana Kau Crater Lake

After sitting in a mini van for most of our first day on Easter Island we decided it would be good to have a day involving a good long walk. So we packed up a picnic lunch and plenty of water and climbed up to Rano Kau which is one of the largest volcanic cones.  On the walk through the town a large yellow dog adopted us for the day.  She followed us out town and up the hill. It was very hot and when a car driver offered us a ride to the top we gratefully accepted. The driver turned out to be Luis Jara, a famous Chilean singer and TV host. He and his wife Silvana were on their honeymoon. We left the dog sitting in the middle of the road wondering where her new friends had disappeared to. 

We stopped the car on the rim of the volcanic crater and looked down the steep inner side down to the crater lake. What an amazing sight. The dark water was covered with big spongy floating masses of reeds and moss in brilliant colours. We walked the rest of the way on foot up to the Visitors Centre.  There we were able to re-use the Park Entrance tickets for our second day. The views out over the island were stunning and we could see many of the 70 volcanic hummocks all over the island.   We could look down on the town far below and out to sea.  The colour of the ocean was a brilliant deep blue like nothing I have ever seen before.  Underfoot there were chips of obsidian, a sharp black volcanic glass and red scoria rocks.  We climbed around the rim of the volcano in both directions.  Access down to the actual crater lake is prohibited and we could see that the scree was very loose and unstable. Beyond the Visitors Centre we walked along the edge of the cliff among the stone slab houses of the Birdman culture and looked down on the tiny island of Ratanui.  The ancient petroglyphs are carved into the rocks and have a great story behind them of the annual Birdman competition.

We walked down a track from the top of the volcano and found our yellow dog was till waiting for our return. There are many dogs roaming around and they don’t seem to belong to any one. A bit of food offered and a cuddle and they would be yours for life.

By the time we had walked down the town again we were so hot and tired.  We looked into a cave called Ana Kai Tangata and viewed the ancient petroglyphs which are becoming more faint as time passes. We stopped at the lagoon sea pool and went in with all our clothes on. Others at the sea pool were climbing out because turtles were swimming in there but we didn’t care.

A delicious fish dinner on the balcony of Kuki Varua, a local restaurant that evening brought a near perfect day to an end.

Easter Island Tour 2/2/12

The following day we paid NZ $40 per person to go on a guided tour with the Kia Koe company in a mini van to visit all the old historical sites and to see the Moai quarry and upright Moai. It was a great tour and we got to see most of the island by road. If others are planning to do this trip we would advise making sure you get a guide with good English skills.  Also the tourist needs to be aware that there is an additional National Park entry fee of NZ $60 which lasts for 5 days. The loop road through the middle of the island and along the coast is mostly tar sealed and gives easy access to the Moai sites. On the far side of the island is a lovely golden sandy beach called Anakena which is great for swimming and is a perfect finish to a great day.

During the day we covered many sites and we walked along the hillside quarry and saw the Moai in various stages of completion.  Some were still attached in their unfinished state. There are more than 600 Moai around the island. Many have been restored to their original upright position but many more still lie face down in the soil.  The upright ones all face inland to guard over each little settlement of stone houses. The whole island is covered in scoria type volcanic rocks and stones.  It is difficult to walk barefooted.  In one place there are 15 upright Moai on an Ahu platform all looking inland.  It really is impressive.

The Rapanui people of Easter Island are learning the importance of the preservation and protection of their important historical sites. Over 50,000 tourists visit this island every year. Visitors are told not to touch the Moai or to climb over any barrier fences. The next logical step would be for the people of Rapanui need to systemically plan for tree planting on the island and maybe cull out some of the wild horses which damage the vegetation and the historical sites. 


Tour costs plus US $60 park entry fee, toilet use $1.00, lunch was an additional US$25 so we packed our own picnic.

Arrival at Easter Island February 1st 2012

The mysteries of the huge stone Moai of Easter Island have always held a fascination for me.  So as we flew in to land at the island I was looking out the window to see if any were visible from the air.  I was surprised to see an island that is virtually treeless.  Thousands of wild horses roam freely eating the yellowy grass. The air was warm and windy.

We arrived at the O’tai Hotel and thought it would be a good idea to get some money out of an ATM machine so we could buy some bottled water.  This was not as straight forward as it sounds. The Polynesian people of Easter Island call their own island Rapa Nui and their language is very similar to the Maori language of New Zealand. The rest of the population are from Chile and they speak Spanish.  The main town on the island is called Hangaroa.  The shops seem to close between 1.00-5.00pm for an afternoon siesta time.

So by the time we had managed to get some Chilean currency Peso money out from the Santenda bank ATM, the shops were closing.  I was getting desperate for a drink and did not want to risk using water from the tap supply. We found a small store and bought two 1.5 litre bottles of water, only to find that we had bought fizzy soda water. We had hardly slept on the overnight flight from Tahiti and our patience was wearing a bit thin.

Across the road from the hotel was a large gymnasium where a huge cultural dance practice was taking place. Close to two hundred people were singing and dancing in preparation for a big festival which unfortunately would be held the day after we were scheduled to leave. It was great watching them rehearse.

We walked along the coastline near the town and discovered several small sandy beaches for swimming. For the most part Easter Island has a rocky volcanic coastline with heavy surf crashing in on the rocks. Vegetation was similar to Papua New Guinea with an abundance of flowering shrubs and beautiful striped flaxes.