Exploring Easter Island

Easter Island (officially called Rapa Nui) is one of the most remote inhabited spots in the world.

Easter Island moai at sunset

You can only reach it from two places by commercial flight: Tahiti and Santiago. The island is about 2335 miles from Santiago, if that gives you an idea of how remote it is. At the time I booked my ticket, there were only 4 flights a week there, but during peak season there are daily flights.

Landing at the airport

My 5 hour, 40 minute LAN Chile flight from Santiago to Easter Island was uneventful, which is always a good thing. It felt like another world when I arrived. You just get off the plane and walk right from the runway into the “terminal”, which has one gate. Here’s the baggage claim area:

Easter Island airport baggage area

I stayed at the Tupa Hotel (chosen ahead of time mainly because the location seemed good and they offered WiFi in their lobby.) They sent someone to pick me and the other guests arriving that day up. They greeted us with leis made of bougainvillaea, so I felt right at home. (We have a bougainvillaea plant right outside our house.) Most of the places to stay are smaller, older motels, but that’s understandable.

The Tupa’s staff was super friendly and helpful, and the motel was easy walking distance to the main part of town and the water. And of course to the statues, which are called moai.

The moai are everywhere. There are around 900 of them on the 63 square mile island, most of them toppled over sometime prior to 1868 by the Rapa Nui people for reasons that can only be guessed at now. All of the upright ones have been restored, but they are still fragile and exposed to the elements.

One of the moai near Hanga Roa, Easter Island.

They’re a variety of sizes, ranging from smaller than a person to something like 40 feet tall.

Exploring

The first thing I did after dropping off my suitcase was wander down toward the shore in search of moai. I may have gotten an ice cream too, but I definitely made a beeline to see my first moai in person.

The island reminded me of an odd combination of Kauai and Arizona — Polynesian with the waves of the Pacific crashing against the volcanic shores, plus many plants commonly seen in Arizona (hateful Bermuda grass plus beautiful flowers and cactus.) It was beautiful.

View of the water from the shores of Easter Island

I loved hiking around, and then just sitting and listening.

The town

Easter Island has one town, called Hanga Roa, with about 4,000 residents. The people who live there speak mainly Spanish and/or Rapa Nui, and so I got to improve my very basic Spanish. It turns out any immersion helps :)

Horses and (friendly!) wild dogs wandered the town, and the rest of the island too for that matter. So much so that my hotel had a sign on the door saying “Dear guest: please do not bring street dogs to the hotel.” I’m guessing too many tourists tried to bring one of the dogs back with them in their suitcase…

Hanga Roa itself has a pharmacy, grocery store, church, museum, artist’s market/center, restaurants, and a post office. The post office will stamp your passport for you if you ask.

Souvenir Easter Island passport stamp

Or, you know, you could mail a postcard. I forgot to specify airmail so mine were REALLY slow in getting to the U.S.

There’s also a hospital on the island, but one of the locals told me she would be flying to Santiago to have her baby because they don’t have enough doctors. She seemed sad that so few babies are born on the island, but naturally people don’t want to risk things going wrong in such a remote area.

Tourist basics

Most of the other tourists I encountered were there by themselves as well. The couples I did meet were all from mainland Chile. Easter Island gets somewhere between 50,000-80,000 tourists a year, which is a lot.

Having read other people’s accounts of how expensive Easter Island was, I was a little nervous about costs. But prices didn’t seem crazy high to me. (Keep in mind I live in metro Phoenix, where an entree at Olive Garden costs about $16 + tax.) Which isn’t to say things were cheap — I just wasn’t gasping at the prices.

Most of the food available was seafood, which is understandable. I’m sure it’s great if you like seafood, but that’s not me so I stuck with basics I bought at the market plus the daily breakfast included with my motel stay.

I worried needlessly ahead of time about things like whether or not I should get a rabies shot before going (bats! wild dogs!) but in the end decided not to since I wouldn’t be sleeping outdoors, going spelunking, or petting strange dogs. I just stuck with the basic shots recommended by the US State Department for travel to Chile. I also drank bottled water, but that may have been paranoia.

Ahu and moai

There are several organized tours you can take on the island, mainly to sites with many restored moai. One of those sites is Anakena, which also has the island’s only sandy beach. There are food and knickknack stalls setup at Anakena too, so you could easily relax there for the day, but I only spent a few hours there as part of a tour that took me to several other sites, like Ahu Tongariki and Rano Raraku, the main quarry for the Easter Island statues.

Here’s Ahu Tongariki.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island

It has 15 moai, which were toppled like the rest of the island’s statues and swept inland by a tsunami at one point. They were restored by a team from Japan.

Hiking, snorkeling, and horseback riding

I mostly did a LOT of hiking around. The island is made up of 3 volcanoes, and I hiked up one of them (Rano Kau) to see the ancient Orongo village — only to realize I’d forgotten to bring my required park ticket. So I came back the next day in a taxi, which was inexpensive and significantly faster. My taxi driver even stopped along the way to point out sites and take photos.

You can also go snorkeling and diving around the island. (There are several dive shops.) I just snorkeled in the little harbor of Hanga Piko because I wanted to see the sea turtles, and I didn’t feel like figuring out dive times vs. my upcoming flight back to the mainland. (I spent 4 nights on the island.)

I nearly swam right into this guy before I frantically swam backwards and took a picture:

A sea turtle in the Hanga Piko harbor

It didn’t seem concerned at all. Apparently about 10 of them typically come into the harbor at low tide to feed. I saw 4 or 5.

Finally, I went horseback riding for a few hours near Ahu Akav with a guide arranged by the Tupa Hotel. It was just myself and my guide (who pretty much only spoke Rapa Nui) so it was also a very quiet ride, which I enjoyed. I can only speak for the ride we did, but you should actually have riding experience if you go. We did a lot of trotting and cantering. Fun!

Here’s the view from our destination, with our horses in the background:

Easter Island scenery

I also visited the anthropological museum, which had a lot of interesting information about the history of the island’s people.

If Easter Island were closer I would definitely go back again. But then again, being so remote is a part of its charm. I’ll leave you with one last photo of the shore.

Easter Island moai in the distance

New Mailbox!

It feels so great to finally get a project done, especially one that spruces up the front of our house. We went from having this rickety old mailbox:
Our old mailbox

To this slump block mailbox that matches our house:
Building a new slump block column mailbox

While it’s not 100% perfect and (literally) still needs to be cleaned up, I’m happy with how our first attempt at masonry work turned out. Plus it was fun to build something with my son!

It’s also nice to have a mailbox that won’t blow over in a strong wind and that looks planned instead of an afterthought.

How we did it

If you’d like to know how we went about building our column mailbox, here are the basic steps we followed.

1. Decided on the size and shape and ordered a mailbox insert.

2. Dug a hole for the footing.
Digging a hole for the concrete footing.
(Your footing should be at least 4 inches wider on all sides than the column you’ll be building. I can’t remember how we came up with the depth, but we made it a couple of feet deep.)

3. Built a wooden frame for the footing and inserted it in the hole.
Wooden frame for the concrete footing.

4. Mixed, poured, and leveled the concrete footing. We used Quikrete ready-to-use concrete mix to make ours. We’d meant to insert rebar too at this stage, but forgot so we added a little bit of it later to the column itself.)
Pouring the footing.

5. Let the concrete cure. (We inadvertently let the footing cure for oh, MONTHS, because life got in the way. If you do the same, I recommend moving your old mailbox to a new long-term temporary spot for the duration.)
Letting the concrete footing cure.

6. Dry-laid the first row of block. (We actually dry-laid the entire mailbox, more than once, to be sure it would look and work the way we wanted.)
Dry-laying the first row of block without mortar.

7. Mixed up a bag of mortar and set to work. We buttered each block and the previous row of blocks using a brick trowel, and used a masonry jointer to smooth the lines between the blocks and scrape away excess mortar.
Buttering a block.

8. Continued laying each row of blocks until the mailbox was the desired height.
Laying blocks.

9. Let it cure. (We also need to take a wire brush to it to clean off the excess mortar that’s clinging to the outside of some of the blocks.)
Building a new slump block column mailbox

Have you done something similar? How did it turn out?

Art & Craft Room Storage

You know how you have a million little craft supplies that are hard to keep track of? I did too, along with many tubes of oil paints.

I’ve always thought an old card catalog would be perfect for holding those smaller items, so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on one at an auction a while back. (Well, technically 7 of them, but that’s another story.)

Here it is in my art room!

Using an old card catalog for art & craft room storage

I love the brass pulls, and the old library labels. So much so that I left them on instead of relabeling the drawers with their actual contents.
Using an old card catalog for art & craft room storage

The top of the card catalog makes a handy place to store smaller artwork too :)
Using an old card catalog for art & craft room storage

How do you store your art and craft supplies?

Mine used to be stuck randomly in various nooks and crannies. I’m liking this organization thing much better!