Thursday, March 11, 2010

Easter Island - first report

Described as one of the most (often the most) remote inhabited island in the world, Easter Island does not have a natural, well protected harbor. It tends to be a destination of those who like to go a bit off the beaten path, and until recently, boats were requested to always have a person on board at all times - clearly difficult with small crews. Most recently and likely with the advent of better weather forecasting, all ashore is allowed unless conditions are worrisome.

There are 3 main anchorages around the island, east, north, and west and boats often have to move between them depending upon conditions. The southern summer is the best time to be here (it is essentially early September here, perhaps similar to mid atlantic USA) and weather is delightful with moderate humidity, temp in the mid 70's, and breezy. Very comfortable. None the less, the wind has been from the NE and even though moderate, none of the harbors are sheltered from this direction. It gets quite rolly here when the swells are on the beamyou don't like it, but I guess you look at it as part of the price of admission. Today, with 2 days of lighter winds and winds beginning to shift back to the east, seas may be down. We hope the wind will soon swing to the SE, as we can then move to Anekena, a picturesque northerly anchorage.

The island itself is beautiful with several 1500 foot volcanic hills, green lowlands, and a mix of tropical palms, deciduous and eucalyptus trees, and many flowereing Idontknowa shrubs and plants. We are anchored off the main town of Hanga Roa and people and officials have been friendly and helpful, except one occasion when we felt taken advantage of needing to hire a truck/taxi to bring jerry jugs to the gas station. The busiest part of the tourist season (I think tourism is a major portion of the economy) has just ended but the island is still bustling. Even so, we understand that rooming houses/hotels remain unusually empty as the airline has yet to regroup and get its reservation system reorganized post earthquake shutdown.

The island does not appear to be poor. It does not seem to be quite as well off as the Galapagos where dollars seemed to flow endlessly out of a tourists pocket, but streets are nicely paved, town is well kept, clean, and it seems far better off than areas we have visited in mainland Central/South America (although we have not been to mainland Chile). Hanga Roa is very cute - sort of Cutty Hunk meets Vineyard Haven. Filled with small tiendas and hotels, restaurants, artisan shops, auto rental and many surf shops, the populace seems slightly offbeat and there is a bit of a funky air around town. There is also noticeable French speaking population and an interesting mixture of Spanish Chile meets French Polynesia, (Easter island aka Rapa Nui is the SE corner of Polynesia) but the "Rapa Nui" culture must remain paramount.

We have met up with a couple who flew here from Tahiti where they wintered on their boat, and our other friends who are sailing should arrive in less than a week. We are working on a few major items and managed - after 2 full days of searching - to find a replacement hydraulic hose for the autopilot system - via the island LAN Airline mechanic who fabricated one for us!. We have bunkered (fueled up) and are learning about provisioning possibilities We have not yet gone off exploring but went diving yesterday in some of the clearest water anywhere. Visibility was 100 feet! A few more chores today and we are touring (with our friends from s/v Beach House in Tahiti) tomorrow and Saturday we rent a car. More soon as the fun starts.

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