Tuesday was a long day; our flight out of Cusco was delayed more than 4 hours, on account of heavy cloud cover and rain. Fortunately, we got word of the delay before departing the Hotel Monasterio, so our tour group congregated in the lounge, sipping coca tea and speculating about which country will replace Egypt on our trip itinerary. The leading contenders are Jordan and Turkey. We finally landed in Lima mid-afternoon, but as we’d missed our departure slot, it was late afternoon before we finally departed for Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island).
Our touchdown at the alternate space shuttle landing strip on the most remote, inhabited island on earth was further delayed after the random inspection in Tahiti (our refueling stop) identified a problem with the emergency floor lighting. We were temporarily evicted from our assigned seats in row 18 while the two flight engineers pulled up part of the floor to make the essential repairs. The upside to this further delay was that the sun was just setting when we picked up the keys to our rooms at the Iorana Hotel, so we headed straight outside to enjoy the view. As the sun sank below the horizon, our eyes turned up to the most amazing night sky we’ve ever seen. There’s absolutely no light pollution on Rapa Nui, and since Youngest GeoKid is studying sky science at school, he was delighted to be able to identify the Southern Cross, Pisces and the Milky Way.
The next morning, we visited Rapa Nui National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide was one of the archaeologists involved in several restoration projects on the island, and she provided great insight into the daily living habits of the culture associated with the maoi. At one point during the tour, Mrs. GeoK slipped away about 150 m, to search for a micro cache, but she quickly returned to the main tour after discovering the cache hiding spot was “guarded” by a dead dog!
Our next stop was the Rano Raraku quarry, where many great statues look out from the hillsides. The largest maoi on the island remains unfinished, still in the quarry. Since there is an earthcache right at the quarry site, we were certain we’d be able earn a smiley and add Chile to our geocaching map. To our dismay, our guide was adamant that the trail up the hill to the top was out of bounds, so unable to reach the posted coordinates for the cache, we resigned ourselves to taking photographs of the many statues, doing our best in the bright midday sun. Off in the distance, at the shore, we spotted our next destination – Ahu Tongariki – a line of 15 restored moai.
A small cache is hidden at Ahu Tongariki, so we were excited about this third prospect of finding a geocache in Chile. Unfortunately, the site was very busy in the early afternoon, so our furtive searching was not successful. By this point, we were growing concerned about our lack of geocaching success on Easter Island. We had two or three more prospects, including Mr. GeoK and Oldest GeoKid’s return visit to Ahu Tongariki for a night photo shoot. But we made sure to access geocaching.com to review all the past logs to increase their odds of success before their nocturnal visit to the site.
They arrived at Ahu Tongariki about 2200, and proceeded to look for the cache aided by trusty Fenix flashlights. The eldest GeoKid lined up the statues and miraculously they found the well placed cache within minutes. A couple of horses curiously watched their progress along with thousands of cockroaches which apparently come out at night to socialize. They then rejoined the photographers to take night shots of the statues.
This morning, we had the opportunity to visit Ahu Akahanga with one of the archaeologists who excavated the site. We did our best to pay attention to her description of Rapa Nui social hierarchy, village layout and theories about the maoi, but our attention kept wandering to the waves crashing on the shore. Youngest GeoKid wilted in the heat and moved closer to the beach, hoping to catch a bit of mist off the breakers.
Our final stop, at Rano Kau – one of three inactive volcanos on the island – provided one last opportunity to earn a smiley…our first earthcache of the trip. Our guide was another archaeologist, with definite theories about the Birdman Cult; we did our best to follow his presentation while surreptitiously searching out the answers for GC22ZGB Rano Kau – Rapa Nui. Oldest GeoKid also shot some great photos here, of both the caldera and the Birdman Cult pictographs.
We’re now en route to Samoa, a logical stopping point for the night and continuing to Australia tomorrow. There is only one geocache on the island we’re visiting, so if our scheduled tour doesn’t go anywhere near Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave site, we’ll be making alternate arrangements!