Our flight landed to sunshine, 25 degrees and a tropical breeze off the ocean, talk about polar opposites (pun intended). The plane dropped off about 2/3rds of its occupants with the rest simply stretching their legs before getting back on to fly to Tahiti. I am now travelling with another couple from the ship, and a third gentleman will join us tomorrow because our flight was full by the time he booked. Our Lindblad representative met us with leis and then loaded us into an air-conditioned van for the 15-minute drive to our hotel. Driving through town we passed fruit stands loaded with tropical fruits and men selling tuna on the side of the street. The town itself has a very upbeat and bright atmosphere and seems like it would be a lot of fun to wander around in. Our guide, Ata, tells us that there are between 6 and 7 thousand permanent residents on the island with 40% of them having Rapa Nui blood. In comparison, there are ~120,000 visitors per year making tourism the primary (and possibly only) economic driver on the island. Another interesting statistic is that there are approximately 10,000 wild horses on the island. With no predators on the island their numbers have ballooned and they can be seen everywhere.
The hotel itself is a set of 19 stand alone cabinas that over look the ocean and one of the Moai sites. My cabina opens with a view to the ocean and I have an outdoor shower. I’m feeling very spoiled right now!
After a bite of lunch and some relaxation time, Ata picked us up and took us to our first Moai site. There were three different alters at this location and they were framed by breaking waves in the background. As seems to be common in the last couple of weeks, I was blown away by the enormity of what I was looking at. As Ata pointed out, these are more than just statues; they are the history of a people. Ata spent some time explaining the significance of various stone structures, and we had some time to walk and take pictures. Tomorrow we will meet with the archeologist and hear more about the process of uncovering and interpreting these sites.
As I sit here, having a hard time believing that this is all real, I can’t help but reflect on my year/life and be incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that I’ve had. I have been so fortunate to have been involved in such an great program and met so many amazingly talented people. 2014 has been quite the ride and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has to bring!
For now, it’s time for me to go and get ready for tonight’s festivities (pictures will have to wait because the internet is too slow). We are having a dinner here on the patio at the hotel with a number of the other guests, followed by fireworks over the bay. Wishing everyone a fun and safe New Years! All the best in 2015.
Oh and a very special Happy Birthday to my favorite 6 year old in the world!