Finding Manna

Over 2000km from the nearest inhabited island and 3000km from the nearest continental landfall lies the mysterious and ancient Rapa Nui, also known as Isla de Pascua or Easter Island. Inhabited by Polynesians as early as 700CE, the island has endured through the ages despite slave raiders, famine, overpopulation, deforestation and many other challenges. Through all this, the imposing Moai, or Easter Island “Heads,” have stood guard around the island attracting, intriguing and fascinating visitors for centuries.

Visiting the island with her family from Elkford, Sandra was mesmerised by the magical statues at Rana Raraku, the quarry source of most of the stone features, and at Ahu Tongariki – home to the largest group of 15 Moai. While the infamous figures are commonly known as “heads” this is because many have sunk into the ground and are only visible from the shoulders up. Beneath the soil, and visible in some places, these memorials to beloved ancestors often have torsos or are found kneeling.

Surfing, biking, scuba diving, horseback riding and hiking are popular pursuits on the island for travellers who often come to see the ancient features, and then fall in love with the friendly culture. Fascinating caves with ancient petroglyphs can be found all around, and the views from the high points encompass the entire landmass. Anakena Beach offers pristine white sand and friendly warm waters. Motorcycles, 4x4s and mountain bikes can all be rented on the island. February is high season, and sees the annual Tapati festival, a two-week celebration of the island’s unique culture, history and music.

Sandra told me that while the island’s charms can be covered in just a few days, she still found it hard to leave this peaceful, beautiful jewel at the heart of the South Pacific. Enthralled by the incredible history and art of the volcanic paradise, she also took time to enjoy the island’s native cuisine centred on the abundance of fresh seafood. She loved to see the wild horses that roam the island, which reminded her of the Elk Valley’s own wildlife when they wandered in front of her car. The warm welcome from the islands inhabitants, from the greeting at the airport with leis to the comfortable and spacious accommodations, made for a relaxing and rejuvenating trip.

Accommodations on Easter Island range from simple, rustic hotels and campgrounds, to palatial luxury full service resorts. Flights are available from $1675, including all taxes (low season), leaving Calgary, contact dee.hatina@flightcentreassociates.com.

Sandra’s 3 favourite island facts
1. Property ownership is matriarchal. Residents can only have property if they are descendants of the original islanders on their Mother's side.
2. Easter Island was deforested over many years. The islanders have planted Eucalyptus trees in an attempt at reforestation. They are not native, but they are disease resistant and fast growing.
3. The airstrip is huge because it was built to accommodate the space shuttles if they needed to land there.

Sandra’s top 3 travel tips

1. Pack light and plan to wash your clothes.
2. Always have a little bit of local currency on hand, don't count on debit or credit cards in less affluent countries or regions.
3. Know how to say please and thank you in the language of the country you're in, and be friendly and patient. Remember, you're the guest, and you should act like it.

While I’d love to, I simply can’t go to all of the many wonderful places there are to visit in the world. Been somewhere wonderful recently? Share your story! Write to me at hall.rebecca.j@gmail.com.

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