Day 119: Hasta Luego Español

Mon. 10th December 2012

Hanga Roa cemetary at dusk - all lit upToday is our last day in the Spanish-speaking world. One of my ambitions for the trip was to improve my Spanish, so how have I done against that objective? I would say mixed, it depends how you measure it. (As NickJ will testify, my annual reviews at RM often started this way too!) Am I fluent? No-way; can I make myself understood? Yes, usually. Case in point, our flight tonight was delayed by over 4 hours (till silly o’clock) we were offered a voucher for a snack in the airport cafe. I (successfully) argued – in Spanish – that as business class customers, we should have more than a snack. (I assumed that the Spanish for business class was – ‘business class’). In short, whilst my confidence has hugely increased, and I am usually successfully in achieving my aim, I do stick to present tense and make heavy use of the verbs poder (can/to be able to), querer (to want), and tenir (to have). Ultimately, I would argue for success in that I would consider Spanish to be my most proficient foreign language – not too bad considering it was nowhere a year ago.

Hanga Roa cemetery by day - flowers and decorationsOur flight is not until 22:25 (or at least, so we thought!) so we have pretty much a full day here. We have a minor panic as we try to complete the online check-in as only my name shows up on the screen against our reference number. Fortunately the LAN office is not far away and they confirm that all is well. Back at the hotel, packing seems to take an age – we had completely unpacked our backpacks and are now paying the price. Sadly, just stuffing it all in doesn’t work!

Priorities - computer & coffee!After packing, we run down our mental checklist of things we wanted to do and see on the island. It is quite a short list – we need a fridge magnet for our growing collection (no, we don’t know where we will put them when we get back) and we’d like to see around the museum. Our route out takes us past the Tourist Information office and (luckily) we think to go in to check on the museum opening times as it is a little way out of town. Like many Chilean museums, its not open on a Monday. Oops! Oh well, nothing else for it but to go and have a coffee!

The only moai with eyesOur final set of moai are also the closest at Tahai just outside of town. We have been there at sunset for the last couple of evenings but ‘the book that must be obeyed’ devotes 5 pages to the structures here and so we want to make sure we do it justice. There are actually 3 ahu (platforms) here, one with 5 moai and the other with just single statues. One is the only reconstructed moai to have its eyes filled in. The effect is remarkable, the face really does seem to come to life. Once again, we think about how the island must have looked before all the moai were thrown down.

Ruins of Rapa Nui boat houseAlso at the sight are the remains of a hare paenga – whilst called a ‘boat house’ (because of the elliptical shape) they are actually houses for the highest ranking people in the village. All that is left are the foundations which are drilled with holes into which would have been placed branches which would have been tied together at the top (to form a roof). Reeds would then have been woven between the branches to form the walls. Needless to say, they would have been really cramped and with very little light or air.

We return to our ‘sure-fire WiFi’ restaurant for a late lunch – it is the only place where we have been able to upload blog posts from Easter Island – only to find that the internet connection isn’t working. Worse, when we get back to our hotel to check on the flight status, we find that the flight has been delayed by four hours and now won’t be leaving until 2:25am. Hey ho! Nothing to be done – there only is one flight per week from Easter Island to Tahiti so our options are limited.

Moai at TahaiThis seems like an appropriate time to reflect on our experience of Easter Island. As is clear from our previous posts, we have been enraptured by the place. We didn’t know much about it before we arrived but we have filled 5 days full of sights and learning about the history of this fascinating island. There were so many highlights – the sunset at Tahai; contemplating the moai at Tongariki; the crater at Rano Kau; and particularly the half-buried moai littering the hillside at Rano Raraku. It is hard to compare Easter Island with other places we have visited but it is right up alongside the Galapagos and Machu Picchu as a place that we are privileged to have been to and will always treasure our memories.

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