Archiv der Kategorie: Oceania

Easter Island: Eye in eye with the Moai

When planning our time in the South Pacific and South America, it was always clear to me that a stopover in Easter Island would be a must do. The little island is approximately midway from both French Polynesia and Chile, making it a convenient stop along the way. Adding to that the mystery of the Moai statues, and our flights were booked! It’s not a cheap place to visit, but there’s an alright camping where we spent our nights.

To see the different Moai statues, we spent the next few days driving around by scooter and hiking to the nearby sites. We were mostly really lucky with the weather: while definitely cooler than what we were used to after our South Pacific adventures, it got quite hot during the day when the sun was out. So our first hike up Rano Kau crater turned out raster sweaty! We passed by our first Moai statue, some cave and then just walked uphill for quite a while. Once we reached the top, we were wow-ed by the crater!! Certainly one of the most scenic ones we’ve seen!

The Orongo ceremonial village on the other hand was not that special for us. This is one of the two places you can only visit once with the Easter Island ticket (the other one being Rano Raraku), and once was enough for us.

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We then started our 24h scooter rental in the early evening to be able to watch the sunset at Ahu Tahai – one of the most famous and supposedly best places for sunsets. We were lucky – there were some clouds, but they let the sun through in the most essential moments. I went a bit crazy taking pictures, but hey – I was certainly not the only one, with lines of semi- professional photographers and an annoying drone buzzing over the scene. Still – it was very pretty and I’d consider it a must see! We only realized over the next few days how lucky we had been in regards to the sunset – for the next few days there were always clouds in the way.

Next morning, it was time to wake up early to see the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. It was a bit of a drive and got quite chilly on the scooter – but soooo worth it!! If the sunset had been great, this sunrise was awesome! In hindsight, this was also our favourite and most impressive Moai site, so we spent a lot of time there, trying to take the perfect photos and returned a few times in the course of the day.

Another beautiful site was the beach and Moai of Anakena – imagine a beautiful white sand beach with lots of palm trees and a couple of scenic Moai watching over it. There you go – this is Anakena!

However, my 2nd favourite place ended up being Rano Raraku – the hill where the Moai were carved out of the rock and many of them left unfinished, laying around in various positions. It’s a very pretty setting with the Moai body parts cluttered across a green hill with good views of the surroundings. There’s a little circuit that takes you past the best places and gives you lots of photo opportunities. We really liked getting so close to the Moai and all that while enjoying views over the island and Ahu Tongariki from the distance.

There’s also a trail leading up to the crater, which is picturesque and funny in a way: horses grazing between more Moai bodies.

On our way back to Hanga Roa, the main town, we made a little detour to see the place where the hats of the Moai got made out of red rock and another site – Ahu Akivi, which is the only place where the Moai are not looking inland but out to the ocean.

But during our scooter day, we didn’t just visit archaeological sites – we also enjoyed the landscape of Easter Island and the quiet roads too drive on. Sometimes the road ahead was blocked by horses or cows and we had to drive through a herd.

In our view, seeing Easter Island by scooter is the best way to do it! It’s small enough to easily be able to see all the farther away sights in one day and it enables you to quickly stop anytime for a photo. Hiking is also very popular on Easter Island, and after our hike on the first day, we walked along the coast and past a couple of Moais to the museum next day. The museum is small but quite interesting and a good replacement for an expensive guide in our view. We learned that (as suspected) all the Moai were re-erected as they had all been overthrown in fights between the different island groups in the past. Further, there was some interesting information about the whole South Pacific region which was nice for us to read after having visited so many countries there.

On our last days, we were a bit unlucky with the weather: We had planned to do one more hike up along the coast, but it was very windy and rainy so we turned around after a bit. Just not worth it in such conditions! We’re happy though that we were so lucky with the weather on our most important sightseeing days and that we managed to see both a really good sunset and sunrise. Not something you can take for granted! With Easter Island, our island time came to an end and we were mainland-bound: South America, here we come!

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French Polynesia – Summary & Pictures

People: The award for friendliest locals of the South Pacific goes to…Samoa. But French Polynesia came close, at least the Tahitian part of the inhabitants of the Society Islands. The originally French were less nice, often not wanting to speak English, and we somehow met less nice people in the Tuamotus. While we did meet some other cool backpackers, a lot of them were also French and often not willing to speak English. Seriously, I found their attitude a bit embarrassing: I mean French is only my FIFTH language and therefore, I don’t speak it well. But to grow up in a Western country nowadays with good schools and not speak ANY other language? Embarrassing.

Food: We mostly cooked for ourselves to save money, and even that was expensive (high supermarket costs). Sometimes we ate out at roulottes (food trucks) and we had some delicious food on our lagoon tours. I guess if you can afford to eat out, French Polynesian food is really quite nice!

Weather: Overall, we were quite lucky – while there were some grey/rainy days, it was usually not on the most important days. And all in all, we did get lots of sunshine and heat!

Costs: French Polynesia is not cheap. The only thing cheap is probably the baguettes which are luckily readily available on most islands. Our daily spendings ended up being about 75€/person/day, including everything, even the flight pass. This required us to re-think the purchase of every little cookie package we felt like buying though!

Accommodation: We camped almost every night of our one month stay in French Polynesia – sometimes in beautiful spots directly on the lagoon or pretty beach, but also in someone’s back garden on hard coral rocks which was not so nice. Only in Huahine, Bora Bora (kind of) and Papeete we had a „proper room“. We really started to like camping though and are going to miss it!

Infrastructure: There are not many public buses or ferries, hence we decided to buy the Air Tahiti flight pass for both the Society Islands and the Tuamotus. While it was not cheap, it was by far the easiest way to see as many islands as possible in just a month. On the islands, we often had free bikes or rented scooters.

Illnesses: Mathijs had to fight his new wound and I had a bad throat infection at one point, so it wasn’t all perfect, but we made it work.

Safety: All good.

Itinerary: We took advantage of the flight pass as much as possible. The only island we failed to include was Maupiti which we were very sad about – but there was just no way: All flights into and out of Maupiti were fully booked. I guess we’ll have to return one day to see Maupiti, and maybe some of the more remote island groups like the Marquesas or Austral Islands. Since we really liked the country, we would definitely like to return one day!!

Highlight: Difficult to choose. As for islands, Huahine and Bora Bora were the best and I will always remember the „wall of sharks“ in Fakarava.

Lowlight: Tahiti/Papeete.

Click on the photo below to see our full photo album of French Polynesia:

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Tahiti – exploring the main island

Of course we couldn’t visit French Polynesia without spending some time at least in Tahiti itself – the main island of the archipelago. We spent two nights in Papeete and took a rental car for a day to explore the island. At first we headed East to a couple of viewpoints and blacksand beaches. People say Tahiti does not have any nice beaches – ok, they are not white, but we still found them quite pretty. Also nice for a change to see black sand instead of always white sand! There were also some nice views over the little bays and Moorea in the distance.

Unfortunately, after we started driving again, an alarm light in the car went on. We called our rental agency and were asked to stop by their location close to the airport. This was super annoying since we were already out of Papeete city traffic and we only would have passed by the airport at the end of the day otherwise (on our way back and to drop the car). But well… we have rented cars and scooters in so many different places in the world and never really had an issue up to now. I guess it was bound to happen at one point! To make things worse, we get stuck in a really bad traffic jam just 2km or so away from the rental station and were moving only meter by meter. At the rental agency, they checked things and told us that it’s only a broken alarm light and we should keep driving. Oh man, lost almost 2h for nothing…!

Anyways, we decided to continue our drive South instead of heading through Papeete another time. There was still some traffic jam, but luckily soon we were driving on rather empty roads again. Along the West coast, we stopped at multiple sights – some gardens, a waterfall, a natural spring,… all not that exciting though. We quickly (also because we didn’t have much time left) made our way to Tahete Iti, the smaller island of the two (unlike Huahine, Tahiti Nui and Iti are actually one island and not just connected by a bridge). We drove all the way down to Teahupoo, a place famous for its big waves and surfing competition. Unfortunately, you need to hire an expensive boat to get to see the wave and surfers – you cannot see them from town. Even so, it was a nice place to walk around for a bit, a cute little town.

Next, we decided to drive into the interior of Tahiti Iti up to a viewpoint, which would have been amazing, I’m sure, if the light would have been good. Unfortunately, mid afternoon was not a good time – we had the sun directly against us… Still cool to see, but we wish we would have been there at a different time of the day.

We then were left with the dilemma whether to finish the circle of Tahiti Nui (the big island) by driving up the East coast or to drive back the same way we came. On any other day, we would have opted to see what we had not seen yet – but we were a bit pressed for time and worried that Papeete city traffic would once again be really bad and we would get stuck in a traffic jam yet again. So we decided (sadly) to give that part of the island a miss… to be honest, I don’t think we missed all that much though. Tahiti overall has not been too exciting, and with our bad luck combined, we were happy to leave again next day for Moorea!