The Cusco/Machu Picchu group was delayed because the Peruvian charter plane to Lima did not show up, so Nat Geo somehow scrambled a second plane, and that plane with the other 60+ travelers finally arrived in Lima. As people boarded “our" plane, it became apparent that while we were getting to know four couples in Northern Perul, Anna had been entertaining the rest of the travelers, including all the “singles,” in the Andes. This led to many good reviews, all telling us how wonderful she is. I'm guessing the average age on the plane is 68. The fourth youngest person, after Aili, C and Anna, is 39 and traveling with his mother..
One way in which this travel is different is that we are flying with the same crew when we are on the “private” plane, which is for most of the trip. Intra-country, we fly with local planes or carriers. Despite our late departure and a curfew at Easter Island like that at SNA, the pilot floored it, and managed to get us in maybe an hour after we were due. In my not-very-good Spanish, I told the Customs people I had food, but I think they were so frustrated with my repeated honesty (“Yes, I have food. No, it’s not in its original packaging; it’s just nuts… and jerky.”), they let me through with the snacks intact.
Last night would then be the night that Aili discovered her favorite stuffed wolf was MIA. Lots of tears. Definitely left in Peru.
On Thursday, six small buses came to collect us from the hotel. We lucked out to have Claudio Cristino as our guide; he has done archaeology on the island for 40 years, and he and two other guides had been flown from Chile specifically to guide us. Although many of the Easter Island statues, known as Moai, around the island had been knocked down by the 1960’s, a particular altar full of them was wiped out by a tsunami in 1990. In 1992, the Japanese sent a crane, and Claudio was unexpectedly put in charge of uprighting quite a number of them in a project that took two years..
Approximately 50 to 100 Rapa Nui people are believed to have come here from western Polynesia (supported by DNA) in about 1000 AD, and by 1200 had put up these monumental statues as part of their ancestor worship. Altogether, there are about 1000 Moai, once intended for groupings on altars. They also built structures aligned with the stars, along north-south or east-west directions. In the 1500’s, it is believed ecological disaster caused some kind of war for resources. By the time westerners arrived, the island was bare of trees. And in short order, given the gift of disease, only 100 Rapa Nui were left.
Having now learned of the Moche people, whose structures predate those of the Rapa Nui by about 700 years, I found the coincidences interesting. Both had an active belief in an after-life, with the Rapa Nui believing that you came from darkness went to light and then back into darkness, and the Moche burying their leaders in tombs with what appear to be their servants (and occasionally dogs). Both were preoccupied with stars; the Rapa Nui built structures oriented toward observing particular stars out of doorways. The Moche may have oriented their pyramids more around mountains but were equally preoccupied with the stars, with the leading theory being that they wanted to predict the weather, which could be determined by how bright the stars were at certain times of the year.
Of course, sadly, neither had a written language and their cultures remain open to great interpretation and great mysteries still remain, which makes this a great trip for people interested in science.
We toured a quarry and visited a great altar and had a barbecue lunch on a beach. This is where Aili put in extra effort to get to the know the other 10 year old on the trip, whom I will refer to as C. She and he chased chickens near the beach. We then had options to do three different activities, and C's family generously offered to take Aili to the next stop. It had started raining, so the rest of us opted to go back to the hotel, where Anna napped, I repacked and Scott did a little hiking. Aili went on to go swimming with C, and afterwards commented “Now, he and I are friends; before we just knew about each other.” Aili, in turn, earned good reviews from C’s family, who was happy to find another child equally engaged with the experience.
It was during the afternoon that an eery thing happened. I knew we were between lunch and dinner, and we were supposed to be at cocktails around 6:00 pm. When I looked at my watch, which I had set on the plane as we landed, it said “3:06 pm.” When I looked at my phone, which I had had to set manually to “Easter Island,” it said it was “5:06 pm.” Looking at the height of the sun didn’t give a clue. How long had I been packing? No idea. I had to go to the lobby to find out it was after 5:00.
Before dinner, the experts did a brief presentation about some of the theories, and we were then treated to a “native” dance. The Rapa Nui, bereft of their own dance culture, have been cultivating a new form of dance, which seems to incorporate elements of other Polynesian dances. Good thing Aili has seen naked Greek, Roman and Italian statues. It was quite vigorous and athletic, and eventually they called people up on stage.
This morning, having done the "relaxing" afternoon the day before, we opted for a hike around the rim of a defunct volcano.
Fun fact: rapamyacin, an immunosuppressant, was found here.
"Our" pilot indicated that winds were in our direction, and he then magically turned a 10+ hour flight, plus a possible 1 hour stop in Tahiti, into an 8+ hour flight. I believe that was supposed to be the longest or second longest set of flights, so we were very happy when we landed in Samoa.
When we arrived at the hotel room, my temporal disorientation continued. "What day is it?" I asked. "Saturday? Sunday?" We HAVE crossed the International Date Line. Out came the Easter basket for Aili, which was much appreciated. "How did you get this here, Mom?!"
More on Logistics
The number one reason you should not bring a child on this trip is that she takes things out of her fanny pack and backpack and doesn’t put them away. Almost every day of the trip, Aili has misplaced an object, such that before the first week of travel is up, we already have neither of the two pencils I carefully put in her pack. The trip is rife with hats, jackets, earbuds, i-devices, chargers, and everywhere she goes she holds things in her hands instead of putting them into her pack and ends up leaving them on seats. Really, it is a good thing we’ve brought three adults to double-check her. Of course, no sooner do I write this than Anna gets off the plane in Samoa and can't find the phone she had on the plane; thankfully, the flight crew finds it.
It's becoming apparent that we need to carry "wearables" in our backpacks; this was a little unexpected. Aili's backpack going forward will have a swimsuit, pajamas and toothbrush, and my fannypack now holds both the really water-proof sunscreen and the sort-of-water-proof sunscreen, as well as one bug spray, while my backpack contains the extra fluids that were leaking inside my suitcase. I'm conflicted about this... my backpack for items of intellectual interest is turning into a carry-on bag.
The delay in my posts is related to two things; we are kept pretty busy, and the wi-fi in different places has been slow or spotty. I'll try to post about every two days, but you may have posts without photos owing to the less responsive wi-fi.