What a Trip: A life’s dream fulfilled on Easter Island


Jane and CJ Dieteman of Fairfax Station saw the mysterious moai stone figures on Chile’s Easter Island. (Jane Dieteman)
May 8

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world .

Who: Jane (the author) and CJ Dieteman of Fairfax Station.

Where, when, why: Chile in March, five days on Easter Island and three days on the mainland. Seeing Easter Island was our goal. As a child, I read the book “Aku-Aku” by Thor Heyerdahl, and ever since, I had dreamed of seeing this fascinating place.

Highlights and high points: The main statues all around the island, more than 800 of them, were breathtaking. One very early morning — and I am decidedly not a morning person — we started out in the dark to drive to Ahu Tongariki to see the sun rise behind the 15 moai there, an island must-do. We found ourselves in a caravan with three other cars obviously headed to the same destination. There were about 30 of us waiting for the sun to come up. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Unfortunately, we never got a full sunrise, as it was a cloudy morning. Still, seeing the dark clouds streaked through with sunbeams behind the moai was a sight that I will never forget. Although the term “magical” is often overused, that is what it was — magical.

Cultural connection or disconnect: Trying to mail postcards from Easter Island took three visits to the post office. On the first, the postmistress informed us that there were no stamps available, and she wasn’t sure when they would get any. On the second visit, we got the story that the island no longer uses stamps, only electronic postage, which was also unavailable. We couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. Was there some cultural nicety that we were overlooking? Was it that the postmistress was just lonely and wanted some new people to talk to? Or was something sinister going on? On our third and last visit, we were finally able to buy stamps, affix them to our cards and mail them (and although it took a while, they eventually arrived).

Biggest laugh or cry: Although Easter Island seemed far from overrun by tourists, you couldn’t tell that from the plane ride from Santiago. Since there were no seat assignments until the morning of the flight, you got a surprise when you got to the airport. It was not a good surprise. Upon boarding the plane, we found that we were in the middle seats in one of the middle rows. We had barely two inches of knee room before we banged into the seats in front of us. The trip to our dream island turned into a nightmare that lasted for five long, uncomfortable hours. By the end of the flight, we felt that we knew all the folks surrounding us intimately. Never were so many people in so many tiny seats happier to see their destination.

How unexpected: All the guidebooks had told us that the island would be crowded and that we should be prepared to be overwhelmed at all the archaeological sites. This turned out not to be true. We were alone at some sites, and at others there were just a handful of people in the area. We didn’t run into a single tour bus or large group of people the entire time we were exploring the island. It made visiting the sites so much more meaningful and contemplative. We were also prepared not to eat in the restaurants without a reservation. But we had some wonderful meals at some restaurants with million-dollar views where we just walked in. We were surprised by the bright-purple sweet potato dishes, the fact that there was gelato as good as Italy’s, and by the availability of as much ice as you might want. It was easier to get ice on Easter Island than in many places that we’ve visited in Europe.

Fondest memento or memory: The greatest gift was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. The island turned out to be even better than I had imagined. The sites were fascinating, the people were warm and welcoming, and every single thing we tried to do or see worked out perfectly, including seeing sea turtles. Even the weather cooperated. It would rain every day at about 6 p.m., just when we were relaxing on our porch from the day of touring. The rain would last about 10 minutes, and there was a beautiful rainbow every night. Obviously, we were meant to take this trip.

To tell us about your own trip, go to www.washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Lifestyle