Pre-Arrival

It’s Thursday morning, February 9th. Easter Island is approximately 1,400 miles northwest and we’re scheduled to arrive on time Saturday morning. The weather has been much better the past 24 hours – seas have laid down quite nice and folks are now starting to emerge from their cabins. We spent much of the day in our room playing board games & napping – many activities around the ship were canceled for the day – EXCEPT FOOD! I’ve lost one belt notch and working on the second – both of us need to cut back & start exercising, though we haven’t set a date yet! I hate to begin a new program in the middle of the week! After tiring of board games, I decided to reorganize our small living space – Cheryl knew it was time to leave the cabin because she knows how ridiculous I can get with details & such. Rearranging & moving furniture around can give you such a great feeling of renewal & freshness – unfortunately, we have no furniture to move around as it’s all bolted to the floor – but if I COULD move it, I had a plan worked out! I packed all the winter cloths – long underwear, gloves & hats. THAT took about 5 minutes. We receive fresh flowers in our room every two weeks – I felt it was time to trim them a little – it wasn’t like gardening at home but it was exciting while it lasted. It doesn’t take long to clean & organize a space the size of a mini-van – I was next on to the medicine cabinet & Cheryl’s makeup kit – geez, ladies sure carry a lot of small tools with them! Pencils, brushes, umpteen bottles of lotion, pins, needles – what a challenge! She returned to the room just in time – she appreciated my intent but gently encouraged me to find something else to organize! I’ll wait ‘till she leaves again – she needs help but doesn’t know it! The weather is such that I can once again sit on our balcony in a t-shirt, shorts & drink morning coffee. I’m still getting up at 4am – it’s so peaceful out here – nothing but ocean – no traffic reports, no noisy kids walking to school, just Cheryl snoring like a bulldozer through the glass (I can see the sheets flutter every time she takes a breath) – I KNOW what she’s doing! I’ll wake her around 6am & we’ll go upstairs for breakfast. Looking at the activity schedule for this morning, we have several options: Early Morning Stretch – Guided Meditation – Mass – Watercolors Class – Windows on the Biblical World – Sit & Be Fit – Sit & Knit – Pathway to Yoga – Aqua Aerobics – Custodians of the Sea Presentation – Behind the Scenes Kitchen Tour – Balloon Toss – Ping Pong – Acupuncture Seminar – Mongolian BBQ. It gets even more exciting for this afternoon!! My recommendation for this morning: First, breakfast buffet – followed by Sit & Be Fit – Kitchen Tour – Balloon Toss, then Mongolian BBQ. Do you see a trend here?!

Post-Arrival

Thursday & Friday (Feb 9 & 10) were beautiful days with temps in the high 70’s & calm seas. The pools were finally filled again & the retractable roof opened.

We arrived at Easter Island early this morning (Feb 11) after nearly 6 days & nights at sea – Easter Island is located 2237 miles west of Chile and 1290 miles east of Pitcairn Island – it is known as the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. It was given its common name of “Easter” because it was discovered by the Dutch on Easter Sunday, 1722. The island has an airport with only 3 flights each week from Chile, though it has the longest runway in the South Pacific because NASA built a backup landing spot for the space shuttle if it was ever needed. Most of the provisions are transported by ship on a monthly basis. The island is 45 square miles & has a population of approximately 3,000, many of them working in military or government service. Ancient volcanoes spawned the triangular island, and we could see remnants of them at each corner. There are three central villages but also a number of smaller communities. Moai statues have been and remain the central focus – where did they come from? Who built them?? From my school days, I thought there were only a handful of these mysterious statues, but there are hundreds, some standing several stories tall as you’ll see in the photos!! They weigh literally tons and have been here for centuries…so you have to ask yourself, where did the technology come from to build these statues and how did these so-called primitive islanders with no equipment erect them?? This is where the theory comes in that perhaps they weren’t built by man, but rather alien beings from another planet who were somehow trying to leave us a message. Look at the photos & judge for yourself – there’s really no rational explanation. The only thing scientists know is that the statues were carved from the soft volcanic rock I mentioned earlier, and that deceased ancestors were often buried in subterranean vaults below the statues, which is another reason why the statues command reverence – we were all told not to attempt to walk on or touch any statue, that local authorities would immediately put you in the local jail for several days and charge a stiff fine. We were VERY careful where we walked! It was still dark when we arrived and the area where we were scheduled to stop had high swells, so we anchored on the back side of the island. There are no piers on Easter Island – the only way to shore is to take a “tender” (or lifeboat) to shore. The swells were lower on the backside, but conditions weren’t ideal. The Captain had a choice; skip the port and sail on to Tahiti (2400 miles) or try to work with the tenders. He didn’t want to disappoint the passengers so he chose the latter. The crew actually had to build and tow a platform to shore and tie it to rocks – this was to be our dock. Much the same as a swim platform, it had two long floats with two 8’ X 4’ planks bolted on either side. A lifeboat was then tied to it so when you went to shore, you would exit the lifeboat that transported you, walk through the lifeboat that was tied to the platform, step out onto the platform and then step onto shore. Quite ingenious! The crew really did a good job – it took them about two hours to put everything together and although our tours were delayed getting started, the Captain gave us an equal amount of time to enjoy the island so we were to be back onboard by 4:30pm. Easter Island was skipped last year because of high swells & surf so those passengers returning this year were quite pleased. We boarded our small bus around 8:30am and the tour began. Again, absolutely incredible – I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. You read about these Moai statues and you think…”sure, these are all man-made” and while a few of them had to be erected again after an earthquake back in 1960 (or 62) knocked them down, a heavy-duty crane had to be shipped in to do the job. So it begs the same question again…how did mankind accomplish this feat a few centuries ago without the use of technology and heavy equipment??? Standing next to or below one of these towering giants, you get chills just thinking about it! We stopped at several Moai sites and also took a hike up a mountainside where several statues were embedded in the hillside – nearly gone after decades of mudslides and erosion. Horses run wild throughout the island as do large dogs and yes, horsemeat is served on Easter Island as frequently as beef back home. No thank you. The local residents were holding their annual celebration similar to our Marti Gras – many of the men & women were painted quite elaborately, the beaches were busy with family activity. Numerous BBQ’s were ablaze along the roadside – a good time being enjoyed by all. I should mention that this island has NO natural trees – the palm trees & eucalyptus were all transported from Chile and planted by the government – it would otherwise be a totally bare landscape in the middle of the ocean. The residents are supported largely by a government subsidy, and grow their own fruits & vegetables. I need to learn more about the government support – I missed that explanation during a lecture before we arrived, but it’s quite apparent there’s very little industry or visible productivity on the island – a few tiny markets & t-shirt shops, but not much more. There are no exports at all. We returned to the shore at 12:30pm and rather than head back to the ship right away, we walked on the beach for awhile (water very clean & warm) and browsed a few souvenir stands, though we didn’t buy anything. T-shirts were $18, and small Moai statues were $20. Had the statues been made locally by the natives we would have purchased, but you turn them over and it says “made in China” – go figure! Around 1:15 we decided to return to the ship and there was a line of passengers at least 500 long going from the top of a hillside all the way down to the platform. Apparently, the “platform” made by the crew crumbled at some point as a result of the surf pounding it into the rocks, so another platform was being made on the ship for transport to shore. At that point, there was no way to return to the ship safely. The line of passengers continued to grow as more tour buses returned – all expecting to immediately board tenders for a return to the ship. By that time, the temperature was in the 80’s with high humidity – no trees for shade – the line was growing, tempers & nerves were getting anxious, to say the least. The Holland America crew deserve many kudos – they somehow managed to get a lifeboat to shore filled with cold towels & ice tea and one-by-one, hand delivered to each passenger standing in line! They were also supplying sunscreen to anyone who needed it – truly above & beyond! By then, our wait in line was close to 2 hours. An elderly lady traveling alone was ahead of us in line – she slipped and fell on a rock, cutting her knee quite severely. She was crying and said she was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t get the attention of anyone at the front of the line, so I carried her down the hillside & turned her over to the crew – they put her in a chair and wrapped her leg – I’m not sure what happened to her after that. The “new” platform finally arrived from the ship – they tied it to the rocks, attached a lifeboat to it, and then started loading passengers in a second lifeboat. By then, the tide was coming in so the swells were growing. Passengers were loaded one-by-one – it was actually very dangerous at that point. But the line was finally moving and relief was in sight. The tenders hold 150 people, so we were three, maybe four tenders away from getting back to the ship. Just as we got to the end of the line and it was our turn to board a tender, the man ahead of us in line stopped and his legs started to buckle – Cheryl tried to catch the gentlemen in mid-air but his wife snapped at her and said, “he’s a physician, he knows what he’s doing”. Cheryl backed away – the guy fell to the ground – crew members told us to go around him and board the tender, which we did. We don’t know what ultimately happened to him. It took several minutes to fill the tender – the swells were very high and the tender was crashing against the platform – each passenger had to be loaded between swells – there were four crew members helping each passenger on to insure he/she didn’t fall into the ocean. One lady lost her pants completely – while this sounds terrible, it was actually quite comical and even she was laughing! Once back to the ship, we showered, and then went to the Ocean Bar for happy hour! We listened to all the wild stories from earlier in the day – not so much the Moai statues, but the experiences people had just getting to and from shore!! We had a nice dinner – the ship left Easter Island 3 hours late and with many memories. Next stop is Tahiti – several days at sea – the weather forecast (so far) is good!!

Cheryl reminded me I was supposed to be taking pictures of the statues!

...Yes, Dear!