Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Getting ashore

My biggest fear of coming to Easter Island was not the passage but in the event that we had to anchor out, would the weather be co-operative enough so that we could both go ashore at the same time? At anchor, you are required to always leave someone on board. Apparently, the weather is unpredictable and winds can, in a short time change, necessitating a dash to the lea side of the island. But fortunately, we were able to make it into the tiny cramped harbour and no doubt because we had come in December which is Easter Island's summer season. The weather was hot and sunny with not too much wind.

After arriving on December 6th at 20:00, we spent our first night anchored in the company of a small freighter out in front of Easter Island's only town, Hanga Roa. Shortly after anchoring, we made contact with the Port Authority on Channel 16, as required. Their office was overlooking us. Arrangements were made to process our entry to this Chilean port for the next morning when we were duly boarded and processed by 6 friendly officers from various departments. They confiscated our honey and gave instructions such as "No garbage ashore" and "You must have a pilot to enter Harbour Piko" (the tiny harbour only 4 m deep just around the rocky point).

They also said that we could bring no fruits or veggies ashore and all such, including any that we purchased at Easter Island would have to be eaten before we arrived at mainland Chile (Puerto Montt) our next destination. We got some friendly chuckles when they asked if we had guns and Jordan's answer was "Oh, no. We are Canadians."

As they left, we asked them to send a pilot out and soon a fisherman in a panga showed up and said he needed to get police approval and would be back in 2 hours.

Our electronic charts showed range markers for the harbour entry but we had read that the local word was that when the range markers were installed by the Chilean government they didn't consult the locals and the path was dangerously close to a reef of hull-eating volcanic rocks. So after waiting a bit, we motored over to the harbour approach and waited for our pilot. We watched various fishing boats and the self-propelled barges offloading freighters going in and out of the perilous entrance.

The pilot was a no-show and we were anxious to get ashore so when a barge made its run in, we decided to follow close behind while I made notes of GPS waypoints. We discovered that there are definite discrepancies between CMap (our electronic charts), the GPS, and Google Earth (before leaving Ecuador, Jordan printed Google Earth photos and their lats & longs for certain points).

Using a bow anchor, we Med tied in Harbour Piko with the hospitable help of a local (S27°09.271' W109°26.355'). We were sandwiched between the many other boats, mostly fishing pangas, but included the very up-to-date coast guard rescue boat. Our bow anchor had securely snagged debris so when Jordan dove in the clear water to attach an anchor retrieval line, he saw a large sea turtle swim beneath him and he playfully grabbed him for a short tow! Jordan left the anchor hooked as it provided the best holding for such a short scope.

Sea Turtle IV's resting place was right in front of a moai (pronounced mo' eye), one of the many legendary, resolute, stone statues that make Easter Island famous. We were only about 10 feet from the concrete jetty but still needed our dinghy as a shuttle.

Sea Turtle and moai Ahu Riata

We walked to town along the waterfront under the hot sun. We passed by the Port Authority's office, a campground that must rent out its tents as they all looked similar, a very long and expensive looking hotel complex under final stages of construction, and more moai.

Movement is via cars, trucks, taxis, horses, motorcycles and scooters and of course walking. We did not notice any houses or businesses in down-trodden condition and everything seemed to be modern enough. I guess we were expecting this remote island to be more destitute, however we found it to have a higher standard than, say Ecuador. But we also noticed how terribly expensive everything is!!

Modern houses and means of transportation

Easter Island has many activities and places to keep you busy:
  • A few pubs and discos - some that close early and some that don't even get started till late
  • Church
  • Dance shows (including a cultural festival the first 2 weeks of February)
  • Diving/snorkelling/surfing
  • Mountain biking/fishing/horse riding
  • Restaurants, shopping
  • Tour guides and companies (and of course touring on your own as we did)
  • Watching sunrises, sunsets, and southern stargazing
  • And yes, you can even get a safe tattoo with designs the most unusual in the entire Pacific!

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