While I was studying abroad, we went to Easter Island. I decided to keep a detailed record of all of our adventures, so here’s a wordy, photo-filled account of our time in the most remote island in the world:
Early one Thursday morning in April 2016, 13 Lipscomb students gathered in our Santiago apartment lobby to catch our shuttle to the airport for Easter Island. We piled into two groups, checked in our bags, and very soon our phones had already automatically connected to the Starbucks wifi. I sat and waited for the plane with two sweet friends Daniel and Christie, when a little boy came over to show us his toys. Somehow we ended up babysitting him for a while, as he chattered away in Spanish about his life on Rapa Nui.
We got off the plane at the end of our 5 hour flight and stepped into 70 degree humidity, greeted by people’s family members clinging to a fence staring at the remarkably short runway. We purchased our park tickets (since the entire island costs money to visit), and arrived at our camp site by squeezing into a 15-passenger van decked out in colorful island fabrics.
After checking in and unloading into our small plastic saunas, we took off into the town to find water and ancient statues. We wandered around the coastline as crystal waves crashed on the shore, and we could see towering heads in the distance. We found our target. After about 15 minutes we made it to the most prominent heads on the western side of the island, and took our pictures with them. They were really stunning, standing as guards in the middle of the ocean. Several hours later we watched the sun set from the cliffs beside our little camp site and worshipped under the southern stars.
Early on Friday morning we made our breakfast and wandered to the tour office, where 4 of us hopped in a sprinter to tour part of the Island. A very kind Rapa Nui woman explained all of the history as we drove to the quarry where the heads were carved out. The island landscape was so beautiful in the morning sun, as luscious green grass met volcanic rock and deep teal waters. On our tour we saw these half build heads, the famous 15 standing proudly by the coast, several sinking into the ground up the road, and a rock labeled the naval of the world.
We met people from all different countries and continents over a meal they prepared for us on the tour, before we drove once more to beautiful white beaches where we met the rest of our group. This beach had been carved out for kings of the island, apparently, so we frolicked in the water like children while other tourists laid out like royalty in the sun.
Our long day ended by sitting at a small restaurant staring into the ocean, before renting ATVs and watching another sunset. I have never felt so foolish than I did trying to drive my semi-automatic ATV through the city. I knew then that the following day would be a real adventure.
At 4:20am we loaded up with our packed breakfast, jumped on ATVs, and headed into the darkness. At every turn I knew that someone or something could be lurking, but we continued on and drove down the coastal road to the big 15. We sped down the road under the light of the milky way and a bright crescent moon until we reached our destination and staked our claim in front of the statues.
The southern constellations were stunning, and stayed up for several hours before the sun began to show and other onlookers started to arrive. There was something so special about laying there in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean, staring deep into the glittering milky way and the bright, prominent southern cross. I knew these were my last few glimpses at it, so I stared with more careful attention and fascination.
Eventually the sun began to rise, and I photographed from our perfect spot while other photographers began to battle over who was standing in the way of whom. We watched daylight bring detail to the massive statues, jumped on our ATVs again, and rode through the countryside. We didn’t know where we were going, but the drive was beautiful in morning light. There was a small hill (volcano) we decided to climb, so we pulled over, realized it was private property, and climbed up to the top of the fence row. After crossing over a dead horse and meandering through the rocks, we sat ourselves perfectly on a cliff overlooking the sea. We watched waves crash into the volcanic rocks with such grace and power, towering upwards of ten feet high against the massive cliffs. There we were, in the middle of nowhere and yet still surrounded by God’s beauty and care and precision.
We got our fill of sitting and staring into the ocean before we loaded back up and drove to the beach. The waters were just as cold and just as beautiful, as we swam around and bought lunch at the small café.
While part of the team went to the quarry, I dropped my co-driver off and went for my own drive back up the road. It was so freeing and so beautiful, and the crystal water was far more vibrantly blue and teal than I had ever seen it. Hawks were flying majestically over the area while horses walked out and blocked the road, and once I had finished my drive, we went back into town and found a nice coffee shop, where we ran into our French friend Tristan for the 3rd time that weekend.
After returning the ATVs, we made it back to our hostel for another sunset and worship on the cliffs. Pro tip: Always bring a backpacking guitar when studying abroad.
Sunday I didn’t take many pictures, but during a walk around the island we were followed by nearly 15 stray dogs and decided to go back to our campsite and swim in a little bay near the town.
Monday morning brought our last few moments on the last weekend travel of the semester, so naturally I took off on my own and wandered up to the left of our campsite, a place I had not yet been. I walked past a little marina and some restaurants, down a winding beaten path in the grass. It led me past houses and resorts, up hills and down small valleys, until I finally found a stair case leading to a little cave by the water. I walked down without reading the informational signs and was greeted by a ceiling covered in tribal cave art. It was incredible, the birds and shapes that were so iconic, painted many many years ago with natural rocks and colors. I sat for a while to marvel at the mystery of the people who created these and the God who created and cared for them. [I also found out later that this cave was where cannibals ate, near the demise of the civilization. Comforting, yes.]
I finally climbed back out of the cave and wandered a little farther up the coast to sit and stare at a cave from above. I watched the waves crash and crash, singing worship songs quietly with the sound of the ocean. It was beautiful. Everything about my morning was beautiful. I walked with Jesus along the shore, and He reminded me that this isn’t the end of my adventure. The world is so big, and every part is under His care. Who knows what will come next? In less than in a month I would be in Northern Ireland, and planning more adventures for the future, both in Tennessee and around the world. Once I made it back to the campsite, we loaded up and boarded our plane in the tiniest single-runway island airport I’ve ever seen.