Because I had a few extra days on Easter Island, I looked into other activities that I could do. The first one being — of course — hiking, since It’s one of the cheapest activities and I seem to have a penchant for finding mountains (or hills) to climb wherever I am.
The company that I booked the sightseeing tours with offered a few hikes around the island, including one that wrapped all the way around the coast from Anakena beach (in the NE) back to Hanga Roa (the main town, in the SW), covering about 1/3 of the circumference of the island. The hike followed the coastline through some archaeological sites that were inaccessible by vehicles, and it took an estimated 5-7 hours. Sold! The only problem was that it costed $180 to do the hike with a private guide...yikes.
But some research yielded that it was entirely possible to do the hike on your own. After all, it’s basically impossible to get lost, since all you have to do is walk along the shore line in one direction. How bad could it be? I was up for the challenge!
The main logistical problem with the hike is transportation. Turns out that hiring a private taxi to go anywhere outside of Hanga Roa, even to go one way, is very expensive. I also wanted to go back to the quarry at Rano Raraku (to see it on a sunny day, since it rained when I went there on the tour) before getting dropped at Anakena, and the taxi company fare for this proposed itinerary was 50,000 CLP (almost $80). That was higher than the price for some full day tours!
I figured that I could probably get a better rate by asking taxi drivers directly, and if not, then there was no harm done either. So I went to town and flagged down random taxis, leading with “No es para ahora, pero tengo una pregunta para mañana” (“Not for now, but I have a question for tomorrow”). It worked - I got a quote of 40,000 CLP ($64) and finally one for 32,000 CLP ($51). I snagged that last one, with fingers crossed that I had managed to communicate all the accurate details in Spanish. I learned lots of Spanish in high school but also never practiced it after, so traveling in Chile has been quite a test of what I remember (answer: not much, but bits and pieces are coming back).
The taxi driver agreed to pick me up the next morning at 9am. I waited outside at 8:55, and at 9:20 was just about to give up and start the taxi courting process again when he appeared. Phew! Despite a later start than I had requested, everything else went according to plan. The driver took me to Rano Raraku, waited outside for me for an hour, and then dropped me off at Anakena. Seems my Spanish isn’t so terrible after all.
Apart from being the starting point for the hike, Anakena is also a gorgeous beach - and one of the island’s only sandy beaches. There are palm trees, white sand, turquoise waters, everything you would expect from and island paradise!
But my main interest was in going hiking, not going to the beach, so I stayed just long enough to soak in the beauty and fuel up with a tuna empanada before setting off at 12:30.
0 hours, 0 minutes
The hike starts right from Anakena, up a road that comes in from the west. The first thing I see on the road is a campground, and then ruins from an old village, including a burial area with flowers.
0 hours, 20 minutes
Still on the road, I pass through a herd of grazing cows. Cows get a little unnerving when they all turn and stare at you until you pass out of sight, and I am all of a sudden very aware of the additional risk of being gored by a bull.
0 hours, 40 minutes
The road ends, and I stumble upon a petroglyphs carved in one of the rocks. Not entirely sure what it is, but pretty sure it’s a petroglyph!
0 hours, 50 minutes
I find the first pile of rocks that I can easily identify as an ahu, with chunks of yellow rock that likely used to be Moai.
1 hour, 40 minutes
Brightly colored, moving dots appear in the distance near what looks like a ranch, the first building I've seen in more than an hour. Could it be...? Yes, people! They also left from Anakena earlier in the morning and are on their way back. Their goal was not to go all the way to Hanga Roa, but to go moai hunting off the beaten path along the coast.
I feel slightly guilty because I’d been too busy admiring the sea to keep an eye out for moai. But I resolve to do a better job of looking out for archaeological artifacts thereafter.
2 hours, 15 minutes
Not much luck on the Moai front, even though I’ve been more conscious about scanning for them. I see two more dots in the distance, higher up on the hill than me. They pause, maybe to take a break, and I figure I might as well hike up to them to say hi.
Only when I get within 10 feet of them do I realize that the rock they’re standing next to is a Moai. Wow, I’m doing a great job at this. Lucky they were there, or I would have passed it completely.
2 hours, 50 minutes
I check maps.me and see lots of sites marked in the area. Some of them are not entirely accurate (which I should have guessed, given that some ahus are marked in the ocean), but I investigate a pinpoint marked as a cave and labeled “w/ Make Make carvings,” and, to my surprise, find exactly what was advertised.
3 hours, 20 minutes
Given the success of the cave, I see another point up on the hill marked “Moai” and decide to investigate. I go almost half an hour out of my but can’t seem to reach it, and eventually give up.
10 minutes later, though, I do stumble across Ahu Vaimata: a Moai abandoned facedown, just 200m or so away from an ahu with lots of other toppled Moai.
3 hours, 45 minutes
Rain. What?? The forecast was supposed to be clear! But there is one narrow strip of rain clouds that formed as the clouds hit the side of the volcano that I’m walking around, and of course, I happen to be right under it.
And, of course, it follows me. For the better part of an hour. Of course.
But I pass another toppled moai along the way.
4 hours 45 minutes
While still drying off from the rain, I find a big Ahu with multiple fallen Moai. Now here’s an archaeological site!
5 hours, 15 minutes
All of a sudden, I encounter a sign that announces that I’ve arrived at Ana Te Pora. I enter the cave and find a gigantic cavern that’s got to be more than 40m long, though I am too nervous to go more than 10m deep inside it.
5 hours, 30 minutes
A little ways down, I come across an entire group of middle aged Chilean ladies. The sudden appearance of people comes as a bit of a shock, and I don’t see any cars or moai in sight. I try my best to ask what they’re doing here and they point me to another cave, which I find out from a sign is Ana Kakenga, a.k.a the “cave of two windows."
This one is narrow, unlike the one I just visited, but it has two openings that lead to the cliffs. A natural dwelling with a seaside view!
6 hours, 0 minutes
Are those — yes, they are! — cars! Meaning (1) I’m close to roads, but also (2) still far enough from town that people prefer to drive to get there. That second point is just a tad disheartening.
6 hours, 45 minutes
At last, Tahai! The popular sunset moai site on the edge of town, just a mere 10 minutes away from my guesthouse. Arriving at 7:15pm, 6 hours and 45 minutes after I set out from Anakena, I make it here much closer to sunset than I’d originally intended.
Overall a rewarding hike, but most definitely not one to be underestimated. Usually when I see estimates for hiking time, I fall on the shorter side of the spectrum and often manage to beat the beat the estimate. This was the first time I clocked in on the longer side, closer to 7 hours than 5, and I wasn’t sure how to feel…but I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to make 5 hours, even if I knew where everything was and headed straight for it.
Besides, the exploration was all part of the fun. I do, however, recommend going with at least one other person, just in case you twist an ankle on a rock hidden in the grass, get caught in a crumbling cave, or, god forbid, get gored by a bull. But if you have a spare day on Easter Island and haven’t gotten your fill of archaeological sites, this hike is a great way to visit the less accessible sites of Easter Island.