The Most Beautiful Place I’ve Seen: Easter Island, Chile, Jan. 24, 2007

Easter Island looks in places like photographs of Maine. They both have those rocky coasts. It has green rolling hills like Ireland. People build garden walls of reddish volcanic rock around homes in Easter Island’s one town, Hanga Roa.
Shiny leaves of banana plants rise above these walls. Inside the walls, tell roses can stand near the orange and purple flowers known as birds of paradise.

Little hawks seem almost as common on Easter Island as sparrows are at home in D.C. They perch on fences and rocks, and seem little concerned when people approach.
Horses roam the entire island. We saw them run in dozens across green fields leading to the bluest of seas. Another two had a fine romp across the field of a small Chilean military base. They tend to mill around the entrance to the airport.
In Hanga Roa, they share the road with dogs and chickens. Rush hour in Hanga Roa means braking for two hens, each with two chicks. The birds cross the road and then cross back before disappearing through bushes.
On another street, cars slow down as a yellow dog decides to try to bite the bumper of a white car. It’s a small-town island. When the Lan Chile agent confirming our Santiago flight asked where we were staying, my husband and I turned to each other and debated how to pronounce the Polynesian name of our little hotel.
“Oh, you’re staying with Theresa,” said the agent, who heard our talk and correctly guessed which of his neighbors our host was. The picture to the right is the garden at Theresa’s.
A taxi driver offered us a good price on a ride to Easter Island’s beach, Anakena, $12 instead of $18. He had to make a stop first to deliver bread to a corner sandwich stand.
It was the same place where David and I had been eating, a refuge from the $100-a-dinner places near the beach. We talked with him on the road to Anakena about the tasty giant $3 barbecued meat sandwich sold at the stand, known as churrasco.
The baked-in light green of the hills sloping down to Anakena clashes with shining turquoise water. No matter.
There is still not a beach I’ve seen that is even close to its beauty. The water is so clear there that we watched our feet disturb the soft white sand below.
Oh, and from this beach, you look through tall palm trees at statues more than 10 feet tall standing on a platform, which rises about six feet from the sandy beach.
These are some of the statues that make Easter Island, a speck of volcanic remnants lost in the deep blue Pacific, famous throughout the world. The statues are called moai, pronounced like the verb, mow, and the noun, eye. More about them in my next entry.

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