The Navel of the World – Rapa Nui

Day 45, 20.11.2018 , Hanga Roa, Easter Island

I was a bit sceptical at first about the need for local pilots for each tender boat but the Hanga Roa harbour approach was just jagged rocks and surf so maybe a local guide was not such a bad idea.

H stayed aboard and I went for a bike ride. We were here four years ago so there was no need to see everything. I cycled out of Hanga Roa town on the road running down the side of the airport. The airport runway here is a bit longer than you might expect as it was apparently designed as an emergency landing spot for the space shuttle. Clearing the runway, I headed along the wild southeast coast road towards Ahu Tongariki. Everyone has seen this place in photos. A bunch of moai sat on an ahu. It was restored to something like its original mid-last-millenium glory only fairly recently.

Not long after Europeans started visiting the island, after Easter Sunday 1722, it seems like someone must have said these moai look nothing like people from the outside world and probably not like our ancestors either. So they toppled them all over in a fit of pique. Maybe making odd-looking ancestor deities out of huge stone blocks was a wacky idea but still an enormous achievement for people using stone tools and home-made ropes.

From Tongariki I took a shortcut  on an unpaved road to the side of a volcanic cone called Rano Raraku. Everyone has seen this place in photos as well. It was the factory site for all the stone carving. The place is littered with partly made, broken and half-buried moai. The sculptors seem to have downed stone tools very suddenly and before European contact, maybe around the 1600’s when it became obvious that their Rapa Nui ecosystem was all used up and the moai were not being all that much help. As a new way to provide order in their society, they came up with the concept of an egg race but that’s another story. Who knows if that would have worked out for them but soon afterwards visitors brought disease and slave-ships and the whole culture fizzled out.

I have another theory about the moai for what it’s worth. The Rapa Nui elders sat down soon after they arrived on the island and said we only have two things, our extremely remote location and some volcanic rocks so somebody come up with an idea to attract tourists.

I had a tuna empanada and a local beer in the visitor centre and rode back to Hanga Roa. A 58km ride with strong headwind and hot sunshine. Damn near killed me.


Day 46, 21.11.2018 , South Pacific Ocean

Sea day.


Day 47, 22.11.2018 , South Pacific Ocean

Sea day.


Day 48, 23.11.2018 , near Pitcairn Island, South Pacific Ocean

Sea day. We have just had a sail past Pitcairn Island, about a mile offshore. It’s a bit remote here. The nearest airport is on the Gambier Islands 334 miles away. The nearest international airports are Easter Island at 1,297 miles to the east and Tahiti at 1,356 miles to the west and these places themselves are famously remote. We could make out Adamstown, the one and only settlement, in the mist and we tooted the fog horn. The Bosun claimed to have a girlfriend there. Seems unlikely. “It’s mutiny Mr. Christian!”.


Day 49, 24.11.2018 , Tuamotus Archipelago, South Pacific Ocean

Sea day. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.4 degrees south in the early hours just south of the Gambier Islands. This is the southernmost latitude where the sun is directly overhead at the southern summer solstice. It is caused by the Earth’s spin being tilted 23.4 degrees relative to the Earth’s solar orbit. The Tropic of Capricorn is apparently moving northwards at 15 metres a year. Nobody else cares about this so I will shut up now.


Day 50, 25.11.2018 , Tuamotus Archipelago, South Pacific Ocean

Sea day.

There are a lot of sea days on this trip. So, what do we get up to on a typical day at sea?
We rise about 06:30. This is no hardship as sailing westward, we gain and extra hour of sleep most nights. We shower, dress and I hang the previous days dirty laundry in a bag by the cabin door, and we go for breakfast.

The food is better in the passenger restaurants, but H gets too many questions from garrulous passengers if she is in uniform, so we normally go to the Crew Mess. We often get some privacy in the usually empty Officer’s Mess which is separate from the main crew section. I usually have two or three boiled eggs, bread, butter, jam, coffee. H usually has some scrambled eggs. H then takes 20 steps and she is in her office and ready to fire a few people or whatever it is she does. I take 20 steps and a lift to Deck 10 and I am home. I might have another coffee from the semi-functional Nespresso machine in the cabin and think about updating this blog.

Abdul, our Cabin Steward, comes around about 08:30 and mucks us out. Cleans the bathroom, changes the sheets and towels etc. While this is happening, and if the weather is good, I usually go and sit in an outside seating area, otherwise an indoor bar area, and deal with emails and research for next-destination activities.

When lunchtime comes around H pretends to skip it but usually gets a protein shake to be going on with. I also pretend to skip lunch, but sometimes I grab something from one of the passenger restaurants. About 15:00 we are worn out and have a nap followed by another shower and a change of uniform for H. H does some more work and by 18:00 we go for dinner.

Dinner is usually also in the Crew Mess with its basic fare, but they do have Indian curries and Filipino food which is not usually available in the passenger restaurants. Sometimes we eat in one of the passenger buffet restaurants and occasionally in the posh restaurant when we are in the mood for seven courses or somebody invites us.

Around 19:00 I run an English Master-class for officers. I also consult at other times of the day for emergency language repairs to emails. Around 20:00 H drags me kicking and screaming to the gym. Usually the machines are free at that time. During the daytime, almost every piece of equipment is being used by old people trying to give themselves new heart attacks. Then back to our cabin for our third shower of the day. The laundry will have arrived by then and I hang it back in the wardrobe. Such a chore!

If the weather is nice we might sit with a drink on our balcony and watch the stars or distant tropical lightning flashes. ‘Balcony’ is maybe not a good term for what we have. It is a former passenger deck on the forward port-side that had to be closed to the passengers for security reasons as it has access to the bridge. Our cabin opens directly on to this deck which is maybe 4 metres wide and 25 metres long with tables and chairs and sunbeds. We share it with the Hotel Director and the Chief Engineer, but it is otherwise a private area. The starboard-side of the ship has a similar area for the Captain, Staff Captain and Safety Officer.

This ship, one of the smaller ones in the fleet, has the best accommodation for Senior Officers. The cabin is a good-sized suite with a sofa and easy chair, TV and fridge in a sitting area, and a wide bed and lots of storage space in a separate bedroom. There are only a handful of passenger cabins that are as good.
There is a lot of theatrical and musical stuff usually going on in the evenings but as my German ist sehr schlect I don’t bother much with it and usually just watch a DVD in the cabin and have a glass of something until bedtime.