What was I thinking? I decided to climb Rano Kau. Setting out at a reasonable 10 o’clock, I had it figured that I could climb to the village of Oronga in about an hour, stay there for an hour and head back down to Ahu Vinapu and then to Hanga Roa in time for a late lunch.
First of all, I couldn’t find the flipping path that leads up the volcano, so I ended up making my own. This wasn’t so bad, but every time I thought I was about to reach the top, more of the mountain appeared. Hot and already pretty tired, I reached the access road that skirts the top of the volcano at about 1 o’clock. Crossing this and continuing up, I finally reached the top edge of the volcanoes mighty caldera. The view was spectacular. In the base of the caldera is a lake that is filled with reed, but in such a way that the lake appears to be a patchwork of greens and blues.
Despite the strong gusts of wind, I decided this was a good spot to have lunch. I hadn’t intended to climb down to the lake, but after I had finished my sandwiches I noticed a way down. After a couple of minutes deciding if it was really such a good idea, I just got on with in and headed down into the crater.
At first, the going was easy, but two thirds of the way, thorn encrusted trees had to be negotiated. It was hot and tiring work as the angle of descent was quite great.
Eventually, I could see a brilliant blue shimmering beneath me and I knew that I had reached the bottom. At the lakes edge, I was somewhat disappointed. I had hoped for a view up toward the village of Orongo on the opposite side of the crater, but reeds mainly obscured it. From the craters lip, you would have guessed the reeds to be perhaps one or two feet in height; the reality was tem to twelve feet.
As I had taken so much time and effort and as a way to cool myself down, I decided that I should go for a paddle. Between the waters edge and the reed bed, the depth increased quickly. The roots of the reeds created matting just beneath the surface of the water, enabling me to walk out into the lake about another 20 feet.
After drying my feet, I faced the weary task of the climb back out. This took another full hour. In total, I had spent over three hours in the crater. This was the descent and ascent, the paddling in the lake, but also the numerous times I stopped to take in the phenomenal view.
It was another twenty minutes before I reached Orongo village, via the bumpy dirt track. I had been told that you had to pay to get into Orongo and that the money went towards maintaining the entire heritage sites on the island. Just my luck, it was past four pm and the little hut where you had to pay was closed up for the day, so entry was free.
You quickly crest a hill and then walk down towards the first of the low buildings of Orongo. To your left you can get a great view of the crater, to your right is the most awe-inspiring view of the Pacific Ocean. The almost unreal blue of the sea was captivating. The small islands of Moto Uti and Moto Iti were all there was between Easter Island and French Polynesia. After a few moments, your brain also realises that it can see the curvature of the Earth. I cannot think of another place that is just simply so amazing.
Continuing down and among the buildings, you notice that the entranceways are very small and long, perhaps a crawl of about five feet. Even though the ceremonial village of Orongo was occupied for only two months of the year, the accommodation did look a bit cramped. At the far end of the village, where the priests had their homes, is a lookout point and many petroglyphs relating to the birdman cult.
I know I shouldn't have done it, but it was getting late and nobody was around, so on my way back through the buildings, I crawled into one. Inside, it was pretty dark, some light filtered in though the doors and cracks in the walls, though the furthest corners were in total darkness. The rooms would have been warm, dry and most importantly out of the wind which is ever present at Orongo and pretty insistent elsewhere in the island.
I have to say that I wasn't looking forward to walking back down and was lucky enough to hitch a ride with and English couple and an American who were doing a whirlwind tour.
Sleep, when my head hit the pillow twenty minutes later, was instantaneous. I awoke at ten thirty and decided that I might as well forget about dinner and go back to sleep.