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Wednesday 2nd June - Easter Island to Papeete, Tahiti
By Claire
Tuesday, 8th June 2004 20:29

There was no marzipan in the pancakes this morning, but very sweet banana instead. I could get used to pancakes. We packed all our bags and left them in the big sitting room area, and then went out to see all the things we hadn't got round to. Yesterday, in the souveneir shops and market, we'd seen a beautiful carved wooden bowl that we'd decided to treat ourselves to, so that was the first thing on our list.

Unfortunately, it turns out that because it costs more than $500 to get to Easter Island from Santiago, or you do it as part of a round-the-world ticket, the people of Easter Island assume that you have to have a lot of money to come and visit, and therefore they price their souveneirs accordingly. We decided that we couldn't actually justify spending $200 on a wooden bowl, so we had to let that one go. So we went off for another walk, and found more moai that somehow we'd missed over the last couple of days. One of them had painted eyes and a big red hat. We found rock carvings and a lady in a field selling bracelets, and a cemetary and a lot of mud. In the afternoon we spent a while checking our mail, and then had lunch and wrote some postcards. In the three days we'd been at the hostel, they'd built an extension on the side of their house, which would eventually be the guest kitchen. They started with a patch of concrete and had put plasterboard on the walls by the time we left. It was quite impressive.

By 6pm we wandered to the road to find a taxi to take us to the airport, and we found out why everyone is given 4x4s as hire cars - the taxi driver took almost the entire underside of his car off trying to get to the hostel. We felt guilty but he seemed unfazed.

Our flight was an international one, so we arrived two hours early. The airport was almost entirely empty, except for one or two people setting up expensive souveneir stalls (their carved bowls were more than $350) and we had to wait for about 10 minutes before someone arrived at the LanChile desk. She directed us to Gate 1, which was funny because there was only one gate. There was virtually no security, the x-ray machine was broken and the resulting inspection was really just a cursory glance at the hand luggage, and we sat and read in the airport for a couple of hours. A small child, who was probably only about 4, came up to us with a bag of marbles and proceeded to tell us in Spanish, and remarkable detail, the story of how he came by every single one, and invited us both to inspect them. I had no idea what he was saying but fortunately we were not obliged to join in. After half an hour, which ended with the sad tale of how he finally lost all his marbles, with appropriate facialexpressions for emphasis,someone rescued us by taking him away.

The plane was nearly an hour late, and the wind was cold. We boarded the plane, wrapped up in blankets and were fed. It was a five and a half hour flight, we'd seen all the films several times, so we dozed and read and eventually we arrived in Papeete. We were allowed to go through the European Union channel and bypassed a long queue, and the man at the desk just glanced at our passports and let us through. As we walked away, I remarked to Mikey that we wouldn't get stamps in the passports because technically we were in Europe, so the man called us back and put stamps in them for us, which made me happy.

Tahiti is the biggest of the French Polynesian islands, and although beautiful in its own right, Papeete (with about 4 syllables) is very unattractive, and we were intending to go to Moorea, possibly the second most beautiful of the islands (after Bora Bora) the next day. We had to find somewhere to stay first, so we stopped at the airport bank, changed a lot of dollars into a few huge, colourful banknotes, the best money I've ever seen, and took a taxi to the hostel that Ana of Easter Island had suggested.

Along with Japan, French Polynesia is possibly one of the most expensive places on Earth. The seven-minute taxi ride cost a staggering $30 and the grotty little room with no shower cost twice that for the night. We resigned ourselves to spending a lot here, and went to sleep - it was about midnight local time, but 4am for us.

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