Sunday, December 4, 2011

Disoriented but Acclimating

I spent my first few days on Easter Island being completely disoriented. How could it be the same time as in New York? How had I been jerked back to real-time exchanges with my own world when I knew damn well I was west of there? And if I hadn't had a map, I had the sun. Time is wrong on Rapa Nui, simply put.

And that just adds to the quirks of this enigmatic enclave, part-worldly tourist hotspot and part family-oriented small town.

Which just happens to be in the middle of the world's largest ocean.

Breakfast with the family that owned my guesthouse happened every morning at 8:45 a.m. Accommodations (and everything, really) are almost all homegrown here, with the hotels being family projects and the guesthouses being in small cabins behind the family home. There is also a hostel/backpackers/campground, but I'd run some calculations and quickly realized that a charming family with a fantastic little room and terrace with included airport transfers, free wifi, and breakfast for $50 a night beat all other options, even though I did get tired of people asking me what I'd done today.

That's like having a normal family back home, isn't it? I've been living alone too long.

The neighbors had a party the first night, and I'm quite sure I heard the Benny Hill theme, but the noise didn't keep me awake—I was already awake, being on Tahiti time. Plus, I'd slept all morning after arriving on an overnight flight.

On my second day, I suddenly realized that the UK was actually *ahead* of me in time again, since I was back on New York time, and I'd managed to blow my weekly deadline for Wanderlust. Argh!

On my third day, I took a horseback ride (without caffeine in my system, miraculously) up an extinct volcano to the highest point on the island. Actually, this kind of sucked. The guides didn't stop once on the way up or back, so I have no photos of the ride. No one mentioned anything about how to ride or control a horse, and I missed a spot with the sunscreen and got burned. Okay, I already know how to ride a horse, but that's not the point. What if I didn't?

At least I got to wear a cool hat.

I learned I could barely climb on an off a horse. This shouldn't have surprised me. I've always had a problem with that. Horses are tall and saddles are a long way up. And my knees are hyper...hyper...I don't remember. I once went to a chiropractic school in Sydney as a guinea pig for students, and they told me I had extra-special-loose-joints. Which is good for parlor tricks like moving your kneecap independently of your leg, or for yoga, but not so good for your joints later in life. I can't wait. Anyway, riding horses makes my knees hurt. I think I'm done with riding horses. Until the next time an opportunity for horseback riding comes up, at least.

On day four, I climbed a sendero to a crater at the top of an extinct volcano and checked out some ancient homes at Orango. I'm a sucker for open houses at home too, but these weren't for going in and out. I had to admire from the path.

I sat with a Polish-American man on a log halfway back down the volcano and watched the plane take off from the Easter Island airport.

"That's a long runway," he mused.

"Long enough for the space shuttle to land here in an emergency," I said. I had a friend—or rather a guy I knew pretty well virtually but not in real-life, even though he's now living in my apartment and hunting the mice that have taken over—and his obsessions include the space shuttle and Easter Island. Now I knew.

I took my leave, while the Polish-American remained there on the log. I wanted to get back down the hill to see the locals dance at the street fair, which is where I saw what I bet is the first and only Easter Island Elvis impersonator.

As I walked back down the sendero, I encountered the only other tourists I'd seen on the trail. (Most of them sensibly drive up the hill.) Two French guys passed me, going the other direction.

"Oh-La," they said, nodding at me and greeting me in Spanish.

I greeted them back.

Then, one of them farted, and they moved on.

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