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Berit Ramstad Skoyles: Banana trees, white sand a fitting crescendo

When I stepped off of the plane at the Mataveri International Airport all I could think was that I had finally arrived — I was finally on Easter Island.

My friend Emma and I were screaming our heads off with the excitement of being in a place where few people get the chance to visit.

This Easter Island trip was the second and final Rotary trip of my exchange year. Easter Island is a remote island far out into the south Pacific Ocean. It is more than 2,000 miles away from the nearest continent — South America. 

Easter Island is known for its multitude of huge ancient statues called Moai. The plan was to visit the Moai, learn the traditional dance of the Rapa Nui people who populate the island and do all of the other touristy things Easter Island has to offer. The trip turned out to be all of that and so much more.

Our trip started off with exploring the only town on the island. The main street was lined with souvenir shops and restaurants as far as the eye could see. Almost every shop contained the same things, but some had better prices than others.

We headed underground on our second day to explore the caves where the first Rapa Nui people lived. I’ve been to plenty of caves before, but nothing compares to this cave adventure. I wouldn’t say that it was the prettiest cave I’ve ever been in, but it was the closest I’ve ever been to fulfilling my dream of spelunking.

The rainwater lake within the cave could only be traversed by small rocks precariously positioned in a line across the water. For those of us who don’t have the longest of legs, it was a bit difficult to stay out of the water.

“Profile Picture Day” was the official name of Day Three. That was the day when we went to see the most famous Moai, 15 huge statues in a line.

First of all, the Moai are some of the most incredible things I’ve ever laid eyes on. With heights of 10-25 meters, they towered over all of us while they watched over the island, silent sentinels peering off into the ocean. With that piece of information, you can only imagine how fantastic the line of fifteen truly was.

We spent the afternoon of “Profile Picture Day” at the beach. Before arriving at the beach, we visited the “Belly Button of the World.” The belly button is a perfectly round rock that supposedly gives off high amounts of energy. Can’t say that I felt much of it.

The beach was surrounded by banana trees and white sand. I have wanted to see a banana tree for as long as I can remember. Seeing the banana trees on the beach was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. I really have no clue why, but those tress just seem so majestic.

On the second to last day, we headed out to the part of the island inaccessible to normal tourists. We walked an hour and a half up and down a volcano to plant 1,500 trees. We were guided by forestry students from Santiago as we dug the holes, fertilized the dirt and planted the trees. The feeling of giving back to the island after all of the beauty it had given us was great.

Not many people can say that they’ve planted trees on Easter Island. I am fortunate to be one of the few who can.

That night we were treated to a private show in our hostel. We learned the traditional Rapa Nui dance and saw many body parts that we didn’t need to see in the process. (Not many clothes are worn for the dances.) They painted our faces with what we think were tribal symbols. All we know is that we had cool designs on our faces.

The final day was spent at the local school with another trip to the beach. The fourth grade class danced and sang songs for us. After lunch we all headed out to the beach to relax on our last afternoon. The waves were rather large and crashed down on us over and over again.

Easter Island is a place that I will never forget. I will never forget the people, the Moai, the food, my precious banana trees or the impact that I was privileged to make on the island. A fitting crescendo to an exchange year that has truly been the adventure of a lifetime.