Early to Head, Early to Rise

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, January 01, 2011 was originally posted on January 07, 2011.

DAY 17 (PART 1):  “It’s like we’re in a vortex or something,” Leigh-Anne said at 8:30am, without referring to the odd time-warping things that happen on Lost (which I never really followed).  She was referring to the fact that both of our iPhone 4’s alarm clocks mysteriously didn’t go off at 5:30am as planned, even though they were set and hadn’t failed us before.  (Later we learned that it was due to a 2011 bug on Apple’s popular smartphone, and that there were many others in the world annoyed about the major wake-up malfunction.)

Our reasoning for getting up at 5:30 was like most reasons to get up at stupid o’clock: to see the sunrise.  We all had planned to get up before dawn, drive over to Ahu Tongariki, site of the fifteen moai, just in time to see the famous stone sculptures backlit by a dramatic sky.  I had woken around 4am when I heard a downpour, but went back to bed, confident I’d be awaken again in an hour and a half so that we could assess the situation — but it was Apple’s fault that I got an additional hour of unwanted shut-eye.  (Goddamnit, Steve Jobs.)

It was dark I woke up in my room at 6:30, and I figured our sunrise plan was off with the rain, but I freaked out that it might still be on.  I put on my headlamp and went outside where it was already dry, another sign that our plan might still be on — if it wasn’t too late.  My “harem” never really knew the exact details of where I was sleeping, so there was no way they could have tried to contact me that morning even if they tried.

It was dim when I made it down the hill, around the corner, and down the block to Kaimana Inn.  No one was around.  I knocked on a couple of the doors.  No answer.  Fuck, they left without me, I thought to myself.  Then again, there was no way for them to get in touch with me.  The minute hand was still moving steadily — as it always does outside of a vortex — and I tried to think of what to do.  I checked the parking lot to see if our SUV was there.  There was one there that looked like ours, with the “Pascual Rental Car” logo on the side, but I realized it could have been another rental car from the same place.  I quickly tried to go through old photos on my camera to see if I could find our license plate number, but nothing turned up.  And so, I left a note on the windshield in case it was in fact our car, and head on foot to try and watch the sunrise somewhere.  The problem was, I was on the west coast of the island.

I thought about stealing a bicycle for the meantime, just to ride the ten miles over to Ahu Tongariki, but there was nothing readily available.  I decided to see how far I could get on foot (this is before I realized how far it was), and started walking across town, where it was still dark enough to make the wood-carved nativity scene a nighttime one.  There was no one on the road — not a soul walking or driving — but then, as if on cue, a lone car cruised by.  It was a taxi.  That’s weird, I thought to myself.  There’s one car on the road in what is otherwise a town still asleep and it’s a taxi.  It has to be a sign.  I turned on my headlamp to make myself known and raised my hand before it completely passed me by.  The red brake light illuminated.

“[You know the place with the moai near the beach?]” I asked him in simple Spanish.  Of course he knew, and had me come inside for the ride — an expensive one I may add, at $50 USD.  I guess it’s like trying to get from Manhattan to JFK Airport in a rush, I justified to myself.

The sky was already brighter as we sped down the road along the east coast of the island.  I feared I had missed the big show, but when I arrived I saw that small groups of people — four other carloads — were still setting up their cameras for the money shot.  “Hay mis amigos,” I told the driver, pointing to a group that from afar I assumed was mine.  The cabbie took my money and drove back to town while I walked to the group, only to realize there were no familiar faces.

There were clouds in the sky as the morning got brighter.  There were no strong hues of pink or orange — a sign that I had missed the magic.  However, after ten minutes of dawn, the sky suddenly started shifting.  The faint pinks turned orange, and the yellows intensified — all brought to life by the dramatic cloud coverage.  I scurried around for the best angle to shoot the moai amidst the pesky French people telling me I was in their shot, but managed to get to a prime vantage spot for when the sun came over the horizon of the ahu at exactly two seconds past 7:30 (according to my camera’s digital timestamp).

Click. (picture above)  That was worth the fifty bucks, I thought to myself, shooting more pictures.

By 7:45 the show was over and most people head to their cars to drive back to town to get some more sleep.  I had limited options on how I might do that myself.  There was one taxi in a parking lot there, and it seemed like my only hope, even at what I was anticipating another fifty dollars.

“Are you trying to take our taxi?” said a snooty woman in a French accent.  She was in a taxi share with French and Germans.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, hoping they’d have a heart in letting me tag along.

“Unfortunately, there is already four of us,” she said, uninvitingly.

“Okay,” I said, trying to lay a guilt trip.  “I’ll just hitchhike.”  But they didn’t budge and zipped away.

I head on foot, walking back down the coastal road amidst the wild horses.  I contemplated stealing one of them, but I didn’t know how far I’d get without a saddle.  A car came from behind me and I held my thumb out for a ride.  It whizzed by.  I guess I’m walking then, I thought to myself, hoping I’d make it to town before it got unbearably hot.  I didn’t recall there being another car left back at the ahu parking lot.

And then a pick-up truck came into focus from behind me.  I stuck out my thumb and it slowed down to a halt.  The driver never really made eye contact with me, but just nod his head to motion me to jump in the rear bed.  I hopped in and sat down and the driver accelerated on the gas.  Through the back window I saw a tan-faced girl gave me a peace sign with her fingers.

I’m hitchhiking in the back of a pick-up truck on Easter Island, I thought to myself.  I couldn’t have been happier.  I observed nature’s beauty, as the sun inched up and warmed up the earth, and the Pacific waves collided with the rocky shore.

Ten miles later, I was back in Hanga Roa around 8:15, where the driver continued to drive through the downtown area like he was on a mission.  Fortunately at a stop sign, he was forced to stop, where I knocked on the metal body of the truck to signal my departure and goodbye.  The mysterious driver never turned back to look at me; he simply raised his thumb up and drove away.

“I’m glad one of us made it,” Pattey said to me as I recalled the story for them back at the inn, where a dog was sleeping under what apparently was in fact, our car.  The dog would eventually have to wake up — without an iPhone alarm clock — for the day was just getting warmed up.






Next entry: Just Another “Easter” Sunday

Previous entry: From Head To Wed




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Comments for “Early to Head, Early to Rise”

  • Two more entries to go.  (I separated out this self-contained story for a two part Day 17.)

    Stay tuned…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/07  at  09:36 AM


  • money shot.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/07  at  10:36 PM


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This blog post is one of nineteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chill Out in Chile," which chronicled a trip through the country of Chile, from the central and coastal cities of Santiago and Valparaiso (plus a quick jaunt to Argentina's nearby wine region of Mendoza), followed by a trek through southern Patagonia, and a journey to Easter Island.

Next entry:
Just Another “Easter” Sunday

Previous entry:
From Head To Wed




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