February 4, 2004
On February 4, 2004, we left the swanky Marriott Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aires for for another all-day travel excursion to our next destination: Easter Island. This was the place we had originally planned to visit, and Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires were merely "side trips" in the World According to Frank.
We took a Lan Chile flight to Santiago, where we caught another flight to Easter Island. In Santiago, we had to pay a $200 "Reciprocity Fee," which was charged to all Americans landing in Chile due to the US Customs charging $200 for Chileans coming into the US, so it was their way of saying, "Right back atch, George W. Bush." If I recall correctly, this was a cash-only transaction, so be sure to carry sufficient funds to cover this if you go to Chile. $600 later, we were able to board our flight onward to Easter Island.
Other than the reciprocity fee, Santiago Airport was well laid-out and easy to transfer through. Near our gate was a small play area with a playhouse, and Alexander had a great time playing there, especially when other kids showed up and wanted to play with him.
Our flight was comfortable and took about three hours from Santiago to Easter Island (or Isla de Pascua in Spanish, called Rapa Nui in the island's native language). The flight was completely full, but many of the people on the flight were going on to Tahiti, so we were among the few deplaning at the tiny airport in Easter Island.
It was dark when we arrived, but the folks from the Taha Tai Hotel were there to pick us up. We boarded a large van with a family from Japan. The Japanese family didn't speak English, but seemed to speak Spanish fluently. That didn't deter Alexander from trying to speak to them in English, tossing in a "konichiwa" and "gracias" here and there. They smiled and nodded. As we exited the airport, Alexander noticed one of the famous stone statues we had come to see and exclaimed, "A moai! Look! A moai!"
This seemed to charm the guide from the hotel, and she seemed to be a little astonished that a three year old knew the correct name for the statues. All the prep work we had done before the trip and reading to him about the moai and Easter Island really paid off. She then told the group that we would see many moai during out stay on Easter Island, and to always keep our eyes open for more moai sightings.
We checked in to the Taha Tai, to a small, clean room in what looked like a nice version of a Best Western, nothing terribly fancy, but comfortable and welcoming. The young staff members were friendly, and taught us to say "irolana" which is an all purpose greeting, similar to "aloha" in Hawaiian. Unfortunately, the airconditioning in our room conked out about an hour after we arrived, so we settled in for a somewhat sweaty night in the balmy, tropical night.
We had arrived at last at our dream destination: Easter Island.