A Tale of Three Islands

A Tale of Three Islands, Aracari Travel

Over the course of my travels this year, I’ve had the fortune to visit three small and equally lovely islands: Rapa Nui or Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, Block Island in the Atlantic Ocean and the Island of Menorca in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Although they are each distinct in many ways, considering the first alone is a volcanic island and the other two continental, all located in different bodies of water, they share a common trait, which is authenticity. To different degrees, all of the islands are lacking in major tourist infrastructure for they have not been built for such mass access; thus the only visitors are those who truly have a desire to explore them.

Always on the lookout for new places to explore in South America, in February I found a direct flight from Lima to Huang Roa (Easter Island) and decided to travel to the Pacific island, which had long mystified me. I am not (generally) the sort of traveller who does meticulous research before visiting a new destination, but rather, I follow my instinct and go simply to satisfy my attraction to travel to a new place. I was ready to be surprised by Easter Island, and I was. I was surprised by the magnetism that the famous giant statues or Moais had on me, that despite seeing many of them in different locations I never tired of seeing them. I was also surprised by the barrenness of the terrain. I never expected it to be so devoid of trees, vegetation and wildlife. I thoroughly enjoyed my five-day visit to Easter Island and would happily recommend the charming Explora Lodge to anyone who goes to Easter Island. The visit left me with bittersweet memories and a longing to return and spend more time admiring the intriguing Moai, studying their history. Rather than flying back to the South American Continent, I was tempted to venture further west, to Tahiti and beyond.

My visit was immensely fulfilling, although I would not recommend it for children, for those who are not interested in archaeology or those who do not enjoy hiking and the outdoors seeing as these are the themes of any visit to Easter Island.

Easter Island is the eastern most island of the Polynesian archipelago. As the rest of the islands in the Polynesian archipelago, this is a volcanic island boasting three extinct volcanoes.  It is the most remote inhabited place on earth. It took us over five hours in flight from Lima on LAN airlines; flights of a similar duration leave twice weekly from Santiago de Chile. It takes almost as long to fly there as to fly westward to Tahiti.visit was immensely fulfilling, although I would not recommend it for children, for those who are not interested in archaeology or those who do not enjoy hiking and the outdoors seeing as these are the themes of any visit to Easter Island.

The island was called Paasch-Eyland (Easter Island in 18th-century Dutch) by a Dutch explorer named Jacob Roggeveen who discovered it on Easter Sunday 1722 when searching for Davis Island. East Island is 163 square kilometres (63 square miles) with a population of about 5,000 people.

Before arriving, I knew about the Moais, the giant statues you find on this small island because they have made it famous. There are a total of 887 Moa, statues made of Tuff stone and carved from the quarry at Rano Raraku. The tallest completed Moai is 10 metres (33 feet). Visiting the quarry and seeing Moais in different stages of production is most fascinating, and the incomplete Moai reaching to 20 feet, can clearly be seen; if completed, this would have been the tallest of all the Maoi.  The mystery of the statues centers on how they were carried from the quarry to their “Ahus” or platforms in their respective locations. But what most perplexed me was the barrenness of the hilly terrain of the island and the lack of wildlife. Uninformed I was, the reason for its barrenness is that Easter Island is a case study on how an ecosystem can destroy itself by depleting its natural resources, resulting in an ecological disaster. There is much more to the tragic history of Easter Island, including the Bird cult and the disappearance of their language Rongo Rongo.  For more details on my trip to Easter Island please refer to my detailed blog article that will follow.

In August I was lucky to spend part of my summer holiday at the home of some dear friends on Block Island, located 23 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast of Rhode Island.

I had never been to New England, and I must admit that my debut was in style, staying at what is perhaps, and certainly in terms of islands in the region, the most authentic and unspoiled, little island (10 square miles), epitomising the best of New England. Block Island owes its name to another Dutch Explorer, Adrian Block, who charted it in 1614. The island is low key, known for hiking, sailing, biking and its beaches. Block Island is  connected to the mainland via a variety of Ferry routes from Long Island, NY, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  The most frequent route is from Point Judith in Rhode Island, and the fastest ferry, which is what I took, arrives in thirty-five minutes.

We loved our stay, and apart from hiking and relaxing at the beach, we were delighted by the long necked clams, the creamy clam chowder, and the fantastic, fresh lobster—easily the best I have had in my life.  The view was stunning from my friends’ home, on the east side of the island on Grace’s Cove. Unfortunately, hotels are not up to scratch in Block Island, but are rather frumpy for the most part, although there seem to be some good quality inns. We perused the flea market and many shops along the Block Island harbour, enjoyed eating the delicious sandwiches of the restaurant, Three Sisters and spent several lazy afternoons on the beach. One evening we had drinks at The Atlantic, and to my amazement, in the field next door there were several llamas and alpacas roaming about—just in case I needed to be reminded of Peru! I loved Block Island and would go back in a flash!

My third island getaway was a visit to a place where I go to every year as part of my summer holiday. The amount of time I spend there varies, but I almost never fail to visit Menorca, the lesser known of the Balearic Islands.

I love it because there is always more to discover and is never a disappointment. Mallorca and Ibiza are the other two Balearic Islands and Formentera is a tiny one next to Ibiza. Menorca now boasts a modern airport and excellent roads, but luckily it was named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, and thus has not suffered the upheaval of massive construction projects like so many islands in the Mediterranean.

Despite some damage, especially in the south of the island, a large proportion of Menorca remains unspoiled. Menorca is about 694 kilometres (268 square miles), and in forty minutes you can drive across the entire thing. It boasts several world class natural harbours, the largest of which is the site of the capital city, Maó. Menorca has a long and interesting history: populated by prehistoric people who are responsible for the megalithic constructions on the island, the Taules,  Navetes,  and Talaoits. Menorca was then influenced by the Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples before being invaded by the Romans in 121 B.C. There is a Roman port on the north of the island, called Sanitja where there is ongoing archaeological excavation. And more recently, in the 1700´s, the island was  twice under British rule and once under the French until it was finally annexed to Spain in 1802.  Ciutadella de Menorca, the old capital city with its narrow, cobblestone streets and its buildings, churches and monuments of terracotta-coloured stone, is enchanting.

This time in Menorca I explored several bays, lighthouses and coves, as well as beaches that can only be reached on foot and are a delight. There is a path that circles the island called Camí de Cavalls, (or Horses Road) on which a traveller can walk or ride along the best part of the perimeter of the island. The Camí de Cavalls was originally created in 1330 by the noble gentlemen under the rule of King James II of Mallorca who had to keep a horse to control and protect the very exposed and unprotected coastline of the island against many enemies.  For the first time, I went on a ride on a beautiful Menorcan horse along the Camí de Cavalls for a few hours, and it was stunning. Yes, Menorca has its very own breed of horses, always black, which is a mixture of Arab, Spanish, English (and thus a testimony to the many invasions Menorca has endured) …it was truly magical–another wonderful adventure. Already I long to return!

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