Sunday, June 19, 2011

This place defies imagination.

A rough translation - "Look at the vistas of this crater that is 1600 meters (approx. 5600 feet) in diameter, and 200 (approx. 700 feet) meters deep." It sounds impressive, but in person this volcanic crater blows your mind.

Here we are just seconds after our minds have been blown. 

Mats of native vegetation grow across the basin.

On the drive up to this crater we passed groves of eucalyptus trees. They seemed out of place although we have come across them a few times before. I'll find out later that the native palm trees that have gone extinct, and are now being reintroduced to the island, will not take root because the eucalyptus trees have changed the Ph of the soil. 

Nature bounces back if you leave it alone, but there are unforeseen consequences along the way to righting an environmental wrong.

Down the hill from this crater lies the remains of a village that hosted an annual contest. You were crowned bird man of the year if you could swim to one of the two closest islands, or motus, retrieve one of the first laid tern eggs of the season, and swim home with it intact. 

To get into the water though, you started from the top of the island and slid down the face of the cliffs on a reed mat. Any takers? I'd rather body surf the pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.

But I am enchanted with this part of the island, like all of the rest of Rapa Nui that I have seen.

Down another hill, the kind that you can drive down safely, is Taku Vave - the restaurant that serves the BEST ceviche I've ever tasted. 

It's the day before we depart Rapa Nui, and I am already planning on returning. But I'm told that an influx of tourism is partly to blame for the massive extinction of 500 native Flora and Fauna that have been wiped off of this island in the last five years. 

Can this really be? 

Dale, our first mate, says so. This new information stuns me, bringing to mind a very legitimate question.

 What is the true impact of traveling to far away places? Does the impact of what you bring, and the insights that you take away, equal the toll your physical presence and transport exact on the environment along the way?

This is the last restaurant where I will be eating raw fish since Garen and I are planning on starting a family soon. Toxins like mercury and various other persistent organic pollutants that my body will store as a result of enjoying some fish are too big of a price to pay knowing that when I am pregnant, I will transmit these chemicals to my child. 

There are many things that need to happen between now and the day that I may become a parent. Not least of which is crossing the rest of the freakin' Pacific Ocean starting tomorrow. 

We'll sail around to this side of the island once we have all boarded the Sea Dragon. From here, we will set out across the roughly 3,000 miles to the west that lie between Rapa Nui and Tahiti. 

But first there are ten new members of the crew to meet, thousands of miles to steer, and a few thousand steps to take back and forth across our floating 72 foot island before we arriving at the port of Papeete.