Our friend, Therese Iknoian from Hi Travel Tales, recently returned from a trip to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). She brought the new FirstLight 35L+ backpack with her and wrote this piece about what it's like to venture to one of the most remote corners of our planet.
Does your bucket list include a trip to Rapa Nui a.k.a. Easter Island, as so many do? Mine surprisingly didn’t, not really. But when the opportunity came up to head to this remote island off the coast of South America AND have rare night photography access for the parks and to the ancient giant carved statues called moai, I couldn’t resist.
I first had to wrap my arms around how truly remote the Island is: Rapa Nui, albeit part of Chile, is 2,300 miles west of Chile. So, you first have to get to Santiago, then fly another 6 hours.
Note, too, that I call it Rapa Nui. Easter Island is the name given the island by the first Dutch explorers. Rapa Nui is the historical name for the island, the language, and the Polynesian inhabitants. They are very proud of their traditions and heritage dating back to an estimated arrival in 400 AD.
Rapa Nui only became a tourist hot spot 25-30 years ago – starting with the release of the movie in 1994 co-produced by Kevin Costner called “Rapa Nui.” Before Covid, it was nearly overrun with tourists, but after shutting down for more than two years, there are now only a third as many flights. As a traveler, you will be comfortable there, but don’t expect the ritz. You won’t have internet away from the small (and only) town of Hanga Roa; meals may be (as I called it) “on Island Time;” and tourism infrastructure is certainly available, but not always so refined. This in fact added to Rapa Nui’s charm and warmth.
During my 10 days there, I not only toured most of the major (and not so major) moai and historical sights on the island, but also was able to photograph on six nights until the wee hours plus do two sunrise shoots. When you fly to what is considered the most isolated place in the world with such astounding UNESCO World Heritage carvings, you burn the candle at both ends.
All that flying and traipsing about the island means you better pack smart, especially if you are lugging a good amount of photography gear. That got a bit tricky, and the new FirstLight 35L+ backpack helped solve that issue since it is carry-on size with places for a laptop and accessories but is also built and carries like a real backpack with a beefy hip belt and (thank you!!!) exterior side pockets on BOTH sides. I’m a tiny person so schlepping 25+ pounds of gear can be tricky, and this worked.
I carried the FirstLight on all of our photography adventures to sites such as Tongariki, with its 15 moai lined up along the coast and THE sunrise destination (sadly, we had clouds and showers); Tahai, easily accessible in town, with its “boat ramp” like structure and THE sunset destination; and Rano Raraku, otherwise known as the Quarry, which is where the moai statues (weighing from 10-90 tons) were carved from volcanic tuff and then somehow transported many miles to their final placement without modern tools.
Today, there are nearly 1,050 of these statues scattered around the island, all highly protected and treasured – expect more to be discovered just as another find was revealed right after my visit. Seemingly just heads, the moai do have bodies (often underground), and you can see them on those restored onto their pedestals called “ahu.” These enormous statues are mystical in their attraction. You may find yourself just staring at them in their monolithic beauty, as I did. Rapa Nui may not have been on my travel and photography bucket list – but now I’m plotting a way to get back, not just for the statues, history, and photography, but also for the warm hospitality of the people.