Bye Bye Samoa

Tomorrow morning I leave Samoa for Fiji. That should begin several intensive weeks of travel. I will cross the date line for the 5th time from the 14th to the 15th of July.

I will then rent a car and drive to Suva, Fiji where I will try to get my visa for Kiribati on Monday. If they can’t process my visa in one day, the country has serious issues. I then drive back to Nadi that night to catch a Tuesday morning flight to Noumea, New Caledonia on the 20th.

I then have 3 days in New Caledonia till I leave for Vanuatu. I don’t plan on doing a lot in New Caledonia beyond exploring the capital. As previously mentioned, in Vanuatu I will be visiting a volcano on the isle of Tanna and visiting a John Frum (Cargo) cult. I am hoping they embrace me as their god.

I then am currently scheduled to fly stand by on a flight to Honiara in the Solomon Islands. Here is an article I just read today about the Solomons and logging. I had no idea they had so few tourists. My primary goal in the Solomons is to visit Rennell Island. The largest raised coral atoll in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I’ll then head off to Papua New Guinea, where I am thinking of leaving the capital Port Moresby as soon as possible and getting out to New Britian or one of the other islands in the archipelago.

After PNG, it is back to Honiara to connect on a flight to Nauru and Tarawa, Kiribati. My places visited list will probably need to include some asterisks as my ‘visit’ to Nauru will probably be as short as the country is large.

From here, I may have to go back to Fiji to get to Hawaii as there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of flight to the north of Kiribati. I may have a stop over in Tuvalu before Hawaii.

That should conclude the most logistically challenging part of my trip. The remaining pacific islands should be pretty easy to reach as they are all serviced by Continental Airlines Micronesia. My big “to do” list in Micronesia includes” jellyfish swimming in Palau, wreck diving at Chuuk lagoon, and trying to visit the atolls in the Marshall Islands where the US did above ground nuclear testing in the 40s and 50s.

I’m loving the hell out of the Pacific, but I’ll also be glad to be done. It is very frustrating to travel within the region.

Easter Island In The News

I noticed this bit in my RSS feed today: Easter Island Fights Prosperity.

Having been there just two months ago, and because its never in the news, I thought I’d chime in on the subject.

Go read the article first…

For a place so dependent on tourism, Easter Island does a very poor job of it. For starters, the Rapa Nui National Park which covers pretty much the entire island and is responsible for the protection and preservation of the maoi on the island is all but non existant. There is a small hut on one end of the island where there are few maoi. In there there is usually a ranger who will give you a map and you pay the equivalent of $10. That’s it. No where else on the island will you find rangers, interpretative centers, signs, anything.

Easter Island was a finalist (top 21) in the New Seven Wonders project. That should give you an idea as to where it sits on the heriarchy of world sites. Given its importance, its sort of sad to see how much effort the Chiliean government has put into it.

All of the maoi which are standing and not in the quarry, have been restored in the last 50 years. Everything in the photo I posted above was restored in the early 1990’s by a Japanese television network. They need cash to restore the hundres of maoi which have fallen or are broken around the island. Also, the maoi are made of a very soft volcanic tuff. Just because they are made of rock doesn’t mean they will last forever.

The article is also spot on with regards to how the people of Hanga Roa are all hustling to get the tourism dollar. There are no major hotels on the island. Everything is guest houses or hostel type accomodiations. Likewise, all the car rentals, restrauants, souviner stand, and tours are local operations.

Rapa Nui also probably has the least amount of ‘culture’ of all the polynesian countries I’ve visited (and I’ve pretty much been to them all now). This is not the fault of the people there as they were all but wiped out in the 19th Century. Also, even though they have the internet and cars on the island now, it is really a stretch to say that civilization has crept onto the island. It is still one of the most isolated spots on Earth, and it shows.

I can’t possibly see how a casino would proper on the island. Of the 50,000 or so visitors who come to the island, I’d guess almost 100% are there to see the maoi. It doesn’t attract the type who want to sit on the beach and drink fruity drinks all day long. I certainly don’t see anyone make the five hour flight (or much longer) to Easter Island to gamble.

The people on the island have a vested interest in the preservation of the maoi. The Chiliean government doesn’t seem to be interested in doing it. Development of tourism is probably the only way to both save the maoi and let the small population of the island make a living.