Easter Island – Sunrise after a 4:30am, 25km Bike Ride

I think if I was forced to pinpoint a singular favorite moment from my seven months in South America, I would choose this – the morning of April 11th. (And yes, I know I’ve probably contradicted this statement at some point because I saw so many amazing things, but oh well).

That morning, my friend and I biked 25 kilometers across Easter Island in complete darkness and complete solitude to watch the sun rise next to the most famous statues on the island.  It was one of the most fun and exhilarating things I’ve done, as well as one of the most beautiful.

Ahu Tongariki, the  largest platform on the island, has 15 moai lined up across its 220m-long width.  Not only does it have more moai than any other platform on the island, but it also has the single largest statue that is currently standing.  It’s one of the classic postcard shots:fullsizeoutput_461

Ahu Tongariki is not only the biggest ahu on the island, its also the one most perfectly located to watch the sun rise – from mid-December to the end of March, the sun rises directly in between the statues.  While we were there a few weeks after this timeframe, the sun was still rising directly next to the statues.


So of course, after hearing about this, we had to go.  However, there was one tiny complicating factor…. it was directly opposite where we were staying on the island and 25 kilometers away.  While that’s not a problem for people who are willing to spend $100 to get driven there on a tour, we had bikes…

Luckily for me, Will is just as adventurous a traveler as I am, so when I proposed getting up at 4:30am and biking for two hours with just our headlamps to light the way, he was all for it.  I’m so glad he agreed.

The only pictures I have of the ride itself are at the very beginning while we were still in town, as my iphone camera was in no way good enough to capture anything interesting once we left the town’s street lights:IMG_3909IMG_3911

Despite the lack of pictures to jog my memory, this experience is burned into my brain.  First, we did not see a single other individual on our ride. That meant it was just us, the sound of the wind and ocean, and the knowledge that we had found complete solitude on one of the most isolated islands in the world.  I realized I would probably never be as disconnected from the rest of humanity and civilization as I was at that moment.

But that wasn’t the only thing that made this such an experience.  Easter Island has one of the lowest light pollution levels in the entire world, and it was a perfectly clear night.  Only once in my life (at the Kalahari desert in Botswana) had I seen the milky way so clearly.  It felt like we stopped every 15 minutes, as we wanted every opportunity we could get to turn off our headlamps and take in the cosmos.

Finally, after the most enjoyable 25 kilometer bike ride of my life, we arrived at Ahu Tongariki.  We were the first people to arrive, and spent some time exploring the area in the stifling darkness before choosing what we felt was the best location to watch the sunriseIMG_3913

Sadly, a few minutes before the sun started to rise a flood of cars showed up, shattering our idyllic solitude.  But, it was hard to be upset once the sky slowly began to brighten.  The colors were so much more vivid than my pictures suggest, but I hope these give you a good sense of how amazing it was:IMG_3928IMG_3930IMG_3944IMG_3947IMG_3954IMG_3955IMG_3957IMG_3965IMG_3973

Truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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