You know those friends? The ones that always get you into some sort of trouble when you're with them? That's our friend Tam for us. Her life motto is "do whatever makes the best story" and she certainly lives her life that way. She's our favorite travel buddy for that reason, we always have the best stories when we travel with Tam. Never a dull moment!
It was nighttime when we landed in Easter Island after the grueling flight schedule required to reach the least inhabited island on the planet. As we landed we were greeted with lays and taken to dinner by one of our own, Laura, who had been living and working on Easter Island for months. She had set up a private dinner for our party with one of the best and most unique restaurants in town.
We drank Pisco Sours (the local alcohol drink made from fermented grapes, egg whites for froth, and some other unknown delicious ingredients), feasted on fresh ceviche, and sampled the local cuisine as we bantered back and forth and listened to Easter Island Archeologist, Charlie Love's, stories dating back to the 70's when Easter Island had no paved roads and no lodging for travelers.
Although we were jet lagged, and still getting acclimated to this mysterious, sub tropical island, Tam's excitement won over sleep and she convinced us to go explore the small and only town in Easter Island, Hanga Roa. We chose a small bar right off the beach with live, local music blaring from its walls. Upon entering, the culture immediately swallowed us whole as locals rushed over to lead us to the dance floor.
Easter Island dance style is...sexy to say the least. Almost as sexy as the gorgeous locals doing it. Side note: We haven't to date seen a more gorgeous group of people. The most beautiful people in the world are on Rapa Nui. Anyways...the locals could move, young and old. It was hard to keep up with them but we did our best. After we were all drenched in sweat from dancing, sleep deprivation was starting to catch up with one of our group members and he was ready to go home. I walked with him since he was liquored up and this was new and unfamiliar territory at this point in our trip.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed a Rapa Nui man riding his horse up the cobble stone street. He had long, jet black hair tamed out of his face with a bandana, wild dark eyes, and a beard that rivals Captain Jack Sparrow's. He dressed his tall, lanky, muscular body with a white tank top, camouflage pants (a local attire favorite), and army boots. My friend, feeling guilty for me leaving the party to walk him home, shouted to the horseman asking for him to give me a ride back to the party. Since the local language is Rapa Nui (and Spanish for the Chileans) and only about 3,000 people in the world speak it, I shrugged the idea off thinking he did not understand and finished walking my friend safely to the hotel.
As I was walking out of the hotel, to my surprise, the horseman was waiting for me right where we had left him. Without saying a word, he leaped off his bareback horse, picked me up and lifted me onto it, and then grabbed on to the rains which was nothing more than a rope in the horses mouth. I was freaking out a little bit here. I am a girl, walking alone, on an unfamiliar island. Tam's voice was in the back of my head and I couldn't wait to show back up to the party, on a horse, with my new friend. I live for interactions like this that had just presented itself and my intuition told me I was safe.
He led us right back to the party. Which really is a miracle with the language barrier. He's an older Rapa Nui and didn't even speak Spanish with the exception of a few words. I wanted to show my gratitude to my new friend, and for the ride back to the party, so I did my best with the language barrier to invite him to meet and have a drink with our group. Despite speaking different languages, we all communicated surprising well with our new found friend.
He met my friends and we met his as we joined groups to continue to dance the night away in a sweaty heap. The dancing eventually began to die down but we were an adventurous group in a new playground and were not ready for sleep. I don't exactly know how this all got communicated through the Rapa Nui language channel, but Tam managed to tell our friend that we wanted to ride horses and needed more of them to accommodate our group.He left quite suddenly but low and behold, he showed back up with more horses and and more friends (family actually as most of the locals are all related) and helped us onto them. Each of us was accompanied by a handsome Rapa Nui man to be our personal tour guides.
We wrapped our arms around the gorgeous, exotic muscle men on the front of our horses to steady ourselves and took off, having no clue where we were going or when we would be back (Tam's perfect recipe for a good story). We spent the next 4 hours riding our wild Rapa Nui horses, and I mean WILD, these horses are not "broke" in the way westerners tame horses, they are left much more wild. We rode them bareback all around this magical island made of rocky ocean cliffs, volcano craters, and rolling green hills until the sun came up through the giant Moai statues. That sunrise will forever be engraved in my memory.
The Rapa Nui men were having as much or more fun than us and would have continued the party as long as we would have allowed, but as the adventure continued into the early hours of the morning on this completely unfamiliar island, the situation began to feel.... just a little kidnappy as reality set in. After a lot of convincing from us, our horsemen agreed to part ways, we finally made it back to our hotel.They leaped off the horses, helped us off, and reluctantly waved goodbye as we hobbled, stiff legged back to our rooms. The beautiful Rapa Nui imagery from the night's adventure kept replaying in my head as I drifted off to sleep for a late morning nap.
We became close to our new Rapa Nui friend over the duration of our stay. He took us fishing, surfing, to family Sunday meals, and stargazing from in front of the Moai. He took it upon himself to show us the true beauty of Rapa Nui and it's people. When it was time to fly home, he met our group at the airport and parked his horses outside to say his goodbyes. He strung a necklace around our necks, a Rapa Nui tradition, and put his hand around our necks bringing our forehead to his as he said "familia" to us over and over again.
Another amazing travel memory brought to you by Tam's rule of "do whatever makes for the best story".
We walked onto our plane sulking because the best trip of our lives was over. As our flight took off, we looked back at this incredible little desolate island to see our friend on the hill, horse by his side, watching our plane take off. It brought tears to our eyes, both happy for the mind blowing experience, and sad that it was over.
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