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Easter Island: Or how I met stray dogs and tried to lose them

Easter Island. Isla de Pascua. Rapa Nui. One of the most remote places on the planet featuring an unusual mix of Polynesian and Latin American cultures. It’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists and rightly so. Not least because of the mysterious giant stone figures known as Moai. However my memories of the island are somewhat different.

It started when I was looking for something special to do for my last few days in South America. Up until a few weeks earlier I had no idea that Easter Island was even a part of Chile. But the opportunity of visiting this exceptional island proved too good to turn down.

My flight to the island was the first (and so far only) time I have flown business class. Something I think everyone needs to experience at least once in their life. It just happened to be the cheapest available.

Easter Island has the smallest airport I’ve ever seen and when we landed I was picked up by my hostel along with Soichiro, a Japanese guy who I would spent most of the next few days with. The following day we joined a tour around the small island and were taken to the “factory” at Rano Raraku where they created the Moai. This was followed by the famous site at Ahu Tongariki where 15 Moai stand intact keeping a watchful eye on a former tribal village. There were several more groups of Moai around the island. Some in better condition than others.

Large Moai sticking out of the ground at the "Moai factory", Easter Island
Some of the abandoned Moai at the “factory”

The day after we decided on a hike to Rano Kau, an extinct volcano on the south of the island. South America has many stray dogs and I saw them everywhere on the mainland, even as far south as Ushuaia. Easter Island was no different. As we walked through the town centre we were followed by an ever increasing pack up to about six. Most of them stopped as we approached the edge of town, however three stayed with us.

All the way along the coast, down to a small cove where we sheltered in a cave from the rain, and up to the volcano. Scout, Titanic and Queen Mary stayed with us. Scout, a small mongrel, led the way while the other two, both black Labradors, brought up the rear. Queen Mary in particular struggled with the uphill section but they all made it to the top.

The weather was getting worse and without much of a view we headed back to town. The dogs keeping pace every step of the way. We decided we wanted to get them something since we’d been walking half the day and they’d kept us company throughout. We bought some meat at a local store and shared it out among the rest of our pack before continuing to the centre

We thought as we reached somewhere familiar the dogs would leave us and return home. Queen Mary and Titanic both had tags so obviously belonged to someone on the small island. But wherever we went the dogs followed. We saw the owners of our hostel in the centre. They took one look at our new friends and just said “No!”. But what could we do?

We tried running, we tried telling them to go home more forcefully. Nothing worked. In the end we went in a nearby café hoping they’d eventually get bored. We were in that café for over an hour. At one point Scout came in to see where his ‘packmates’ were before getting chased out by the owners. It was getting so bad that we were actually contemplating sneaking out of the back in order to avoid them.

Eventually we managed to wait them out and by the time we re-emerged the dogs were nowhere to be seen. It was a fun day in general and we were left with memories a little different from the regular visitors to Easter Island.

Three dogs who joined us for a hike, Easter Island
Scout, Titanic and Queen Mary

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