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3 at tongariki

For reasons too complex and probably personal, all of which have to do with someone’s precipitous and precocious death and feared short life expectancy and really, I am that person who has been to two cardiologists in the past three years only to find out that no, I do not appear to be in imminent danger of a heart attack, I did not scream from the rooftops that I was about to turn 40.

But 40 I turned, a year more than 39, one less than 41, and a birthday that has not put me into an existential tailspin, but rather makes me think about how great these next 40 years are going to be, and how glad I am that I didn’t promise to run a marathon this year, because I think I might have a stress fracture in my left foot and my right ankle is the weakest link, goodbye! (only not, because even if she’s weak, she’s mine, and I’m keeping her).

So. I went to Easter Island to celebrate my birthday, and like any bike enthusiast, partial misanthrope and crazy person, on my birthday itself, I woke up early, grabbed the bike I’d rented the night before and rode up a dirt road to Ahu Te Peu on Rapa Nui, several km out of Hanga Roa, alone, blissfully alone. Except for these cows.

cows en route to ahu te peu

And then I rode back to get some breakfast. And that looked like this (the ride back, not the breakfast):

en route to ahu te peu

Then I set out again, this time passing the airport, where I snapped this through-the-fence shot


And I headed to Ahu Akivi, where seven moai face the ocean, are set up to receive the sun at their fronts and backs on the solstices, and where I sweated the sweat of the weary and humidity-unaccustomed and sat on a rock out from under which waddled a cockroach of mouse-like proportions. Photo of moai, not of the cockroach, for obvious reasons.

ahu akivi 2

This bike route, for what it’s worth, makes nearly no sense because I doubled back from Ahu Te Peu when I really should have continued on, and would have arrived shortly at Ahu Akivi, but I was hungry and didn’t want to miss breakfast and wasn’t sure how long it would all take. Also, the island is pretty small, and I was going to run out of road before energy, so it wasn’t a big deal to double back.

From Ahu Akivi, where I traded mild conversation with what appeared to be a Chilean-French couple (also cycling), but I don’t know for sure because we never asked each other where we were from, I headed back to the road, and made a left, heading over to Anakena, where en route, I managed to get a wicked case of chain suck (yay! poorly maintained, grease-less bike chains), and ganked my chain into a position best described as “twisted” such that a) I could no longer get into the easiest gear and b) there was great skipping and clickage.

No worry, I pedalled on, urged to the right direction by this downward-facing sign, and fueled by fiber cookies, iced tea and a camelbak full of water.


And views like this:

view from the bici 2

And the smell of eucalyptus and threatening rain, and finally, the long, long downhill to the beach where I felt like I was being towed in by the ocean. I later found out there’s a “magnetic” spot at about km 15, where despite appearing to be an uphill, cars will coast up the highway, so perhaps this feeling of towing in was my bike being pulled by this same force.


At Anakena I ran into a Chilean family from Iquique who’d adopted me on a hike to Rano Kau the day before, and whose friend-of-the-family’s daughter handed me a piece of poundcake that she’d baked, which she didn’t know, but which ended up being my birthday cake. And they shared water with me because I’d drained all of mine, and they ultimately gave me a lift part of the way back because there was no way my twisty bike chain and I were going to make it up that uphill I’d just come down without that smallest chain ring.

And I stopped to say hi to the moai for good measure.

moai at anakena, outline

And then I rode the ten or so km back to the bike shop, where I told them about the twisty chain and they gave me a mango for my troubles.

And I sat and watched a wispy sunset and then ate some fish and mashed taro cooked in a banana leaf, but I didn’t choose the restaurant particularly well, and the food was just okay, and (don’t tell), I shared some of each with a nearby cat. Perhaps it was her birthday, too.

Green Celery explantation: The closest expression to how Happy Birthday sounds when spelled phonetically and then repronounced in Chilean Spanish is Apio Verde, which means green celery. Green Celery to me? Happy birthday to me. You didn’t think I’d let a day go by without language geekery, did you? It’s my gift to you.