TRULY A MIRACLE! Easter Island May Hold the Secret to Long Life - and It's a Magical Place for an Adventure

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Byline: by Victoria Ward

SOMEONE might have warned me of the link between Easter Island and the 'elixir of youth'. If last week's sensational news had emerged prior to my visit, I would have spent rather more time tracking down the miraculous chemical in the soil that apparently forms the basis of a new anti-aging pill, and my friends would not have kept asking: 'Isn't that a long way to go just to see a bunch of funny-looking stone heads?' As it happens, it is a very long way to go for anything. Easter Island is one of the most remote, inhabited spots on earth. It lies more than 2,000 miles from the coast of Chile, to the west.

But ever since laying eyes, aged eight, on the monumental stone moai (stone heads) in the British Museum, the story of the mysterious and decadent culture that all but wiped itself out with clan rivalry and over-enthusiastic tree-felling has fascinated me.

Frankly, I was resigned to never visiting, but then a company called Explora, which has made it its business to make accessible some of the most difficult landscapes in South America, opened a luxury, eco-hotel on the island.

But a word of warning - the Explora en Rapa Nui isn't your average all-inclusive. With televisions and mini-bars replaced by an intensive programme of hiking and island exploration, this is high-end lodging for the adventurous.

Built from the island's ubiquitous volcanic rock, Chilean pine and Brazilian slate, the hotel curves and curls organically from its hillside vantage point near the island's south coast. Some 30 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views across the Pacific.

Guided by Sami, a Rapanui, I set off on my first hike to Ranu Raraku, one of the three volcanoes that punctuates each corner of the triangular island.

It is here that the iconic megaliths were carved from soft volcanic rock from around AD1,000 until the second half of the 17th century.

As we pick our way through scrub, fields strewn with lava rock and guava orchards, the sound of rough waves crash against nearby cliffs, Sami tells the history of his ancestors and of the island's unique and intriguing past.

The story goes that the island was first settled between AD400 and 800 by Polynesian seamen.

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As the population grew, the families divided into clans, each carving the stone statues to honour their

Find the trip for c h i e f t a i n s and standing them on ceremonial p l a t forms, below which they buried their dead. …