Since we were going to be on Easter Island for 9 days we decided to rent a car so we could explore on our own. The rental car agent met us at our bungalow with a cute little manual transmission GMC Jimmy, the standard rental on the island. At home, we drive a Suburban so this little thing seemed like a toy car to us. We signed the paperwork then realized the poor woman intended to walk back to town. Of course, we offered to give her a ride. Peter, our bungalow owner, offered to come with us and give us a quick tour of Hanga Roa. David, who was a little rusty on his stick shift skills, was put in the horrifying position of having to quickly re-adapt in a strange car, in front of two strange people, in a strange town. Luckily for us, David adapted quickly and that one ditch was just a little bit further away than it appeared, so life was good!
The main roads in Hanga Roa are narrow lanes paved with bricks. Cars are allowed to park in hap-hazard fashion on one side of the street only. Luckily the drivers on Easter Island drive very slowly. You tend to share the street with cars, bikes, motorbikes, pedestrians, stray dogs and an occasional horse with or without rider. Once you leave the main streets of Hanga Roa the island is fairly simple to navigate. There is a main paved road that leads through the center of the island that leads to Anakena beach or there is a coast road that you can take to Rano Raraku and circle all the way past Anakena beach back to Hanga Roa. Once you get off the main roads the out roads tend to be dirt roads that quickly dwindle down to dirt tracks embedded with rock. It was such a wonderful feeling of freedom to know that not only were there no crazed criminals, vicious wild animals or slinky slithering snakes waiting in the grass to attack my ankles but it was just about impossible to get lost either!
Everything was going quite well, David and I were happily cruising around the downtown area with the windows down letting the warm ocean air blow through our hair. It was almost like the vacation devils got together and said, “Those Allens are way too happy with their little selves. Let’s throw a few kinks their way and see how they like it.” First we found out that the two paved roads leading to our bungalow were closed because they were being repaved at the same time. The only way to and from our bungalow was a dirt lane with what seemed to David and me a precariously steep incline just wide enough for one car to pass at a time.
We decided to walk down to the ocean and eat at a restaurant across from our moai that night in hopes of taking some pictures of the moai at sunset. I knew that part of the reason for walking for dinner was to take pictures but also that Dave’s stick shift skills were no match for that hill. Surely the road would be open in the morning and we would be back to our adventure, no harm no foul, but the little vacation devils had other ideas. They sent in the rain.
That night it rained and turned cool. The newly paved road did not dry and the barriers remained in place. The hill that was so daunting in our minds before suddenly turned into a giant slip and slide. Not willing to miss any days of our adventure I told David, “I can do it.”
I learned to drive a stick shift on an old truck with a 3 on the tree baling hay. I accidentally dumped the clutch and threw my cousin and a dozen bales of hay off the back of the truck. If it wasn’t for the fact I was a girl, I would have gotten my rear end whipped for that. David and I took off around the island that day in search of adventure. We found caves and moai, ahu and pukao. I drove on all the roads that were covered with rocks, mud and giant red mud puddles. David drove in Hanga Roa where the narrow roads and all the activity made me too nervous to enjoy driving. It worked out perfectly.
On the way back to our bungalow we had to confront the dreaded hill. We bounced along in the long line of traffic until it was finally our turn to head up the hill. I double checked we were in 4 wheel drive, lagged back from the car in front of me and downshifted into second. I made sure I hit the bottom of the hill with enough speed to make it to the top hopefully without bogging out, but nope, that was not to be. Part way up the hill the engine began to bog and I knew we were going to stall.
Did I mention that this is the part of the road that becomes one car only? Did I mention that there is a line of cars waiting at the top of the hill for their turn to come down? Did I mention that there is a line of cars behind me waiting for their turn to come up? Did I mention that the guy behind me failed to wait his turn and had therefore snuck in directly behind me up the hill and was now close enough to my bumper that I could see his nose hairs in my rear view mirror?
With a quickness that I had honestly thought I had left somewhere in my 30’s, I pushed in the clutch, slammed the little Jimmy into 1st, let out the clutch and gave that baby some gas. To my immense relief, the engine did not die leaving me to slide backward down the slippery slope into Mr. Nose Hair causing a massive traffic tie up on the only open road on that side of the island, but actually caught and gained speed as we hopped straight up to the top of the hill.
Sitting on the porch of our bungalow sharing a beer later that evening David turns to me and says, “After 27 years of marriage I didn’t think there was anything you could do that could still impress me. But I am really impressed.”
After 27 years of seeing me naked both physically and emotionally I was surprised and thrilled that David still found me amazing. Funny thing is, David is my hero every day. I think, everything I am is because he is here for me, encouraging me to just be me. So it was a wonderful feeling to know that I was his hero too.