Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Rapa Nui - Santiago, Chile
'Hey!! It's dance man!!' a random tourist shouts as he walks into a cliff top restaurant, a couple of hours before our flight is due to depart these crazy shores. His wife waves and gives me the thumbs up. Hannes is roaring with laughter, as he should be.
We are both agreed that we feel we have eased into the pace of Polynesian life and don't want to return to the frenetic. This weird barren rock in the middle of nowhere is a chilled spot where you can stare at incredible moai, drink alcohol in the street, climb volcanoes and dance topless in front of hundreds of friends and strangers. I often think we leave a piece of ourselves wherever we visit: energy, memories, friendships; all of these combined, changing the history of that place by some impossible-to-measure degree. As our LAN jumbo somehow lifts its giant bulk off the short runway and the bizarre Rano Kau crater lake disappears below underneath a bank of clouds, there is a sense of sadness leaving behind Te Pito o Te Henua - 'the navel of the world', out here in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
The pilot gives us regular updates during our flight on Chile's progress in tonight's quarter final against Uruguay and promises to get us back in time for the second half. The male steward has donned a Chilean national football top in place of his uniform, and passengers stream the game live from their mobiles as soon as we touch down on the mainland.
Inside the terminal at Santiago International, Hannes and myself dive into the closest place with a TV we can find, just as Valdivia goes close for the reds. With 15 minutes to go we grab our rucksacks and run for the arrivals area in search of a restaurant TV just as an almighty roar goes up across the airport. Gooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllll !!
In arrivals we dive behind a ground services desk with our backpacks, where a portable TV has been set up so half a dozen airport staff can watch the climax of the match. Chile have totally bossed Uruguay but it has taken them until very late on to win it. At the final whistle, there are hugs and cheers and then it's as if the airport ground services staff just woke up from a weird dream and found themselves behind their monitors needing to go straight back to work.
It is a great shame we couldn't get back in time to make it to the National Stadium to witness Chile reach the semi-final, but experiencing it behind a ground handling desk at Santiago International has its own unique quality that is bound to stick in the memory.
Hannes is flying north from here at 6am and i have a 7am bus from the city centre headed down south, so we are both crashing on the airport benches in the name of budget cutting.