Home / Q2: Apr – Jun / 24 Rapa Nui, Chile / Head Cases & Random Places – Heading to South America..

Head Cases & Random Places – Heading to South America..

Hey Everyone.

Well, I’ve been getting a lot of worried emails lately that I’ve disappeared. I even had a worried message from my Dad, which made me realise that it’s time to pull this ship back on course and start writing a whole lot more often.

Here’s the skinny.. At the beginning of June, having completed 22 marathons and travelling from Ireland to Prague to Dubai to Beijing to Dubai to Rwanda to Hungary to Buenos Aires in the previous month, I was basically a train wreck. That last post I wrote was pretty emotional for me. Every time I started to write again, it seemed to be baseless. So I just stopped for a while. I only meant to have a week off writing, but it turned into over 3 weeks.

In the last 3 weeks I had more of the typical “backpacker” experiences than I’ve had since I started. I left Opray and Lauren in Hungary. We had an excellent time there on Lake Balaton and I realised just how much I love being in Europe, especially in Summer. It’s just so much fun. But I needed to head back into the unknown. This trip can’t be about me doing all the cool things I’ve done before. There has to be a sense of exploration in this adventure too. As much as it cost me loads of money, I wanted to go to South America and get across to Easter Island. It’s one of those places that you are likely to go only once in your life.

On the way, I got stuck in Madrid for a night, because Iberia airlines decided to sell more tickets than seats. I was annoyed at the time, but they paid me 600 Euros as anti-flipout money. I needed that money, so after I’d cooled off, I could see the bright side. It meant only one night in Buenos Aires, Argentina, though. I got there and realised just how immense that city is. I stayed in a pretty ordinary hostel called the Tango Inn. I was a bit bored there right away and decided to go to the Tango night that they were advertising to see some local culture. Problem was, I was the only English speaker. We had a few lessons… I’m not going to say I’m good, but I can count and move my feet at the same time, so I managed to hold my own against the Chilean and Brasilian boys in the lesson. I ended up on a table with some nice Chileans and watched a very entertaining Tango show. I’d even call it a dance spectacular, because there were plenty of other angles to the show too. But I was jet-lagged, so as much as the meal was good and the show was fun, I nodded off at the table.. Haha, I just wasn’t very good company..

Next day I left BA wondering why everyone had made such a fuss about it. It seemed like a nice place, but not the thriving party place that I’d been told so much about. The parks were there, but I’d been warned about being mugged, so I didn’t venture too far into the big eco-park they have near the water’s edge. Good, but not great was my initial verdict. It would later change…

I flew to Santiago. I’d been told to stay at La Casa Roja by a few people. Great choice! It’s a beautiful old building, run by Aussies and Chileans. I was a bit of a babbling mess when I showed up, as I had been flying for days. The owner, a guy whose name I wish I remembered (anyone?), asked me what I was doing. I tried to be enthusiastic when I told him, but I was so exhausted it just came out all wrong.  He was so impressed though, that he gave me free accommodation for the two nights in support. How good is that?!

I went for a riding tour around the town the next day. I really liked the city! The stories our guide told us about it’s shaky political past were intriguing and to be shown through the parks where people were sunning themselves in the last rays of Summer was a real delight. The Chileans are very proud people and flags were everywhere to celebrate 200 years of independence and to support the upcoming World Cup squad! I enjoyed the ride so much that I put on my shoes when I got back and ran for 11kms along the river, looking up at the snow capped peaks of the Andes. Actually, that run shocked me, because I kept seeing couples of all ages making out in the park. And quite a few girls making out with each other too! I was impressed with this liberal behaviour and kind of jealous!

And I was introduced to Café con Piernas or Coffee with Legs. Essentially they are coffee shops with scantily clad waitresses. Some shops had elegant models in short skirts, others had girls in just lingerie. They only serve coffees and guys go in for 10 minutes for a cup and a quick chat before they’re back about their business. I was  impressed at how common these shops were and how comfortable everyone was with just popping in for an espresso.. I’ve always had a lot of my best business meetings over coffee, but that takes it to a whole new level!

I was flying to Easter Island on Saturday morning, to run the marathon on Sunday.. Unfortunately that meant when I was asked if I wanted to see how much fun Santiago really is on the Friday night, I could hardly say no… Tanya, a really cool girl working at La Casa Roja, took me out with some of the other peeps from the hostel and we hit this really cool club. It was a lot of fun and it seems like I finally started to see how much South Americans like to party! We danced most of the night away, but I left in time to get my gear and head to the airport for my trip into the Pacific. Thanks for the fun Tanya!!

I got my flight and slept most of the way. When I was awake, I kept looking at the map of where the plane was on it’s journey… We were so far from anywhere, that it was kind of scary. It made me wonder how anyone populated this little rock in the first place. One glance out the window, showed just how much of a void the endless sea created around Rapa Nui.  On arrival to Easter Island, I was surprised to see how bare it was. With green hills rolling in from the sea, I thought I would see more palm trees and foliage, but there wasn’t too many trees on any of the hills.

I rested and ran the marathon the next morning. I was still hurting from China and Rwanda’s marathons. I ran fairly quickly for the first 10kms, enjoying putting quite a bit of distance between myself and a number of the other runners. I was sitting on the tail pipe of the police motorcycle that guides the lead runner for quite some time. It was actually pretty surreal. But the further through the island I got, the more the unexpected hills and the heat got to me. I slowed up a little… then I slowed up a lot. I’d looked at pictures of the island, but just didn’t understand how many hills made up this volcanic island. In fact, as I crested the largest hill at about 17kms, I realised that I was in for a world of hurt. This last hill was right on the far side of the island and the course was to the opposite side and back, so the only way to the water and the halfway mark was straight down.. Running down that hill made me want to cry…. I was going to have to turn around and run back over every one of these steps to get back to the top…. Boo Bloody Hoo….

But I ran back… A fantastic runner named Steve had plowed past me just after 10kms. He powered back up that hill and left the rest of us trying to find another gear to get over there. I ran with a super nice Chilean guy nick named Pancho for a little of that hill, but I struggled to keep going. I tailed him for as long as I could, using his consistent pace to measure my bursts and walks as I made my way.. I kept running and walking all the way back. I want to tell you I had a great race, because I came 5th overall… But I felt crap and I struggled all the way to the finish line. No sooner had I crossed, than I ripped off my singlet and collapsed into the bay next to the finish line. The cold water dulled the fire in my legs..

I had a great chat to a few of the other runners. Pancho had won the full triathlon that they had held on the island over the previous days, which included a huge swim and a mountain bike race. Another runner, Irwin, had run this marathon to complete his 7 continents marathon journey. It had taken him a few years, but to run on every continent, he’d headed down to Antarctica a couple of years ago and when the weather was deemed to foul to proceed with the race, they’d opted to run 480 laps of the ships deck instead!!! That’s commitment my friends! There was also Christopher, who was running most of the continents that year and who had run the Great Wall Marathon just a month earlier, the same day as me! A very interesting crew indeed.

I bunked with a fella name Jorge and also met Cecilia and her husband, Chileans who showed just how excellent these people are. Another excellent gent was the organiser of the race, Rodrigo Salas. He does a great job on a small budget to create a really enjoyable race that everyone feels they can participate in. He really focuses on making it a Rapa Nui community event too, encouraging all the local kids to enter and at the ceremony that evening, many of the kids received new running shoes and medals for their participation.

The next couple of nights, I hung out with a lovely Sydney lass named Lyndsay. She was actually previously English, but she was so in love with Australia that she’d already taken up citizenship. We had a good laugh and I enjoyed doing the whole island thing with someone, rather than walk around by myself. I did do a tour of the quarry though and went to the different sites where the main heads were either lying face down, or standing proudly…

This tour was where the island really came alive for me. Hearing the tales of the Moai (the heads) and why they were so prevalent on the island really gave the place an amazing sense of character. I wish I had have known more before the race! The Moai are amazing… magnificent… Monumental… MASSIVE… I’ll try to summarise what I learned about them in “Bone Speak”:

Little Champions showed up by boat from the Polynesian islands. The island was connected in trade with Hawaii and Samoa for a long time, but some large event in the 9th century AD cut them off from the other islands. At this point the local fellas got a bit bored and started getting carried away with the idea that the town elders watched over the villages when they died. So they made large stone heads for each important old mate that passed on. As the centuries passed and these kids got more and more lonely, the numbers of heads being produced in the central volcanic quarry got a little out of hand. To move these mammoth Craniums, they cut down large numbers of trees to help slide the stone. These Scones weighed as much as 80 tonnes and were moved for up to 13 miles across a hilly island, so the use of wood was excessive.  As their population grew and the resource provided by the dwindling forest disappeared, the locals started warring with each other. There were a fair few beat downs, which involved pushing over the village heads – they faced inwards over the village to protect their descendants. Finally most of the Moai were face first in the dirt and somewhere around the 19th century, production of the huge Noggins stopped, possibly due to the discovery of the islands by European explorers.

Whatever the case, a few monster Coconuts were still in production and their remnants can be seen today – specifically the Colossus Brain Bucket, that if completed, would have stood some 21 metres and weighed around 270 tonnes. Must have been a helluva Headman!!! Ha!

2 things I don’t understand.

1. Each head would take about a year to complete and they would do most of the work at the quarry, just completing the facial details when they were implanted in their village. But if the head wasn’t managed properly while they were moving it, the fragile neck would break and they would need to start again.. Why not just move the solid block, then carve it up on site?? Apparently the quarry was a sacred site… Hmmmm… a little stoopid..

2. How the hell were these islanders so comfortable with the amount of food and shelter, that they could afford a year (maybe 2) to carve a head for Grandad?! Surely someone’s kid was starving while old mate was dicking around in a quarry for months on end..

I dunno.. I do think the fact that these things have lasted so long is a tribute to the amazing ingenuity of the natives of Rapa Nui. I also think there must be a lesson in environmental management that could be heeded from this unfortunate demise.. But there’s no doubt in my mind they were all genuine Head Cases! HA!

Whatever the case, it was a unique and wonderful experience and I recommend everyone head on over at some stage for a look at this magical little island.. If only to see all the beautiful horses running wildly across the island! Damn it, why not just go and run their super challenging marathon?!

Ok, I’m now at Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark. I’m sitting next to Chip and he’s getting aggitated, because he really wants to get amongst the crazy rock action that will soon be on display. I’ll have to leave the story here and continue the South American saga some other time. Especially the wild times in Buenos Aires, the beautiful Iguazu Falls, meeting the Sydney Boys, the Adelaide Boys, the very crazy Darwin Boys, Neil from Perth and the spectacular Vanessa from Ireland. And Lilly from Ireland too! And the PB (3:09.35) in Argentina with Iván! And the crazy trip to straight after to Russia! See…. it never ends, so I find it hard to keep up writing it all…

But I’m halfway now. I solid run in St Petersburg (3:38.30) last weekend now has me looking down the barrel of a huge 6 months that includes the rest of the continents and 2 x 100km races. It’s going to get hectic, but I have a new Sponsor signing up, so the madness will continue. Look out for the partnership details with Krys & Associates. Very exciting stuff for me..

Our good friends Compeed anounced the winner of the competition to come race with me in New York! In fact, their were two very worthy winners! Lisa Lutgens had a heartfelt story about inspiring her two boys and Chris Watson busted some rhymes that may even get him a record detail! They’ll be coming to New York for more marathon mayhem in November! Thanks Compeed for paying for two huge packages and continuing to supply me with the blister patches that make me UNSTOPPABLE!! BAAANG!!! Check out the winning entries on our Facebook page..

Chippa and I will be pulling a stealth mission in the morning, leaving Roskilde at 4am to drive 4 hours to Sweden, run a marathon and drive straight back to the festival to celebrate with the likes of Prodigy and Prince! What an insane weekend to have with a great friend. And the Sultan of Dubai and Dr John are here too… Strangely, while Dr John and I were talking last night (having just met), he asked me where in Tecoma I lived… We talked it through and it turns out that we lived on the same street (Bayview Rd, Belgrave) when we were 8 years old… We played together as children and a quarter of a century on, we’re smashing it up in Denmark?! RANDOM!!!

Remember I love all of you and am so proud to have you on this journey with me! If you haven’t donated but you think the story is good, then the best way to support me is to support UNICEF, by giving $10 to the Everyday Hero account. With some big donations recently, we’ve nearly raised $10,000… amazing.. Those kids really are worth it!!!

Running of the Bulls this week. Then 2 alpine marathons. I’ll try not to get gored!!  (Love you Mum..)

Your’s Truly.. The Unbeatable T-Bone.

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