Voyage To Rapanui: 5,000 Miles Down With No GPS, Maps Or Compass

waka tapu voyage to rapanuiHow would you feel about sailing 10,000 nautical miles from Auckland, New Zealand, to Easter Island and back on a double-hulled canoe with no GPS or navigational equipment? In August, after reading a story my colleague wrote on the Waku Tapu Voyage to Rapanui Expedition, I resolved to check back on these intrepid explorers to see if they made it to Rapanui (Easter Island) in one piece.

I’m happy to report that 22 male and female New Zealanders did indeed complete the first half of their epic journey, arriving in Rapanui safe and sound on December 5. Traveling on two traditional waka (double-hulled sailing canoes) they retraced a historic route across the Pacific Ocean using only the stars, sun, moon, ocean currents, birds and other marine life to guide them, just as their Maori ancestors did. They are now en route back to New Zealand and are due to arrive home in late March. The goal of the journey was to “close the final corner of the Polynesian Triangle defined by Hawaii in the North, New Zealand in the South and Rapanui in the East.”
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I caught up with Karl Johnstone, Director of the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, which organized the expedition, to find out more about this remarkable journey.

Tell us a little about this historic voyage?

It landed on the 5th of December in Rapanui (Easter Island) and they left Auckland on the 17th of August. There were two stopovers, one in Tubuai, one of the Austral Islands in French Polynesia, and then one in Mangareva, to the east of French Polynesia. We had about 22 people on board at any one time, 11 per waka (canoe). These are traditional double-hulled sailing canoes.





waka tapuThe two traditional elements of the voyage are the waka themselves, which are made of indigenous trees from New Zealand and have traditional composition modern rigging and traditional, non-instrument navigation, using environmental tools, habits of the sun, moon and stars and so on.

So there was no GPS or other type of navigational equipment used?

That’s right. This hasn’t been done in modern day times. There are GPS locators on board, and they had a satellite phone, which emits a GPS signal every half an hour back to our waka tracker, so we knew where they were at all times. And we looked at where they were all the time versus their sail plan and the navigators were never really more than 50 nautical miles off the course line they had set. They did really, really well.


You say this hasn’t been done. Has anyone tried it?

It’s never been tried in modern times.

What were some of the hardships the crew faced along the way?

The weather, number one. We had significant storms on our way out to Tubuai, four of them in fact. A lot of the crew, 50% at least were new to open-ocean voyaging, so they had to develop a trust in their vessel. Sickness as well. We had two cases of hypothermia – that’s to be expected when you’re out at the tail end of winter here. Some got boils as well, which is also common. They have to be treated seriously. A few guys had toothaches, infections.

A couple guys had to be taken off because of coral cuts because we couldn’t risk them getting infections out on the open ocean. Another one got burnt – most of the injuries happened on land, not out on the ocean. But we had a well-stocked medicine cabinet, so everyone was treated quite quickly.


Did everyone who started finish?

One had to come off as a result of an injury in Mangareva, but we took him to be there when the waka arrived in Rapanui because he’d made it through the hardest part of the voyage and we couldn’t bear for him not to be there at the end.

Tell me about the crewmembers. Did they all take time off from careers to do this?

waka tapuWe had teachers, people with Ph.D.’s, engineers, people who work for their tribes. It was a broad range of professions, in most cases, they had to walk away from their employment to do this voyage. Some were very senior; one in particular was a very senior official in the Ministry of Education here in New Zealand. A lot of these people walked away from everything you’d consider mandatory in the modern day world to undertake this voyage with no guarantee of success.

And the voyage was unpaid. They got some support along the way but we didn’t pay them or help with their mortgages or anything else, so they had to have a real commitment to this project.

How were they selected for this voyage?

It was through a training program, and they had to volunteer. We had a nine-month training program. There was some natural attrition, we had about 50 who volunteered, and the cream rose to the top.

[Photo credit: Waka Tapu]

Win A Trip To South America With Richard Bangs

Travel to South America with Richard BangsSouth America is a land of diverse cultures, stunning scenery and breathtaking adventure. Travelers can climb to the highest peaks of the Andes, experience unique wildlife, explore the biodiversity of the Amazon and indulge in a variety of wonderful cuisines. The continent truly does have something to offer nearly every kind of traveler and now television personality Richard Bangs wants to take you there on an adventure of your own choosing.

Bangs, who hosts the PBS travel show “Adventures with Purpose,” has teamed up with LAN to bring us the Only In South America sweepstakes. The contest, which runs through January 18, will allow one lucky winner to select one of four destinations as their dream trip to South America. Those destinations include Machu Picchu in Peru, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, Iguazu Falls along the border of Brazil and Argentina or the remote Easter Island off the coast of Chile. While on their excursion, the winner will be joined for dinner and a private tour with Bangs, who will share in their adventure. The prize includes airfare, ground transportation, guides and accommodations for two.

To enter the contest, simply click here and fill out the online form. You’ll provide basic contact information, answer a few demographic questions and select the destination that you prefer. With any luck, your name will be drawn in January and you’ll be whisked off on an unforgettable adventure to South America.

And if you’re having any trouble deciding which of the four trips you would prefer, the site provides excellent videos, like the one below, to help you choose. They’re all very well done, however, and viewing them may actually end up making the decision even more difficult.

[Photo Credit: Martin St-Amant via WikiMedia]


10 Remote Travel Destinations From Around The World


easter island


As technology and transportation advance, the world becomes smaller and smaller; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still out-of-the-way destinations with well-preserved history and culture worth exploring. Although tricky to get to, these 10 remote spots are worth the journey.

Easter Island

One of the most famous remote islands in the world, Easter Island, a special territory of Chile, is well known for its iconic moai statues (shown above). Located 1,289 miles from the closest inhabited island and 2,400 miles from Chile, it’s one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. To get there, flights run to and from Santiago, Chile, Lima, Peru and Tahiti, although check with LAN Airlines ahead of time as they don’t run daily from each location.


robinson crusoe


Robinson Crusoe Island

The largest island of the Chilean Juan Fernández Archipelago, Robinson Crusoe Island is 419 miles west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean. In 1704, a man named Alexander Selkirk asked to be put ashore here after a dispute with his ship’s captain, and spent four years living on the island alone. This lonely man on a lonely island gave Daniel Defoe the inspiration for one of the most famous literary characters in history. With less than 900 inhabitants, the community depends heavily on the spiny lobster trade. The main reason to visit this island is its unspoiled beauty, with excellent diving and hiking and an array of landscapes like mountains, valleys, rainforests and rugged terrain from ancient lava flow. ATA runs flights there from Santiago depending on the weather. Fliers will descend on a small landing strip on the Aerodrome Robinson Crueson, and will then be taken by boat to the village of San Juan Bautista.


greenland


Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

Although Greenland is large in size, it’s home to numerous remote areas, the most remote being the settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit. With less than 500 inhabitants, locals have ample space to roam around. Visitors can take part in activities like dog sledding, trophy hunting and sailing the largest and longest fjord system in the world, Scoresby Sund. To get there, you can take a flight with Air Iceland, Iceland Express or Iceland Air, although flights aren’t daily. Once you arrive in the destination airport of Constable Point, you’ll take a helicopter to Ittoqqortoormiit.


pitcairn island


Pitcairn Islands

These tiny islands are the last of the British colony in the South Pacific and the most isolated British dependency. Of the four islands, Pitcairn is the only inhabited island of the group, with Adamstown being the capital and only settlement containing the islands’ entire population. Visiting Pitcairn is extremely difficult due to irregularity of transport. First you’ll need to pay a $100 fee and get a license from the governor by showing proof you’re in good health, have a way to leave the island and have at least NZ$300 (about $246) per week to cover your cost of living. To actually get there, you’ll take a plane to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, 330 miles away from Pitcairn. Then you can catch a charter vessel, which takes 32 hours. Once you are there, you’ll be able to see the shipwreck of the “Bounty” in Bounty Bay, Polynesian petroglyphs at Down Rope cliff, a Galapagos tortouise named Mrs. Turpin and the sea-level cave and picturesque beach of Gudgeon.


macquarie island


Macquarie Island

Located about halfway between Australia and Antarctica in the Southern Ocean, Macquarie Island is a Tasmanian State Reserve managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for two reasons. One, it is the only place in the world where rocks from the Earth’s mantle, nearly four miles below the ocean floor, are actively exposed above sea level. Additionally, the fact it’s so remote allows the island to have a windswept landscape featuring dramatic changes in flora, unspoiled beauty and huge colonies of penguins and seals. To get there, travelers can get a boat from Hobart in Tasmania or Bluff in New Zealand, which takes three to four days. Some transportation companies that do the route include Quark Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions and Heritage Expeditions. Because there is no port on Macquarie Island, visitors are brought to shore on small boats.


concordia


Concordia, Pakistan

Residing on the border of Pakistan and China, Concordia is the meeting point between Baltoro Glacier and the Godwin-Austen Glacier, in the center of Pakistan’s Karakoram range. Around Concordia, you’ll also find four of the world’s 14 “eight-thousanders.” These include the mountains of K2 at 8,611 meters, Gasherbrum I at 8,080 meters, Broad Peak at 8,047 meters and Gasherbrum II at 8,035 meters. In fact, Concordia is the only place in the world where four peaks higher than 8,000 meters can be seen. While a beautiful place, you’ll have to walk for about 10 days until you reach the foot of K2. You’ll first fly into Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, to fill out the necessary trekking papers, then fly or drive for two or three days as for as you can toward Askolie, the last village before Concordia and K2.


barrow alaska


Barrow, Alaska

Barrow, the largest city of the North Slope Borough of Alaska, is the ninth northernmost city in the world and the northernmost city in the United States. It’s a great place to enjoy the Iñupiat Heritage Center, bird watching, experience an unusual tundra tour, browse traditional markets and visit the northermost most point in the U.S., Point Barrow. While remote, you can into Wiley-Post Will Rogers Memorial Airport via Alaska Airlines and Era Airlines.


deception island


Deception Island, Antarctica

Located in the South Shetland off the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano. People visit this remote island to view wildlife like fur seals, sea birds and Chinstrap penguins, swim in Pendulum Cove’s volcanically-heated waters, take in ash-layered glaicers and sometimes even experience an icy scuba dive into the restless volcano. There is also history and ruins, as the island was once home to the whaling and Antarctic bases of many countries until violent volcanic eruptions pushed them out. The island was named after a pilot who misjudged his landing and crashed, killing four passengers and leaving one to die waiting for help on the isloated island. To get to Deception Island, you’ll need to arrive by ship via a cruise or tour.


tristan de cunha


Tristan de Cunha

Located 1,750 miles from the nearest mainland of South Africa‘s Cape of Good Horn, Tristan de Cunha is another world. This group of remote volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, with a population of less than 300 people. Reasons to visit include the brilliant basalt cliffs and a volcano reaching 6,760 feet above sea level, the most isloated settlement in the world, bird watching and coins and stamps, one of the island’s main sources of income. Because there is no airport, Tristan da Cunha can only be reached by taking a six day journey from Cape Town.


Svalbard, Norway


Svalbard, Norway

This Artic archipelago is the northernmost part of Norway, located above the Arctic Circle about 400 miles off Europe’s mainland. Out of Svalbard’s 2,700 residents, about 2,000 live in the town of Longyearbyen (shown above), with the rest of the population being scientists and miners. One special facet to the destination is it houses the Global Seed Vault, an underground cellar that safely stores the planet’s plant seeds in case of a global emergency. Reasons to visit the destination include exploring untouched arctic wildnerness, seeing polar bears, bird watching, visiting national parks and seeing Norway’s largest glaicer, Austfonna. To get to Svalbard, you can fly into their airport in Longyear, located about two miles from Longyearbyen.

[Images via Shutterstock, Pato Novoa, Hanes Grobe, Shutterstock, Shutterstock, sjorford, Shutterstock, Shutterstock, Michael clarke stuff, Shutterstock]

Hotel News We Noted: October 5, 2012

the d las vegasHappy Columbus Day weekend, everyone. We’d wish you a happy holiday, but we’re not sure that anyone other than postal carriers really get the day off for this anymore.

Lucky for you, we have lots of fun news this week to keep you busy reading over your two (or three) day weekend.

As always, email us with questions, comments or tips. We love to hear from our HNWN fans!

Hotel News We’re Noting: Birth of a Hotel
If you haven’t already, take the time to check out our newest series on Gadling, “The Birth of a Hotel.” We’ll be following the development and opening of Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown, and talking all about the hotel industry as well. We’d love for you to tune in!

Hotel Openings, Renovations & Rezzies Galore in Las Vegas: The D, Nobu, Wynn and Golden Gate
It has been a busy few weeks in Las Vegas. Recently, one of our favorite ultra-luxe hotels, Wynn, unveiled a major renovation of its spa space. The Zen-themed spa has 45 updated treatment rooms and a new menu. Nobu’s first hotel, inside Caesar’s Palace, has started taking 2013 reservations (about $250/night).

But it isn’t just the strip that’s booming. Downtown Las Vegas is going through a massive overhaul. Doors opened at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the National Mob Museum. Zappos announced plans to build its corporate headquarters in the historic neighborhood as well.

Hotel-wise, next week the downtown area will welcome the D Las Vegas, a soaring renovation of the former Fitzgeralds property and sister hotel to Las Vegas’ original Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. Golden Gate announced completed renovations last month. Looks like there’s a lot to see in the Glitter Gulch. We hope to bring you a live report soon.Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
There’s more to love in Toronto today with the grand opening (or shall we say re-opening) of the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The hotel moved buildings and closed for several months while it moved into the new space. The location will be the brand’s new flagship, and, as can be expected, cool perks, design additions and amenities abound. Enjoy Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud’s latest dining experience, a massive art collection, in-room iPads and house cars with WiFi. The spa should also be impressive. It’s the largest not only in the city but of any Four Seasons worldwide.

Hotel Spotlight: Chile
Things have been heating up in Chile over the past few months. The South American country has seen the launch of several ultra-luxe hotels, including: Hotel Palacio Astoreca (in Valparasio), a 1920s-era Victorian mansion featuring a wine cava, library, a piano bar lounge and a chic spa. The hotel’s restaurant Alegre, is even helmed by an ex-chef of El Bulli.

In more remote settings, we can’t wait to visit Refugia Lodge, the first luxury lodge on Chiloé Island in southern Chile, a region chosen by the New York Times in “45 Places to Go in 2012.” The 12-room property offers all-inclusive packages that tie in trips to remote islands aboard the lodge’s custom-built Chilote boat, visits to penguin colonies, UNESCO Jesuit churches and more.

And, for a true bucket-list adventure, we’d head to Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa on Easter Island. The Hangaroa is Chile’s most ecologically sustainable hotel, modeled after the Orongo ceremonial village with curvilinear walls and grass roofs. In addition to awesome water views, you’ll find a 75-person cinema, spa and two restaurants. It’s a big deal … this hotel is located in the only village on Easter Island.

Voyage To Rapanui: Sailing 10,000 Miles Without GPS, Maps Or Compass

The Voyage to Rapanui is done without GPS, maps or a compassIn these modern times most of us have become very reliant on technology – some would say a bit too much so. But no one will accuse the 24 sailors on the Voyage to Rapanui expedition of being too technology dependent. The group will soon set off on an ocean journey that will see them crossing more than 10,000 miles of open water without the use of any kind of modern navigational tool. That means they’ll be sailing the Pacific Ocean without GPS, a compass or even maps of any kind. Instead they’ll use traditional navigational techniques, which date back thousands of years, to help them find the way to their remote destination.

Each of the sailors on this journey are Māori – the indigenous Polynesian people who live in New Zealand. Their ancestors once sailed the Pacific Ocean using only the movement of the currents and the sun, moon and stars to guide them safely across the sea. These modern day explorers intend to do the same and recapture a bit of their cultural heritage in the process. Their destination is the island of Rapanui, better known as Easter Island, which is one of the most remote places on our planet. Locating it without navigational charts could be akin to finding a needle in a haystack, however.

The team will split into two crews of 12 with each crew manning a traditional double-hulled Māori sailing canoe. Sometime in the next few days they’ll set out from New Zealand and begin the long journey to Easter Island. Ironically they’ll be using social media to keep all of us updated on their progress with a Twitter feed, Facebook page and Google+ account all dedicated to the voyage.

[Photo courtesy of WakaTapu.com]