(5) Machu Picchu vs. (2) Easter Island
Each of these two teams has battled against a tough crop of competitors and come into the Regional Finals nursing sore limbs. Tonight’s Final proves to be a duel of wits and a struggle of endurance. Certainly, both of these are extraordinary tourist destinations, both worthy of the moniker “trip of a lifetime” (I actually despise this saying, as it suggests that for the rest of my life I will never do anything more exciting than what I am about to do?!?!#$@ What is up with that!) Each depicts a “lost” civilization, and thus, modern humans are enthusiastic about glimpsing such destinations. Perhaps it says something about the transcendent nature of the “human experience”? Or perhaps it simple demonstrate the illusion that modern amenities appear to provide for us that we are so willing to abscond from our safe and easy life to embark upon hours and hours of travel through rough terrain (in the case of Machu Picchu) or across barren waters to arrive at a destination that has stood for hundreds of years, sometimes for decades without much if any human intervention. The parallels of each of these locations is actually quite striking, which makes the decision to pick a winner all that more difficult. In the end, I chose Easter Island, in deference to our upcoming holiday. No, not exactly. I chose Easter Island simply because it seemed to offer more of a unique and less busy experience. Let’s face it, most of us can afford a plane ride to South America and a few hundred bucks on the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. In the case of Easter Island, you’re going to have to fly to Polynesia or Chile and then take another 6-hour flight to get to Easter Island – cost, an extra $1000. Once on the Island, refreshingly enough, it will cost you nothing to visit the moai. However, you will have to eat, sleep and get around, all of which will cost you a fair amount. It’s not like the Coke truck just makes it stop from Ottawa to Montreal and unloads some drinks. This is one of the most isolated Islands on earth. You are paying for that isolation. So for those who want to “get away from it all”, you should be cheering the victory of the Rapanui culture. Machu Picchu, I salute you, but the bigger heads won. Easter Island now joins Nepal and Wyoming in the Final Four. Only one Region remains: that great bastion of tourism, Europe.