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South America » Chile » Easter Island » Hanga Roa
May 14th 2015
Published: May 25th 2015
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Rano RarakuRano RarakuRano Raraku

The quarry. Where the partially carved (basalt) Moai were slowly moved down the hill to other places on the island. The eye sockets and eyes were added later as were more detailed facial features of the person being honoured.
Iorana! (Rapa Nui for Hello)

Off we flew to one of the most remote islands on the planet...Isla Pascua (Easter Island). And we were hosted by the lovely town of Hanga Roa.

Far flung Easter Island sits about 3700 km from its Motherland in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - it is one of the most isolated inhabited places on Earth.

They say that timing is everything. We arrived on the island at a very interesting time, indeed (politically!) The indigenous Rapa Nui people have kicked the Chilean National Park workers out of office and have taken over operations of the historical sites. (And presently, Chileans are not allowed at the sites.)

Financially, it was great for us as we didn’t have to pay the USD 60 each for entrance fee to the island. Some changes of the sites were occurring on a daily basis, like new boundaries where you could and could not walk. So even our tour guide (who has been doing tours for years) had to pay close attention to the new rules placed on the grounds. With the lack of funds to maintain the national monuments, the system has already started to
Ahu TongarikiAhu TongarikiAhu Tongariki

The standing Moai, only one sports a pukau (a topknot or hair piece).
show signs of falling apart. We hope that the issue is resolved soon!

Paul was our host and guide. He has been on the island since the sixties, working as a guide and archaeologist, trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Moai. He was personally involved in some of the early efforts of restoration of the Moai and Ahu. So his stories and anecdotes were genuine and engaging as he showed us all around the island. He talked in depth about his personal experiences and shared much of his private life with us. We stayed at his lodge for our entire time - a beautiful wooden building, surrounded by trees. (The first wooden building that we stayed at for this entire trip vs. the concrete or adobe houses we had become accustomed to.)

Why were the Moai carved and then hauled across the island? Why were they all knocked over? Like many ancient cultures, little is known about the Rapi Nui culture and their monoliths. There is much debate about why these human-like figures watched over the island. But we will likely never know.

The Moai and their Ahu are all over Easter Island, strategically placed many
Rano KauRano KauRano Kau

The crater and lake.
moons ago. With a single exception, all of the Moai are on the coast facing inwards (one Moai was in the interior of the island). And all but one of the Moai are carved in a standing-straight position. The one exception is a Moai with legs and the knees are bent in a kneeling position. What was the significance of this? No one really knows. Over the years, many Moai have been reassembled and restored, but some of the sites are as they were found, face down with their necks broken.

Near the fall of the Moai culture, a new cult of bird worshiping evolved on Easter Island. The bird-man culture was based at the ceremonial village of Orongo at the crater rim of Rano Kao volcano. It is theorized that the people of this new culture pushed over and destroyed all the standing stones. It is also theorized that both cultures could have simultaneously existed. The debate continues...

Hanga Roa is the only town on the island and its sub-tropical streets are lined with seafood eateries and other lovely flavours. We treated ourselves to a very tasty seafood meal at a local restaurant on the edge of the town, overlooking the Pacific. We had the full seafood platter with king prawn, lobster, crab, squid, octopus, scallops, and a wonderful plate of ceviche (raw slices of tuna marinated in lime juice and spices). The locals are so friendly and the vibe in town is always cheerful and relaxing.

It was a very peaceful stay on Isla Pascua. We could appreciate the remoteness when we would here Paul mention that "last week there was no cheese on the island". Or, "I'm glad you had a great seafood dinner, as last month there was no tuna".

The humid air was welcoming, after spending so much time in the dry desert climate. The fresh breeze, the lush green, the restless sea, and the tranquillity were like a lullaby to our weary, travelling souls . The island certainly has its ecological issues. But it is a fabulous and unique place to visit. It stimulates much curiosity and reverence. We feel blessed to have seen it, knowing how fast the stones are eroding. And knowing how swiftly the history is changing...

Iorana,

Dave and Theresa...


Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


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Special Islands off Rapa NuiSpecial Islands off Rapa Nui
Special Islands off Rapa Nui

Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kau Kau. The race to obtain bird eggs from these islands by swimming out and bringing them back to the mainland was part of the new bird man culture. The family who won got to rule the island for a year.
Orongo.Orongo.
Orongo.

Sleeping quarters near the Bird Islands where families waited for the winner of the bird man race. The very small doors were to prevent ghosts from entering. It is said that the people backed in so that they could deter the ghosts before closing the hole.
Horse grass invasionHorse grass invasion
Horse grass invasion

On either side of the trail. Introduced only a few years ago (for all the wrong reasons), this grass is slowly taking over the island, strangling everything in its path.
RaptorRaptor
Raptor

Easter Island
Ahu AkapuAhu Akapu
Ahu Akapu

Moai in the setting sun
Prickly and prettyPrickly and pretty
Prickly and pretty

The castor bean plant
The navel of the world.The navel of the world.
The navel of the world.

Te Pito Kura. The middle stone is believed to have healing powers. The smaller stones face north, south, east and west.
Ahu Nau NauAhu Nau Nau
Ahu Nau Nau

The platform (Ahu), which is present at all Moai sites, was thought to be the place where the Rapa Nui would place the deceased bodies of loved ones, to honour them and to dry them in the sun and salty air.
Sliding down the hillSliding down the hill
Sliding down the hill

It was thought that the Moai were slid down the hill after carving, then rocked back and forth to move them along the roads. This one in the quarry was still waiting for a slide.
FacesFaces
Faces

Each Moai was carved with features of a special someone they honoured. The elements are making these basalt structures lose important details every year.
A day on the quad.A day on the quad.
A day on the quad.

We rented an ATV - a great way to explore the island.
Help, I've fallen...and I can't get up!Help, I've fallen...and I can't get up!
Help, I've fallen...and I can't get up!

Rocks were strategically placed underneath the Moai so that when they were pushed over, they would break their necks. It was thought that the Mana (spirit) would be released during this event.
Moai and pukauMoai and pukau
Moai and pukau

This Moai had fallen over on its back. Possibly from an earthquake.
A swim in the pacificA swim in the pacific
A swim in the pacific

During our quad ride, we found the quaint little Ovahe Beach to cool off.
Ahu AkahangaAhu Akahanga
Ahu Akahanga

The fallen Moai and Ahu.
Moai Moai
Moai

At Rano Raraku


25th May 2015
Moai

Incredible
GREAT pix and thanks for sharing your visit to this very remote, fascinating and mysterious island. I am beginning to think you two are on a mission to visit everyplace on earth. You are off to a great start.
25th May 2015
Rano Raraku

Isolated wonders of the world!
From the freezing Antarctic and Manitoba to the arid Atacama to subtropical Easter Island--you two certainly choose extreme, exotic places! What a great visit filled with the mystery of the place--how wonderful that you had Paul to explain some of the theories. Glad too, to hear that you stayed in a wooden house surrounded by trees because when the Europeans arrived, the island had been deforested. Since the trees have been reborn, hopefully, the horse grass will be controlled, and the Rapa Nui people will be able to preserve their heritage for the future.
25th May 2015
Prickly and pretty

Castor bean plant
Beautiful photo of the castor bean plant that we have in CA and here in lowland Peru. The seeds are highly poisonous, but are the source of castor oil.
25th May 2015
Prickly and pretty

Castor oil
Now that is very interesting! thanks for the information!
26th May 2015

Politics
Politics seemed to be involved even on isolated remote islands and that breaks my heart. Sounds like we'd better get there sooner than later. This is an amazing island. So glad you shared it with us. Beautiful.

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