Rapa Nui - feels more like home except...

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South America » Chile » Easter Island
September 25th 2018
Published: October 6th 2018
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Rapa Nui is nothing like the rest of South America, it is Pacifica. The people, language, plants, buildings, roads, food, weather - well, everything - are much more like being in Fiji, Vanuatu or even New Zealand than Chile or Peru. The weather is, unfortunatel, rather grey but the temperature is pleasant.

We join our tour minibus at ‘about 9’ which is really 9:40 so we know we are on island time and head off the explore this amazing place and of course the renown statues. The countryside begind Hanga Roa rapidly becomes unpopulated except for cattle and horses. The coast is rocky and rugged, no golden beaches for sunbathing here. The road is a bit the same. This is not good farmland, just low grasses with few trees stretching from the coast to the distant, mist covered hills.

We are on a day long tour which will take us to five sites, starting with a rather modest 2m one with more of a ruin and a small fallen statue, though to the largest sites with the largest statues, the quarry and finally a golden beach with its own statues. Our guide is really good and she presents seamlessly in English and Spanish to her group.

Our first stop is at the rathe modest Akahanga site where I learn that

Ahu - the platform that statues are built on

Moai - the statue itself, as I understand, these represent individuals rather than gods but still have significant spiritual meaning. The individual is typically buried within the Ahu.

Pukao - the red hat, hair or topknot that many of the statues had.

The statues are typically at the coast and face inland, overlooking or protecting their lands. They formed from volcanic rock and moved to site - no one knows how, and then finished and erected on the ahu. The red pukao is quarried from a different site, again no one knows how they are assembled.

We carry on around the coast to Tongariki, come round a bend and wow, there they are 15 of the largest moai, all lined up on the coast. The site was destroyed some years back by a tsunami which also struck Japan killing many people. However the Japanese have helped rebuild the site, apparently very accurately. Originally 17 statues, remains of two could not be clearly enough identified to rebuild accurately, so they weren’t. Many of the statues were moved several hundred metres across the site, and road by the waves - it would have been a hell of a sight to see.

Te Pito Kura follows where the main feature is the remains of the largest known moai at 10m and nearly 90 tonne. It was deliberately destroyed. There are also some miniature Moeraki boulders which are magnetised. Then we are lucky enough to drive past Tongariki again on the way to the quarry at Rano Raraku. It is a volcano from which most of the Moai have been carved. There are tens visible, possibly hundreds still on site as some are below ground level. They are just everywhere, peeping out of rock faces and the grassy hillside.

We stop for a pretty good, if rather late lunch here among the chickens, kittens and dogs who are all just chilled out together. Then out to the final stop at the far end of the island - Anakena. Here at last is the golden beach. it is drizzling steadily by now but there are still people swimming. It would be a fantastic spot on a better day. There are several moai with their red pukao grouped here and another much older looking one nearby. Even in the rain they look spectacular.

The road back is through the middle of the island and it is no time at all before we are home again. We get a taxi down the road to a beachfront restaurant where we order far too much food - meals here are huge and delicious (but not cheap). After watching the waves roll in and the surfers do their thing we head home for a good night’s sleep.

The Rapa Nui people are tall and, yes, statuesque with profiles very like the moai. The atmosphere is laidback, no one seems to care what you are wearing or if your house is a bit overgrown. It’s a great way to wind back the pace.

I didn’t realise until writing this blog that I am possibly more captivated by this place, the culture and of course the statues than I was by Machu Picchu, and that is saying something.

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