Rappy Nui Year!

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January 4th 2007
Published: January 4th 2007
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Rano RarakuRano RarakuRano Raraku

Buried moai.
Happy New Year from Easter Island - or Rapa Nui as it is actually called by the locals. Easter Island is so remote, if you can´t pick it out on the map you should have a try. It´s part of Chile now but still 3,700km from the mainland. One of the most remote populated places on earth.

So is it worth the trip? Well if quitting your job and blowing all your savings was something you were thinking of doing, then this is one of the places that makes it all feel worthwhile. Isolation, stunning scenery and literally tonnes of history and mystery.

Around 400AD it is believed that about 100 Polynesians arrived here and set up home. They set about planting crops, hunting and fishing and by around 1000AD they were capable of supporting a skilled artisan class who decided to start getting creative in the surrounding volcanic valleys.

They began to carve out giant Moai from the rock and using very primitive means and tools, transported these giant creatures all around the island to stand guard over their villages. The Moai are scattered all over the island and around 350 of them made it to the Ahu (alters) on which they were somehow raised. So many theories exist about how and why they are created but what is known is that around 600 years later things started to go wrong on the island.

At the end of the 17th century the resources on the island were running out and conflicts were taking place. Many Moai were toppled from their platforms during the conflicts and those that were left standing were knocked by tsunami and earthquakes over the prevailing years.

It is such a fascinating place to explore and learn about. Our highlights were visiting Ranu Raraku which is the "nursery" where the Moai were carved from the rock. Hundreds still remain here in different stages of production. Lots of them are buried up to their necks in soil and grass and just stare eerily out across the island.

We also climbed the volcano Ranu Kao. It was a pretty steep hike up there but one of those amazing moments when you reach the top and stare down into the crater of the now extinct volcano. It´s an almost perfect circular crater that stretches 1km across and in its far corner a ceremonial village
Ahu TongarikiAhu TongarikiAhu Tongariki

Close up of a moai. Carvings of his hands can be made out.
was constructed called Orongo. This village was built to house the islanders and their leaders during the Birdman ceremony. This basically involved representatives of each of the villages climbing down the side of the volcano and into the sea, swimming across to an islet and racing to retrieve the first seagulls egg of the year. Once they had it back on land, they presented it to their leader and were crowned the Birdman for that year. A huge Birdman cult existed on the island and there are petroglyphs of him scattered all around.

The Islanders themselves are a pretty wild and wonderful bunch. On New Years Eve morning we attended the Catholic church in Hanga Roa and the locals put on a huge show of singing all their local songs in the Rapa Nui language. Real entertainers. That night we went down town to celebrate New Year and there wasn´t that much going on so we ended up taking it pretty easy. It turns out the Islanders were all celebrating at their homes and went out to the night clubs at 1 or 2 AM. We got up early on New Years Day to see the sunrise at Tongariki.
Ranu Kao volcanoRanu Kao volcanoRanu Kao volcano

View of the crater of the volcano, filled with a freshwater lake.
As we drove passed the nightclub on our little scooter lots of the Islanders were just exiting the nightclub and drunkenly attempting to mount their horses for the way home. Brilliant - but we totally missed the party.

Rapa Nui is a place we really didn´t want to leave. The weather was pretty perfect for somewhere so exposed, and there are great surfing and diving opportunities off the coast. But most of the time Moai watching kept us busy for hours. But after just four days we had to leave and get back on our South American adventure. Next stop Patagonia - stay tuned...

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


Moai at Ahu TahaiMoai at Ahu Tahai
Moai at Ahu Tahai

Maoi at Ahu Tahai, restored with coral eyes by the American archaeologist William Mulloy.
Moai at Ahu TahaiMoai at Ahu Tahai
Moai at Ahu Tahai

Close up of the coral eyes.
Small offshore islands.Small offshore islands.
Small offshore islands.

These motu were the scene of the legendary birdman cult. He who found the first egg of the ´sooty tern´ became the birdman for that year.
Stone dwellings at Orongo villageStone dwellings at Orongo village
Stone dwellings at Orongo village

This village is 400m above the edge of the crater wall and balanced on a vertical cliff overlooking the ocean.
Petroglyphs at OrongoPetroglyphs at Orongo
Petroglyphs at Orongo

Scenes depicting birdman carvings.
Petroglyphs at OrongoPetroglyphs at Orongo
Petroglyphs at Orongo

Carvings showing a beak and a hand clutching an egg.
Moai hatMoai hat
Moai hat

These "topknots", as they are often called, were carved in a single quarry known as Puna Pau. Cat providing some scale here!
Fallen moaiFallen moai
Fallen moai

Moai at Ahu Akahanga. They are face down facing away from the sea towards the remains of a village.
Fallen moaiFallen moai
Fallen moai

Close up of fallen moai at Ahu Akahanga.
Moai NurseryMoai Nursery
Moai Nursery

The nursery, the quarry of Rano Raraku where the moai were carved. Partly finished Moai are jutting out of the ground.
Rano RarakuRano Raraku
Rano Raraku

More moai heads popping out of the ground...
Rano RarakuRano Raraku
Rano Raraku

Some moai heads popping out of the ground.
A tribe of MoaiA tribe of Moai
A tribe of Moai

Moai restored by the Japanese. Spectacular site at Ahu Tongariki.
Anakena BeachAnakena Beach
Anakena Beach

Standing maoi at the beach, original landing point of the Rapa Nui.
Ahu TongarikiAhu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki

Pat adds some Mekano Scale to the Moai.
Happy New Year 2007Happy New Year 2007
Happy New Year 2007

It´s amazing what you can achieve on New Years Day if you lay off the jar the night before. Sunrise, 1st Jan, 2007.
Sunrise at Ahu TongarikiSunrise at Ahu Tongariki
Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

Very eerie and mystical in the morning light.
Valdivia, ChileValdivia, Chile
Valdivia, Chile

Nothing to do with Easter Island, but is this not the biggest seal in the world?! Chile harbours the worlds fattest seal who hangs out for scraps at the fish market.

4th January 2007

Rappy No Beer!
OMG, deadly photos! Shame you missed the party, but looks like it was totally worth it. I so want to go there.
4th January 2007

Happy New Year
Thanks for all the great blogs and photo's throughout the last year, really fantastic stuff. It's been like living the journey rather than just reading. All the best for 2007 and the rest of your trip, especially to my ambition destination of the Inca sites and Macchu Picu ! Have a good one, Bob.
8th January 2007

you buggers...
...easter island for new year, insanely jealous. just catching up on your travels as the wind and rain lashes down outside, all looks amazing, your south indian adventures followed an uncannily similar route to mine and pip's a good 10 years ago. enjoy south america, look out for my mate alan!

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