Complete with eyes and hat.
According to legend, the origin of the people of Rapa nui goes back to Marae Renga, an island that probably formed part of the Marquesas Archipeligo. It is believed that Ariki Hotu Matu’a was defeated in war by his brother and was forced to search for a new home across the Pacific Ocean. Matu’a sent 7 warriors in search for this new homeland and when they finally found it they named it “Te Pito o Te Henua”
literally, The Naval of the world.
Now in naming this island they weren’t far off the mark at all. In fact Easter Island, as it is now commonly known, is in fact the most isolated, populated Island in the world. 2520 miles away from Tahiti and 2300 miles away from Chile. In effect, 5 hours flying time from Santiago. The interesting thing about Easter Island is that all of the information about this amazing culture which we have nowadays is mostly guess work. Nothing has been confirmed as definite so all of the stories and all of the theories put to you are for your own brain to decide what is true. Me, I believe all of it because it
is absolutely fascinating stuff, even the stories of the statues walking themselves to the alters with magic and that of aliens transporting them there as well.
Brief Island Info
You can find more than 1000 moais throughout the island, measuring from 1m to the biggest which is 22m!! Some have cylindrical topknots on their heads made of red scoria which have been carved from a different place on the island and transported to the various sites. All the moais were being made to be placed on top of the Ahu, or platforms overlooking each individual village which were used for different social and religious activities with the moai themselves depicting the chief of that village.
As with all of male society, each chief wanted their moai bigger and better than the last and because of this the scale of building went out of control. Everywhere you go on the island there are moai lying on the floor, in the hills and smashed into various pieces due to the tricky procedures of getting them around this bizarre land. If there were any deformities in the rock or the statue was damaged in any way while carving or being transported then
The only type of its kind on the Island
they would be abandoned and the last years work wasted.
The building of these massive sculptures was to be the downfall of the people themselves. With the carving came massive amounts of labour, which in turn needed food, wood, tools etc to complete these mammoth projects. The islanders began chopping down the trees to use the wood for construction and never stopped until the last tree was felled. Due to this, food became less, birds disappeared and the island fell into chaos. Starving and angry the islanders turned on each other fighting clan wars until there were only a few remaining fighting for food and water rights which were by this time exceedingly scarce on this wind swept land. By the time Captain Cook arrived on his travels in the late 1700s he was quoted in his diaries saying: God has not given many favours to the people of Rapa Nui
Now to modern times. We arrived on the island with few plans but no real idea what to expect. I had read from a few peoples blogs that the cheapest place to stay was Camping Mihinoa and so I hunted down Marta the owner to see
Standing on top of Rano Raraku
The quarry where all the Moais were carved
how much it was. We originally planned to hire a tent and camp yet due to rain lashing down and the wind blowing an absolute gale we soon upgraded to a twin room which still only cost 14000 pesos for the both of us, about 7 quid each.
We then set out to get on a tour of the island with a local guide who could tell us all the history before we set off ourselves later in the week. From the Tourist Information center in town we managed to squeeze on to Bills tours who owns the hotel next door, Matua’a. Bill as it turns out is an absolute legend, originally from Oz he arrived here in the early 90s as the production manager for the appalling Hollywood movie Rapa Nui. (which we watched one night in the local cinema, truly shocking film) he ended up marrying a local girl and spends his time now taking people around the island. He was exceedingly knowledgable about the history and he often put across his own views to what he thinks happened due to the fact that everything is still guess work due to the Rapa Nui not having a written
language. As I mentioned before though he was great and kept us imformed with all the info including hilarious tales that he himself went through on his arrival on the island, such as fighting off the sexy local ladies who would fight each other every night for the rights to sleep with him!! Being a westerner and the fact that at this point the islanders couldn’t marry anyone on the island because they were all related to each other it made his life quite exciting. He still made a rubbish film though, although he was quick to point out that the construction was great!
We found out some interesting facts such as the heaviest moai to ever be stood was approximately 80 tonnes, the tallest was 10m high, the biggest to be carved was over 7 stories, 22m and weighs nearly 200 tonnes and the last moai to be toppled was actually felled by the drunken crew of a whaling ship in the late 1800s.
So, filled with this information me and Neville set off on our own to spend some time away from the crowds using the best form of transportation, big boy off road scramblers. We
Te Pito o Te Henua
The Belly Button of the World. Believed to have magical powers by the locals who thought that it vibrated and sent messages from the Gods. It also has a high iron content which makes compasses go crazy.
also spent a day diving with Orca divers who were great, Kev getting himself spooked on his first ever try dive in the bay and me doing 2 excellent clear, warm dives around the island. For one dive we followed a turtle for over half and hour as he was feeding on the reef and it was amazing, including seeing a big Conger Eel and a massive lobster hiding in his cave.
Another day we hired out mountain bikes for exploring the west coast of the island and this turned out to be the best day we had. The riding was great visiting the 7 inland moais, the only ones to be facing out to sea and supposedly representing the 7 warriors sent to find the island. We explored through some huge caves and rode back into town down some excellent downhill tracks only to get to the other side of the island and decide to punish ourselves with a ride up the volcano of the Bird Man tribes.
The Bird Men
The Bird Man was a later tradition on the island where one man from each tribe would race down the seriously steep cliffs of the volcano, swim
Ahu Nau Nau
Moais complete with ascoria tophats which are believed to represent the way the chiefs had their hair.
a huge distance to some outlying islands and try and collect an egg from the nesting bird colony. The first warrior to return with his egg intact would be able to become chief for the following year and claim the powers of the Gods. Fascinating petroglyphs remain to this day all around the island, especially at the top of the volcano depicting this amazing feat of endurance.
Several Ahus have been restored throughout the island by various people, one of which is Ahu Tongariki which has 15 standing moai looking into land with the Pacific Ocean as an impressive backdrop.
Absolutely everything about this fascinating place exceeded our expectations, so much so I cant even complain about the rain and wind which howled it down most days which made the mountain biking and scrambling all the more interesting. In fact, I think I have left the Island with more questions than answers so it always leaves the possibility of return open for a later date.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. Tonight me and Kevin hop onto an overnight bus heading North via La Serena and into a small place called Vicuna where we are going to explore the valley
The Bird Man Island
Motu Nui Islet where the athletes of each clan would compete for the ability to become the next power on the island, acheiving Make-Make. the power of the God.
for a few days before heading further North to the Atacama desert.
It would be great to hear from anyone back home as well so don’t be shy about leaving a message on the comments board or the like.
Â¡Hasta Luego Amigos!
P.S. I never did find that pesky Easter Bunny
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