Easter Island Stories and Tips

Easter Island IV

Moai Photo, Easter Island, Chile

Monday March 22
We started the day by heading to the craft market. Antonio scouted some moai statues, eventually bartering and buying a nice one for himself. I felt too nauseous to participate, especially when I happened upon the fresh fish booth. Whoooaaa.

There are several unrestored moai sites, with toppled statues lining the north coast, as well as a couple of brilliant sand beaches. (Really the only beaches on the island suitable for swimming.) Anakena beach is your classical South Pacific beach; deep blue water, sand, palm trees - add some moai and it's perfect.

A relatively late development in the manufacturing of moai was the inclusion of a 'topknot'. There is a special quarry on the island where a certain type of red volcanic rock can be found - it's in a small crater in the middle of the island. We decided to check it out. It was actually kind of boring - though it was interesting to note that there were still a couple dozen large topknots lying around, never having been rolled to their final destination. There were a couple of large bulls locking horns and fighting close by (unfenced and roaming wild) so we decided to hoof it before they took Isabel's red shirt as an invitation to gore the three of us.

The next, and last, major site we visited was Ahu Akivi. This is the only complex where the moai are positioned facing the ocean. No one knows why this particular group are so stationed. Of all the sites on the island, this is my favourite. It was in the middle of a farmer's field, and I think it is overlooked by a lot of tourists who visit. It was deathly quiet when we were there. The moai are old, decrepit, and covered in lichen (which might appear as guano.) We stayed here for some time, enjoying the serenity and taking pictures. This is one of my favourite pictures - the lonely moai silent markers [50K] of a forgotten culture.

There are a series of caves close to Ahu Akivi. They stretch underground for several hundred yards. At one point they served as dwellings on the island, and you can see some evidence of cave art and rock structures. It was a welcome respite from the searing heat and humidity of the day.

Tuesday March 23

My final full day on the island (I leave Wednesday at 11am.) As we've covered most of the actual sites on the island, it's time to do the museum and shopping thing. There is one museum on the island, close to Ahu Tahai. While slightly pricey (1500$CLP), it does have a great collection of artifacts and pictures. Unfortunately, most of the descriptions are in Spanish, so I kind of lost interest quickly. I spent a lot of time looking through the guest book though, seeing how many other people from Toronto had signed it in the past six months. (I think there were about two others.)

After the museum, we headed off to Hanga Roa to do some serious moai-buying. You can't leave Easter Island without picking up at least one of the hand-carved statuettes, and I picked up three. Bartering in the key here - we investigated almost every store and determined that the store in Hotel Orongo was the cheapest, though perhaps didn't have the best selection. Ipaid $40 US for the statues. (Plus $1 US for an authentic Rapa Nui passport stamp, which I'm angry to say was stamped over by US customs about two months later.) I also got some more postcards and a t-shirt.

We bought pucks & cheese for lunch, and after eating at Cecelia's, Antonio decides we need to charter a fishing boat and do the circuit around the tiny islands off the coast of Orongo. We eventually track down a fisherman who's willing to take us out, for the princely sum of $75 US. Now, I don't mind boats, but the wind had been blowing steadily all day and the swells were maybe 4-6 feet for most of the trip. I do admit though, it was a great view looking up the cliff towards the ceremonial village at Orongo - gives you a good appreciation of what kind of nutcases these people were.

The next day, I flew back to Santiago..

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