Easter Island Stories and Tips

Tongariki by the sea

Tongariki by the sea Photo, Easter Island, Chile

Located on the eastern coast at Bay Hotu Iti next to Rano Raraku, and comprising the biggest and perhaps best known ahu in Rapa Nui for that reason, the row of 15 standing moai at Tongariki was wholly restored by about 1996 from a collection of the various moai which were found on the grassy area around the coast.

You can easily see from climbing and poking around on the grassy banks in the wide area back from the beach that there was a substantially higher number of moai than just the 15 on the altar. Moreover, fate was not content with making them the victims of internecine warfare in the same way as their brethren round the island; in 1960, they suffered the further indignity of being washed inland, some distance from the coast, by a mega-tsunami (or giant tidal wave). It is probable that further damage was sustained at this point and you'll find lots of decapitated torsos and top-knots broken in 2.

Of the 15 standing statues on the 200m-long ahu, only one top-knot has been reinstated and the disparate dimensions and sizes of the restored moai make for a rather odd and disorganised grouping. It's believed that the original 15 were all giants but the out-of-place midgets had to be used to fill in the gaps as the giants were all damaged. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular scene, their backs against the wide open ocean - a wild backdrop, made even wilder when you remind yourself what the sea is capable of and how it recently humbled even something so proud, huge and seemingly immovable as the statues standing before you.

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