The Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

The Easter Island or Rapa Nui, as the local name is, was one of the places I had pointed out as a goal for my travel to South America in 2005. I got there, and had a really wonderful week!! This island had always puzzled my mind from I was a kid watching the documentaries of Thor Heyerdahl. He was the person starting the reerection of the huge stone statues, the moais. And I am very proud to say I come from the same country as him. The moais is probably the only thing people think about when they hear Easter Island, and not the fact that this also is a south pacific paradise! :) The history must not be forgotten either! A disturbing tale how belief almost destroyed the whole island!
Another fact is that this is regarded as the world's most remotely place. Almost 4000 kilometres off the Chilean coast, and still 1900 kilometres to the next habitated islands, The Pitcairns. Well...I didn't quite get the feeling off beeing that remote, with access to high-speed internet and even network for my cellphone.
  The island was indeed incredible, and I soon put it on the list over places to go on my honeymoon! :) If that ever happens! :)
Came here on easter eve. And it sure not became any skiing this easter. But still the most amazing easter ever!
The easter island is the most relaxed place I've been so far. A real vacation inside of my vacation.
One tip though, bring some cash with you. Especially if there are a lot of consecutive holidays, as there are for example in the easter. :) Had to ask for credit both at the place I stayed and the tours, and also got help from my very nice travel companion. It was no problems though. The people are really nice.

Day 1 Easter Eve 2005DSCF1085.JPG (46412 bytes)

The day started very hectic in Santiago. A party last night became very late/early, and sleeping an hour too much in the morning made me just rush to the airport. Just to realize that there have been a mixup with my ticket. My electronic ticket, was obviously not electronic, even if the travel agent have told me so. Several times!  My real ticket was sent to Norway. Superscheisse!! And even if I argued that there was a seat with my name on it, it didn't work. Time ran and 15 minutes before departure I ended up buying a new ticket. Two seats on that plane had my name on it!  Enough about that!
I finally got on the plane anyway, realizing that I have forgotten to go to the ATM in the rush. aiaiai....But as my second thesis of wisdom says: "Don't think to much", so I didn't bother to spend much brainpower on that problem. :) It will work out somehow anyway! :)
Watching "Los Increibles" at the plane cinema, laughing out loud at the most hilarious scenes, I heard this person next to me laugh even louder. This person was, by the way a very nice girl, backpacking as me! Since I didn't have the impression she would murder me in my sleep I joined her search for a place to stay. I had gotten a tip about Oscar, a nice and friendly guy that ran a B&B. And as the printout from Lonely Planets Thorn Tree said, Oscar was on the airport. He was very friendly and nice, just as promised. His place is really recomendable! Chez Oscar is the name, and it is a villa with a beautiful garden, and porch to sit on. Freshgrown bananas in the backyard, and a really good breakfast. He have a 4X4 you can rent, and he have a lot of good recomendations about things to do! I almost felt that I had a bit bad consciousness the days I did nothing! :) Just almost!

First priority for me was to find the only ATM on the island, and the joy was great when I spotted it. My joy didn't last very long though! :) Not valid for VISA!! aiaiai....again! :) I had only ten tousand pesos chilenos to roam around with until tuesday when the bank opened! If you want to know excactly how much that is you can find it here! Couldn't do much about that! The time difference from the mainland meant that it was still much left of the day, so we went hiking up Rano Kau, one of the many dead vulcanoes on the island. Well...hiking was maybe not the correct word. Walking over some grassy fields, through a small forrest and some fields again, but the weather was warm and humid, so according to the sweat this was a very intense hike indeed!

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The walk led to a beautiful crater with a strange greenish marshland and small puddles inside of it. Next to the crater was Orongo, the ceremonial village of the mysterious birdman cult. Here they held their yearly selection of their birdman (leader). The winner became the man who first brought back an egg from a sooty tern from the small islets offshore. This included climbing down the cliffs, swimming out to one of the islets, find an egg and back again. Maybe an idea for the next prime minister election back home! Can picture the lineup on maybe one of the Lofoten islands! :)

The houses there were built to last! Made of stones, low in the terrain and a very small entrances. There were also some carvings in the stones around the cliffs. Interesting and a not so well known part of Rapa Nui. The place was really idyllic, with a view from the top of just ocean decorated with some piles of rainbows. Walking back to the village, admiring the thundering waves hitting the cliffs, I couldn't help thinking how lucky I am to be here, and see all this!

Day 2 Easter Day 2005

283 years ago on this day, the first european set foot on this island! In 1722 a dutch expedition found this place, and in real european pioneer spirit they gave the island a new name, in spite of its local name! I guess just luck made the discovery to be on this day, or else it would maybe be named after some dutch king! It could be worse! :)
The day started with an excellent breakfast with fresh fruits, and we joined a guided tour around the island. Tony was our guide for the day, and he told us a lot about the islands history. Our first stop was at an old ruined village beside Ahu Hanga Te'e. We could see foundations of the houses, and learned about how they were built. And of course there were a lot of moais lying around. The moai had protective powers for the village, the people believed, and the bigger the better. It always faced the village. The urge for bigger and more moais became the downfall for the people here, and not the europeans as in most other places like this.

Next stop was Rano Raraku, also called the nursery. This was the birthplace of every moai on the island!. The vulcano is probably the most amazing place on the island. Here you really get to see the overwhealming extent of the statuemaking. wooow....It is a real must see!! Words can't really describe anything close to the feeling you get wandering amidst the more or less incomplete moais. There is a lot of them here. None fully complete. Some just missing their eyes. The eyes were never given the moais until they had reached their destination anyway. It is believed that there was a ceremony during the erecting of the statues at a cermonial platform, also called an Ahu. They got their eyes in this ceremony! How they transported huge moais is still a mystery. There are many theories, but none are really proven to be a fact. One thing they all agree on is that they used a lot of timber to this. The extensive production of moais, led to extensive foresting. Timber was needed to transport these bastards to every village on the island. More and more! Bigger and bigger! DSCF0942.JPG (51795 bytes)

In this quarry we could see moais in every stage of the production. From barely visible shapes in the vulcanoslopes, to standing statues due for their face surgery. The biggest one that they had started working on was 22 meters in height, and were estimated to be around a 100 metric tons! This place really makes you aware of the dimensions of the belief the people had. As I could see it, at least half of the population had to be statuebuilders, and the other half cut down the forest for the transportation. No wonder hunger strook this place! Noone had time to produce food! And on top of all, the clearing of all possible forest on the island, led to erosion and bad conditions for growing things. War was the obvious solution! Fighting between the villages killed off most of the population, and every moai on the island was knocked down by enemy villages. The statuemaking got an abrupt end. It seemed like they just had taken their tools and left the place in the middle of their work. The area was scattered with statues everywhere, must have been many hundreads. Also in the slopes inside of crater it was an immense amount of moais almost finished. I can't really imagine how much labour and energy this stonecutting and carving must have costed. It would have been difficult to do this in such a scale today with modern technology! This place really made me speachless!

Further on we went to Ahu Tongariki, and the 15 standing moais on the ceremonial plattform there! The biggest  ahu on the island that have been reconstructed!  All the moais standing now on the island have been erected in later years. Thor Heyerdahl started the work in 1956.  This is also a place for amazement and wondering on how they managed to erect all these heavy statues. And more triggering, how did they managed to put the topknot on top of the statues!
The setting was a beautiful cove, with children fishing from the jagged cliffs, horses running freely around. The moais, standing there, had a good view of the quarry where they were born, in spite of them all have lost their eyes a long time ago. Their faint memory of a long forgotten journey, might still puzzle their minds. The sound of the thundering sea accompanied it all! 

DSCF0957.JPG (52158 bytes)Our guide and driver took us across the island and we got to the northern coast. First stop here was Ahu Te Pito Kura. No moais were standing here. But there where several lying facedown, among other the biggest moai ever moved from the nursery and erected on an ahu. This is most likely one of the last to be erected in the old days. The name Te Pito Kura, comes from a particular stone, and means "navel of light", which again legends have transformed into "navel of the world". The stone itself is round as a football (basketball might be a better image for you americans reading this!:), and it is magnetic. And on top of all I got to show off a bit with my new cellphone with an digital compass! :) The stone made the compass spin around!

Lunch was eaten at the idyllic Anakena Beach. This place really made me feel like beeing in a South Pacific paradise. White sand, palm trees, and a blue ocean. And to top it off like no other paradise, there were six standing moais in the background. One of them was the first one to be risen again in this century.

This was indeed one of the most amazing days on my whole journey. Learned a lot about the history here on one of the most exotic places in the world. Images, that I only had seen in books and on TV, were stuck in my mind in a whole different way. Life is good!!

The day was ended watching the sun go down in the ocean, from Ahu Ta Haj. Some clouds "disturbed" the sunset, but it was beautiful anyway. Sat there for a long time, just enjoying life.

Day 3 (2005.03.28)

After such an yesterday, it was an easy descision to make what to do today. Nothing! :) Said goodbye to my very nice friend from England. She rushed on to Tahiti, on her around the world trip. A bit sad saying good bye this soon, but I was really glad I had more time in paradise. Travelling learns you to say goodbye to people as well as saying hello!

DSCF0845.JPG (40879 bytes)As always the weather was nice. Had a few drops of rain, but it was just nice in the heat. Sitting in the shade, on a outdoor restaurant, drinking beer, looking at people passing by, and taking some notes in my diary, is one of my favourite activities too! :) The highlight of the day came when I realized that the bank was open again! :) Finally me own money in my pocket again. After settling some my debt in town, I strolled around a bit. Hanga Roa is the only town on the island, and most of the population live here. They have a quite nice church with traditional carvings mixed with christan symbolism, a tiny beach, with some surfing, and the atmosphere is really relaxed. People seem to have plenty of time. The only people I saw rushing around were tourists. :) Another day was gone before I knew it, and yet another time I sat and watched the sun set between the moais.

Day 4 (2005.03.29)

Had the intension of doing something this day. Maybe rent a bike, but I wasn't really sure I had the energy to go biking very far in this heat! :) But everything worked out perfectly. At the breakfasttable I met yet another nice traveller. She had rented a car for the day, and as the gentleman I am offered to be her guide for the day. Since I already have been around the island! :)  And of course getting such an offer from a guy like me, she couldn't refuse! :)
We went more or less the same route as I had the second day here. Had of course a long stop at the nursery. Wandering around there is something I could have done many more days. As I have mentioned this is really an amazing place, and words can't describe the feeling you get there. After getting hit by all the impressions in the nursery, we continued to Tongariki, and the fifteen standing moais. Tryed to tell the story my guide told me, about the worlds most well travelled moai. The moai standing next to the road there has even been in Norway. Japan is also a country that he has ticked off on his list. :) Actually met Tony, on most of the places we stopped. Guiding other tourists around in the same way as he did a couple of days ago. Also stumbled into him again at Anakena beach.
We had of course to make a long stop at the biggest and most beautiful beach. Having a car really gives you freedom. You can make your stop as long (or short) as you want. Anakena beach was perfect for a long stop! :) It is also possible to take some alternative routes as well. Especially with a fourwheeldrive! :) Looking at the map we spotted a track going up towards Maunga Terevaka, the highest point on the island. So we went there! :) We found the road, and it got less and less road. At the end it was just wheeltracks in the grass. After some steep hills, and very good driving :), we came to the highest point. Parked the car and took some photos in spirits of real mountaineers. It was a tough climb! :) Well....the car got all muddy and dusty! This drive is really recomendable. It is not very difficult. But I wouldn't recomend it in wet conditions though! Then experience with offroad driving will be crucial!!
Another funny story from this trip: I met the first norwegian since Buenos Aires (a couple of months ago), on the top of Easter Island. Another 4X4 came. Probably spotting some loonies going up those steep hills, and decided that it was possible for them as well :) Anyway I spoke my first norwegian words in a very long time (for me) there. It was a women from somewhere south in Norway. Have forgotten her name and where she came from. Shame on me! But she was norwegian. Norwegians are seldom to meet when you travel, but when you meet them, you meet them in strange places. I have to add that I count the mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands as exceptions!DSCF1107.JPG (54974 bytes)
After having a nice chat in norwegian at the top, we went down again, and drove the western route down. Driving past the seven moais at A Kivi, and had our first stop at the cave at Te Pahu. A small tourist group came at the same time, so we sponged on to them and listened to all what their guide told them. :)  Luckyly I had a flashlight on my phone, so we could navigate a bit safely in the cave! :) The cave had at least two openings, and we went from one to the other. Listening to the guide about how they think these caves had a religous purpose for the people in the area. Sad to say, but I can't really remember everything I was told there! :)

Day 5 (2005.03.30)

Today was the bicycling day. Hot and beautiful. The ride was just to Anakena Beach and back again, but still an exciting one. I have to add that I never have ridden a bike on a island in the Pacific before! After a very hot ride, we came to the beach. And even I had to cool off in the water. I do not have the tendency of swimming in the sea very often! :)
Had a beautiful day at Anakena, just lying under the palm trees, looking for that odd coconut to fall down. In my diary from this day I have some very describing words: I have seldom felt more relaxed! Am lying with my feet in the Pacific Ocean and the rest of my body on a white beach encircled with palms! Wrote some postcards back home, not knowing that they almost drowned in snow there. :) I got to hear that later! :)
The bicycleride back home became quite wet. At the end of the day some clouds came, and the rain came down. Have seen worse rain, but still quite much. Was soaking wet arriving in Hanga Roa again. But still this was yet another good day. The day was celebrated with yet another sunset from Ta Haj, and a deliscious fish meal from one of the very good restaurants.

DSCF0991.JPG (24652 bytes)Day 6 (2005.03.31)

Yet another relaxed day! Started my day with coffee at the porch at Chez Oscar, listening to the rain. The rain soon disappeared as usual, and it became a very hot day. Beside looking for shade, we went to the museum this day. The museum is good. It is not so much new information if you been around the island a bit, but still well worth a visit. The displays are put into a cronological order, and it is a very good place to just sort all the informartion that has been pumped into your head the last days. And there are some nice items as well, among other things the only eye of a moai that ever have been found. The eye had special powers, they believed, and were probably destroyed or thrown in the ocean during fightings.

Day 7 & 8(2005.04.01 & 02)

The last days in this paradise, at least for now. Perfect for just doing nothing again. Went to the small beach just outside Hanga Roa. Just enjoying life! This time of year was luckyly not high season for tourists here. Don't know if many tourists drop down on this island. It is indeed far away from everything. Anyway, tourism is the major income for everybody on the island, so it must be some that drop by every year. But you can't really need much when you live in a place like this! :)
Had a bit sad feeling sitting on the airplane back to Santiago. This is a kind of place you don't want to leave. Have decided a long time ago that this is a place I really will try to go back to.

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