Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile

                                                                     Moai at Tahai

February 11, 2012

After 5 days at sea, 3 of which were pretty rough, we arrived at Easter Island.  There are two possible places to anchor here, and they were not able to determine which to use until close to docking time, because the choice of location depending on the strength of the winds and roughness of waves.  Easter Island apparently prefers to receive its tourists by air rather than by ship.  They have refrained from building big docks that will accommodate big cruise ships, because they want to retain a less commercial atmosphere.  The human population of the island is less than 3,000 people, but there are lots of horses.

Our guide described this triangular island as 3 volcanoes, one at each corner of the island, held together by basalt from lava flows.

Our stay here contained enough adventure for the whole cruise.  To start with, we ended up at the north side of the island, because it was calmer, but the dock is not one that tenders can just sail up to and tie up, because there are rocks right at the surface of the water.  So the crew had to set up a floating platform, to which they tied a tender, and then the tender with passengers tied up to the first tender.  All very well and good, but the winds and tides are changeable, and predictably, the seas got rougher as the day progressed.  When we returned from our excursion we had to wait for about an hour to get on a tender because the float platform had been broken and they had to replace it.  At some point, one of the tenders had also sustained serious damage.  Apparently later in the day the other float got broken and to get the last of the passengers off the island they ended up nosing the tender into the dock (between the rocks) and loading the passengers through the front hatch of the tender.  That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that some of the people boarding that way weighed 250 pounds or more, and not all were agile.  However, in the end, almost everyone was full of praise for the crew, for their creativity, ingenuity and their patience.  There were a few people who complained, including one who vowed she would not take another excursion requiring a tender for the rest of the cruise.  But for most of us this experience left us in awe of the crew and with more confidence in them than ever.  

Now on to our excursion, which was called ‘Ancient Cultures of Easter Island’.  We boarded our small bus near the dock, and drove off into the beautiful island scenery.

Our first stop was a photo op that gave us a nice view of the village of Hanga Roa

From there we went on to the ceremonial village of Orongo, located next to the crater of Rano Kao.  This village dates from after the culture that made the Moai (the famous sculptures which are really full bodies, not just heads).  This village was used by the Birdman Cult.  Under the bird man cult, the leader for the island was chosen by a ritual that involved having someone from each tribe descend about 1000 feet down the steep side of the island, swim out to the two little islands where some migratory birds nested, pick up an egg, swim back, re-climb the side of the island, and present their leader with the egg.  The leader who got the first egg and returned first to the village with it was the island's leader for the next year, after which the whole process was repeated.

The ceremonial houses were built with dry-stack walls, and low doors with long tunnels leading into the main structure.  The purpose of this type of entrance was to make sure that anyone who tried to enter was the vulnerable one, rather than the people who were inside.  These dwellings were used only for ceremonial purposes.  There were also a lot of petroglyphs at the ceremonial village

For our final stop we drove through Hanga Roa to the Tahai area of Rapa Nui National Park, where we were able to see the Moai up close.  The one shown here page with eyes has been restored.  Originally all had eyes, but the rest have not been restored.

There is a beach next to the dock we anchored near, which seems totally out of character for the island.  It turns out that the beach was a ‘gift’ from a tsunami in 1997.  (Note the line of Moai at the left in this photo.)

There are roads all over the island, but most of them are not paved.  Even so, the ride on them was pretty good.

Easter Island is a place that did not call to us before we experienced it, but now that we have seen it we would like to return.  There are many things still to see, including the quarry where most of the Moai are located.  We would enjoy visiting again, and definitely recommend visiting if the opportunity presents itself.

There are additional pictures in the photo album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com