Touring Easter Island seeing the Moai
Jul 18, 2017
|We had the breakfast buffet down at the hotel restaurant and returned to our room. We met Maitu in the lobby at 9:10 for our private tour of the island. She drove us out past the airport while telling us about the history of the island and what we would see today. Past the airport a little ways, we made a right to see the moai and platforms along the southern shore. (from here on, whenever I say moai, I mean the platform on which they stand and the statues or moai themselves.)
Moai are built to face inwards towards the people. The moai represent ancestors who have great power to watch over the tribe. There were eight sections on the island. Usually there were small moai at the borders of each tribe to mark the territory. Some of the toppled moai were done during wars among the tribes. Others were toppled after the people turned away from that tradition and had a new religion.
The area along the southern coast had little vegetation and shrubs growing. It was quite open, but not flat, as you saw rock formations here and there. Maitu told us about the formation of the island. The triangular shape of the island was formed by three volcanoes that erupted over time. None are currently active.
Our first stop of the day was at Akahanga (King's Platform). Here we saw the outline of the remains of a village. Maitu discussed village life and how they would have a stone foundation and a reed tent-like structure over the foundation. We also saw a cave here that was used as a living quarters. Down by the sea we saw the moai. We came along side an "oops" moai statue. It had fallen off a sled and fell on its side and was abandoned. (You lift a 50-60 ton statue and put it back on the sled to get it to the platform.)
There are many theories of how they moved the moai statues to their platforms - sleds; walk them by moving them upright from side to side while advancing; etc.
At Akahanga all of the statues are fallen forward on their faces. We could see the red "hats" or "hair" lying on the ground where they had rolled when the statues fell. As I mentioned before, some statues were toppled during war. But, Easter Island had experienced a tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile that hit the south side of the island and toppled statues. Luckily, no one really lives on the south side so no lives were lost. They are prepared for the next tsunami. We saw signs all over the island that was showing the tsunami evacuation route and posters about up coming drills.
Seeing these moai up close was mind boggling. How could they do it? It's like the pyramids and Machu Pichu and all of the other wonders. Maitu told us of a Japanese company that was going to use a crane, except the statues weighed more than the crane could handle!
Back in the SUV, we drove to our second stop, which was Tongariki. When we got out of the car, Maitu had some dog food for all of the dogs out at the site. Tongariki is where the moai have been placed back upright. This is the place you see in the books and online with 15 moai on the platform, one with the "hat/hair." She talked about the place on the ride over. Maitu said that this is as big as it gets. In the 1960s they sent one of the moai to Japan. Then the Japanese wanted to help and was sending a crane to stand the statues back up, but realized before it arrived that the moai exceeded the weight limits of the crane. Japan did help place the statues back.
Maitu cleared us through the gate, and then she let us loose to walk around at our own pace. So, copious pictures. For the first 10-15 minutes we had the place to ourselves! We even walked around to the back of the platform. The gate house had a storage shed that was modeled on the houses in the original villages.
Back in the SUV for the ride to the quarry at Raraku. We had a choice here, there is a volcano crater at Volcan Rano, or see the quarry. Mind you, we had hiked a volcano crater in New Zealand, so we chose the quarry. Maitu walked and talked with us about the technique used to carve and then dislodge the moai from the mountain. They would slide the statue down the hill to a hole where they would stand the moai upright to finish the carving. Some of the moai were buried up to their necks and need to be excavated. The backs of the statue had details as well as the front. Some,of the statues had numbers painted in white on their backs. These were placed there by a missionary on the island.
We went to the end of the trail to see a special moai that was kneeling. You could see the details of the feet and toes! Maitu left us and we had time to roam on our own to take pictures, sit and contemplate the area and what it meant, or whatever. After our walking around, we did walk through the gift shop before finding Maiatu.
We then got back in the SUV and headed back to the main road to return to town and stop at the Mahinatur headquarters for our included lunch about 1:00. We were there with three other tours. A table was set for just us. (Each tour had a separate table.) They served us soup, chicken with rice and fruit for dessert. Not bad.
After a WC, we headed out to the northeast shoreline. Here we stopped at Te Pito Kura which is the location of the tallest moai, which had fallen. Also, we went to the pit with a large round stone that is the "navel of the world." It supposedly has special magnetic powers to heal, etc., and was brought to the island by the original settlers.
Then we journeyed to the beach at Anakena where Maitu left us on our own for an hour. We walked down to the beach and found a spot. We left our towels and shoes and walked in the shallow water along the shoreline in the Pacific Ocean. It was not a very long beach. Once we reached the other end, we walked up to the platform with some moai to investigate. Then back to our towels to put on our shoes and find Maitu.
On the way back, I asked Maitu to drive along main street and show us where the laundry was. Well, it really has no sign and is next to a small souvenir shop near the corner of Englert and Atamu Tekena. We then returned to the hotel. We pulled together our laundry and walked it over. Of course she did not speak English, so with the help of the girl at the souvenir shop, we were able to get the idea across. She weighed the two bags (whites, darks), quoted us a price and then we paid. Pick-up would be tomorrow at 4:00.
Since we had a late lunch, we just went over to a supermarket and purchased some cheese and crackers and other items for our dinner before returning to the hotel. We then relaxed and enjoyed the evening.