RAPA NUI - EASTER ISLAND - 2011
There is so much to see and do on Rapa Nui. The iconic figures, MOAI, deserve repeated examinations, in different lights. Trekking is gorgeous, swimming delightful, the people beguiling. Because it is so very isolated and difficult to reach, we would not recommend to anyone that they spend less than ten days there. I can’t wait to return. We planned our trip to coincide with the annual cultural festival, TAPATI, which included a plethora of competitions, entertainment, dancing, singing …. all culminating with the crowning of a queen for the coming year.
Designed by Chilean architect, Jose Cruz Ovalle and opened in December of 2007, Explora Rapa Nui, Posada Mike Rapu is a stunning lodge where after a day of exploring, trekking, swimming, fishing or horse back riding, one can luxuriate in the greatest of comfort. The rooms are spacious, elegant and calming, no clocks, no radios and no TVs anywhere on the property.
The 887 moai, located all around the island, were created between 1250 and 1500. They represented living faces of deified ancestors and are each quite different. The tallest moai created was 10m (33′) tall and weighed 75 tons, the heaviest erected at Ahu Tongariki weighed 86 tons and the huge unfinished moai at the quarry would have been 21 m (69′) tall weighing 270 tons. It is incredible that they were able to be moved around the island.
“Rano Raraku remins one of the greatest and most curious creations of mankind, a monument to the great lost unknown behind us….” Thor Heyerdahl. We had driven past the crater, one sees it from many vantage points, always a tease. Across an expanse from the base of the crater, we first visited the incredible AHU TONGARIKI, with its infinite platform supporting 15 huge figures. It is the largest ceremonial platform anywhere in Polynesia, 220m (721′) from one end to the other.
One of the unexpected (to us) activities of the Tapati Festival was the Body Painting….I had thought tattoos, but, this was full dipping into red, white or yellow clay, letting it dry and waiting in a queue for designs to be applied by artists in black, white, gold, orange. A parade then followed in the village of Hanga Roa, right down the one main street. It seemed everyone was participating. There were interludes of dance and music and floats with the Pua and Mahaki contestants for queen.
There are three small islands at the base of RANO KAO, the volcano involved in the historic TANGATA MANU, Birdman Cult. There used to be an annual cycle of ceremonial activities resulting in the election of a leader (Tanga Manu) for the next year.
The easternmost headland, POIKE, is the oldest of the volcanic eruptions, three nillions years old. The southwest corner of the island, RANO KAU, erupted two and half millions years ago. Youngest of the three, TEREVAKA, erupted around 400,000 years ago. It is the tallest point on the island, 507m (1,664′) and always very windy.