Ahu Vaihu, Ahu Akahanga, Tongariki, Rano Raraku, Anakena
Craig and Steph's Adventures on Easter Island
Our first stop today was Ahu Vaihu. You walk around the site and see piles of volcanic rock. You almost don't realize until later that the big rock you are looking at is a toppled moai. We learned that there are around 1000 moai on the island. Here at Vaihu, there was a circular stone area that was used for staging ceremonies. Some ceremonies involved dancing. Others involved large puppets, made out of sticks, that resembled scarecrows. A person would get inside and speak through its mouth. This was done in effigy of someone who had died, usually on the anniversary of their death. We saw some small hawks here.
Next we went to Ahu Akahanga. This site contains the only moai transported from the quarry to its ahu which didn't have the eye sockets carved out. This was usually the last thing to be done, to bring the statues to life, but apparently this moai was toppled before they even finished it. Here there were also some stone house foundations. The stones had holes in them into which poles were inserted and thatched roofs were laid. These houses were called "hare paenga." These were an average of 10-15 meters long by 1.5-2.5 meters wide. They were of low height and were used mainly for sleeping. Most other activities took place outside. There were topknots here which had been carved with petroglyphs of bird man motifs.
Next was Tongariki. This was the most majestic so far, as it had been restored and the fifteen moai were once again standing in their grandeur. These moai were quite big and had their backs to the sea. A tsunami had come through and scattered them. But luckily researchers had numbered them before that happened, and they were able to restore them to their rightful positions in 1992 and 1993. A few yards away was a separate moai which had traveled the world on display. Turtle petroglyphs were carved into the ground here.
Next was the quarry from which the moai were carved, on the slopes of the volcano known as Rano Raraku. From the volcano you could overlook the moai at Tongariki.On the southwest slope of Rano Raraku, the Bird Man was kept in seclusion for a year. There were various moai here in various stages of completion on the volcano. Toward the base of the volcano were moai which had been carved and lowered down the volcano's slopes using a system of pulleys and ropes. Further up were moai laying on their backs which had not yet been severed from the mountain. In all there were 394 moai in different stages of quarrying (or abandoned during transport). The largest moai on the island is located here. It is called "El Gigante", with a height of 21.6 meters with an estimated weight of 250-300 tons. Most moai are depicted from the waist up, with hands resting on their bellies. However, there were some which were in a kneeling position, with full legs, buttocks, and feet. One of these, known as "Moai Tuturi" was discovered here at the quarry by some natives inculding Terry's grandfather. They brought it to Thor Heyerdahl's attention, as it was quite different from most of the known moai.
We walked to the top of Rano Raraku overlooking the crater, which, like Rano Kau yesterday, was full of fresh water and reeds. It was windy at the top of the crater, and we all were very careful as we looked around. Craig got a picture down at Tongariki. When we descended the volcano, lunch was waiting for us in a small picnic grove. It had been described as a box lunch, and our choices had been meat, chicken, or fish. A fish box lunch didn't sound very appetizing, so we had chosen chicken. Little did we know that these were hot lunches from a local restaurant. We had chicken in gravy, vegetables, rice, bread, a baby banana, and Fanta. The lunch really hit the spot. We sat with Gail, Ole and Lasse (the Norwegians), and Terry. We had nice chats with all of them. Terry told us that he plays guitar and sings with his band every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night at Te Moana restuarant. It was a nice little pinic grove and there were immaculately clean bathrooms here as well.
After an hour's lunch break, we headed back into the van and drove to Te Pito Kura. Here we saw the largest moai ever to be moved from the quarry. It is called "Moai Paro." It was the last on the island to be toppled (sometime in the 1800's). Although it is agreed that it was the largest moai to be erected at an ahu away from the quarry, sources differ as to its actual height. According to the Archaeological Field Guide, Rapa Nui National Park, it stands 7.8 meters tall and weighs 82 tons. According to the Museo Antropologico P. Sebastian Englert Guide, it is 9.8 meters tall. There were also stone chicken coops and the "navel of the world" - a spherical stone which has electromagnetic properties whih make compasses behave erratically. The stone was used as a talisman. The stone was set in the center of a circle made of other stones. It felt very hot on the top and cooler on the sides. We touched other rocks in the area, and none of them felt as hot.
Next we drove to Anakena beach, one of two sandy beaches on the island (the other being the nearby Ovahe beach). This was the legendary landing point of Hotu Matua, whom the Rapa Nui islanders believe originally founded the island. There were lots of coconut palm trees here, in contrast to other parts of the island. When Thor Heyerdahl's expedition arrived in the 1950's, he decided that he wanted to try to erect a fallen moai using only the tools and technology which would have been available to the islanders at the time the moai were originally erected. Using poles, ropes, and stones, Heyerdahl and his team erected a moai at Ahu Ature Huki. It remains standing alone and is commemmorated by a plaque. Then there was another ahu (Ahu Nau Nau) with seven moai which had also been restored to a standing position. These moai were some of the best preserved on the island because of the sand. Because of this, we could make out carvings on the backs of the moai. Some of them were carved with loincloths. The ahu was made of stones repurposed from previous moai. On some of the bricks in the stone wall you could see eye sockets and noses.. Some of the other stones had carvings on them (one was of a lizard man). There was a path up to a cave but we didn't climb up. We went swimming in the ocean. The water was a bit chilly at first but it felt very refreshing. From the water you could look back at the moai and palm trees and it was very serene. There were some really big waves, and it was fun to just float in the water and try to jump over them.
After about an hour we returned to the van. There was a stand where some locals were serving drinks. Two women were making pisco sours (but they weren't allowed to use alcohol). The German guide was taking orders and they were selling them for $4 US. It started to rain and the local women invited everyone into their little stand to stay dry. After seeing several people in the group drinking the pisco sours, we decided to get one as well. Of course as soon as she started to make it, the German guide announced that it was time to leave. She was in the process of squeezing the limon, adding sugar, etc. She washed a glass in a bucket of water and served us the drink. She said that we could take it to go, and the German guide could return the glass to her the next time he brought a group to Anakena. We sipped it on the ride back to the hotel, and it was so good and fresh.
We took showers at the hotel and then caught a cab into town. There is no bank on the island, just a bank machine in a tiny stone enclosure. We had had trouble with it the other day, but we wondered if maybe it had been out of money or out of order, so we decided to try it again today. We had heard a rumor at the hotel that it only took MasterCard. Our ATM card was a Visa. We had a MasterCard, but didn't know our pin, since we never used it for cash advances. There was no way for us to get money, and barely any place on the island took credit cards. The MasterCard had a number on the back for foreign support calls, and it said to call collect. We went to a call center, but there was no way to make a collect call from the island. We were out of luck, and the isolation of this place started to sink in again, and it started to make me nervous that there was no recourse. We wished we had known about the monetary situation before getting here, so that we could have been more prepared.
We walked past Te Moana, the restaurant where Terry and his band would be playing Wednesday night. We decided to eat dinner there. Gail was there, and we chatted with her and said goodbye (she would be leaving the island tomorrow). There were three seating areas in the restaurant. Gail was sitting inside, near the bar. We sat in a partially enclosed porch. There were also tables outside on a patio near the street. Craig got an Escudo beer and I got a pisco sour which tasted like cough syrup. We were served bread with salsa. We ordered a beef tabla for two (two steaks with veggies sauteed in a wok, served with sweet potatoes and sauces) and an order of fries. We thought back to Frutillar and the meat sampler for two that we got there. This one was much more manageable. It was delicious. For dessert we got a huge square slab of cheesecake. We requested the bill, and it took half an hour to arrive. We could use a credit card here, but they charged a 7% service fee. Since we didn't want to use precious cash on this relatively expensive dinner, we decided to charge it anyway. We got a cab home, and it was the cabbie who had taught us that "Iorana" meant hello last night. We got into the cab and Craig said "Iorana and Hotel Iorana." The cab driver laughed. We arrived back at the hotel at 10:30. We tried to go to the bar but it was already closed. This again made us wish we were staying in town, so that we could take advantage of some night life. I wrote in the journal and we were in bed by 11. We left the sliding door open a crack for the first time, although it was probably against the rules. It made a big difference, and the room was a lot less stuffy while we slept.