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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Easter Island: The Sights

Many people have asked me what there was to do on Easter Island besides see all the heads.  Though I won't say that there were unlimited other things to, there was plenty to occupy the days that we spent on the island.

The island is small, and I'm sure taxis would have sufficed, but with little ones, we decided to rent cars a couple days of our trip so that we could go at our own pace and not worry about being stranded anywhere.

Our first stop was Rano Raraku, a quarry that is believed to be the origin of all of the Moai (stone head statues) on the island.  Rano Raraku originated as one of the volcanos that formed Easter Island, and became the creation point for the Moai.  The stone statues were carved out of the volcano, then transported to various points around the island. If you look closely, you can see where there are three Moai statues who's creation was halted mid-carve.  There are two lying down, one in front of the other, and another diagonally placed on the side.  This is one of the amazing things about the island, it is as if the island has been frozen in time, and you can see how weather, water and time have taken a toll on how the statues were abandoned.

All around the quarry there are close to 400 Moai, in various stages of decay.  Landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, wind, saltwater and tribal warfare (and other types of human destruction) have left the Moai half-buried, tipped over and crumbed all over the quarry.  It was eerie, and incredible at the same time to see so many of these interesting statues seemingly thrown all over the landscape of this site.  The pictures barely do it justice, the heads are enormous and made of solid rock, and they are thought to have been made around the years of AD 1000 - 1100 - a thousand years ago!  How the heck did they do that?! Remember how remote this island is?  This is a mystery in and of itself.
Once again, the Dads carry the girls...
While the adults were marveling at the wonder of Rano Raraku, the girls were alternating between driving each other crazy, and sharing.  Here is a sweet moment where Talia shares her blanket with Gretchen - and I'm leaving out the moment, 5 seconds later, when Gretchen throws it onto the dusty ground.

 It's difficult to see from this photo, but the inside of the dormant volcano is home to one of the few freshwater reservoirs on the island.  This attracts herds of wild horses, which are present in this photo - the little brown dots between the dark Moai statues.  There have been satellite photos and GPS mapping that have identified other completely buried Moai, but there are a few still visible on the inside ring of the volcano.

The volcano is an interesting landscape because the center is water - not what I think of when I think of a volcano, and the surrounding area is plush and green.  If you cross over the crest of the volcano, you'll find red-ish, desert-like dirt with no life whatsoever. They are extreme soil climates and they are within a few yards of each other, it was a bit strange.

The next site we drove to was Ahu Tongariki, the most recent restoration on the island.  These statues were resurrected in 1995 in the largest restoration to date on the island.  Only one of the statues has been reunited with their topknot, though many other stones that look like topknots are strewn about the landscape.  They are a formidable sight to see, the 15 Moai with the Pacific Ocean waves crashing in the background.  Also, one of the stranger things to happen on the trip was that we encountered a whole flock of chickens at this site.  It started with one chicken, then a few more joined, and it turned into a whole flock of chickens that were following us wherever we went.  We enjoyed it regardless of the chickens, it was a beautiful site.

We also enjoyed the fact that along the road there were toppled Moai that have yet to be replaced to their original locations.

Our last stop for the day was the lovely Anakena beach - a small beach with pure white sand and crystal clear water.  Complete the picture with this platform of Moai statues presiding over the beach, and you have a perfect spot to spend an afternoon.

There are also 2 or 3 places at the entrance to the beach where you buy fresh fish items, including fresh tuna empanadas, a small selection of beers and some other snacks and beverages.  There is a changing room and a surprisingly clean bathroom facility, but it will cost you $500 Chilean Pesos (approx. USD$1) to use it.

The girls spent the afternoon in the fort that Jon and Jeff built, it was tough work, but someone had to do it...

Gretchen was in her glory as the fairest person on the beach -  

The beach is small, but there were very few other beach-goers that day, so we had prime, waterfront locations.  The water was cool, but completely transparent.  The Newhooks are made for the beach!

So, most of our destinations on the island had something to do with the Moai, but at times it was easy to forget that they were even there!  The beach, the quarry, the drive itself was serene and beautiful - with wild horses and herds of cows crossing the road more than once - and the fact that we could visit so many places in one way was a breath of fresh air from some of our more recent trips.  Stay tuned for more Easter Island goodness, there were more sights to see in the following days...

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