Known for being one of the most-insular inhabited places in the world, Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui) remains intriguing in terms of its history, civilization, and famous moai statues. My family and I would be spending two-and-a-half days visiting this island, in order to learn more about it’s enigmatic origins.
As it’s located in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Pacific Ocean), getting to Easter Island isn’t the easiest– basically, you’d have to either fly out from Santiago or Papeete, Tahiti, and even then, flights to and from are no more than two a day. My family and I were already in Santiago during our South America trip earlier this summer, so we were able to visit the island then.
We woke up super early to take the first flight out. Thing is, even if Easter Island is considered a “special territory” part of Chile, it’s by no means close by– in fact, it’s about 3000 km away, which means a 3-4 hour flight one-way. Although not a short journey, we were still eager for what was in store for us.
Our plane landed in Hanga Roa, the main and only town on Easter Island. We literally stepped off the plane onto the runway, before heading inside the airport (which was incredibly small, pretty much a large, long hut) to pick up our luggage and take a shuttle previously organized by the local tour to our hotel.
We reached our hotel, located about a kilometer away from the coastline and Hanga Roa. After checking in, we received our room keys and headed to what were like individual huts, with a modern style and gorgeous views of the ocean in the distance. After resting for a bit, we headed out to explore a bit on our own.
After walking for about 15 minutes, we reached the first moai of the day, called the Hanga Kio’e. It was standing on its own, which made it appear rather lonely. On the other hand, the Tahai just several hundred meters away were clustered as six or seven, with one of them sporting a pukao, a red stone structure placed on the statue’s head that’s meant to symbolize the top-knot worn by chiefs back in the day.
My family and I continued along the coast before nearing Hanga Roa where we popped into a restaurant for a late lunch. I ordered ceviche and a passionfruit mojito, both of which were fresh and fantastic. Along with views of the ocean nearby, it made for a chill and lovely meal.
We wandered the town a bit before making our way back to the hotel– around 18:30-19:00, we checked out the sunset, which was absolutely lovely from our room’s windows. Soon afterwards, we turned in, recharging in order to see more of Easter Island the next day.
After a fresh, delicious breakfast in the hotel, we set out the next morning on a guided tour with a local company. Our tour guide was Rapa Nui, having grown up on the island, and he offered us incredible insight into the history, culture, and nature of Easter Island.
Our first stop of the day was at Volcan Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater situated southeast of the island where 95 percent of moai statues were made back in the day. In fact, the site offered plenty of volcanic ash, i.e. tuff, which formed the basis of such statues. We toured the site, coming across dozens of moai still left behind, half-buried into the earth itself.
*Fun fact* a common misconception is that moai are just big-headed statues, but they, in fact, have entire bodies– just much of them are buried after years of geographic changes.
Aside from coming across the half-buried moai, we also saw an exception: the tukuturi, which contains the entire, unearthed body with actual legs. It’s reputed that it was constructed centuries after the last, “traditional” moai was made, and to this day remains a controversial figure in Rapa Nui and archaelogical history.
More of my time on Easter Island to be continued in the next post. Until then!
— The Finicky Cynic
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