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MOAI MOAI MOAI MOAI aaaaaahahaha

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I don’t think I could contain my excitement as we started to descend on to Easter Island, I have my face pressed up against the window desperate to get my first glimpse of the island.

When we landed and got off the plane, it felt like we had arrived at a tropical holiday destination. It was boiling hot, bright blue skies and palm trees everywhere. You can drive around the entire of Easter Island within about 90 minutes, so we arrived at our hotel in less than 10 minutes after leaving the airport.

We were excited to hear that we had arrived during the middle of carnival, so we should head down to the main street to watch the parade at 5pm. What we learnt this day and as we experienced for the entire time we were on Easter Island is that the locals have no bloody clue when it comes to what time things happen. 5pm rolled around, then 5.30pm, then 6pm, then 6.30pm – but this point we were bored out of our minds sat on the side of the road waiting. There were plenty of people dressed up (well more like undressed) walking along the road to join the parade and we could hear a band but nothing much else happening. At 7.15pm we decided to go and find the parade ourselves, as it was just taking too long. At the other end of the street we finally found the band who were being lead by a truck, which was moving about 2 meters, stopping, letting the band play 2 or 3 songs while men (wearing nothing more than a modesty towel and body paint) performed a dance similar to the hakka, then they moved forward again and repeated the process. If we hadn’t of gone to find the parade I don’t think they would have passed our original spot until about 8pm.

Following the band were carnival floats depicting the islands history, more dancers, other bands and lots of tourists half naked dressed up and joining in the fun. It was certainly a sight to see!

The following day we had a private tour booked to explore all over the island and hear about the ‘Easter Island heads’ which we now know are called Moai. We were told so much, I don’t even know where to start…

1) The island was formed by 3 volcanoes erupting over 750,000 years ago.
2) The island was inhabited in around 400AD by people from (they believe) French Polynesia who’s island was sinking and they needed to find a new home.
3) The Rapa Nui people consisted of 15 clans and around 40 people per clan (so approx. 600 inhabited the island at the beginning). Each clan was ruled by a clan leader, they had their own territories, they were all ruled by 1 king and all lived in harmony for around 500 years.
4)The Moai were ordered by clans to be built in memory of their past clan leaders.
5) The clans paid the builders in food and water (it was considered an honour to build a Moai).
6) Each Moai took 9 months to carve then up to a year to transport to its platform on the island.
7) The Moai were carved directly out of the mountain side and then slid down to the bottom of the quarry using logs and rope, from there the detail was finished and then they were moved to the clans.
8) On average a Moai could weigh up to 75 tons.
9) The Moai you see on the postcards that look like heads, are all at the quarry where they were carved, these ones were still in production or about to be moved.
10) They have found 887 MOAI on the island to date, only 288 reached their final destination, 397 were at the quarry and 92 were in transit.
11) Moai that reached their platform were given eyes made of coral and obsidian, which they believed held the power of the dead clan leader it represented.
12) All Moai face inwards to the island to watch over the clan, except one platform of 7 Moai which face the sea, these represent the 7 explorers who found the island.
13) A number of the Moai have a red stone top knot (which looks like a hat) which was carved at a different quarry. It was created much bigger than required then rolled to the platform, by the time if arrived it had worn down enough to be the right size to fit on the head.
We learnt all of this just within the first hour of the tour, as you can imagine we had a million questions for our guide Hugo, who had been studying the Rapi Nui culture for 38 years.

Just before lunch we visited the quarry where the largest number of Moai are, here we learnt more about the demise of the people.

1) Those of importance (royals, clan leaders, sharmans) were forbidden to cut their nails or hair and were not allowed to work. They tired their hair in top knots and held it in place with red clay (hence why some Moai have the red stone top-knots)
2) As the population grew food became scarce (they over farmed and pretty much cut down all their trees for moving the Moai).
3) The last king was considered crazy, he ordered all the best food to be sent to the royal family and what was left was for the people to fight over.
4) He also wanted to have the biggest Moai, one was carved at 9 metres tall but he said it was too small and ordered it to be broken, the second was 15m, which was also too small. The third was 22m tall but was never completed as a civil war broke out, due to the lack of food and the last king’s wishes.
5) The civil war wiped out most of the population, ALL of the erected Moai were pushed over and their eyes removed and broken to remove the clans power from its past leaders.
6) All of the Moai that are now standing are due to various restoration projects over the years.
7) At the end of the war only 111 people remained and all were related or too old to have children, so many women slept with foreign visitors to the island in order to regrow the population.
8) The production of Moai did not continue after the war (due to the lack of people and skills) and the fallen Moai were left broken, in transit or at the quarry were nature grew over and around them (hence why they look like just heads). Some Moai at the quarry are now completely covered by vegetation.

Mind blown – we finished the day with a visit to Anekena (the believed landing place of the Rapi Nui people), which is now the islands beach resort. We kicked back in deck chairs with the best pina coladas we have ever tasted and then went into the ocean, which was like a warm bath.
The next day we were back out again to learn more about what happened after the civil war, we headed to Orongo on the south west end of the island, which is where to bird man competitions were held.

1) After the fall of the last king, the birdman competition was introduced. Which saw a warrior challenge take place each September to select a new ruler.
2) Each clan leader and a select delegation travelled to Orongo in Sept, here they each put forward a warrior representative for the competition.
3) The warriors had to climb down the cliff face, swim 1.5km to a small island and wait for the manutara birds to nest and lay their first egg of the season. They had to capture this egg, swim back to the mainland and climb back up the cliff. The first to do so won the competition and their clan leader then became the new king.
4) This competition ran until around 1867.

Our tour on day 2 finished around lunchtime and we were dropped at a local restaurant for the most amazing (and expensive) lunch. I had sweet potato gnocchi with shredded beef and Lynden had a beef linguine. The afternoon weather was heavy rain, so we didn’t do much else.
For our final day we had a lazy morning and then hired a car to explore more of the island, we revisited some of the Moai from the day before which we hadn’t been able to see well due to the rain, headed back up to the beach for another pina colada and then watched the sunset over the Aku Akapu Moai near the harbour.

Early the next morning we headed back to Aku Tongariki (home of 15 Moai which represented the 15 clans) to watch the sunset. The lady at the car hire place had told us the sun rose at 7am, which we should have checked given the experience we had with the carnival start time…but we didn’t. 90 minutes later we were still stood in front of the Moai waiting for the sun to rise. Around 8.45am we decided it had risen enough and we could go and get breakfast.

Sadly after breakfast it was time to head back to the hotel, check our and head to the airport. It was around this time that Lynden realised his boarding pass said ‘premium business class’, I checked mine and it also said the same! I knew this was an error (I knew I had booked discount economy) so was convinced that when we dropped our bags off they would realise and move us back into cattle class, but nothing was said. We held our breath as we boarded the plane and then they told us to turn left rather than right and then there we were in business class, being given a glass of champagne, big fluffy blankets and a seat that fully reclined into a bed!

It was an awesome way to wrap up our stay on Easter Island, now we head back to Santiago for 1 more day of exploring.

Posted by sdyzart 09:17 Archived in Chile Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises honeymoon chile south_america easter_island mrandmrs

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