Apologies for the delay in getting this instalment out, I’ve been pretty busy this week, visiting London, moving back to university, researching graduate jobs, and sorting out my research project for my master’s degree! Unfortunately I left my travel journal at home, so I’m doing this completely from memory, but as there are lots of details, I might miss a couple of things out (although obviously, I’ll try not to)!
Anyway, my third day on Easter Island consisted of a private tour with a guide (named Christophe) who’d lived there for six years (who originally came from Brittany). If you happen to be visiting Easter Island at some point, and want a guide who is extremely knowledgeable, then you can find his page here. One great thing about Christophe’s tours is that he only takes small groups (of 1-3 people), and avoids the sites when the larger groups and tour buses visit them. You only get to see four or five sites on a full day tour, but you’ll learn more history and folklore than you can shake a stick at. I really recommend hiring him, and he’s a great bloke too!
He collected me from my hostel, and our first stop was at the beach of Anakena, one of two beaches on the island. It was spectacular, with several moai on a platform, framed by golden sand and palm trees.
Also on the beach was a moai that really reminded me of one of my favourite poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias (full text available here).
The second site we visited was called Papa Vaka, which is a site full of petroglyphs, including the largest on the island (12 metres long depicting a canoe – visible in the following image by the two parallel lines in the rock).
The hole full of water that you can see towards the bottom of the image was used in the past as a rudimentary mirror for looking at the stars.
After this great second site, we headed on over to the next location, Tongariki. Nothing really prepares you for the scene in front of you at Tongariki. It’s a massive platform consisting of 15 moai all facing inland, and it’s truly breathtaking. For me, it’s definitely one of the “must see” places on Easter Island.
The third site of the day was the quarry of Rana Raraku, which is where the moai were all carved. About 900 moai exist in total, of which about 400 of them are in various stages of construction in the quarry. Everywhere you look there are moai, and it’s fascinating. Nobody is sure how they were made or transported, but however they did it, it must have been a huge effort!
Like with Orongo, you are only allowed to visit Rano Raraku once per visit to the island, so it’s extremely important not to waste the opportunity. I spent around 90 minutes at each site, which seemed enough (and significantly more than the “suggested” amount on the boards :D)!
Rano Raraku was the final stop scheduled for the day, but we stopped off for one more on the way back to Hanga Roa. This site is called Huri A Urenga, and is home to a special moai. Typically, the platforms they are standing on are very wide and narrow, and the moai faces perpendicularly out from it. However, at Huri A Urenga, the moai faces towards the corner, and the platform is more of a square shape. The reason for the moai facing a different direction to usual is due to the fact that it actually faces the direction of the winter solstice.
Christophe drove me back to the hostel after this, where I spent the evening relaxing and talking to some of the others who were staying there.