Easter Island #5: Sheer Joy Among the Moaii
The moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived! We were on our way to all the sites I’d read and daydreamed about. I was finally going to get to cavort, or some lesser form of walking, around the statues!!!
Note: This part of the day was the highlight of my trip, my year, possibly this decade. So if you’re not interested in lots of pictures of statues or lots of gushing about rocks, you might want to skip this post.
As the best empanada place in town was closed, Paul, my guide, decided to kill two birds with one stone and take me straight to Anakena Beach where we could also get lunch at one of the beach shacks.
The beach was incredible, the presence of the silent statues even more so.
After lunch, we went to the second beach on Easter Island — Ovaje beach. A much quieter, in my mind, prettier beach (if you don’ t need statues).
You have to scramble over rocks to actually access the beach which is a protected cove. The views are gorgeous and the water is nice. If you decide to go, ignore the no swimming signs which are just a means of avoiding liability because there’s no life guard.
We left the beaches heading towards the most famous part of the island — the Rano Raraku quarry and Tongariki. Along the way we passed gorgeous pastureland dotted with horses. Many of whom liked to hang out in the road
We took a shortcut using the private (and poorly smoothed) Explora Rapa Nui hotel dirt road, giving me a glimpse of the property. While it looked lovely, I felt justified in not wanting to spend $1,000 a night to stay there!
The road to Rano Raraku goes along the coast, providing an opportunity to watch the Pacific waves crashing dramatically on the shoreline.
The road also contains dozens of old platforms and statues — both those who were thrown down by other tribes and others that fell in transit and become unworthy, thus becoming an ancient form of “litter” along the original roads.
About two miles from Rano Raraku I stopped hearing anything Paul was saying. Because I’d caught sight of the quarry and it was breathtaking. A grassy slope rising to a stiff stone cliff, and dotted with little dark objects. The heads!!!!
It only got cooler as we got closer. Even from what was probably a mile away, the 65ft unfinished moaii looked huge.
I got my fill of wandering happily among the heads (see the upcoming Rano Raraku bonus post) and we headed to Tongariki. One of the more famous sets of statues, numbering 15.
This site best illustrated that the statues were all carved to look like specific people, as you can tell from the different heights and slightly different forms. This is apparently best seen at sunrise, but my lack of car made it not an option
From Tongariki we went to Ahu Akivi, the moaii furthest inland who supposedly represent the seven explorers who first discovered the island. And they all look the same since no one knew what the first explorers did look like.
I reluctantly tore myself away since it was getting late, but before we headed back to town, Paul took me to Ana te Pahu, also known as the Banana Caves. Which wound up being far more interesting than it sounds. And the road was far worse than I dreamed. Potholes were more like canyons.
But we made it and I got to explore a little of the 3 mile network of caves that exist in the former lava tubes. At various intervals the ceiling has caved in creating little micro climates in which bananas (obviously) and every other plant — peppers, sugar cane, potatoes, wheat, and more — thrive.
I reluctantly climbed, thoroughly happy and overwhelmed with my day. Like the Grand Canyon, pictures can never quite capture how awesome and majestic these sites were in person. And I got to see them!!!
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