Despite its isolation in the middle of the South Pacific (roughly equal distance from Tahiti and South America), Easter Island is at the center of a lot of questions.
WHERE DID THE HEADS COME FROM? HOW WERE THEY TRANSPORTED?
The giant heads were carved our of a dead volcano, which contains over 400 Moai; one reclining statue is over 60′ long. They were transported down the mountain to the seaside using logs. There are more than 900 heads dotting the islands.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO CARVE THEM?
It is estimated it would have taken six workers 12-15 months to carve and another 90 days to lower the statue down the mountains and transport it to an alter along the coast. It is widely agreed that the statues were mainly built from 1,000 – 1600 AD.
WHAT IS THEIR PURPOSE?
Gina, our 27-year-old guide from Explora (the a sustainable, luxury lodge), of Rapa Nuian descent, told us that the statues represent the clan chiefs. After they were carved and erected, they became repositories of supernatural powers. They commemorate the ancestors. Most of them are placed with their backs to the sea, they are the protectors of the people.
WHERE DID THE FIRST PEOPLE COME FROM?
Modern archeologists believe the first islanders traveled from Polynesia, so they weren’t from South America as Thor Heyerdahl suggested.
Production had stopped by the time Christian missionaries arrived in the 1860’s and the society had collapsed. They had chopped down all the trees to transport the statues; there was no wood to build canoes to fish with. Tribal war broke out; people toppled the clan statues, smashed their eyes, and with dwindling resources, turned to cannibalism. Read Jarrad Diamond’s book to learn more.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO ON THE ISLAND?
In addition to exploring the archeological sites, you can bike ride, snorkel, scuba dive, take a surf lesson, fish or relax in your hotel, socializing with visitors from around the world at the bar, sipping Pisco Sours, a strong cocktail made with Pisco (Peruvian brandy), lemon, cane sugar and egg whites. If you scuba dive you’ll be amazed at the visibility — among the best in the world because the island is isolated from the three major currents in the Pacific. My favorite places to eat were at the Explora Hotel, Au bout du monde, and La Kaleta.
DON’T MISS THE LOCAL DANCERS
My favorite evening out was to see sunset from the Bout de Monde (End of the World in French), and enjoy a fabulous dance troupe, Matato’a (the watchful eye of the warrior), the famous musical and dance group from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The dazzling, physically gorgeous dancers sway and shake in routines similar to Tahitian dancing and to Maori war dances.
I saw the sunset, but unfortunately I didn’t see the “Green Flash” on the horizon the second after sunset. Have you seen it?