Easter Island

Tuesday 1/18/05 - Museum, Puna Pau, Ahu Akivi, Ana Te Pahu, Huri a Urenga, Kari Kari Ballet Cultural

We woke up at 8:00 and went to breakfast, which was a little bit more fruit-centric and a little less focused on the desserts than on previous days. They also had bread, ham, and cheese. We continued our tradition of eating outside. After putting on our sunscreen, we grabbed our postcards and took a cab to the post office. We already had Chilean stamps, but of course it cost 80 pesos more to mail them from Easter Island. We tried to pay with a 10,000 peso note. The post office had no change. We had spent our change on the cab ride, as the cabbie had also had no change. We had a US $1 bill. The clerk accepted this and asked for an additional 100 pesos. We found a 1000 peso note, but he didn't even have change for that. What was with this place? There was no bank, virtually nowhere took credit cards, and even the post office couldn't make change. The trusting, small-town friendliness of the island took over, and he told us we could owe him the money, and he mailed our postcards for us. This was very nice of him, but we wondered if we would ever be able to get small change to pay him back.

We decided to go to the Museo Antropologico P. Sebastien Englert this morning. On the map it looked like it was close to the center of town and we walked via the road. However, it was a longer walk than we expected, and walking on the road was somewhat hot and uncomfortable. We wondered if we had somehow missed it and we stopped to ask a local woman if we were headed in the right direction. It turned out that we were, it was just further ahead. The entrance fee for the museum was 2000 pesos apiece (around US $4). All of the placards were in Spanish, but they lent us an English translation that we could reference throughout the exhibit. The museum was divided in half. One half was the exhibit hall, and the other was a fairly high-end gift shop. Terry told us later that the whole thing used to be an exhibit hall, and that there were many artifacts owned by the museum which were not currently on display due to space constraints. Of course, if they dispensed with the overpriced gift shop, they would have more room for showing the actual artifacts. We walked through the exhibit, reading our English guide. On display were male and female moai. This was the first time I realized that female moai even existed. According to the museum guide book, of the 887 moai identified on the island so far, no more than ten possess female characteristics. Four of these are in the Rano Raraku quarry. We saw the only surviving pair of moai eyes, which were made of white coral and red scoria.

We saw replicas of the Rongo Rongo tablets, examples of the form of writing which was unique to Rapa Nui. We learned about the Peruvian slave raid of Christmas Eve 1862. One thousand islanders were kidnapped, including the king and the only literate men who knew how to read and write the Rongo Rongo script (these men were known as Moari Rongo Rongo). The slaves were brought to work on the guano-producing islands off the Peruvian coast. Nine hundred of the one thousand island slaves died as a result of the brutal conditions on the guano islands. The bishop of Tahiti intervened and the remaining 100 islanders were put on a boat bound for Rapa Nui. Eighty-five of them died on the boat from smallpox. The fifteen who made it safely brought the plague with them, and by the 1870's, only 110 people (men, women, and children) were living on the island. None of these knew how to read the Rongo Rongo writing. The only thing that is known is that when you reached the end of a line of text, you must invert the tablet in order to read the next line. Some experts believe that Rongo Rongo writing dates back before the arrival of the first Europeans on Rapa Nui. Others suggest that since Rongo Rongo exists only on wooden tablets and is not found carved in stone any place on the island, that it is an attempt to imitate European writing, and was developed after contact with Europeans.Twenty-eight examples of Rongo Rongo writing have been discovered, and they are comprised of 120 basic symbols. Experts believe that it was not a phonetic writing system. Also on display at the musuem were Kava Kava carvings. These are wooden carvings of emaciated male figures. King Tu'u Kohiu was the first to carve these figures, after experiencing a vision of two spirits (Aku Aku) while sleeping in Puna Pau topknot quarry. The museum also showcased weapons, tools, and jewelry. We ran into Ole and Lasse at the museum and chatted with them for a few minutes. We spent about an hour and a half in the museum, and examined everything very thoroughly. We bought a book which contained pictures and text from the exhibits.

After leaving the museum, we walked to a moai which was a bit further up from the museum. There were horses grazing on the land. We then walked back to town via the coastal trail. This was much more enjoyable than our walk to the museum on the road. There was a nice breeze and there were various sites to see along the way. We saw a scientific research vessel off the coast. Suddenly this place did not seem quite as isolated as we had originally surmised. This was the second ship we had seen. And then a plane from Chile arrived, and I got both the plane and the boat in one picture. We encountered a moai which had eyes at Tahai. These were replicas of the eyes which were on display at the museum. We saw some upright but partially broken moai. Then we came across a small cemetery (Cementario Tahai) which was very festively decorated with flowers and carved stone crosses. A carved wooden fish adorned one grave.

Once we arrived back in the center of town, we took a cab back to the hotel. As we had our last tour this afternoon, we decided we wanted to get some lunch beforehand. We went straight to the restaurant.Craig got a chicken, lettuce, and tomato sandwich and an Iorana beer. I had a ham and cheese sandwich (which appeared to be left over from breakfast) and a Fanta. A large crowd had just checked in (apparently from that flight we had seen) and they were all talking about their rooms. We got a kick out of hearing them talk about the book of rules. Then they started to talk about whether their air conditioning was working. What? You mean to tell me that all of the rooms weren't like the sweat lodge where we were staying? We went on a reconnoisance mission to see what this was all about. It turned out that three of the four wings of the hotel did indeed have air conditioning. They also had a full view of the ocean. The non-AC rooms (ours included) had an ocean view but also a view of the airport. We realized that we really were in the slums of this hotel. We are not usually very picky when it comes to accommodation, and we can put up with a lot. But when 3/4 of the hotel has one standard and we are not included in that...oh well. We just shrugged, laughed, and determined that our assessment of our room as a sweat lodge was appropriate.

While waiting for our van, we met a couple from Brookline, Massachusetts. We chatted with them and they told us that the Patriots had won a playoff game against Indianapolis at home in horizontal snow. Sunday we would be playing Pittsburgh, and we would be home to see the game. That was nice news, as we are big football fans. We also met a couple who used to live in Manchester-by-the-Sea. There was quite the Massachusetts contingent on Easter Island right now, and it suddenly seemed like a very small world.

At 3:00, Rapa Nui Tours picked us up. Gail had left the island today, but our Norwegian friends Ole and Lasse were still here. Our first stop today was Puna Pau, the quarry for the red scoria that was used for the topknots. All of the topknots throughout the island came from here. They were cut larger than they needed to be, as the islanders knew that they would wear down in the process of rolling them to their final destinations. We stood next to some top knots which were taller than we were. The size and scope of these things is absolutely amazing. How big of a moai would have a topknot taller than me? There was a fig tree in the Puna Pau crater. From this area we could see Terry's house off in the distance. Next we went to Ahu Akivi, the only ahu on the island where the moai face the sea. There have been various theories as to the significance of this, but it seems that the most widely-accepted belief is that moai always looked out over their villages. In this one instance, the village was situated between the moai and the sea. So these moai were still looking out over the village, and it is coincidental that they are also overlooking the sea.

Next we went to Ana Te Pahu, a series of lava tubes. We saw small bananas growing in trees here. We walked through the lava tubes, and even saw some skeletal human remains. Then we went to Huri a Urenga, where the only four-armed moai was found. Unfortunately the moai was backlit at this time of day, and we weren't able to get a very good picture. This marked the end of our tour with Terry, and we had someone take a picture of the three of us in front of the four-armed moai. Unfortunately, this pictures did not come out either.

After the tour we showered and ate dinner outside at the hotel. We each had crema de pollo soup as an appetizer. I ordered a pisco sour that was made out of pineapple juice. Craig got a Cristal beer. I got spaghetti bolognese and Craig had fish with Spanish sauce and vegetables. We were seated next to a couple from Pennsylvania whom we aspire to be in the future. Their names are Romaine and Bill, and they have travelled all over the world. Bill is 83 years old, and though he walks with a cane, he still gets around quite well. We recalled having seen the two of them at the topknot quarry earlier this afternoon. They are on Easter Island en route to Antarctica. They were the sweetest couple and we had a nice chat with them. For dessert we had ice cream on fruit salad and watched the sunset.

We had heard about the Kari Kari Ballet Cultural, who stage performances of traditional Rapa Nui music and dance. The tickets were expensive ($25 US per person) and it took place at the Hanga Roa Hotel. We were curious about it, but we wondered if it might be too much of a tourist trap. But Terry recommended it and said that it was very good. We had the night free, so we decided to check it out. We took a cab to the hotel. We bought our tickets and went to our seats, which were in the front row. The performance took place in a large room which had chairs around the perimeter on three walls. This was obviously the place to be tonight, and we recognized a lot of other tourists whom we had seen at our hotel or at other sites around the island. There was a band, and the women and men who danced were dressed in festive costumes and sang loudly and clearly. The acoustics in the room were great. Everyone was dressed in elaborate costumes made of fresh flowers, grass skirts, feathers, and seashells. The rhythm of the percussion and the chanting was entrancing. And the dancers were so close to you that you truly felt like you were a part of the whole ritual. Some dances were slow and graceful, like a hula, and others were frenetic. I took some 20-second video and audio clips of the performance, which you can view or listen to here:

Kari Kari clip 1   watch   listen
Kari Kari clip 2   watch   listen
Kari Kari clip 3   watch   listen
Kari Kari clip 4   watch   listen
Kari Kari clip 5   watch   listen

At one point they chose people in the audience to dance with them, and Craig was selected, much to his embarrassment. But plenty of tourists were making fools of themselves, and it was all in good fun The show ended at 11 o'clock. We bought a Kari Kari CD, and then caught a cab back to the hotel. We walked over to the (closed) bar, and looked at the stars and the moon. We saw one of the hotel's resident cats chasing one of the large island cockroaches. We went back to the room, wrote in the journal, and looked at some of the night's photographs. We went to bed at midnight.
Moai (with replica eyes), Tahai


Cementario Tahai

Large Topknots, Puna Pau, Topknot Quarry

Ahu Akivi, moai facing the sea

 Ana Te Pahu Caves

 Sunset from Iorana Hotel

Kari Kari Ballet Cultural

Kari Kari Ballet Cultural

Kari Kari Ballet Cultural

See more pictures from this day

Previous Day Trip Overview

Back to Craig and Steph's Vacations
Next day

Read our guest book   Guest book Sign our guest book
Please send any questions or comments to steph@craigandstephsvacations.com
All photographs and text copyright 1996-Present www.craigandstephsvacations.com except where noted.