Somewhere in the Pacific, there’s a tiny 63 square mile island, stumbled upon by mistake by a Dutch explorer on 1722 on an Easter Sunday. And so, he named it Easter Island. It was traditionally known as ‘The Naval of the world’ by Polynesians who settled there centuries ago. More than a thousand miles away from the nearest inhabited area, Tahiti or Chile, the island draws tourists every year to gawk at tall moai structures carved out meticulously in one piece out of the stones from the Rano Raraku volcano, at the quarry or graveyard. Over 800 moai statues are scattered around the island, most of them toppled over, half buried or half carved out of the hillside visible from certain angles (most impressive view). The 30 statues that we see today standing at ceremonial sites on the coast have been re-erected. Unfortunately there is no written record of the history of the island and what the statues stand for, so archeologists have come up with several explanations. One of them being grave marks for important tribal figures containing sacred spirits that is still present on the island. Which is why it is forbidden to touch a moai statue.
So, in honor of Halloween, I post a few pictures that I took on Easter Island. A dichotomy of new and old cemeteries.
The cemetery today is in Hanga Roa, the main sea side town with plenty of restaurants and hotels. After being out all day hiking, encountering as many statues as possible and hearing stories of the various cults that once inhabited the island, we would end our day by strolling along the coast while surfers paddled into waves or locals played a football game on a massive pitch as the sky turned redder and redder. For dinner, we would indulge on catch of the day ceviches and empanadas. We were shocked at the exorbitant seafood prices (USD 33 for a meal) notably since catch of the day was RIGHT INFRONT OF US. Locals blamed it on various expenses such as importing bare necessities to COOK dishes from Chile (i.e. utensils, oil, detergent, etc) on once a day flights and occasional cargo ships and planes that land on Chile’s longest landing strip. Thanks to NASA for building it as a back up for space shuttle landings and then running out of funds. Luck was on our side after we scoured the area for a DELICIOUSLY CHEAP TUNA EMPANADA meal. Right across the ocean, as needy stray dogs hung by our table (IN the shack), we devoured our empanadas cooked to perfection, each for just 5 DOLLAS!
As for the statues erected centuries ago, archeologists continue to look for clues to solve the mystery of: Was it a repository for sacred spirits? How were they dragged across the island? Why were so many toppled over at the quarry? Did they face the same direction on purpose? Who were these people? Did the statues walk? Were they put by aliens? Etc. The latest findings suggests that the first Rapa Nui’s got there by boat from South East Asia. Which makes Easter Island all the more mythical.
I’d lie if I told you it didn’t feel strange being on one of the farthest islands in the world surrounded by the mystery of omnipresent ghosts. Tsunami warnings are quite frequent too (one was issued just two days before we arrived). In any case, it was an enjoyable and rare experience.