Easter Island - Full Day Tour
Oct 8, 2007
|Easter Island - Full Day
Yesterday we took a full day tour of the island. Actually this only encompasses the eastern side from the principal town (Hanga Roa) to the 15 Moai (pronounced Mow-eye) statues at Ahu Tongariki then on to the main beach at Anakena & back.
Easter Island, formally known as Rapa Nui is famously known for the giant statues carved in stone that stand in lines around the island in groups, facing inwards.
There is alot of mystery surrounding the figures and although some were standing when the island was first discovered by Cook, by the time British settlers arrived, all had been toppled.
Some have since been restored & are now standing back on their platforms.
In very brief & crude summary...
- Polynesian settlers arrive in Rapa Nui sometime between 1200 & 1400AD
- The islanders divide into tribes each with their own area
- Giant statues are carved out of granite rock from a single quarry for each king
- When the king dies, he is burried in an Ahu (platform) & the Moai errected above him
- The Moai is carved in the quarry & transported to the Ahu (but without the eyes carved)
- The eyes are carved when the statue is errected & the lifeforce of the dead king is then said to project in to the island from the statue to guide & watch over the inhabitants
- Gradually the population increases to several thousand & the statue carving business becomes monopolised by a single tribe based at the quarry
- Other tribes have to trade with them in order to get their statues carved
- Eventually resources on the island are becoming strained, each tribe is blaming the other of the food & resource shortages & a massive war errupts
- The tribes litterally wipe most of themselves out in the ensuing chaos, also leaving the island relatively treeless in the process
- During the war & just after the remaining inhabitants topple the statues, we are not sure why, but perhaps they blamed them for the distruction or perhaps felt ashamed?
- Then English settlers arrive & introduce sheep to exploit the land further resulting in the destruction
- Peruvian slave hunters arrive & take over half the population
- Western missionaries arrive & attempt to crush the local religion & introduce Catholicism, further destroying or toppling any remaining statues
- Some of the slaves captured by the Peruvians are returned, bringing with them TB, Plague, Hepatitis & other nasties, which devastates the remaining population
- Chile takes on the island & declares the majority of it as protected land
- Local Rapnuians are now campaining for their land to be returned
It's a really sad tale but has many comparisoms with what is happening on a global scale with world resources & populations. Indeed many scientists come here to study just what can & may indeed happen to us on a global scale... It's somewhat worrying.
Today, the statues that stand are largely thanks to a Japanese company that donated the crane & money into restoring the statues.
Tourism is needed here but as tourism increases it risks damaging this incredibly beautiful & so very fragile environment.
In the evening we were sitting having dinner when the lights started to flicker & then all went out. Seems there was a power cut island wide, the first in a year. Not too long after a big plane comes over low... & the waiter remarks that it's the Santiago flight. With no runway lights the plane has to turn back to Santiago. So those poor people had just flown 5hrs to Rapa Nui & now had to go 5hrs back & then in the morning they came back (another 5hrs). Picture of plane on the runway this morning...
Today we did a half day tour to see some extra things the full day did not show & we've included some of the photos too.
In the evening we went to a local night show, with traditional dancing & food cooked in an earth oven the traditional way... yummy.