vrijdag 11 december 2009

Easter Island

We arrived on Easter Island on December 7th. 2009.
It’s a young boys dream come true.
Here they call the island: Rapa Nui and I can’t do anything about it.
The island’s name dates back to Easter Sunday, 1722 when the island was discovered by Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutchman.

Captain Cook (famous all over New Zealand) re-discovered (?) the island a few years later. How can one re-discover something after a few years??

Rapa Nui is a three sided island withy sides of resp. 16, 17 and 24 km’s.

Yesterday we left our nice hostel on the beach in Tahiti and we were brought to the Airport.
It was still very warm and we drank lots of water and lemonade.
The plane left the airport at 12.30 in the middle of the night, we flew about 4.5 hours and we arrived at the Easter Island Airport (Mataveri Airport) around 10.30 in the morning, so we lost some sleep.
But that was not too bad because we are well rested.

The owner of our B & B fetched us from the airport and in no time we were in our room. The airport is very close to the town. The only town on Easter Island, Hanga Roa, is only small (3791 inhabitants our guide tells us) and our B & B is on one of the outskirts, next to a Maori holy place of which I just can’t see the name.

When Thor Heyerdahl worked on this island in 1950 (to prove that there has been contact between Easter Island and the Inca’s in South America a long time ago) there were a few people left who directly descended from the original inhabitants of the island (from the Lang Ears* a few and from the Short Ears* a little bit more).
Nowadays everybody is “mixed” with Chileans (because the island is a part of Chile), French (from “par example” Tahiti and other islands of Polynesia) and other people from all over the world who like to live here (life is rather beautiful over here if you don’t mind living in sober surroundings).

* For history about the Long- and Short Ears see below.

Our landlord here on Easter Island is a Frenchman who only speaks French and Spanish and since our French is fluent he took care of us by asking an air stewardess to come with us on our tour around the island, to translate his French in our English, which was very nice and now we understand all about the island history. Me especially!!
Most of the following is true but since there are differences of mind about
the history of Easter Island, it could be that some other people may think that my stories are not totally true or only half true.
I don’t care much about what somebody else thinks of whatever happened to Easter Island. See what happens.

So, after we arrived in our B & B we got an hour to freshen ourselves up and after that we started with our first tour on the Island.

We visited the following places:

1. Orongo (which is an old crater of the Orongo Volcano).
Beautiful views over the island and lots of historic things like:
. the place where in earlier days the yearly king was chosen; the guy had
to be the first who found an egg of a certain bird on a small island he
had to swim to near the coast of Easter Island and was given 7 (seven)
white wives (they kept the young women for a whole year in one of the
many caves on the island so they were blind - the guy who brought the
first egg could be very ugly without any consequences - , stiff because
they almost couldn’t move in the cave where they were kept and
diseased because they hadn’t seen any sunlight or light at all).

2. Examples of the old stone houses the people on the island slept in,
restored ones and others which were caved in.
The foundations were made of carved stone in the form of a longboat.
The stones had holes drilled in them, to put bamboo stakes in and
these were covered with banana leaves or palm leaves to keep the rain

3. Thrown over Moais (the famous Easter Island monolithic statues of
Practically all men except one or two female Moais ) in a place called
Moto Rua (but it can be another name because they seem
like all the same).
The Moais where thrown over by the “short ears” who rose up against
the “long ears”, the long ears being the guys who enslaved the short
ears who had to do all the chores on the island for the long ears, like:

= cutting the large statues out of stone (many, many years ago or so!!)
without Black & Decker circle saws, pneumatic drills, even normal
iron handsaws or even without any iron (hand)tool but just with
basalt- or obsidian - home made- axes (imagine that!!!!!).

The statues (Moais) are carved out of the rocks in one piece, from 6
to 8 meters long, sometimes 1.5 meter wide and weighing thousands
of kilo’s. The longest is more than 18 meters!!,

= transporting the statues* all over the island (sometimes more than 12
km’s from the quarry) and I can tell ye, Easter Island is hilly like
unreal (it has three old volcanoes and lots of hills), so………..

= erecting the statues and top it with a Pukao (see below),

= finding and transporting water,

= growing vegetables, catching fish, doing all the household chores
including doing the dishes and cleaning the garbage cans,

= etc.
Which means that in effect the short ears had to do everything and the
long ears (doing nothing furthermore) just ordered the short ears
There is a proof of this phenomenon.
Almost all of the Moais show arms with hands with very long nails
like the Chinese upper-class people who had the same long nails, to
show that they didn’t have to work (no short or broken nails).
The Moais represent the Long Ears.

* Scientists differ about the way the Moais were transported over the
island considering there was not much wood about (at times there
were no trees left on the island because the wood was used for
building and heating), there were no (loading) cranes and other
heavy machinery and no horses and no heavy helicopters.
Some scientist believe the Maois were transported using wooden
trunks to roll them over but others, more recently, believe that they
were transported, standing up. They say here: “The Moais were
walking on the island - so: upright -. Who knows?? Who cares??

4. A place called a “Taheta” where you could see a certain star
constellation on this one certain night per year in the water mirror of a
large stone cup (or something like that). Imagine this. Guys without the
knowledge* we have today were able to make these things, 1500 years
* Apparently they could do a lot more than us at the time.

5. A row of seven Moais, the only ones who look at the sea, and all the
other look inland to watch over the people of the island; it is true and I
don’t make this up because I know my history and I did my homework
before we went on our trip, yes!!).
These seven Moais represent a group of seven sailors send away by the
island king to find new resources and whatever.

6. A heap of stone hairdo’s (Pukao) the Maois wear when standing
upright and when complete, still to be transported all over the island
(the stone hairdo’s being at least one meter high and one meter wide),
These hairdo’s were quarried in a different place on the island
because they are carved from different (red) lava stone.
These Pukao were transported all over the island as well and you can
find these everywhere (like the Moais).

7. Not unimportant, one of the local supermarkets where we bought two
bottles of water and some other stuff.

It was a nice day, specially because we had a very good dinner (together with a Swiss couple (from Switzerland of course, you’ll see them everywhere, even in Switzerland) and were brought back in time to get some sleep.
As a matter of fact we wanted to go to the best restaurant (according to the Lonely Planet) of this island, but this toko was “complet”.
So we went to another restaurant which was OK.

When you read this it will be (at least) Tuesday or Wednesday or even later because my laptop doesn’t get access to the Wifi here.
You’ll find out when you read this.
All is well on Easter Island and everybody is very relaxed over here.
The people here don’t seem to have to much to do.
All the kids have a three month holiday (December, January and February). The boys are surfing on the waves or playing soccer (there is a soccer flied in town) and the girls are trying to look nice like everywhere.

Today is the day after yesterday (yesterday is the day on which I started informing everyone about Easter Island). I think today is the 8th.
If you don’t get this, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t get this either.

What did we do today?
This morning we had breakfast first around 9.00 o’clock.
Around 10.00 we started today’s tour.
The weather was fine (really warm) so a fine day to see parts of Easter Island we haven’t been till now.
We visited:

(The highlight of the day) Rano Raraku, the quarry where the old Maori people (the Long Ears and the Short Ears of which the latter did all the work) carved the statues.
You can see here these statues (Moais) in many different stages of “construction” which tells us that at the time hundreds of island people were working at the same time at the carving of the Moais.
It’s the place where you can see the “newest” Moais, almost ready to be transported, all over the Island.
It is awesome and breathtaking (you had to climb to the quarry).
As far as I am concerned it is the most intriguing place of the island because I signifies the most important event on the island ever when the stone carvers suddenly stopped (or had to stop) with their work.*
And although many statues were erected on the coast of the whole island, here and there you can find Moais, more or less far away from the quarry on several places in the interior of the island as well, apparently not yet delivered to the place where they were meant to go.

Some of the remaining Moais were shot at (the bullet holes are still well visible) by Fijians who invaded the island some 100 years ago and since nothing of much value could be found, they used their time on the island by practicing their guns on the Moais.

* Archeologists think now that the Island must have been invaded by Inca’s around 1450 because there are lots of traces (carbon dated the same time) from the Inca’s, for instance dug up seeds in the crater lakes on the island, just the same as you can find in South America.
And they discovered in the same sediment rests of plants and animals which live in South America as we well and which didn’t exist till that time on the island.
It is believed that the Inca’s took most of the islanders back to South America as slaves.
The Inca’s thought the island uninteresting, difficult to live on (little water, difficult to grow food) so they got lots of inhabitants off the island, brought them back to South America as slaves so they had some use (of the people) of the island.

A place called Akahanga.
Here you can see seven or eight Moais of which all are lying around like fallen domino stones.
All over the island you can find the “fallen” Moais.
People think nowadays that the short ears pushed them over after they slaughtered the long ears.
In the book Aku Aku of Thor Heyerdahl, an archeologist from Scandinavia, you can read that most of the long ears were slaughtered and burned after being defeated by the short ears.
Thor Heyerdahl and other archeologists (amongst which a certain William Malloy *) found traces of this slaughter in 1950 in a few of the many caves on the island.

* William Malloy helped the islanders to re-erect many Moais, to restore them if possible and that kind of thing.
Malloy died in the island and got a grave in a special place in the town of Hanga Roa. He is still honored for everything he did to restore the Moais in their old splendor.

Another place called Ahu Nau Nau.
Here we could see three Moais as the erected statues were meant to be, on a platform (called Ahu and since there are many platforms all over the island lots of places start with the name “Ahu”) with Moais and on top the red hairdo’s (called Pukao).

Many chicken houses, made of stone, called “Hare Moa”.
At the time the wealth of an islander was counted by the amount of chickens he possessed. So they built many of these stone chicken houses to protect the chickens during the night.

A place called Ahu Tongariki with not less than 15 Moais in a row and all of them erected, looking inland (so they could watch over the people).
These 15 Moais were overturned at the time by the short ears, but after Japan had one Moai on loan for some exhibition around 1980 and returned the statue with lots of damage (for instance the statue lost one of its ears and other pieces were off as well) they took it upon themselves to restore the 15 Moais in their old fashion, standing on a “Ahu” looking inland and one of the Moais even has his red Pukao on its head.

A place called “Ana te Pahu” (“ana” means cave).
The island used to be volcanic and after eruptions many caves were created by lave streams and these caves were used by the islanders to take shelter against the elements and invaders and during the war between the long ears and the short ears as a safe haven for the long ears (but that didn’t help them much; most were slaughtered).
The caves were also used as places to grow trees (for instance fig trees) to keep them safe from the fierce and salt sea winds.

All kinds of other places with for instance petroglyphes (carvings in stones of turtles, boats, birds and so on), a place near one of the few white sand beaches with palm trees, planted by the French as a gift to the poor people of Easter Island around 1960 or so, places called “Pipi Horeko”, stone land marks used to show where people had their pieces of land, and other “Ahu’s” with standing and fallen Maois.

As I write this, we have electricity (sometimes there isn’t, like today for a few hours) but no access to internet (my laptop doesn’t do what it is supposed to do and that is not really funny).
But we sent an e-mail today to AK from an internet café without café. So the kids know that we are still alive and kicking (or so).

This day we have a day “off”. We did some shopping (mailed a postcard to Mika), walked around the town Hanga Roa, had lunch in the towns best restaurant (French chef) and we will go there tonight again (ha, ha, ha), looked at a small fishing harbor with guys surfing on the waves. We did some reading, walking/climbing on the rocky beach (me, looking for shells but there aren’t any!!) and nothing much more.

Our plans for tomorrow are to rent a car to visit Rano Raraku (the quarry of the Moais) again, because I want to make more pictures of this beautiful place.
After that we’ll probably do some shopping and after that we’ll have to pack again for the flight to Santiago.

When you read this we’ll be in Santiago for sure.

Our landlord has a Christmas tree in the living room and it looks really funny, when you look outside (everything warm and holiday like) and, of course, no snow or cold. Sometimes it rains very hard though.

Today is our last full day on Easter Island.
As I wrote before I wanted to go back to the quarry (Rano Raraku).
Rano Raraku is THE place to go when you want to see Maois, like New Zealand is THE place to see sheep, as the interested reader must have learned.

So we hired a car, threw our stuff in and went hunting for Moais.
And thus we went to Rano Raraku.

You can see the Moais in Rano Raraku in lots of stages of “construction”:
- just the form in the rock, carved only for maybe 20 or 30%,
- still “sitting” in the rock, with the head already carved,
- almost ready, with the back (they did the back in the end of the carving)
still attached to the rock,
- loose from their place in the rocks, but not finished (for instance the
hands with the long nails were carved after the statue was transported
from the rocks away),
- Moais about 20 or 30 meter away from the rocks,
- a “small” Moai carved from a larger one that broke up during the first
so many meters of the transport (which means that when a Moai broke
up during transport they used the two parts to carve two smaller ones),
- other Moais much further away (these were almost finished, were
already on transport but not really far away form the quarry,
- a large one (15 meters or so) in at least five or six pieces of which the
scientists believe that it was transported standing up (or at least was
standing up) and destroyed on purpose because if it had just fallen over,
it would have been apart in only two or three pieces at the max.
If you don’t understand than go look for yourselves.

When you are standing at the base of the quarry you can see all these Moais and the longer you look, the more Moais you find in the rocks in their stages of construction.
It’s amazing!!!

Luckily we were one of the first people this morning to look at these Moais (the official trips start somewhere else) and had all the possibilities to make pictures of many of the Moais, without other people standing around and ruining our photos.

After Rano Raraku we drove cross over the island, looking everywhere for Moais and other stuff, we didn’t see before.
And than it started to rain like there should be a deluge (might be French) and we decided to go to the museum.
The museum was OK but ranks low on our list of “Must See’s” but what can you do when it is raining and you are on Easter Island?
One thing they showed well, were the ways the islanders could have transported the Moais (at least in 5 different ways). And what became clear there, was, that there are no theories about how the islanders put the Pukao (the red lava stone hairdo) on the heads of the Moais.

After visiting this very exciting museum we went home,
Ankie for a nap and me, hammering away behind the laptop.
It still rains but the temperature is fine.

This evening (third time) we went to the same restaurant again (we are only once on Easter Island so we enjoy) and had nice steaks (au poivre).
It appeared that the Spanish king and his wife had dinner here not a long time ago.
The place looks like a dump (apparently the inventory should be as cheap as possible) but the chef is great and so is his food.

Tomorrow we will fly to Santiago de Chile.
And then I’ll tell you more.
Greetings from Easter Island.

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