Loose on Easter Island

Wednesday, 03-09-2014. Day 15.

Puppy Attacks and Bird-Men.

It's really hard to see everything there is to see on Easter Island in one day. If you were motivated, planned well, and moved fast, you could do it, but we think it would be much more enjoyable to take your time when visiting the moai. They're really quite awe inspiring and deserve some of your time.

The cabaña had a few cars they rented out, and we got lucky that one was available that morning. Otherwise we would have walked into town and gotten one from therental place (side note: the owner of the rental place has the biggest, most luxurious house on the island). So we rented a Suzuki Jimny (we took to calling it Jimmy) for $80 so we could visit some of the moai we hadn't seen the day before. Jimmy had a couple of dents in the hood, and Sonia, our host, pointed at these and said, "Watch out for the horses."

Jimmy was really small on the inside.

Jimmy was really small on the inside.

Tahai

Ko Te Riku has his eyes on you.

Ko Te Riku has his eyes on you.

We were heading to the museum, but we turned one street to early, so we decided to visit Tahai, the only moai on the island with eyes (although they are replicas) first. Adjacent to Tahai, there was another ahu with four moai, and nearby, a replica hare paenga, an aboriginal Rapa Nui dwelling. It's pretty small and cramped inside, but the people didn't do much more than sleep inside.

Replica hare paenga. The thatching is actually plastic.

Replica hare paenga. The thatching is actually plastic.

Rapa Nui Museum

Then we visited the museum, which is really fascinating and a bargain at 1,000 pesos per adult (kids were free). It's small, but packed with information about the formation of the island, the Rapa Nui people, and both the moai culture and the so-called bird-man cult (more on this later). We made it through the exhibits in about an hour, and it helped to firm up some of the details Tiare had told us the day before.

Moai eye at the Rapa Nui Museum.

Moai eye at the Rapa Nui Museum.

We stopped in a small grocery store to pick up supplies for lunch, The selection was pretty limited and some of the cans were rusting on the shelves, but we made do with some deli meat, some chips, some water, some canned salmon, and an avocado.  We had bread from that morning's delivered breakfast, so, after a stop at the vegetable stand near our hotel, we went back to the room and made sandwiches. All in, our lunch ran us $36. Nothing is cheap on the island (except maybe the museum admission).

Rano Kau

The former volcanic crater of Rano Kau

The former volcanic crater of Rano Kau

We still had a few sights to see, so we drove over to Rano Kau, another of the crater lakes on the island. This one was a lot deeper than the one at Rono Raraku. We'd learned in  the museum that this was the second volcano to erupt that helped form the island. The first was Poike on the other end of the island, and the third and largest was Terevaka, which dominates the northern side of the island (we didn't visit either of the last two).

Orongo

Birdman cult image at Orongo

Birdman cult image at Orongo

The road continued past Rano Kau, so we got back into Jimmy and drove until we ran out of road at Orongo (you need to show your tickets here, too; remember they're good for five days). This is the place where the bird-man cult lived, a culture that developed at the end of the moai era, possibly alongside it. You hear a lot about the giant heads on Easter Island all the time, but not so much with the bird-man cult, which was at least as fascinating. First off, I'm not sure why it's considered a cult, other than it was strange to the archaeologists who first discovered and excavated the site. And yeah, it was a little weird, but not any weirder than destroying your entire environment to build giant stone heads.

Stone homes at Orongo.

Stone homes at Orongo.

The bird-man cult, who worshiped Make-Make, their god of creation, had an annual ritual competition to see who could gather the egg of the Sooty tern from Moto Nui, a smaller island just off Easter Island. The winner of the competition was known as the Tangata-Manu, was considered sacred, and spent the next year in seclusion.

Moto Nui and Moto Itu. Moto Nui was the island the bird-man contestants would swim to in order to retrieve the egg of the Sooty Tern.

Moto Nui and Moto Itu. Moto Nui was the island the bird-man contestants would swim to in order to retrieve the egg of the Sooty Tern.

Ahu Akivi

On the way to Ahu Akivi, a group of moai who face outward toward the sea, we were attacked by puppies. At one point we couldn't drive forward because the two puppies were under the car and I didn't want to risk running them over. We managed to escape by edging forward slowly, making sure the little pups were clear of the tires.

The pukao-less moai at Ahu Akivi.

The pukao-less moai at Ahu Akivi.

We really liked the set of moai at Ahu Akivi We can't explain why, exactly, but this group felt a little more austere. Maybe it was that they looked at the ocean, or maybe it was that they were a little further inland than many of the other moai. But whatever the reason, these are definitely worth seeing.

Also worth noting, the vendors here had some of the best crafted jewelry and replica statues we'd seen so far. If we weren't traveling around the world, I think we would have bought a few.

As we left back down the road, the puppies once again attacked, running behind Jimmy, barking and whining as we drove along. They were really cute.

Puppy Attack!

Puppy Attack!

We headed back to the hotel. The gals wanted a little downtime, and I went for a run to take a look at Puna Pau, where the red scoria that was used for the pukao was quarried, then we went back to town to have dinner a Haka Honu, a restaurant Tiere recommended. It was pretty good, but pricey — my hamburger cost $22.

Samantha and I enjoyed our first (and only, as it turned out), pisco sours, which is the national cocktail of Chile. Pisco is a type of brandy, and the pisco sour combines pisco with lime juice and simple syrup (sometimes egg whites are used, too).

Twin pisco sours

Twin pisco sours

We toasted the sunset with a little sadness — our time at Easter Island was nearly over.

Sunset on Easter Island.

Sunset on Easter Island.

Notable Statistics

  • Tourists taking iPad pictures: 1
  • Kilometers traveled: 30 (approximately)
  • Gasoline used: 1/4 tank
  • Cost to refill gasoline: $16
  • National drinks consumed: 2

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Loose on Easter Island
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