How many of you have heard or read about Easter Island ? It is one of the most remote Islands in the world, located over 3500 kms from Chilean Coast in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. See the map below to get an idea.
Our must see destination!
Located on Easter island (Or Rapa Nui) are more than 800 Stone monolithic figures, called Moai. While Archaeologists and Historians have come up with many theories, they not yet know exactly why or how they were made! The most ‘out-of-the-word’ explanation is that they were made under the influence of Extra-Terrestrials – which Rahul likes to believe. He has been wanting to visit the Island ever since watching the old Jonny Quest Episode and then learning more about the same in multiple Documentaries. So when we planned our trip to South America, it became a must see destination.
Story Behind the Moai
So, who are the Moai ? In short, they are believed to be representations of Chieftains of the Native Tribes on the Island. They were erected when a Chief died. Each Tribe had a Ceremonial Platform, called the Ahu on which the Moai where raised. The more Richer and Powerful the Tribe, larger and bigger were the Ahus and Moais they built.
The First Moais resembled stone blocks. As time progressed, Moai building technology also advanced and more intricate and lifelike designs were made. You can see evolution of the Moai in the following picture (From Right to Left)
The latest ‘design’ had eyes, made of Coral Stones. They also had a ‘Top Knot’ meant to represent the hairdo of the Chieftain. The following is a reconstruction of a Moai.
The largest Ahu can be found in Ahu Tongarikki – There are 15 of them, located against a great backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the Island Coast.
Most of the Ahus are located on the coast, with Moais facing towards the centre of the Island. This is so as the elders can shower blessings on the Islanders living there and their Farms for good produce. However, there is one Ahu, situated inland. Here the Moai face towards the sea. Any guesses why ? The Tribe that built it where Fishing Tribe. They live near the coast and work in the sea – so directions are reversed!
Decline of the Moai
The First European ship arrived in 1722. The Islanders were astonished by the fair, clothed folks with advanced technology. Disillusioned and disappointed with their beliefs, they toppled the Moais. When James Cook arrived in 1774, many Moais were in toppled state – many remain in that state still.
We still didn’t say how they were built or transported right ? That’s the biggest mystery. We know where they were built though – in the quarry at extinct Volcano of Rano Raraku. The Artisans made base models and were customised to suit needs of the Tribe that came shopping 🙂 You can still see many incomplete Moais lying there – even a huge 22 foot one!
Large Moai – Under Construction when the ‘factory’ shut
Rise of the Birdman cult
Many years after the Moai phase elapsed, the Birdman Competition rose to popularity. An annual contest, where specially trained athletes representing each tribe would compete in a life or death contest to get the egg of the Manu Tara bird from the small Island Motu Nui off the coast, braving the sharp cliffs and rough sea.
Other Points of Interest
Apart from the Moais, Ahus and Birdman related places, Easter Island has beautiful landscape. If you have time, you can visit Anakena Beach for a refreshing swim!
Useful Travel Information
In spite of its remoteness, Easter Island is a popular Tourist destination and has an Airport with daily flights to Santiago in Chile. There is also a weekly flight to Tahiti – the only International connection. We flew in from Santiago on the daily LATAM flight. Tickets are on the expensive side and flights are full, so do book in advance.
You don’t need more than 3 days on the island. It will take 2 days to cover all the main attractions and is best to join an organised group tour. On the third day, you can rent a car and explore the island on your own. We were crunched on time, so stuck to the 2 day itinerary and explored the Island with Tours A & B from Easter Island Travel. You can read our review here.
Accommodation & Food
Being so remote, cost of living is on the higher side on the Island. We stayed in a B&B 10 minutes away from the town centre (Read review here). There are restaurants in town where you can order a meal or Super-markets from where you can buy stuff and cook at your place.