MEET THE MOAI when you travel to Easter Island
Standing 20-40’ tall, on the cusp of the south Pacific,
They’re typically in groups, on their Ahu, or platforms,
And the native Rapa Nuians worship them, as conduits to the gods.
When you travel to Easter Island, spend sunset with the moai. Sit on the grass before them. Absorb the heat of the sinking sun, and together, let the darkness fall around you, as one more day closes on this tiny speck in the Pacific.
HOW DID THE FIRST PEOPLE TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND
Historians debate this –
Did they paddle from Polynesia? The shape of their dwellings, fishhooks, and double-blade paddles are all Polynesian, and one early English sailor reportedly spoke to them in a dialect from Bora Bora.
Or did they travel to Easter Island on tradewinds from the coast of South America? Their precise stonework clearly looks Incan, and their rongo-rongo tablets (wooden tablets that record history) are also found in Peru’s southern reed islands.
They arrived around 400AD.
HOW WILL YOU TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND
You can travel to Easter Island either eastbound from Papeete Tahiti or westbound from Chile. One bonus of travel to Easter Island is the stop in Santiago Chile, where you’ll find the closest skiing, the driest desert, international jazz and some of my favorite poetry from Nobel-prize-winner Pablo Neruda. Check out next week’s blog to read 5 Secrets of Santiago.
WHAT’S THE LODGING WHEN YOU TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND?
I know a pair of guides whose guesthouse is ensconced in a bougainvillea-d garden… who’ll make you fresh guava jam for breakfast… and whose ancestry is almost as storied as the moai themselves.
Her granddad was the archeologist who headed moai restoration in the ‘60s.
His grandmother was the last baby born in a native settlement on Ovahe Beach before the British arrived.
They’ll give you the inside scoop when you travel to Easter Island. Their sister owns a restaurant by the harbor where you can try ceviche!
Their cousin’s a woodcarver whose moai statues, sculpted from the local chinaberry tree, make incredible touchstones to this magical experience.
WHAT’RE THE ACTIVITIES WHEN YOU TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND?
Jeep around the island. Learn ancient history, and hear stories of modern island life (imagine living 2000 miles from a hospital!) Walk through the quarry – some of the last moai were abandoned there, and one, at 69’, was simply too large to move!
Pick bananas in the lava tubes where natives used to grow small crops,sheltered from trade winds.
Rent a bike. Travel to Easter Island is safe, and you can strike out of your own to explore the sea caves.
Walk around the ahus. The moai tower over your head, detailed with amazing tattoos, Tim-Burton-esque fingers, and fancy headwear. Watch their faces – they stare straight out, yet feel so present.
Swim in a turquoise bay encircled by dark lava rocks.
When you travel to Easter Island, take a day on horseback along the remote north coast. 5 hours in the saddle is the only way to see the archeological remains in this road-less area.
WHAT WILL YOU LEARN WHEN YOU TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND
It’s a microcosm of world history – populations over-consuming limited resources and falling into self-destruction.
Easter Island had abundant seafood and fertile soil, so populations boomed! Originally ruled by a kingdom set up along the NW coast, the remainder was divided like a pie, with each tribe getting a wedge. Their “crust” was the coast where they had access to fish, and they crossed each others land only to access the quarry, Rano Raraku, to carve and excavate their Moai.
Trees were cut down to make charcoal for cooking, and also sleds (which were used to roll the moai as many as 50 miles, to their resting place on the ahus, in each settlement). In the ongoing tribal one-upmanship, the moai got bigger and more numerous, until the island was eventually deforested.
Competition created wars. Tribes toppled each other’s moai and even killed. By the 1700s, when the first colonial ship arrived on Easter Sunday (thus the name), only about 2000 Rapa Nuians remained.
In the 1920s, England took over the island for sheep herding. All remaining natives were relocated into a single town, called Hanga Roa, which is where you’d lodge today. The island’s entire remaining shoreline was left bare, natural, and strangely undeveloped!
Easter Island remains the most remote, continuously inhabited island, on the face of our earth.
HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD YOU ALLOCATE FOR TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND?
Easter Island is officially part of Chile, 2000 miles and a $700+ airplane ticket from Santiago. So, stay 3 or 4 nights. It’s a quiet, small, but thought-provoking place. You’ll want some time to soak it up.
DO YOU NEED A VISA TO TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND?
No Visa, nor special immunizations, needed for travel to Easter Island.
An appetite for seafood would be useful, though.