We were blessed with another sunny day. We were off in the jeep to check out more moai sites. Once again we passed many horses and cows roaming around free, we also saw a dead horse lying in a field.
We drove straight to Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater and the quarry where 95% of the moai on the island were 'born'... carved out of the sides of the crater. Here we were able to see the moai in all stages of their development.
Let me take a few steps back. Before we arrived to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), my knowledge of moai consisted of what I picked up in the movie "Night at the Museum" and travel photos. Moai are what Rapa Nui s best known for... monolithic statues of people carved between 1250 and 1500 AD. It took about two years to carve each moai.
Contrary to popular belief, the moai do not look out to sea, they look inwards to the land...towards the clan that created them in order to give protection. The moai were then moved from the quarry to sites around the island where they were erected on an 'ahu' or ceremonial platform. At some point in the process before or after being placed on the ahu the moai were given their hats called a topknot carved from a different coloured rock from another quarry. How the moai and topknots were transported is still a mystery with various theories involving sleds, logs and ropes.
Rano Raraku was my absolute favourite site so far. To start the setting on the side of the crater is beautiful. There were so many of these unique statues (almost 400) scattered around the hillside. Mostly you just see the head and neck leaving 2/3 of the moai's body still buried 15-20 feet in the ground. Quite the spectacle.
In other sections the moai bodies were still being carved from the rock. Other completed moai were lying face down as if suddenly abandoned before they could be transported.
After gawking at all the moai, we hiked up the extinct volcano for a great view of the inside of its crater. Wild horses were grazing around the rim.
After leaving the quarry, we stopped by the ocean side for our picnic lunch. The water was gorgeous with vibrant shades of cobalt, sapphire, aqua and turquoise. Some of the blues were so bright they were practically florescent. The waves crashing to the shore took our breath away.
We drove past a few more moai sites but decided to save them for our return trip when the afternoon light would show them at their best.
Our next stop was Anakena Beach with its vibrant blue waters, fine white sand and shore lined with elegant palm trees. The best part was that there was no hotel or resort within miles and miles of the beach, just a few grass roofed beach restaurants and a bathroom. There was also a well preserved grouping of moai and a lone moai near the beach. Totally stunning.
We stopped at other moai sites including Te Pito Kura (largest moai on the island at 70-90 tons but sadly lying face down on the ground) and Papa Vaka (petroglyphs).
However my second favourite site (so far) on the island was Ahu Tongariki which is a grouping of fifteen moai on an ahu.
These moais were short, tall, fat, skinny and all with different facial features.
They recommend seeing these moai at sunrise but then the sun rises behind them and leaves their front in darkness. John and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them with the afternoon light shining on their faces.
We headed back to town. Some cows crossed the road in front of us and then got spooked by something they saw on the other side and started to run right infront of us again. Yikes.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with a nice drink and treats in the courtyard of our accommodations at Chez Hiva. We are going to do something different for sunrise tonight, instead of drinking wine and watching the sun set behind the Tahai moai, we will eat popcorn, drink wine and watch the sun set behind the Tahai moai.
I must admit, this is a bit more relaxing than Santiago.