Easter Island: Moai Galore

16 Mar

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Easter Island, also known as Isla de Pascua because it was discovered on Easter Sunday in 1722. Normally not a destination we’d go to because of its high airfare cost and remoteness, but we were able to sneak this one in because it fit within our timetable on our RTW ticket.

What makes Easter Island so famous? The island is filled with carved stone heads/statues, called moai. The island is not that large, but we definitely need wheels to get around. We rented a “jeep” = suzuki jimmy 4wd and drove around the island to visit most of the sites.

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Our trusty ride, cost $80 for 24 hours. Manual was cheaper than automatic.

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The eyes are fake in this moai. The only intact coral eye in known existence is at the local museum.

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Some statues were left the way they were found, like this detached moai.

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Everyone comes to this area for the sunset.

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As far as sunsets go, it was pretty dramatic!

We decided to go for a nighttime drive, I was on a quest to see some moai by moonlight, as it was a full moon. However, as we kept driving we couldn’t see a thing so we gave up. Driving around at 9pm is a quite eerie experience. I almost felt like I was in an episode of X-Files or Fringe.

The next morning we woke up at 6:30am to catch the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. The grouping of 15 moai here is probably one of the most iconic images of Easter Island.

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I captured these shots on my phone about 45 minutes apart and realized they lined up quite nicely- above is the moonlight just shortly before sunrise. I got to see the moai by moonlight after all!

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More grounded moai. This one looks like it could have been completed and then knocked down later on due to the island tribal warfare.

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The ceremonial platform (ahu) that these moai are on top of stretches even longer along the coast, so the armchair archaeologist in me surmises that it was meant for even more than the 15 standing today.

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We also visited the Rano Raraku quarry, where the stone was excavated to make the moai. You can still see the work that was in progress back in the day.

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Ginormous!

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We definitely weren’t the first ones to the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki (about 30 others there before us), but surprisingly we had the quarry all to ourselves, even though both sites are close to each other and are generally visited in sequence. Maybe everyone went back to town for breakfast?

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We made a quick pit stop to the northern part of the island to see this grouping by Anakena beach. There is a beach nearby called Ohave that supposedly has nice sand, but we decided to skip it.

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We also visited Orongo village, a ceremonial site.

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Below ground dwellings.

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Can you see the hieroglyphs?

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Rano Kau crater. Now filled with water and greenery. It was pretty impressive in person.

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Our final moai of the trip were these. That brought our final count to maybe 60-75, including the ones at the quarry. Total moai on the island? 887. Tip of the iceberg for us. Many of the sites were either inaccessible to the public (area of the island not safe for visitors) or you had to hike to them due to lack of roads. I think we saw plenty enough for us though!

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Guess who Jerry is channeling. Hint, the Olympics are coming up!

Overall, we had a good time at Easter Island and felt like we spent the right amount of time (2 full days) but we wouldn’t recommend it as destination on its own due to high cost and remoteness. It isn’t really a typical beach/island destination where you can just walk onto the sand with your towel and magazine. I had done some research on snorkeling places (Motu Nui) but it wasn’t convenient so we skipped it. Nevertheless if your cruise boat docks here or if you have layover, try to extend your stay by a day or so because the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki was pretty amazing.

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8 Responses to “Easter Island: Moai Galore”

  1. Oscar March 16, 2012 at 3:05 PM #

    Great shot of that group of 15 moais just before sunrise…reminds of some spooky zombie scenes from the movie “Holloween” where they come out of no-where in the middle of the night… I wouldn’t want to sleep under those moais!

  2. lydia March 16, 2012 at 5:19 PM #

    the color of the water in some of your photos is magnificent!! what a cool place to have visited. can’t wait til your next post!

  3. Connie&Dan March 16, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

    Great trip and beautiful pictures!
    How far is it from Chile? It seems so remote .

    • Jerry March 20, 2012 at 3:58 PM #

      It’s a 4 hour flight from either Chile or Peru, so it is pretty remote.

  4. Jack Nicholl March 17, 2012 at 8:16 AM #

    Hi you guys–

    What a great set of photos. Seems like it was really worth the visit out there. Were the Easter Island people Maori? Keep blogging, it’s like I’m on the trip with you.

  5. Uncle Raymond March 18, 2012 at 10:39 AM #

    Wonderful pictures!

  6. Kent March 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM #

    Nice! Compare these with the (relatively) tiny one in the British Museum when you finally hit London.

    • Jerry March 20, 2012 at 1:46 PM #

      See the pic of the below ground dwellings? The small moai in the British museum came from that dirt patch in front.

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