Friday, 5 January 2007

Easter Island - Rana Kao & Orongo

Sunrise & Sunset are pretty civilised in this place - 7:30am and 9:30pm respectively, which fits in very nicely with my preferred sleeping patterns. It means that getting up before dawn is actually possible! We did this yesterday, and walked up the (extinct) volcano to the south of Hanga Roa, called Rana Koa. It´s about a two hour walk up, the track being clearly marked and also with various 'points of interest' along the way.

The crater is really spectacular - it´s a fairly steep ascent up the last section, and then once you pop over the top there's a huge lake spread out before you, which is quite unexpected. The crater has filled up with rain water over the years, and the lake is now about 1.6km in diameter. The view over this combined with the view out to sea on the other side is very beautiful, and makes the effort all worth while.

We then skirted round the right edge of the crater to a small village called Orongo, which is now part of the national park. This was the main site for the birdman cult - a religion that was significant on the island, but much later than the moai where constructed. It was big in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the focus was around an annual competition as to who would be the 'birdman' for the year. The competition was to climb down the cliffs here (which are almost vertical), then raft out to one of the two small islands off shore. The first person to bring back a birds egg was the lucky winner, and became the new deity. This wasn't always a quick race however - sometime the contestants had to hang out on the islands for up to several weeks, waiting for an egg to actually be laid so they could grab it.

Language wise it's been a weird mix of English/Spanish/French/Japanese over the last week or so, with conversations often flicking rapidly between them (depending on which the speaker is most comfortable with). Knowing a bit of each language, this is frankly doing my head in - my brain only has room for 'English' and 'other', so often when I'm trying to say something it's coming out correctly, but not in the right language! This causes confusion all round, especially for me...

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