Saturday, 6 January 2007

Easter Island - Ranu Raraku and Anakena

Today we went on a tour with Josie Nahoe Mulloy of Hoamaka Tours. We'd spotted her up at Orongo and were impressed by how knowledgeable she was. Josie is definitely the guide for people who usually don't do tours being relaxed, not watching the clock and passionate about her fascinating topic.
First we went to Ahu Tahai in town. Although we had been there before it was interesting to see it again with extra explanation of the canoe ramps that were used in special ceremonies and the ruins of the villages that stood in front of the Ahus. It was these villages that the Maois faced not the ocean. They were the centre of an ancestor worship culture and you can still feel the power of the immense statues.
Then we went to see Ahu Vaihu an unrestored Ahu. By the end of the 1800s according to records of European voyages to Rapa Nui all of the Maois on the island had been toppled. The exact reason for this is unclear but it appears the island's society was in a state of crisis. It is thought that the Maois were toppled by warring tribes as a way of destroying their mystical power base. Restoration of some of the island's hundreds of Ahus started in the 1950s and continues today.
Next stop was the climax of the day the quarry that was birthplace to all the Maois on the island: Ranu Raraku. Although when we arrived the place was crawling with tourist buses we did get some time to ourselves at the end which was quite cool and really gave us more of an idea of what a special place it was. There are still lots of partially carved Maois that can be seen on the cliffs almost as if the carvers went to lunch and are still coming back. This includes what would have been the largest Maoi ever if completed that is 22m long. The hillsides are dotted with Maois that have been stood up for their backs to be carved and have started to be moved down the hills towards the transport routes that led all over the island. It was a very organised process that had three main transport highways created that led from the volcano quarry of Ranu Raraku to all over the island where the Ahus were along the coast.
From the hilltop you can see Ahu Tongariki which was restored with the assistance of a Japanese crane company that donated a big crane for the restoration works from 1992-95. This is one of the biggest Ahus with 15 Maois sitting atop it.
We took a late lunch at Anakena Beach. The larger of the two beaches on the island with white sand and fringed by palm trees. The Maois here were quickly covered in sand after they were toppled and still have the carving on their backs visible. There are lots of families who bring their big Asado (Chilean BBQ) setups out here to relax on the weekend as well as everyone else other than me trying to soak up the sun and enjoy the waves.
All in all a great day that only had one downside the loss of my camera. (see Santiago for the excitement of replacing it) However thanks to Josie and the guys at Hotel Tau Ra'a it's been found and will soon be winging it back to mum in Australia.

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