It's been a while, i'm finally getting back to this.
This is Easter Island day two. After the flight in, exploring a few of the ruins near town and resting up yesterday, this day was the first of a two private tour that I booked to make sure I get the most out of the incredible history this this tiny island has experienced. Breakfast at the hotel was genuinely good, an amazing omelette with a banana that was sliced down the middle; pineapple in a side dish; a fruit smoothly, and coffee.
The hotel is owned and run by a family, I would hear them talking in Rapa Nui, which is a Polynesian language that to me sounds just like Maori. While they are in conversation they would speak words or large segments of Spanish, which I had grown accustomed to in mainland South America. And then to me they spoke English fairly well. The intersection of all these cultures would always strike me as unexpected and interesting. What if the French had actually colonised the island after claiming it. Would that be another language and culture to add to the mix?
As I might have explained in an earlier post, I was interested in finding the witnesses on Easter Island and getting to their meetings. I meet my guide for the tour, we got in the car and he talked me through the itinerary for the two days. Near the end he mentions that he will show me the places near the town, one of them would be the church as it has played a large part in the history of the island. I then said to him that I would like to avoid going in to the church, and lead in to my interest in finding Jehovah's Witnesses on the island. After a brief pause he said "I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses". Now this, if it is a coincidence, is an incredible one. There are 7000 people on the island, 50 private tour guides, 1 of them is a Witness, I got him. It worked out great because I don't think I would have found the Kingdom Hall, it's hidden down a long driveway that is very dark.
The tour starts:
Orongo is one of the two main volcanic craters on the island, from memory this one to the south and near the town formed after the other to the north east. It has a body of water in it that is completely isolated and has fresh water. The crater has its own weather system within its enclosed walls. You'll notice the gap where you can see ocean in the following photo. This is because the sea is eroding the wall on that side causing it to fall in to the sea.
|Claudio explained that this Moai is at the British Museum, which I had actually seen the year before. But I didn't look at the back were all the interesting carvings are.|
From about the year 300 when the first people came to the island to about 1500 the Rapa Nui produced the Moai (the statues). They would represent their rulers that had died and were believed to protect their settlements. There was great competition between tribes to produce the largest Moai, so you can actually date a Moai fairly accurately based on the height. The time of the Moai ended though, the people seem to have lost faith in the system of the Moai and they switched to worshiping their fertility god primarily, the birdman. During this time, to determine a ruler for the island they would hold an annual race, the first competitor to bring back the egg of a sooty tern from the island (Motu Nui, you can see in following photo) would be the king. This involved climbing down a 300m cliff; swimming out to the island; staying on the island until the terns are nesting; steal an egg from their nest; make a pouch their forehead that would hold the egg; swim back to the cliff; climb 300m up the cliff. Not to mention survive swimming in the sea and living on that island for a few days.
This practise stoped when missionaries came to the island in about the 17th century. Also, when the switch from Moai's to Birdman happened, all of the Moai were knocked down. All Moai that are currently standing have been restored. So there was a real effort at that time to stamp out their former worship. But the reasons why are still a mystery.
|These were the traditional houses of the island. A tiny entrance that you crawl in to is common in all of them. They had great insulation because of it. But they were only places to sleep, which differs greatly from what we think of as a house today.|
|This was were the race would start.|
|Ahu Ko Te Riku|
|In order to have the Moai look over the settlement Allot of work went in to a platform to lift them up. This also means that when you look out at a Moai they are on the horizon.|
Kingdom HallWhile I was there construction of a new Kingdom Hall was happening, Claudio brought me to the site to take a look and meet a few of the workers. It is a significant event for Jehovah's organisation on the island. It is now considered the best building on the island. Any tourist coming to the island will see it on their way from town to the north east of the island. One of the best restaurants on the island has also moved directly on the other side of the road of the hall.
|Tuna and cheese empanada for lunch and coke of course.|
|This is what the ruins looked like. The Red stone you see in the foreground is the topknot that would go on the Moai's head. These alone were a feat to place on top.|
|All of the topknots were carved from one quarry that has this red stone. These ones were on a journey to the Moai they were to be placed on. They would roll them along and sit them here ready to go out.|
|This is the red stone quarry.|