Up and at ‘em early in Tahiti, as the flight was going to be leaving at 3am.  It was super hot already and we just lounged around until we got on the plane and air conditioning was reestablished to make the climate more bearable.  We were headed to the fabled Easter Island.

Because we were on a 3am flight out of Tahiti, we crashed in a nearly abandoned hotel for a couple of hours until we had to head to the airport for the red eye flight to Easter Island, otherwise known as Rapa Nui, which is a small island in a geographical area called Oceania which is situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

 We tried the best we could to catch some shut eye during the flight, but, despite a number of our flights travelling through the night on this trip, none of us are very good at it.  Even with a bit of pharmaceutical persuasion. 

Flying into Easter Island was interesting as they prepared us for landing, and we were getting down pretty close to the ocean, and within a matter of seconds, you saw the red cliffs of the edge of the island and then the wheels hit the runway.  Then you could see tother side of the island where the runway ended, which bordered on the ocean as well.  I hope there aren’t many shortcomings or overshoots by planes as there isn’t much room for any error.

Flying in we were encountered by a cliff wall then flat ground where the runway was. And there were wild horses there too…

We got off the plane and made our way to the customs line, which took forever.  We hadn’t experienced anything like this yet…where the slow pace of “island time certainly was just about at a snails pace.  There wasn’t any particular reason that we could see for how slow they were moving, but there was nothing we could do.

It was a long flight on yet another red eye from Tahiti to Easter Island…so everyone had a little shut eye once we settled in to the cottage.

After we cleared customs, we found Odette who was our host at the accommodations, Anoraki, which was right beside the Tahai site, which is where everyone visiting the island comes to watch the sun set.

Our house had an awesome swinging chair that the kids loved. And Deb too…good for backscatches!

After we dropped our stuff off in our two storey cottage, we walked down towards the “main drag” where all of the restaurants, shops, grocery stores, etc are.  We stopped in a small pizzeria for lunch which was great with home made dough, and then we headed to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  Fruits and veggies were reasonably priced, but everything else was fairly expensive.  In fact, after reviewing several menus, it probably was cheaper just to eat out.  But that wasn’t even that cheap.  Oh well, you are only here once.  On the way home, we walked past the rec centre where there was traditional music playing quite loudly, so Lulu and I wandered in to see what was going on.

There were about 100 kids, all the same age as our kids, practicing for a traditional dance for an upcoming island celebration that was going to be happening the next week, Tapati.

Not to go unexplored, the kids found a big playground down by the waters edge, which was a great source of entertainment for the kids (and us) during our stay.

Lots of times, we would venture down to the playground and put together obstacle courses that went over, under, through and around the structures.  The playground wasn’t fancy, metal, or plastic.  They were made of wood logs, and honestly probably cost a fraction of what a fancy colourful playground would cost.  At the end of the day, all kids want to do is play.  They don’t need much more than this.  Plus these structures certainly encouraged Parkor style play rather than going up and down slides.

Mirror pools in the lava flows down at the edge of the ocean.

The church bells rang at the main Protestant church in town, which sounded like real bells and not a taped recording.  However, either the person or the machine playing the bells knew only one song, O Come All Ye Faithful, which was faithfully played every morning, noon and night.  Wild dogs, horses, and other farm wildlife ran relatively unimpeded around the island, so I don’t know how farmers knew whose cow was whose. The dogs barked like made and en mass whenever a wild horse tried to go on their properties and the little dogs worked together to basically bully the horse off of the property.

The heat of the late afternoon kept us in front of the fan, and given the fact that it was a very early start to the day, we had a nap.  The kids plugged themselves in, and Deb was napping away longer than I could, so I walked over to Tahai to see what was going on.  The heads, otherwise known as Moai, were not moving anywhere, but the crowds were starting to gather for the sunset that was coming.  So, I sat down and enjoyed the view….without a camera for once!  Say it ain’t so!

A little bit about the Moai now…  The Rapa Nui people started building the Moai around 800AD and ended somewhere around the 17th century.  It was around this time that the Western explorers observed and documented the Rapa Nui people and their cultural heritage, and found that the Moai weren’t objects of an organized religion.  Rather, the Moai were commissioned by the various chiefs of the day and were done in such a way that it was a “my Moai is bigger than your Moai” manner.  So they got progressively bigger, but they had to maintain the standards of what the heads looked like.  What the Moai looked like, in size and the head dress, meant that they possessed a great deal of Mana, which protected the family’s activities and territory.   The Mana is the supernatural power that animated the functions of daily life…to secure a good harvest, have successful fishing trips, and have bountiful egg and chicken production.  The bones of the Rapa Nui people held a lot of Mana, so they were placed out on drying racks and then the bones were incorporated into the Ahu where the Moai were located.

The backside of an Ahu platform. Logs with the deceased individuals were hung from here after they were wrapped in cloth. Hung kind of like you would roast a pig over an open fire.

So, the Moai carried out a double function.  First, it established visibly the ancestry of each clan, and it demonstrated the power and organizational capacity of a clan.  Which then led to disputes between the clans when it came to food, natural resources and territory on an island that was limited in all three.  And so, during the civil unrest of the tribes in the late 17th century, warring tribes toppled down other tribes Moai as a way of diminishing their Mana.

The coastal view down at Tahai. You can see the Moai perched up on the Ahu and facing away from the ocean.

So, while the kids and Deb were relaxing at the cottage, I hung around the Moai at Tahai and watched the sun go down which was pretty magical as the sky turned every colour of the rainbow before it finally set over the horizon.  So, I headed back home to tuck in for the night with the rest of the gang.

The next morning I got up before everyone and decided to go for a run along the shoreline.  There were a few other people out running along the ill defined path that cut its way through the fields and lava flows.

The coast was rugged and the lava flows from the volcanos that made the island were pretty impressive and dramatic.

There was something surreal about running past the megalithic structures that were perched on the edge of the coastal cliffs.  There were certain ones that were well preserved, while there were other ones that were perched on their Ahu (stone temple platforms) that had either not fared so well over time due to damage that they sustained when they fell over from either war amongst the different tribes (there were 10 on the island way back before the Dutch arrived), earthquakes, or visiting/raiding sailors.

A Moai who had face planted at one of the unrestored locations.

The majority that had fallen over from the Ahu’s were face down, and that could be because of the way that the base was made.

Further along the trail on the run, I came across a beautiful tidal pool that had a very nice blowhole right through the lava flows.  This was a location called The Cathedral, which is a great diving site if the water is calm, as you can dive within the lava tubes and caves there which looks like a church (supposedly) inside it.  I looked at diving there, but they said that there isn’t much in the way of underwater wildlife.   

I made my way back to the house, and got the kids up, and prepared for a tour of the island since we were going to rent scooters for the day to go around the island to different sites.  We got to the car rental shop, and found out we weren’t allowed to rent scooters since our Canadian drivers license wasn’t for scooters or motorcycles.  The kids were disappointed as they were hoping to ride on the back like we did in Vietnam.  The 4×4 that we rented was a little beat up, but it would get the job done. Once again, you couldn’t expect much since we were on an island far from any major car production facility…so new cars weren’t the norm here.  We did the walk around the car, which was comical as the diagram that had all of the nicks and bumps on it were enough that the diagram looked like it was painted black…haha.

Off we went to do the inland route which had a lot of sites that were related to more of the way of life rather than the rituals of the Moai sites.

Ok, fun killer dad time.  Sorry….history lesson since the history of this place is very interesting.

Somewhere around 500BC, some French Polynesian folks set sail in their big ocean canoes and headed east.  Along the way they dropped off some of their crew on Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tahiti, and eventually the Marquesas Islands where they took a break.  They were voyageurs of the the high seas.  Much like is depicted in the Disney movie “Moana”.

After a while, 700 years to be exact, these voyageurs got restless and headed out again on double canoes (maybe with Chief Moana…haha) which are like having two canoes tied together at the tip.  They explored in three different directions expanding the boundaries of their population to Hawaii between 200 and 400AD, Easter Island around 1200AD, and New Zealand around 800AD.

European settlers came in the 1500s which brought a whole host of diseases, which killed the native people on the island.  Then came the slave trade in the mid 1800s, where islanders were taken to South America and Europe which saw the population on the island go down as low as 110 people by the year 1877.

The beach where the first King set foot on the island, and was a favorite beach for islanders to visit.  The kids ran up the white sand to where the Moai were resting on an ahu in tribute to the king.

Unfortunately, since the population went down in numbers so greatly, so did the knowledge about their ancestral lineage and processes, which meant that there are a lot of mysteries surrounding the island, their culture, and the heads.

Nope. No hidden objects in here. Just chickens…this is a Rapa Nui chicken coop!

In 1888, Chile took over the island and in 1995 it became a UNESCO world heritage site for its cultural importance.  Today, nearly 6000 people live on the island alongside their 470 stone headed friends.

Most of the statues are facing away from the ocean and erected, like I said, on ceremonial platforms called Ahu.  The Moai are supposed to safeguard the tribes and villages.  They also served as burial chambers for royal chambers.

The Ahu’s were rectangular stone platforms that were considered sacred, and they are where the Moai were erected.  It is neat that you can see these Ahu’s on other islands in French Polynesia where their ancestors came from, and they have heads too, but the heads are smaller and carry the same ceremonial meanings that the heads here do, but they aren’t as shrouded in mystery as the Moai are here.

Watching the sun set over the Tahai site while the Moai held watch over the island upon their Ahu

In the 1200s until the Europeans arrived, there were as many as 10 tribes on the island.  Given the limited size and resources of the island, along with a rising population there was competition for power and natural resources.

Since the Moai and the Ahu bases were tilted forward and rounded so that they could be moved over land by rocking them side to side like you would move a fridge without wheels, it was easy for enemies and invading parties to throw a rope over the head of the stone, and then pull it forward.  That is why most of the heads lay face down if they were toppled down.

Praying to the Gods of the fallen Moai

There were, however, a lot of heads that had fallen backwards and they were face up as well.  What I had learned was that if a head was being transported from the quarry where they were carved out of the rock walls of the volcano, they would fall forward if they were being moved down a hill, and they would fall back and be face up if it fell while they were being moved up a hill.  Interesting!

Back to current day and the crazy Travelling Trenholms…

In many ways, Easter Island had some catching up to do to the rest of the world when it came to many things.  The internet was slow.  People were still using flip phones in a lot of places.  And the local (and only from what I could figure) only played 1970s and 1980s music.  Now, that is not a bad thing, especially when Bryan Adams Summer of 69 was blaring from the oversized stereo system of our neighbours house.  It was actually nice since the 80s were a favorite time in history for Deb and I.

We headed out for dinner one night and got to the Tia Berta 2 restaurant which was a local favorite from the reports we had read. We had a little chuckle since the name incorporated the names of two people from Tawingo.  We had a nice little dinner, but it was very expensive for what you got…but you had to keep reminding yourself that you were here once and that the island was a long way from any other country that had large buying power and robust agricultural systems which would make food cheaper.

Me versus some lady named Angela who owns the supermarket.  I came away with ice cream….good deal!

Since we had the car for a couple of days, we decided to split the trip into two days (which eventually turned out to be three) as there were two main loops on the island that would take us past the sites that had historical significance.

We headed out to Orongo, which is a fully reconstructed village at the southern end of the island.  The Orongo village that was a purely ceremonial site that was a tribal location that was perched on top of a cliff that looked over an island that was known as migratory stop for Sooty Terns where they could reproduce in silence and safety.  The buildings were heavily raided during the early 1900s by sailors and navy ships that passed by, and much of the artwork and carvings that were once here have since found their way to other parts of the world.  We walked around the marked path, but couldn’t stray too far off of it as there were lots of staff out on the grounds making sure that we were all obeying the rules.

The remains of the houses at Orongo

This was the site of an annual ceremonial event called the Birdman Competition.  The competition started in the 17th century when there started to be a lot of conflict between the different lineages and tribes on the island.  At the same time, the various tribes came over to their enemies territories and toppled their Moai.  Around the same time, the once lush island had become pretty barren with respect to natural vegetation since the tribes had basically cut everything down and eaten everything up on the land, and farming practices were not great as the volcanic island only had a thin layer of soil on it.

The Birdman typical garb

So, now that the heads were toppled, they had to create a new way to figure out whose tribe was the best and who the new leader (Tangata Manu) of the island was going to be for the next year.  And hence the Birdman competition was born.

This was a competition and ceremonial right of passage that had tremendous political, spiritual, and religious power on the island, and it represented a shift of these powers from one person to the next…whoever won the competition.  Survival of the fittest-esque.  This competition was also a “new order” that emerged after the time during which the Moai were made and placed around the island.  A new, and more violent, way to determine which tribe is the best, and which tribe will hold power over the other islands.

The islands where the birds could be found. The competitors would live on these small islands until the birds laid their eggs and then they would race back to the big island to present the egg.

The chiefs from the various tribes around the island (or their delegate if the chief was not in good enough shape to do the competition) raced from the mainland to the island to collect the first egg of the Scooty Bird and then give it to the chief.  The competitors would stay in stone huts close to the edge of the cliff where they could see the island and see the first birds arriving, and then when they saw them arrive, the competition would be begin.

The only thing was that they would have to climb down and then swim 1.5km over to Motu Nui island, where they would stay for days or weeks waiting for the first egg to be laid.  This island is really small and doesn’t have much in the way of vegetation, so food and drinkable water would be an issue.

The competitors would like down on bundles of sticks and then swim over to the island.

Once the first eggs was laid, they would scramble to grab an egg, swim back, and then climb the 300m cliff wall.  They gave the egg to the chief who had been the winner from the year before, and that person took his place for the next year, living a sacred life and in ceremonial seclusion.  This went on year after year for about 400 years until the last competition took place in 1867.  Sounded like a pretty cool event!  Not quite a triathlon, but close to it for that time in history!  None of us could imagine scaling down the cliffs and then swimming across the open ocean to wait for a bird to lay an egg.

Right beside Orongo was the Humedal Rano Kau volcano that collapsed a long time ago, and turned into a wetland.  This created a humid microclimate and a micro-ecosystem that held onto a number of indigenous plants that were eradicated from other parts of the island due to farming and civilization.  The climate is a very humid one that is sheltered from the salt and wind from the ocean, and it also is protected from animals and other vegetarian predators that would decimate these plants over time.  So, it is like a giant green house that is protecting the ecological history of the island.  It was really cool, and you could see how the ecosystem was protected down there.

We made our way to Ahu Akihi, which is the only site where the heads aren’t on a costal location.  They look west, and are said to represent the seven initial young explorers from the Maldive Islands, and they are erected on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean.  They are reported to be looking in the direction of the Marquesas Islands, where the initial settlers came from, which are about 2000 miles away.  They forgot to build a stone telescope or stone telephone so that they keep in touch…

We went to a couple of other stops, but we had a late start to the day, so we didn’t see as much as had originally planned.  We headed back to the house and relaxed as the day progressed.

I went out to take pictures of the stars that night, and given the fact that the moon had not risen yet, the starts were plentiful, so I got wrapped up in the moment of looking at the stars and taking pictures.  I was out there all alone…no wild horses or dogs, and no other crazy photographers wanting to take the opportunity to capture the stars.

So, I lost track of time, and after about an hour and a half, I heard someone calling my name.  I recognized that it was Deb and she had a flashlight and was coming out to find me.  I nonchalantly said “Over here!” as I was quite enjoying taking photos, and didn’t see the impact of my lack of time awareness on how she and the kids were feeling.  She was crying and scared that I had fallen off of the cliff into the ocean or been mugged or killed, all of which I guess looking back could have really happened, but good ol’ oblivious me, I didn’t account for this or the fact that she would be worried about me.  I figured that she would have just gone off to bed and I would have seen her in the morning.  My bad.

We headed back to the house where the kids were awake, scared, and crying that their dad might not be coming home.  I had a bit of making up to do.

The next day, I woke up before the rest of the gang and hopped in the car and drove across the island (only 21km) to a couple of the sites and saw what the heads looked like as the sun rose over the horizon.  It was pretty cool, being there at night and then being there first thing in the morning, both with virtually no one around.

Once everyone was up and running, we jumped back in the car and went back out to some of the sites that we didn’t get to the day before, and made our way out to some of the other sites.

Our first stop was at Ana Te Tepeu and Ana Kakenga, which upon first arrival just looks like a big farmers field with lava in it.  However, this is a high density area where buildings, Ahu’s, and Maos are scattered around, not yet excavated.  If you actually looked and wandered around the grounds which, contrary to other locations, aren’t guarded with barriers, you see that this was a pretty extensive location where the ancestors had lived.

I didn’t know if this was ‘Don’t Touch The Heads’ or ‘Don’t Let The Heads Smell Your Hand’ sign.

Ana Kakenga was an underground cave system that was inhabited by many of the initial islanders.  The cave systems were formed in the lava tubes, which are hollowed out tunnels in the lava when steam gets trapped in the flowing lava, whereby making a natural cave once the lava cools.   It was incredibly dark, and we were happy to have the lights on our phones so we could navigate our way through the tunnels.  We couldn’t imagine living down there in the tunnels as there were only a few spots along the way where the tunnel was exposed to the outside and sun poured in.  But you could see the remnants of walls that made rooms in the cave, which was cool in of itself.

 We descended into the tube which was a way bigger system of caves than I had thought.  At some points the tube was just wide enough for us to walk single file in, but at times there were large cavernous rooms, and you could see where structures were erected in the past.  Pretty cool.

The other interesting thing that you think about is, “Holy crap, this must have been a big steam bubble trapped in here!  We walked along the tube and every once in a while the tube opened up to the ground above which shed some light into the cave system.

Since the ground was not very fertile due to the abundance of rock and paucity of soil, the islanders got creative, and built upwards with their gardens rather than digging down like we most often do.  So, they piled black lava rocks up in circles or large rectangles with holes where the plants could grow, and then the would put what sold they Ould find in those holes.  The black stone kept the soil warm and would help the plants grow very quickly.  Genius!

Once we finished in the cave, which was very humid, and we returned to the hot sun of the day, the kids were ready for ice cream….and it was only 10am!  I wasn’t ready to go get ice cream yet, and there was another site to visit at this location, so Deb and the kids headed back to town to grab some ice cream while I stayed on the site and walked to another site that was further down the trail and got to another large ceremonial site, Ahu Tepeu.

This was an area where the higher ups and aristocrats lived, and had more of the large gardens of stone circular greenhouses since you couldn’t dig down into the ground for fertile soil.

Two of the Moai that fell backwards facing up still had a great facial features despite the sun and rain beating down on them.

There was supposed to be a cave that was perched on the side of the cliff that was supposed to be pretty cool there, so I went in search of that.  However, despite combing the grounds of that site, there wasn’t anything that resembled a cliff side cave.  Given the fact that there was a cliff that was a cliff that dropped about 100m down into the ocean.  Good call on the turn around.

Walking back, there was a lot of Ahu’s and some of them were toppled over.  The cool thing with this is that you could see how they were put together and secured together.  They were kind of like big pieces of LEGO.

The natives took the stone they had on hand…lava…and carved it into long 10×10 (or something of that size), and then they stacked them one of top of another.  Yet again…COOL!  Definitely ahead of their time…

I walked back to where the meet up point where I was going to meet up with them. Since I usually am late in arriving for things, they were worried that I would not be there on time.  Plus, it was about 32C at 10am and I had to briskly walk about a 2km walk back to the car.    So, I hoofed it back along the path to get to the car, proud of myself that I was actually keeping to the agreed upon time schedule, and got back to the car only to find the gang waiting for me lying on top of the car.  Damn!  I thought I would beat them back!!  At least Lulu had saved me some melted mint chip ice cream as it was super hot out already which was a welcomed treat.

We headed out from there to go over the Puna Pau, where you find red volcanic rock where they made the Pukau (red hats) that sit on top of some of the Maoi.  They were representing feather headdresses or hats that looked like Shriner’s hats, and they could weigh upwards of 10 tons.  So, how do you put a 10 ton hat on a 50 ton body?  Easy, you just roll it up on a stone ramp, and then take the stone ramp down.  Cross fit style.

A Moai with a pukau perched atop its head. This was one of the few Moai that also had eyes left on the face, which was made of white coral chunks that were pieced together into the shapes of the eyes…

Standing next to the pukau really made you appreciate how big these were.

Deb had her own pukau!

We hopped in the car and headed over to Anakena, which is one of the islands few beaches, and is the place that the first king set foot on the island, and founded the Rapa Nui community.  Over time, they built an Ahu with Maoi facing away from the ocean, as they are at the other sites, but these guys had a view of a tropical paradise compared to the other Maoi statues around the island.

Contrary to what we thought that this might be, the island isn’t very tropical.  There are few if any palm trees (other than at Anakena), and the island is pretty open without much in the way of trees.  There is a lot of random low scrub bushes and short trees all over the place.  Almost like they are in the middle of a reforestation process.  But not thick palms and rainforests like we saw in Tahiti.  I guess volcanic rock isn’t that great to grow plants in.  They probably could stand to use a couple of loads of topsoil.

At Anakena, we stopped to have lunch at a beachside restaurant, and there was a bit of a sour mood at lunch.  Wilson was in his “I am a brother, and I am going to bug the hell out of my sister with a series of repeated and aggressive nags, photo bombs, and repeated touching”.  Lulu had had enough of this nonsense and got really mad at not only Wilson, but all of us since I didn’t do enough to stop his behaviour or reprimand his behaviour, I got included in the anger and its recourse.


After lunch, Wilson and Deb went to get the car which was parked in a lot on the other side of the park, to bring it over our way.  I paid the bill and Lulu stepped out of the restaurant.  Given the fact that she was in a huff, she took on in one direction back to the car’s original location, while I strolled up to where Deb was going to meet us.  The only problem was that I didn’t know that she went that way.

The beach had so may nooks and crannies that Lulu could have been anywhere.

So, when I turned around and she wasn’t there despite scanning the area and all of the tourists there for a girl in a black and white dress, she was no where to be found.  Gone.  That is when my stomach turned about 300 times inside me, and protective dad mode went on.  I searched the restaurants, the tourist market, and the grassy grounds.  Then Deb showed up and she got her Mama Bear mode on, while Wilson helped me out.  We looked on the beach, in the water, in the rocky cliffs, at the Maoi Ahu, and then after about 30 minutes, Wilson spotted her waving her arms at the entrance to the park.

We ran over there, and she was really scared and crying.  We buried her in hugs and made sure she was ok.  She had walked back to where the car was parked, and went out of the park.  Despite the fact that she told the gate guard that we were inside, he told her that since she didn’t have a ticket, she couldn’t go back in to the park.  So she was trapped outside waiting for us to find her.

So we were all back together and we headed off to our next spot, which was a well known non-Maoi structure on the island.  There was a set of 5 stones, a central one and then one for each of true north, east, south and west.  The central stone was larger than the rest and was thought to have magical powers that enhanced fertility.  So, you guessed it, it was very well worn as people (residents and visitors) had come there in the past when they were trying to conceive and had sex on the stone.  Interesting, but it was a pretty magical and romantic spot on the island.  You just hoped that the line up wasn’t that long when you arrived I guess.

Ummmm. Doesn’t look that comfortable…

We headed home after this, got cleaned up and headed out to the Kari Kari cultural show for the night.  We had a traditional dinner of local cuisine, and then Wilson, Lauchlyn, and Deb got their faces painted, but I was too late getting there.  No worries.

A cute local girl wandered from table to table, covered in chocolate sauce and whatever she ate for dinner, and tried to figure out where her parents were…

Since we had bought the dinner and a show option, we got to sit in the front row.  Perfect vantage point…until the dancers came out.  The women had long flowing feather dresses and coconut bikini tops, while the men had nothing on more than a g string that had a piece of loin cloth covering their nether-regions.  Then the music and the gyrating started.  Holy crap…I didn’t know if we should be sitting there with two kids….Lulu had a fixed gobsmacked look on her face, as did Wilson.  Oh well, more sex education and anatomy lessons for school today I guess!

The more they danced, the sweatier they got, which further the defining features of the men and women who were ripped, and given the fact that I had put on 40lbs, I was feeling severely inadequate.  I think most men sat there sucking their guts in during the show.

Then it was our turn.  Well, Deb’s turn first.  She got pulled up onto stage, and to the back corner luckily, where her male partner danced with her.  Deb swayed back and forth, and got back down….and then I got up there.  I tried to mimic what they guys had done, which was, according to my lovely family, totally not what they were doing.

When we were in the audience, it looked like they were doing that wing bone movement of their legs, in and out and in and out, and fast.  So, I tried to do the same, but it ended up looking like I was having a partial seizure, and the kids and Deb were laughing pretty hard at me.   Plus, I was in the middle of the stage with one of the female dancers who was maybe 18, and everyone else was off the stage or at the sides of the stage.  Lovely.

Well, I tried my hardest, and gave the kids a good laugh.  That’s all that matters.

We headed back to the cottage, tucked the kids in bed, and I went out for another look at the stars by the Maoi at Tahai.  This time, I had a defined period of time that I would be leaving and returning!

We woke up the next morning, and went to Tongariki.  Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Easter Island. Its moai were toppled during the island’s civil wars and in the twentieth century the ahu was swept inland by a tsunami.

It has since been restored and has fifteen moai including an 86 tonne moai that was the heaviest ever erected on the island.  All the moai here face sunset during Summer Solstice.

Our two little Moai’s

Given the fact that this site is the closest to the volcano where all of the Maoi were carved out of, Rano Raraku, they were by far the biggest ones that we had seen.   These were all lined up again, after they had been all toppled over in the past, and you felt a wee bit small standing beside these guys.

We headed just down the road to Rano Raraku which is the birthplace of the Maoi, and is a volcano that extinguished itself about 10,000 years ago.

The volcano at Rano Raraku last erupted somewhere between 220k and 750k years ago, and despite the fact that there are 480 some Maoi around the island, there are still lots of big guys there that toppled over and obviously they couldn’t get them back up!

All told, there were 887 Moai made, but only 288 of them made it all the way to their final resting place at an Ahu somewhere on the island.  397 of them never made them out of the quarry because they fell over and the Rapa Nui folks couldn’t get them back up.  The average size of one of the heads was 4m tall and weighed 12.5 ton

We wandered around the site, and noted that there was a whole bunch of Maoi that were being carved out of the side of the mountain.  Cool!  So they didn’t take chunks of rock and then carve them, they actually carved them out of the rock like they were born right from the rock.

At some of the excavation sites, they have started to find smaller Maoi amongst the rubble, but obviously the ones we know about were super big.  So, as the many chiefs that commissioned to have their Maoi made, they got bigger and bigger.  Just like a man…”mine is bigger than yours!”…until eventually, they got so big that when they stood them up they couldn’t move them, or they fell face first down the side of the volcano and they couldn’t get up.  Men and their incessant need to one up each other…

We ran into a lovely couple from the US who were retired and Deb and I could totally see us being like them when we were old(er).  They had their thick book on Easter Island history, dressed in safari beige, but they were totally animated and excited when they were talking to the kids about the trip and Easter Island.

They, like many American travellers that we had met, were apologetic for their country and their current leader.  It was funny how the vast majority of American’s that we met along the way have been beautiful people with open minds, and the same apologetic tone to their voice and comments about the “great” state of their country.  One woman that I encountered earlier on in the week said that she had been harassed in her work environment (a prison) by her co-workers for her wanting to travel outside of her country.  “Why would you want to travel outside of our country?  Our country is great and has so much to offer and see!”

Ana Kai Tangata is a ocean side cave that has a number of cave paintings in it, and some organized stone structures, but the coolest part of this cave lies in its name.  Literally translated, the name means “cave to eat man” or “the cave of the cannibals”.  They say there wasn’t any evidence found of anything like this happening here, but maybe the evidence was washed out to sea.  That, or they ate up everything right to the last drop…haha.  Legends….oh, legends…

We headed back to Hang Roa, which is the capital (and only) city on the island, where we found the ice cream shop again.  Shocking!  After much looking around at the start of this leg of the trip, Deb and the kids found a little ice cream shop tucked into the local equivalent “the mall”.  There were only three stores, but it had white tiled halls and white walls with skylights.  So, mall-esque.

Visiting this shop had become a daily ritual for us, and by the end of the trip, the young man and his sister (or daughter) were happy to see when we were walking towards them, and we could get “the usual”.  Back on the street, we started to walk around and do some shopping as we were going to be needing to head off to the next destination the next day.

Lulu joined a group of local girls getting hula hoop lessons!

The playground that was down at the waterfront of Hang Roa was pretty basic but super awesome. The kids loved playing there and eventually Lulu made up obstacle courses that we could race through, and we kept track of finishing times…not that we are a competitive bunch at all!  The teenie Lulu wasn’t always the quickest however…I think I won one of the courses that we put together, but she won the rest.  Wilson wasn’t much for participating in the races, so he hung out on the playground and occasionally found another kid to play with.

After this, we were all hot and sweaty, and I wanted to go down to the local watering hole to go for a quick dip.  So, I went down with Wilson and we hopped in.

This was a cool little place close to the playground which was a natural ring of lava that allowed the ocean water to crash over the wall and fill the pool with water, and occasionally little ocean critters.  It was neat to stand at the edge and watch the waves roll in and Wilson and I stood at the edge of the ring and let the waves hit us, pretending like we were Aquamen.

These wave riders were super brave as they headed in towards the shore where some nasty rocks awaited them…nuts!

The sun was starting to set and so, I went over to Tahai again with Wilson to watch the sun set one last time.  Deb and Lulu found the two of us down at the edge of the water in behind the Ahu (away from the crowds) where there was a ceremonial boat dock that was made out of rocks.  It was super nice and as you can see from the photos below the colour of the sky was amazing.

The sunset was beautiful at Tahai.

We went home, had dinner and chilled around the house for the rest of the night.  We were certainly trying to slow down the pace of travels given the fact that we were going to be home in about 10 days.  It wouldn’t be a great idea to keep travelling like mad right up to the last second, and then come home which would certainly cause us to have a sense of life coming to a crashing halt, before we change directions suddenly to resume “normal life”.  Oh boy, I could get used to this travelling thing though.

The stars were equally beautiful!

The next morning, I got up and went for another run down the coastal trail, and I wanted to see how far the trail went.  The further I ran, the more obscure the trail got, to the point where there wasn’t a trail anymore, and I was running right on the lava flows.  That was until someone was yelling and whistling at me.  Then motioning at me to come over to where they were standing.

The guy was one of the park rangers and asked me for my ticket…which was at home.  For each of the archeological sites, you need to have your ticket for the national park, and each place would stamp and sign your ticket.  So…I had to turn around there and run back on the farm road.

The whole island was gearing up for their big week long celebration that was happening the next week which was called Tapati.

I got home, and we were all packed up and ready to go, so I wanted to get to the local museum that was just down the road from us.  None of the other travelling Trenholms were interested in going, as they thought they had seen enough at the archeological sites.  But not me.  With this kind of thing, I am a “more is more” kind of person.

I had watched a National Geographic video about the Maoi before heading over to the museum, and how they got where their final resting places were, and how they were built.  It was super interesting, and gave a lot of insights into how a team of Rapa Nui moved the various locations around the island.  In short, it took a large team of Rapa Nui divided into three teams, all with ropes, to basically rock the large heads side to side like you would do to move a large chest of drawers or a refrigerator without wheels.  Except these heads weighed anywhere between 10 tons to 51 tons.The base of the statues were angled forward from back to the front and the front edge was curved like a D, so it is hypothesized that the statues were moved from the quarry that they were made at by rocking them back and forth…after a bunch of trying different methods, they finally figured it out!

If you have the interest and the time, here is a video about the statues that is really fascinating.  In fact, it is the video that they play at the Rapa Nui archeological museum.

Here is another video that the archeologists that came up with this method did at a National Geographic Live presentation.  They also go over a lot of the history of the island…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rut16-AfoyA

When I went in through the doors of the museum, there were a bunch of people watching the same video that I watched on YouTube…so I saved some time, which was good since the museum closed in 20 minutes!  Speed museum visiting was going to happen…. Take pictures of the explanations and read them later….

The early inhabitants of the Oceania islands, which include Australia, New Zealand, and all of the islands to the west coast of South America, had to make the most of the ocean, while the Europeans at the time feared that they would fall off the face of the earth if they travelled that far.  In order to go between the islands, they passed the tradition of navigating on the ocean by the stars, and eventually made a map of the skies.  This was another thing that reminded me about the movie Moana.

I know that there was a lot of history in this post, but we reminded ourselves several times that many of our friends and family will never get to visit this island that is shrouded in mystery, folklore, and archeological importance.  It was very neat knowing the stories behind the Moai, and seeing how a civilization got built, crumbled, and then is growing again more harmoniously learning from the lessons of the mistakes of their ancestors.

We are headed off to our final destination tomorrow, the Galapagos, with a short stop over in Quito, Ecuador to take a look around that city for a day before we jump on the boat to go some boobies.  Boobie birds that is..