Day 2 on Easter Island

easter island day 2

We explored the town in the morning. And took a walk to the Cave Ana Kai Tangata which was 20 minutes walk south of our apartment.

Ana Kai Tangata is situated at the end of a beautiful little bay. There is a constructed, if precarious, rocky trail down to the entrance. On the ceiling of the cave were the remains of what were once elaborate paintings related to the birdman cult. Due to erosion only a few paintings are left today. The name Ana Kai Tangata literally means "Man Eating Cave", however nobody is certain that this means what it says in direct translation.

Click on the thumbnails below to get larger photos

Steps down to the cave called .. ..Ana Kai Tangata which had .. .. petroglyphs on the walls and .. ..the lava field around

After a certain amount of confusion - they were meant to have delivered the car to Te'Ora at 1pm, and we eventually got it from their garage an hour later - we pick up the rented car from Oceanic Rentals ($60 for 24 hours) at 2 pm and drive along the east coast of the Island, stopping to look at most of the Ahu along the way.

All the moai on Easter Island were toppled during the tribal wars of the 1700.s and only a handful have been resurrected by archeologists in the last hundred years. Only the occasional single standing moai can be seen along the south coast, but there are a great many fallen statues. This bit of our drive appeared to be just to get us into the mood of the moais. In a way you could say "when you have seen one fallen moai, you have seen them all". An ahu with toppled moai has the appearance of a pile of rocks, and the moai themselves are not particularly impressive face down. It appears that when the natives toppled moai, they removed the eyes, then pushed the statues over face down. That way any residual power that the statue might have had to cast the evil eye on their desecrators would be diminished

Toppled moai were a much more common sight than standing statues until we got to Ahu Tongariki. It has been restored and has fifteen, now standing, moai including an 86 tonne moai that was the heaviest ever erected on the island. All the moai here face sunset during Summer Solstice. In 1960, further damage was done to the then toppled moai here when a massive tidal wave, generated by an earthquake off the coast of Chile, hit Ahu Tongariki and destroyed the platform and swept the massive moai hundreds of yards inland. In 1992 a team from Japan brought in cranes and other heavy equipment to restore Ahu Tongariki. Working under the direction of Chilean archaeologist, Claudio Cristino, the task took five years. Now all 15 of the moai stand once more at what is for me Easter Island's most impressive site.

There are petroglyphs at Tongariki, but the next stop at Papa Vaka (papa is the term for flat and smooth lava outcrops) was meant to have the best petroglyphs. You can walk on raised wooden platforms to view the engravings on the rocks. They were difficult to make out in the light available when we saw them, but by tweaking the contrast of the photos a little, it improves their visibility. They say that the carvings represent octopus, shark, fish-hooks and boats. Certainly one can say that they are "primitive" in the sense of being representations, rather than likenesses.

After this one reaches the only two sandy beaches on the island: Ovahe, quite small, and the sea was too rough to swim when we were there, and finally Anakena, which is believed to be the initial landing place of the Polynesians who arrived at the island. You come here today both for the impressive sheltered sandy beach and for the restored ahu, of six statues, some of which include top knots. Anakena has been the site of several archaeological digs including those of Katherine Routledge in 1914 and of both William Mulloy and Thor Heyerdahl in the 1950s.

Click on the thumbnails below to get larger photos

Abandoned top knot. Restored Moai Toppled Moai All along the coast one saw..
..toppled moai .. ..after toppled moai ..after toppled moai Past the road to the quarry
And a Catholic shrine The 'travelling' moai, guards the ..most impressive ahu on the .. ..island at Tongariki.
These were big fellows. And .. ..nearby petroglyphs could still.. made out in the rocks. Tongariki was the most ..
photogenic of all the ahu. On to another petroglyph site .. ..where more of these rock .. ..carvings could be seen.
On to more fallen moai and a .. ..rocky coast, until we got to .. Ovahe beach on the east coast.. ..and further on Anakena has an
ahu with 7 moai and a sand .. beach which is the larger.. ..of the two sandy beaches on .. .. the island.
Some of the moai here are .. ..complete with top knots.    

From the beach at Anakena we took the central road via Vaitea, which was where Williamson Balfour had their sheep ranch headquarters. I could see nothing of it existing today, nor could an assiduous search with Google yield anyone else's photos of any ruins that might remain.

We invited a single American girl staying at Te'Ora up to our balcony for a sundowner, however the knock on effect of this was that it was nightfall by the time we went out to look for a restaurant for dinner. I failed to find the one I was looking for in the main street, and the main street did not look that inviting at night anyway, so we went back to the port area and found a restaurant with a verandah overlooking the sea, and it had a few other diners. However this turned out to be the infamous Taverne du Pecheur, which any guide books or reviewers tell you to avoid. Anyway we entered as lambs to the slaughter, as, in the dark, we had no idea what restaurant we were entering.

Given the reviews on TripAdvisor, why do people eat here? The short answer is the position, on the seafront at the port. You cannot miss it at night, and it looks really attractive. Actually there is no "sign" of its name visible at night, so you do not know about its "reputation" when you go in. Though I thought that the food was good, the service was "brusque". And their piece de la resistance was to slap on an unannounced addition of 10% service charge for what was poor service. We just took it off the bill. Other diners were also appalled by this addition - one couple had eaten there the night before without the addition on their bill. Mean and grasping!

I went to the tourist board about these 10% unpublicised additions which appeared in other places as well, and when I told them that one of my problems the tourist board man rolled his eyes and told me that most of the complaints they get are about this restaurant for one reason or another. The service charge is not part of island culture, but like smallpox and syphilis in the past, has been brought in by foreigners to pollute the native culture.

Easter Island Diary