Day 3 on Easter Island

We still had the car the following morning. So we were up before dawn had even started to think about cracking, and off to the far end of the island to Ahu Tongariki to watch the sun rise. It is not as bad as it sounds, and the drive only takes half an hour. The ritual viewing of sunrise over the statues of Tongariki is part of the tourist experience on Rapa Nui, and there were about a dozen cars from other early morning photographers. Like most tourists we only had one opportunity to view the sunrise - the ahu being at the other end of the island. For us the sky was clear, but the sunrise I would say average rather than spectacular.

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We got there before sunrise .. ..and watched the sun rise over.. ..the moai. Soon the red flare .. merged into the light of day

With the excitement of sunrise over, we turned our backs on Ahu Tongariki ..

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and motored to the nearby Ranu Raraku quarry, which is where all the moai were carved in time gone by. Arriving at the appointed opening hour of 9am, we waited and waited. But the barriers stayed closed and no sign of the parkie. We waited and waited even longer. Eventually at 10.15 am patience broke among us and, along with two other groups waiting, we climbed the barriers and walked in. The guardians eventually arrived around 10.30, but nobody bothered to pursue us for the entrance fee.

Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff as the soft rock is known. For some 500 years it was a quarry supplying the stone from which about 95% of the island's moai were carved. I cannot claim to have counted them, but they say that 397 moai remain here, and were never erected

The number of incomplete statues in the quarry is remarkable - as one wonders why, if they only took a year to complete, there are so many that were abandoned without being transported to an ahu on the coast. There is also an anomalous large statue, disproportionately large at 71 feet in height, almost twice that of any moai ever completed and weighing around 270 tons, many times the weight of any actually moved from here to an ahu.

A number of moai appear to be only heads popping up out of the ground, but excavations show they are all complete statues which were dropped into large holes in which the carvers could finish the statues, before it was moved to its final home. But when abandoned in situ, the holes filled with soil, and just the heads remain to be seen. Also of note is that none of the statues here have their eye sockets hollowed out - it is thought that the eye sockets were carved out and the eyes added only once the statue had been erected on its ahu.

One can also climb into the crater, and admire the large freshwater lake which is bordered by nga'atu or totora reeds. These plants, native to the island, were used by the Rapanui for thatched shelter and the sort of surf boards they used for swimming in the rough seas.

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From Tongariki it was not far to ..Ranu Raraka. The quarry was.. just off the "main" road. ..The remains of hundreds of..
..unfinished moai are visible on.. ..the hillside, with just the heads . ..showing, and they stare out .. mournfully at you, from all angles
..and all directions. They were .. ..all originally just about finished Now the bodies are left below ground to preserve them.
This one records European ships but this person is just supervising Then we walked on to the volcano and its lake, and there ..
   
..were more statues on the inside slopes of the volcano.    

Having "done" the quarry that produced the statues, we drove on to Puna Pau quarry along a dirt road. This is where the red rock that made the "hats" and "top knots" is situated. Puna Pau was the sole source of the red scoria that the Rapanui used to carve the pukao (topknots) that they put on the heads of some of the moai. The stone from Puna Pau was also used for a few non-standard moai including Tukuturi (the kneeling moai) and also for some petroglyphs.

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This is another quarry, some .. ..miles from the Ranu Raraku.. quarry. Here they made the red top knots for the moai.

The dirt track then follows on to Ahu Akivi which also had an impressive restored ahu. Energetic people walk up to the top of another volcano from here.

Ahu Akivi is an ahu with seven moai. The ahu and its moai were restored in 1960 by the American archaeologist William Mulloy and his Chilean colleague, Gonzalo Figueroa García-Huidobro. They all directly face sunset during Spring and Autumn Equinox; and all their backs face sunrise during Spring and Autumn Equinox.

Unusually, I think uniquely, the Akivi-Vaiteka Complex is not located on the coast, and in addition the moai at Ahu Akivi face the ocean rather than having their backs to it. The explanation is evidently that the moai were meant to look over the village of the tribe that erected it - most villages were on the coast, but this particular village was inland, so the moai gaze out over a distant sea.

We carried on round the dirt track and eventually got back to Hang Roa in order to return the car by lunch time.

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In the evening we went to a South Sea dance show at the Kaimana Inn, for which Sharon got us the tickets. It was organised to raise money for musical instruments for local youngsters - they are trying to keep local culture alive.

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It is difficult to say how "original" the dancing is, or whether it is .. ..something that has evolved for . .tourists more recently.

Easter Island Diary