If I was at all worried about not being able to fully appreciate Easter Island after the immenseness of Antarctica, today proved me wrong. As we toured various archeological sites today I was amazed at just how complimentary the two locations were in terms of my Ecotourism course. While Antarctica appealed to my passion for environmental and ecological topics, Easter Island is appealing to my imagination and my desire to understand other cultures. I’m trying hard to soak it all in (I took 14 pages of notes!!) but there is still so much I have yet to learn! I will try to keep this post a moderate length but I don’t even know where to start!
I suppose I should start with last night. I had zero expectation for New Years Eve as I was travelling by myself and was totally content to have a quiet evening appreciating my surroundings. So it was a complete serendipity to have a fabulous evening with a couple of new friends from the ship. There were two long tables laden with every type of seafood you could imagine, prepared in every way you could imagine. The backdrop for this feast was a sunset over the pacific that were equal in beauty to those in Costa Rica. The night finished off with a champagne toast and fireworks at midnight before heading to bed. It was a perfect start to 2015.
At 9:30 we left for the days adventures and drove first to Vinapu, a ceremonial site with monolithic stonework reminiscent of the Inca civilization in Peru. The 7 min drive to the other side of the island was a quiet one with the only other cars on the road being the little Jimny 4x4 driven by tourists (these must be the rental cars of Latin America as they were all over CR as well). Our guide, Ata, provides us a very interesting perspective on what we are seeing. He is a local of the island and grew up with parents who were both archeologists. He is doing an excellent job of balancing what the archeologists assume from their findings (and all of their competing opinions) with the oral history of the native Rapa Nui people of the island. Other features of interest at this site were the remains of some “top knots” red stones hats that were placed on some of the statues, and the only stone carving in the shape of a woman on the entire island. You could also see the extreme difference in the flora on this side of the island as it’s exposed to much stronger winds and harsher weather. Vegetation was limited to grasses, thistles, a plant that looked like Labrador tea (I’ll have to figure out what it is tomorrow) and Guyaba. I’m used to Guyaba growing in trees 15-20ft tall, but the tallest of these was about 3 feet tall, with fruit no bigger than my thumb. A perfect example of the harshness of this island that the Rapa Nui had to deal with once the protection afforded by trees disappeared a few hundred years ago.
Our final stop of the morning was at a single statue on a piece of private property. The notable thing about this statue, wasn’t the statue but it’s surroundings. Behind the statue (but hidden by trees) there was a disco that was still going strong from the festivities of the night before. This provided a bit of an odd contrast as we took pictures of this ancient statue while listening to reggatone in the background.
Now I’m not usually one to write about food or take pictures of food, but I’m going to bring up food for the second time in this post. I ordered Rapa Nui Ceviche for lunch and it was probably one of the best meals I have ever had. Unlike Ceviche that I’ve had in past, the locals do not marinate the fish in lemon juice in ordered to “cook” it. Instead it is added last minute (along with the onion, cilantro etc) as more of a marinade or dressing. So essentially, it ends up being a fusion of tuna sashimi and ceviche, two of my favorite foods in one! I don’t think I every want to come home.
Our first stop after lunch was my favorite. It was been fascinating to see the alters and statues in person, however, the caves of Sector Ana Te Pahu were a great surprise. After the last volcanic eruption that occurred between two and three thousand years ago, 300+ lava tube caves formed an extensive network in this sector of the island. In some cases there was a large opening to the cave where the tube had collapsed, and these large openings ended up being “greenhouse” areas. In other places the opening to the cave was the size of a manhole and offered more protection to the Rapa Nui who would have lived there. We spent some time walking through a three hundred meter section of one cave, learning about cooking, water collection etc in the cave system, as well as the religious experience had by sensory deprivation in the darkest sections of the cave.
Our final stop of the day was Panu Pau, the red scoria quarry where the hats or top knots were carved from. The small hike to the top provided views down in to the quarry, where these large round cylinders were in various stages of being cut out, stopped by the collapse of the society that was excavating them. It also offered views of the town, two of the three volcanoes and a number 80+ cinder cones that cover the island. All around you are reminded of this island's volcanic origins!
Well that's all for tonight! I wish I could have uploaded more pictures but each one is taking at minimum 10 minutes to load and I need to go to sleep!