Today we got up at 430 am to get to the airport by 615 for our 815 flight, that finally left at late at 1215! The 3800 km flight from Santiago to Easter Island (Isla Pascua) takes almost 6 hours.
This is one of the most isolated inhabited islands on the planet and is formed by 3 extinct volcanoes. It was originally settled by people from the Polynesian island of Marquesas 3200 km away around 300-1200 CE. The Rapa Nui people began creating the Moai statues to venerate their dead ancestors, who could then they felt transfer power and fortune to their descendants.
At the peak there were about 15,000 inhabitants, but because of over population and deforestation it dropped to about 2500 by 1722 when the first Europeans arrived. Diseases and slave trading dropped the population to just over 100 in 1877. This caused the loss of everyone who could read the only written Polynesian language known. The battles between the tribes involved toppling of other tribes Moai.
It was called Easter Island because it’s first European visitor arrived here on Easter Sunday. The over population and lack of resources allowed the warrior tribes to gain power over the Ancestor (Moai) Cult and this formed the Bird Man Cult. The power of the ancestors was cast in to the Birdman and this began about 1540. The idea was a warrior from each of the 15 tribes competed to get the first egg of the Sooty Tern that nested on the islets nearby. The competitions began around 1760 and ended in 1878.
We arrived to the island on a cloudy evening.
We checked into our cabana at the hotel, which actually has a view of the Tahai Moai in the distance.
We walked into town.
There is quite a cemetery here with an amazing view.
Then we celebrated with a glass of bubbly and then a great sunset on the beach at Ahu Te Peu.
On the first morning here we had a beautiful day to start out as we joined a tour to a ceremonial cave, the Ceremonial Village of Orongo, and the volcano. This gave us a good taste of the history here before we set off on our own in a rental jeep to explore.
The first stop was at Ana Kai Tangata. This cave was used for ceremonial purposes and has paintings of the Sooty Tern.
Next we headed to the Ceremonial village of Orongo. This was only occupied during the Bird Man Competition.
The village is on a narrow strip on land on the rim of the crater.
There are some interesting displays in the visitor center. This includes photos of the stolen Moai that is in the British Museum, but as you can see it is in much better condition than those on the island.
We toured the site and got stuck in a rain strom, but then we were treated to a rainbow over the islets Motu Iti and Motu Nui.
The houses are round and made totally of stone. They have only one narrow entrance accessed by crawling only. This was designed for safety of the leaders inside.
The path then leads to the crater of Volcano Rano Kau, which is filled with fresh water. Nearly all the flora and fauna of the island can be found here in the crater.
We stopped at the other side of the crater for a view of the rest of the island, the town, and the days plane arriving. There are also some petroglyphs here.