Easter Island idyll

Thursday 12th February 2015. Day 157. Eastward extension

We completed our packing this morning, carefully weighing all the components of our luggage to find that, with a little bit of sleight of hand, we should pass any check in tests. After breakfast Eric walked Joyce to her hair appointment then returned to complete some last minute arrangements, booking a tour of Tahiti and an airport transfer for Santiago. This done he went back to collect Joyce and pay the bill. Last minute checks complete we went down into the car park and loaded the car for the last time. Once we had exited we had to park so Eric could return the car park keys to the accommodation. With the gps programmed for our last New Zealand destination, the car rental depot, we headed off via Epsom to drop off the car. This passed very smoothly and a minibus took us to international departures where the queue moved slowly. On check in all our bags were weighed and Eric was glad of pockets to temporarily house some heavier items from the hand luggage. On leaving the UK we had decided to limit the amount of cash we carried and therefore did not have any for Tahiti nor Easter Island, the latter needing a significant sum to pay for the accommodation. Eric had built up a stash of New Zealand dollars but not enough for the future demands therefore wanted to draw some more, before visiting currency exchange to set us up for the next two legs of the trip. He was somewhat nonplussed on having his perfectly reasonable request for a cash withdrawal refused owing to lack of available funds. All sorts of scenarios ran through his mind but, having checked the account balance, the worst of these had not occurred. At a second ATM, reducing the amount required, gave us the minimum needed, The next phase of the operation proved even more time consuming as we juggled the exchange of New Zealand dollars into three other currencies, US dollars, Tahitian francs and Chilean pesos, to maximise the amount exchanged. The teller was very helpful and we emerged with only 10c remaining in New Zealand currency. Having taken so long playing with money meant that we were nearing boarding time on the wrong side of the passport and security checks. Thankfully both of these were negotiated with the minimum of delay thanks to e-passports our departure from New Zealand was a lot faster than our arrival. When we arrived at the gate we went straight on to the plane to find ourselves seated in the central block behind a large family, including an active infant and noisy 5 year old. The flight passed uneventfully, although as we made our landing we were exposed to some significant turbulence, the result of cumulo-nimbus clouds which produced torrential rain and impressive lightning as we disembarked. Being in the EU proved a blessing as we entered Tahiti with one less form to fill in and through a relatively fast passport lane with fewer passengers. Luggage came off the carousel relatively quickly and our transport to Fare Suisse was waiting in the arrivals hall. While we were waiting for his other passengers we were entertained by a group of men doing the hake and presenting their returning friends with over a dozen lei round their necks. The rain having eased, we were then transported and settled in our room and ready to sleep.

Thursday 12th February 2015. Day 158 Déjà Vu

We have now jumped back 24 hours and are 10 hours behind the UK rather than 13 hours ahead, so we has the luxury of a second Thursday 12th February. We both slept very deeply and were awoken by the alarm at 0800, Eric finding it particularly difficult to stir himself. Once up we started to repack. We had ordered breakfast last night but the order had not been registered, however, after a little behind the scenes action, we had an acceptable petite dejeuner placed before us. After breakfast we completed packing, checking out just after 10.00am, we then sat on the terrace watching the continuing rain. By the time Beni arrived to take us to the ferry terminal, just after 11.00am, the rain had stopped. We were dropped at the ferry just after 11.30am and having converted our internet tickets into the proper billets we sat and waited until the Aremiti 2 docked, just before 12.30pm. Boarding was quick and the ferry slipped its moorings a few minutes after its scheduled time at 12.50pm. Heading out into the harbour we had a good view of the port activities. On the water were a number of outrigger canoes being put through their paces. Passing through the harbour mouth, a gap in the fringing reef, we headed across the channel towards Moorea. The clouds shrouded the peaks of both islands. The crossing was very smooth and was enlivened by the tireless activity of numerous seabirds gliding over the low, white capped swells and soaring over the bows of the ferry. The harbour of Viaira necessitated another narrow passage through fringing reefs and having negotiated the treacherous entrance we smoothly reversed into the ferry berth. Disembarking was relatively swift and once ashore we headed for the battered bus pulled up near the terminal. An enquiry as to whether it was travelling our way led us to a second bus, parked just behind. The driver took our money and Eric hoped that having asked to be dropped at our hotel, just north of Haapiti, that we would be dropped at the right place. The bus left very soon after and headed clockwise along the coastal road that rings the island. Lined with residences there were few signs to locate us. Eventually we pulled up at Linareva and were soon checked into our studio by 2.20pm. Collapsing on the bed we slept for a couple of hours before going for a walk to explore the environs of our current abode. On the seaward side was a jetty that allowed access to deeper water for swimming, from which we could see shoals of fish. We admired the landward views of steep volcanic ridges clothed in tropical greenery. Reaching the road we headed north to what we hoped would be a supermarket. The road was fairly busy, with convoys of vehicles weaving their way around the potholes. While we had slept the wind had significantly increased and we were exposed to falling palm branches and coconuts. Passing the two local eateries, a roadside van and a pizzeria, we continued our quest, after some time Joyce sought directions from a local restaurant, but our limited French suggested the market was still some distance away and with high winds and rain clouds threatening we decided to return. Nearing the hotel Joyce investigated the roadside van and the proprietor opened up for us, cooking Boeuf et Legumes and Poulet Citron, which we ate on our verandah while photographing a magnificent sunset.

Friday 13th February 2015. Day 159 Moorea miscellany

The weather turned rainy overnight and we had awoken to the steady drumming of drops on the roof, counterpointing the chirrups of the large house gecko. Breakfast had been ordered for 9.00am and we enjoyed our fruit, bread and bacon and eggs looking out over the choppy lagoon with the ocean surf breaking in majestic rolls on the outer reef, creating a constant distant thunder. Heavy squalls continued during the morning so we enjoyed the semi-outdoor life on the comfortable veranda furniture beneath the large sheltering roof, reading and game playing. The intensity of the rain was impressive, as were the swirls created by the gusts of wind blowing the curtains of rain across our view, masking the waves from our sight and hearing. Late morning there was a break in the weather so Eric took one of the sea kayaks out for a reconnaissance of the lagoon. Looking seaward the breaking waves looked even more majestic while landwards the heavily eroded volcanoes created a stunning backdrop of sharp, buttressed ridges with magnificent inland cliffs, covered in lush vegetation. The highest peaks remained shrouded in thick cloud. As he paddled further out Eric was fortunate to see a ray jumps above the sea surface. Having found that he could remember how to make a canoe follow a more or less straight course, Eric returned to the beach to collect Joyce for a trip out over the coral. The clarity of the water, despite the surface disturbances by the variable wind, allowed an excellent view of the coral blocks separated by white coral sand. The coral seemed to be growing well, with brilliant blues, purples, oranges and reds in areas of active growth. The coral was largely blocky although brain and plate corals could be seen as we glided effortlessly inches above the coral. Despite seeing a wide variety of fish from the end of the jetty, which extended to the edge of the inner reef, we failed to spot any fish further out. Eric kept an eye on the mountain peaks, watching the clouds gather and stream seaward, accompanied by strengthening wind and curtains of rain moving swiftly down the valley. Not wishing to be caught out in a storm like the one we had experienced this morning, in comfort, Eric headed back to the beach, leaving the canoe hauled up on the sand in anticipation of another trip out before a snorkel from the jetty. As we ate our lunch, the baguette remaining from breakfast, the rain again returned with a vengeance and set in for the afternoon, forcing us to just sit and enjoy the free time. As evening approached, with no sign of a let up in the rain, Eric set off in his trusty rain jacket and armed with a torch, up the road to the pizzeria which was hopefully open tonight despite the weather. He was heartened in his quest by noting the food truck was open and soon arrived at the pizza place which was open and doing a reasonable trade. 20 minutes later carrying a La Reine (ham, mushroom and olives) and a Trios Fromages Eric returned to Joyce through the slackening rain to deliver tonight’s dinner, which was very tasty. Unfortunately the cloud precluded a sunset extravaganza tonight.

Saturday 14th February 2015 Day 160 Paddling peregrinations

We woke to improved weather with broken cloud and sunshine creating a beautiful azure effect in the lagoon. Breakfast was again at 9.00am and we savoured the food in such a beautiful setting. Improved weather meant more potential for activity so once our meal had settled we had another paddle, a little further into the lagoon, again with no fish. We had seen fish jumping in the shallows and Eric had spotted a black tip reef shark, but nothing while we were out. The wind again proved troublesome but the threatened rain thankfully came to naught. Borrowing mask and snorkel we went to the end of the jetty and entered the warm embrace of the lagoon. The reef edge here proved to be an excellent habitat for a variety of fish, many we recognised but still could not name. Two sea snakes were of interest as were the multiple colours exposed along the margins of clams and the large anemones. Returning to our cabin we reprised yesterday’s lunch before heading out on the water again. Eric followed this with another snorkel before a rushed shower and change as we were being collected by an Avis representitive, based further north at the intercontinental Hotel, at 3.30pm. Her slightly early arrival put us under a little pressure but soon we were picking our way through the potholes back to her office. Once the paperwork was completed at 4.15pm, we were footloose and fancy free, with the car to be returned to the office near the ferry terminal at Vaiare in 24 hours. Although not the cheapest car hire rate we worked it out to be the best option to allow us to see what we wanted and allowing an easy return to the ferry while keeping our luggage secure. Leaving the car park we headed clockwise around the northern part of the island. Stopping at one village to look at a distinctive church we then found the ‘good’ road to the Belvedere lookout, which we followed. On the way we came across the Opuhere Archie logical complex, a series of marae, meeting or te mole platforms. Built of volcanic boulders in the drystone technique and decorated with short standing stones these proved of interest, as did the supposed archery platform at the upper end of the site. Reaching the viewpoint we enjoyed the landscape laid out before us with a sheer 500 meter cliff behind. The views of Cook Bay and its headlands were delightful, although the cloud and evening light made it difficult to photograph. There is a forest walk available but we did not feel we had the time to enjoy it properly, so decided to drive on. Retracing our path we rejoined the coast road. The next section proved to be of superior quality, although still with 60 kph limit. As we drove we could see glimpses of the mountainous interior to our right and the coast to our left. We had been recommended the Moorea Beach Café as a good place to eat but not having found it by the time we reached the airport turnoff we turned round and by dint of careful map reading by Joyce we found the restaurant, set right on the sea edge. Being St Valentine’s Day they had laid on a special his and her’s set menu which we sat down to eat as the sun set behind the headland to our left. Having thoroughly enjoyed our romantic meal we headed back in the dark to our accommodation.

 

Sunday 15th February 2015. Day 161 Shark swim

The highlight of any visit to Moorea is apparently the Lagoonarium so after breakfast at 8.30am and checking out at 9.15 am we headed counter clockwise back towards the ferry port. A few kilometres before the ferry we found the entry to this attraction. Having bought tickets and hired masks and snorkels we were taken in an outboard driven outrigger by Wilfred, the proprietor, to the outer of a pair of Motu, small islands, just inside the outer reef. On this narrow islet a concrete platform had been constructed on which were set A frame palm huts and, in the form of a boat, a bar with shower and toilet. Outside each hut and in landscaped sandy areas along the seaward edge was ample seating. In the lagoon on the seaward side a rope, supported by buoys, led through the lagoon and around a rocky outcrop. Our first introduction was to the most dangerous denizen of this stretch of reef, the stone fish, and we were reminded of the importance of good shoes (we were both wearing our water shoes) to avoid stepping on the poisonous spines of this camouflaged creature that lies in the coral sand with only its eyes showing. From here we were shown the facilities and the cabin that was ours for the day. Once settled Eric took to the water and found the purpose of the rope lone, which facilitated exploring the coral given the strong current that runs just offshore. The fish life here was even more prolific and included at least 4 stingrays, that had had their stings blunted, and 10 black tip reef sharks. The fish are fed twice a day, around 11.30am and 2.00pm, near the island and in deeper water. Although not a feeding frenzy the mass of piscine bodies is a magnificent sight. Joyce also enjoyed a tour of part of the reef, admiring again the wide variety of familiar if anonymous species, but found the current too strong to complete the circuit and returned to the calmer waters. Having arrived at 10.45am we left at 3.40pm. Unfortunately our return to Moorea was not without incident and Eric failed in a fundamental husbandly duty, not catching Joyce as she slipped exiting the canoe. Wet clothes and a wrenched and grazed knee were the outcome. Having changed and treated the damage we continued towards the ferry and on past it to complete our circuit of the island. Shortly after a fine viewpoint we reached the airport turnoff which marked last night’s furthest foray. Turning round we went back to the ferry, stopping at the petrol station, then returning the car to the Avis office at 4.45pm. We had a little time in hand so repaired to the café sandwiched between Shell and Avis for a coffee and then a snack meal. While eating we saw the catamaran of a second ferry company, Tuareva, that we had not found online and which left a little earlier. However having in our possession tickets for the 6.45pm Aremiti ferry, at Seniors rates, we waited for this vessel to arrive. We had hoped to catch the sunset from the ferry but it was late leaving and although the light and the view of Moorea’s mountains silhouetted against the amber sky were special, it did not make for easy photographs, especially as the wind and sea swells conspired to destabilise the camera. We arrived at the terminal at around 8.45pm to find Beni, our Fare Suisse host, waiting to run us back. We were put in the room we had previously used and after admiring the splendid star studded sky we retired to bed.

 

Monday 16th February 2015. Day 162. Tahiti turnaround

With the flight to Easter Island being in the early hours of tomorrow morning this was always going to be a strange day. Although we had to be out of our room by 10.00am Beni was happy for us to use the public facilities and to run us to the airport at 10.00pm. We therefore had booked an afternoon tour of the island to make best use the time. Breakfast at 8.30am allowed time for first approximation of packing. And having moved the luggage into store, and being entrusted with the key, we sat reading on the terrace until 11.30am when we left to head for our 1.00pm pick up at Le Retro restaurant in the Vaimo shopping centre. Two cruise ships were in port, Ocean Princess running a 10 day cruise around the islands, and P and O’s Aurora. Fare Suisse seemed to acting as a staging post for US cruisers travelling from and to LA. We walked into town via the local church, not open, and the Tahiti Autonomy gardens, which extended for a long stretch along the harbour. Reaching the shopping centre we saw the restaurant and headed off to visit the cathedral before Eric dragged Joyce the other way round the shopping centre to be sure that it was the right restaurant. Once sure we took up station outside the restaurant at 12.40pm. At just after 1.00pm Ruth, our guide, made contact and having found two more of the party we moved to a small minibus which was to be our tour vehicle. We picked up another, Canadian, couple then headed clockwise along the 113 kilometre coastal road. Our first stop was a viewpoint to overlook Papeete, the reef and Moorea with glimpses of the cloud shrouded interior mountains. Next we visited Venus Point, the headland from which Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus on his first voyage. As well as a monument to this there are monuments to The Bounty crew and to the English missionaries, and a lighthouse designed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father. A little further on brought us to the blow hole, an impressive hydraulic spray emerging from the kerbside of the old coastal road which went around the headland, beneath which the waves force water into fissures in the volcanic rock. We next visited an impressive waterfall which starts with a double flow over a 10 meter drop before combining in plunge pool and then falling the remaining 100 metres. The access to the viewpoint had been chained off because of the risk of rock fall but we were happy to cross the barrier ‘at our own risk’. Passing a number of coconut groves we noted metal collars near the tops of the palm trunks. We had seen these in New Zealand on power poles and trees, where they prevent possums electrocuting themselves and shorting out the supply or damaging the growing vegetation. Here they prevent rats and coconut crabs, the latter huge, the length of a wheelie bin, and apparently good eating, from damaging commercial coconut crops. We continued south, crossing the isthmus which connects Tahiti Nui (big) with Tahiti Iti (little), and drove in to see the exterior of the Gaugin museum, which is under renovation. Whilst of some interest the collection does not contain any Gaugin masterpieces save a few on loan from a local collector plus some studies, although there are works by other painters. The museum is next door to the botanic gardens which hosts two Galapagos tortoises, now well over 140 years old. A short distance further on we visited the Vaiphai gardens, a beautifully laid out garden around a small lake, planted with local flora on a site associated with historical ritual mummification. The gardens extend up valley into a forest walk which time did not permit. Continuing north we stopped briefly at one of the fern grottoes which was a favourite of Gaugin, appearing in three of his paintings, to which he cycled the 13 kilometres from his lodgings near Papeete. This is a cave at the foot of what appears to be a relict sea cliff, the mouth of which is fringed with large ferns and which contains a pool of water. Our last stop was at a Marae which consists of three platforms, illustrating the dry stone construction using lava boulders with courtyards and altar structures. The copies of two tiki, carved figures, stand near the entrance. The originals are in the gardens of the Gaugin museum. Stopping only to return two of the party to the Airport hotel we returned to the centre of Papeete. We then headed for the food vans next to the ferry terminal, a pop up food court complete with tables and chairs for each van. A wide variety of cuisines was on offer and we selected an Italian van, sitting a daytime carpal, between two huge cruise liners, enjoying our meal of steak fries and tagliatelli while watching the sun set over Moorea. After the meal we sat on a bench to watch the world go by before walking back along the waterfront and through the gardens to our main landmark, the church we had passed on our way out. Eric then found he had miscalculated his route as we found ourselves on an unfamiliar back street in the dark as we had no torch and there was no street lighting. Eventually Eric realised his mistake and we pushed on another block to find our street and the guest house. Once back we retrieved the luggage and completed the final bits of repacking. The ticket, which Eric had not read fully, told us for this leg we had 3 pieces of 23kg luggage each with 16 kg of hand luggage, which made our packing easier. Benin arrived at 10.00pm and having settled the bill he drove us to the airport where we joined along queue for the LAN desks that were yet to open. While in the queue Eric finally got round to reading the ticket properly and it finally dawned on him, confirmed by the clearly printed ticket, that somehow for this leg we were booked into Business Class. Reaching a temporary desk that was vetting the queue we were diverted into the right line for Business Class and after another 20 minutes wait we finally checked in. Passing through the final checks we waited in the Departure lounge.

Tuesday 17th February 2016. Day 163. Easter extension

25 minutes later than scheduled, at 0.45 am we began to board the aircraft, feeling very special as we had a separate boarding gate. Once aboard we found our luxurious seats and were treated to personal service with a drink and snacks before take off. Joyce enjoyed a glass of champagne while Eric succumbed to the lure of a Pisco Sour, about the only alcoholic drink that he enjoys. Once airborne we selected a chicken dinner and then settled into our horizontal beds for a few hours sleep. We were awakened just before the plane started its descent and landed on Easter Island at 12.40 pm, with our first view of a platform complete with carved head. Business Class offered a final benefit as we were near the head of the queue for immigration, which seemed to take a long time to process each passport. Once through that check we found our luggage already circulating on the carousel, although Joyce’s suitcase had somehow been knocked off into the central space. With no one around to help Eric nipped across the conveyor belt to retrieve it then nipped backed through a narrow gap in the moving line of suitcases. One final check through customs and we had arrived. At the door of the terminal our host, Ricardo, held up a board with our name on it and we were soon in his car wearing our garland of flowers delivered by his daughter Miele. He took us for a short tour of the main places in Hanga Roa for eating, shopping, banking and car hire before taking us home, close to the end of the runway. We are staying in a cottage in their garden and were soon installed, enjoying a glass of watermelon juice having been introduced to Miriam, his wife. Feeling tired after the travel and all too brief sleep, we settled for a quiet afternoon. Eric sat and read and caught up with the blog while Joyce enjoyed a snooze. In the early evening we went out to explore, checking out restaurants and supermarkets. Eric had a huge problem getting his head around the exchange rate but finally thought he had worked it out. Not feeling very hungry we opted to buy some provisions from a supermarket then walked back, pausing only to chat to another English couple, staying in a hotel near us, who we had seen in the immigration queue. Back in our cottage Joyce cooked scrambled egg on toast and we turned in for the night with the comfort of a cooling fan delivered by Ricardo. Wednesday 18th February 2015 Day 164. Easter easement We slept well and awoke briefly as an aircraft arrived before awakening fully just after 9.00am. We had a very relaxed and leisurely morning. Miriam popped in to take cash payment for the cottage. After a sandwich lunch we strolled into town to check out car hire. This proved to be too expensive to just have a car for all our stay so we booked a small jeep for two days, starting at 3.00pm tomorrow. On our walk we found the harbour and had our first close up view of two Ahu, platforms on which were placed the Moai, the giant stylised carved heads. In this case one Moai was free standing with a complete head on one platform and a fragment on the other. We sat on the headland near the harbour for a while watching the bathers on the two tiny pocket beaches in the low volcanic cliffs while offshore surfers and body boarders enjoyed the challenge of the rolling ocean waves. Close by were the two banks, both closed for the day, but Eric tried out the Santander ATM to withdraw some more local currency. The first machine was recalcitrant but the second gave up the cash. Walking back to our cottage we paused at an ice cream emporium and at the supermarket to buy provisions for tonight’s meal. Food prices are UK equivalent or slightly more and it proved difficult to source recognisable meat, although fresh vegetables, if a little jaded, cooked meat products and pasta seem in ready supply. We found the heat and humidity enervating and the walk tired us out further, leading to a nap before Joyce cooked supper, a carrot and bean Bolognese sauce on pasta with an undressed slaw and tomatoes on the side. We spent a little time reading some local information about the island and its archaeological remains to formulate a plan of campaign. Easter Island is triangular in plan, rising 3,000 metres from the ocean floor, the corners rounded and marked by major volcanoes. To the north is Maunga Terevaka, the largest, rising to 507 metres and youngest at 200,000 years old. Its north and west coasts have no roads rendering the sites of Hanga O’Pea, Hanga Omohi, Hanga Otero and Vai Tara Kai Ua accessible only on foot or by boat. Rano Kau, 2 million years old to the south and in the north east the oldest, Poike, 3 million years old and standing 307 metres tall. The landscape also boasts a further 104 volcanic edifices of craters, cones and domes. Hanga Roa is the only settlement and there is one major cross island road to Anakena half way along the north coast with another back to Hanga Roa by way of much of the south coast. One road leads towards the interior site at Ahu Akivi, returning along the west coast as a dirt track, and another out to the south west to the site at Orongo. We decided to start with the south coast, then the north and finally the centre and west.

Thursday 19th February. Day 165 Passing platforms

We had booked the car for 3pm so felt no pressure in getting up. We sorted ourselves out and left for town at 12.30pm with a sudden concern that perhaps our watches were wrong, having seen no other timepiece since our arrival. In passing we popped onto a hardware store where two clocks behind the counter confirmed our watches as correct, although on leaving the other clocks on a side shelf told a different story. Having time in hand we walked through the memorial park and found our way to the Roman Catholic Church, the site of worship in Hanga Roa for almost 150 years. Although a simple structure the interior boasted some interesting wood carvings of local origin. Heading back to the care hire location we stopped for lunch at a small café then collected the car. Our first destination was the local National Park Office where we bought our $60 entry tickets, valid for five days. Continuing south we rounded the western edge of the Ranu Kau crater, reaching a viewpoint allowing full appreciation of the feature. It originally contained a lake, which is silting up, creating a series of ponds and which supports a wide variety of plants in its microclimate protected from the wind and sea spray. A little further on we reached Orongo ceremonial village. This represents the final phase of indigenous culture which developed in the 18th century when the ancestor worship represented by the Moai was replaced by the Tangatu-Manu ritual. They resolved power struggles between clans by a race to obtain the first egg of the Sooty Tern, from the island of Moto Nui, involving a climb down 150 metre vertical cliffs, a 1.4kilometre swim, a long wait until the birds laid then the return trip to Orongo. The winner’s clan held power over the island until the next competition. The village comprised boat shaped, corbel roofed structures built of basalt slabs and covered in grass. At the southern end of the village petroglyphs recorded the birdman cult and the deity Make Make. Returning down the volcano we visited Ana Kai Tangata, a sea cave with remnants of paintings representing Tangatu-Manu. The rock here is finely layered leading to rapid and extensive roof collapse, destroying much of the decoration. Driving around the airfield we reached the westernmost accessible site on the south coast. Vine Pu has two ruined ahu with their moai pushed over, face down, landwards. Their pukao, top knots, lie scattered where they had rolled. The platforms are ramped to landwards, the moai originally standing on a flats section on the seaward side and facing to the land. They are also bounded each end by lower platforms. One of the ahu had the main seaward wall constructed in Incan style cyclopean masonry, while the other was of vertical slab construction. Heading east along the coast road we passed and from a distance photographed Hanga Hahave,, Hanga Poukura and Tanaka Poukoura before we visited Vail Hu, built by the bay of Hanga Te’e. As part of this complex there was a canoe ramp. The ahu supported 8 moai now face down with pukao scattered around. We next visited Hanga Hua Reva before driving on past Ura Uranga Te Marina, finally reaching Akahanga, which had two ahu, but in this case some moai were pushed seawards and lay on their backs. Although we were both invigorated by our first foray into the culture of Easter Island time was getting on so we returned to the cottage by 8pm for sandwiches. The advantage of the time zone here is that the sun does not set before 9.30 pm, allowing exploration later in the day.

 

Friday 20th February. Day 166 Moai musings

Having gained some feel as to the time needed to do the archaeological remains justice we were away by 9.30 am towards the north coast, reaching the bay at Anakena by 10am. The site, also known as Nau Nau, consists of a reconstructed ahu, with seven moai, four with pukao. The terrace edge stones are well dressed basalt. The complex also boasts examples of Manahan, circular walls to protect plants, traces of village with hare oka, round stone houses, and hare moa, stone chicken coops, house foundation stone of well dressed stone with holes along top edge and umu pae fireplaces surrounded by 5 to 7 partially buried rocks. On the site was also a ruined aha all set behind a sandy, palm fringed beach. Here we took the opportunity to enjoy a paddle in the warm waters, walking from one end of the bay to the other. From here we drove east and visited the ruin of Te Pito Kara on which can be seen, lying face down on the landward side of the platform the last and largest moai erected by a widow in memory of her husband, at 10 metres tall. Most moai are in the four to six metre range. Continuing our drive we passed Ahu Heki’I and then visited Papa Vaka, an expanse of dressed basalt with sea themed petroglyphs, including hooks, canoes, tuna and a well defined shark. Driving on we viewed Ahu Ra’ai then stopped at Hanga Taharoa where we found six ruined Ahus, one in the cove and one set back from the others, consisting of well dressed cyclopean masonry to seaward. Before reaching the south coast we stopped briefly to look at Pu O Hire a stone with carved holes, which in local lore acted as a fish caller and was often a tribal prize. Stopping for lunch in the car park with a view of the site of Tongariki, at the head of a bay and set against the brilliant blue sea. After eating we visited the site which is dominated by a restored Aha supporting 15 moai, only 1 with a Pukoa. On the landwards side are village remnants, curved edging blocks laid in the shape of boat which were the foundation of hare paenja, noble’s houses. These were 10 to 15 meters long structures with flexed branches fixed into the holes supporting cross beams and teaching. A narrow door was inserted halfway one side. One had been reconstructed near the site entrance. At the northern edge of the site lay Papa Tataku Poke with more fine petroglyphs on horizontal surfaces showing Tuna, hooks, canoes and Make Make. A short drive inland brought us to Rano Raraku. This was the quarry for Moai and the site boasts a large number some in process of being carved out of the cliff face, other set into the hillside with a trail of moai, in the process of being moved, leading to the south west. Joyce now feeling exhausted settled down on a comfortable chair to enjoy a drink while Eric walked to the inside of the crater revealing a beautiful crater lake. On the slopes above the southern edge of the lake more Moai can be seen. On his return, we took advantage of the local retail opportunity to buy postcards. As we stopped to photograph some of the moai abandoned in transit we were accosted by a charming young couple looking for a lift. They turned out to be from Corsica and we agreed to give these hitchhikers a lift. Continuing along the south coast we stopped for a view of Hanga Tu’u Hate before making a short visit to One Makihi where we were able to assist a tourist with flat tyre by lending him part of our jack. From here we visited Hanga Tetenga where one moai was pushed seaward before viewing Runga Va’e and Oroi from the car. Dropping our passengers off and a quick visit to the supermarket brought us back by 6.30 pm for Joyce to cook a Fritata in three parts with fried potato. Saturday 21st February 2015. Day 167 Cave contortions Given that we had the car only until 3.00pm we left a little earlier at 9.10 am and soon found ourselves the only visitors to Puna Pau. This is a Scoria cone, a distinctively red rock, which was used for the Pukao. The masons cut out cylinders of rock which were then transported and completed onsite at the ahu. A number of quarried cylinders lie on site, in the quarry or trailing south westwards down the side of the cone. There are clear petroglyphs on lower abandoned ones which seem to be bird man and Make Make. Our next site was Ahu Akivi, which has been restored with seven moai, reputedly honouring the ancestral discoverers of Easter Island. This site is the furthest from sea and is orientated to sunset on equinox. There are 3 cremation sites behind the platform. From Ahu Akivi we joined a dirt road which showed the value of hiring a jeep with its high wheelbase. The road was distinctly rugged and the jeep was able to cope well when driving over large steep rock steps on the ruggedly rutted ruin of a road. At Ana Te Pabu we found a lava tube which had been used as a defensive clan site. Eric descended into the partially collapsed skylight entrance and found that the lava tube had a well defended entrance, being filled with stone walls, rock structures inside, and at the other end another complete skylight, which was also defended. Driving on we reached the west coast and the site of Ahu Tepeu. Here we found extensive village remains with hare moa and a number of oval hut bases, one of these being significantly larger than any we had seem. The site also boasted 2 ruined ahu. Returning to the dirt road we came to Ana Te Pora, another lava tube, with two defended entrances, one a very narrow crawl through which Eric entered before discovering the easier entrance through which Joyce saw the site. From here we had a good view Motu Tuatara, a small, flat, offshore island a few metres above the sea. A little further on led us to a third lava tube dwelling site at Anu Kakenga. This had a very well defended single entrance, with a long narrow crawl. This one we only looked into. Reaching a better road as we neared Hanga Roa we reached Hanga Kio’e. Here we found two restored ahu, one supporting a complete moai, the other a fragment. Our final visit was to Thai which is a restored complex of 3 ahu, with a canoe ramp in middle. The southern ahu has four complete moai, one with damaged head and one fragment, other two support one moai. The northern ahu is a complete restoration with the moai boasting white and black eye infills and a Pukao. Also on the site were reconstructions of Orongo village houses. Having completed the eastern circuit by 2.00pm we returned the car and on the walk home we did some grocery shopping, returning to the cottage by 3.10pm. We then settled down to enjoy some restful reading. In the evening Joyce prepared a delicious meal of chicken in mushroom sauce and pasta.

 

Sunday 22nd February 2015. Day 168 Easter evanescence

We left for church 10.30 am but as we opened the gate two of the three resident dogs followed us as if they expected a morning constitutional. This continued well down the main street so Eric brought them back and closed the gate on them but they escaped again and we were again followed all the way to the church. The service was a Roman Catholic Mass, in Spanish, with a standard sung liturgy, well known by the locals, with no musicians, or hymns. Communion was only the bread. It rained heavily just after service started at 11.05 and before it ended at 11.45am, so we escaped a soaking. After the service we wandered through some souvenir shops and bought postcards before stopping at a café for a pizza lunch. Continuing our daily tradition we bought a few groceries returning to the cottage by 2.30pm. We again enjoyed a quiet afternoon and evening with a sandwich snack to end the day.

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