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Make-make

Looking for the easter bunny in Rapa Nui


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Our fabulous time on the island started down the right track straight from the start. Deciding not to settle with one of the touts meeting us at the airport offering rooms, we decided to check out Hanga Roa town first before committing ourselves to a family run hospedaje. After walking into town we sat down in a harbour front restaurant in order to suck down a few beers, marvel at the nice surf and be overwhelmed with the sight of our first moai.

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This is the first moai we saw

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First sunset

At the restaurant we got a tip that there might be a place for us to stay close by in a place named Apina Tupuna . WOW we thought, with a name like that it was certain to fit us juuust rightly. And hell, were we right! The basic setting was a very nice family run lodge. They had e few outside barracks and a couple of indoor rooms in the main house where they lived themselves. The family was large, with the head of the house being Elvira, an older lady with countless uncles and nephews, numerous aunties and nieces, and at least 7 children and a myriad of grandchildren. So there was a lot of nice bustling around the house all the time. Well the whole island houses only around 3800 permanent inhabitants so all natives are basically closely related to each other.

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Apina Tupuna

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Apina Tupuna

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Apina Tupuna

One of the sons had a small band studio/garage attached to the main house where they practised almost every day traditional Rapa-Nui folk music. Think Hawaiian hola-hola rhythms with stronger central pacific influence like Tahiti, Tonga or New Zealand. Nice and cute in its own right.

One day there was one of the sons’, Tony’s, birthday party. As he was also a band member we were up for a lot of music. The party was a blast, lots of booze and supplements. We offered some Turkish pepper (Finnish candy), which didn’t seem to go down too well with the locals. Our attention was drawn towards one of the band instruments being the lower jaw of a horse. By hitting on the jaw, the horse teeth would rattle – quite amusing and it kind of gives a good picture of what the mood was like at the party. The night ended at the local disco.

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Check out the instrument in his lap

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Partying with the family

The island can be crisscrossed by car in 20min but there is basically only one paved road apart from the ones in the ’capital’ Hanga Roa . We rented a scooter and did a lot of driving around on the main road as well on small dirt roads. The statues, the moais, which are truly remarkable, are scattered around the island in various locations. With more than 800 of them we had a big task of seeing them all, which one must say we did a hard effort in doing. Spectacularly nice was Ahu Tongariki, an area where 15 statues are standing next to the sea facing inland. We visited that place many times, even once for sunrise.

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Our scooter and Mickus

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Ahu Tongariki

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Ahu Tongariki

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Ahu Tongariki

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Ahu Tongariki at sunrise

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Ahu Tongariki lone moai

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Another beautiful place was Anakena beach, where 5 statues are standing next to the beach. This place also happens to be the notorious place were a fellow country man did the horrendously stupid move to cut off one of the ears of a moai and then being caught red handed. The consequences for us were that for the first time in all our travels one was ashamed to mention one was from Finland. We heard the story several times a day, well every time somebody asked from where we were. On a few occasions we were frowned upon and lectured in good behaviour, and once a lady couldn’t stop laughing for a long time, it seemed a very loooong time. Well mostly they understood that all from Finland couldn’t be placed under the same umbrella and it proved to be an easy topic for striking up a discussion with the locals. The Finn that cut the ear was supposedly still on the island serving a 2 months prison term in his hotel free to roam the island as pleased. Hell, not a bad place to spend ones prison term. Well we never saw him.

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Anakena beach

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Anakena beach

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Ahu Nau Nau. The third moai from the left is the one the Finn molested

Two other quite remarkable places worth mentioning are Rano Raraku and Rano Kau. At both places there is an impressive volcano. At Rano Kau there are several petroglyphs from the birdman cult period, whose main activity was that the one that first found an egg on a nearby island would be chief for the next year.

The second place I mentioned, Rano Raraku, is majestetically covered with moais in different states of transportation down from the volcano from where they were cut out. Some are lying, others are erect, half buried, leaning, in process of being cut out and one is even sitting. The surrounding landscape shifts in all possible shades of green on a blue backdrop. A truly magical place!

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Rano Kau volcano crater

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Birdman petroglyph

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The bigger island in the background is where the bird man competition was practiced

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Rano Raraku

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First theory on how a moai was erected

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Second theory on how a moai was erected

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Rano Raraku & huge sleeping moai

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Rano Raraku moai sniffing Mickus

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We had planned to stay for only 5 days on the island. The guides and travel agents said that 3 days is even sufficient. But we had fallen in love with the place and still thought that there was a lot left to see. Soo...on the same morning that we had our flight back, we made a last minute decision to drive past the LAN airlines office to get the ticket ex-changed before returning our scooter. Bad luck, the office was closed :( and we decided to return the scooter. Half way back to the rental place we changed our minds and decided to make a last ditch to the agency and see if it would have opened in the last 10 minutes... Well it had, and can u imagine how bewildered and chocked we were when the clerk said ’No problem! It will just cost you 50$ each to change it’. WOW, that was one of the easiest decisions in our lives. So 2 hours before our scheduled flight away we suddenly had another week on the island!!!

And we sure took the most out of it. Now having an abundance of time and having seen most of the major tourist attractions we decided to do some longer walks. We made three during our stay: one up to the highest point on the island, one around the west coast and one to the north east. Will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Strolling on the west coast

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Volcanic terrain on the north coast

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Many of the moais have still not been erected (they were all tipped over during fights between tribes)

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We found a make-make petroglyph on the west coast

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Huge carving in the mountain on the Poike peninsula in the north east part of the island

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On our way back from Poike some guys invited us to watch them slaughter a cow

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On the highest point of the island

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Ahu Akivi

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Ahu Tahai

Now we also had more time to mingle with the locals. A memorable moment was when Tony lifted out the large band speakers in the backyard herb garden. There we blasted some psy-trance that seemed to go surprisingly well down with the natives. At our residence we also met Evelin, who sheared our interest in trippy music. We would end up at here place for dinner on the last evening of our stay, which would turn out to be a mesmerizing evening.

On our last day we were just going to take it easy and relax at our place. In the morning around 12am while finishing up the first beer of the day and chatting with Evelin, suddenly Anna says ‘Hey Solveig, what are u doing here?’ It turned out that the younger sister of one of Anna’s friends, Ingemo, was travelling around the world with her boyfriend and they were stopping on Rapa-Nui for three days on their way to New Zealand. What a coincident! So they were also invited to Evelin for dinner that night. During the whole day we exchanged travel tales and boozed up on several bottles of wine, beers and whiskey. In the evening we had a nice dinner at Evelins’, listened to more psy trance and celebrated our final night. In the end we all got a bit frisky and decided to walk back into town for a few more beers. Well Solveig and Tommi decided to go and take a much needed rest while we were still in a good spirit. I even managed to finish the last of the whiskey on horseback. Yep, got a ride to the bar with a local fellow. Must have been a sight; 2 people on a horse armed with a whiskey while huffing and puffing away :)

We met a lot of nice people on our stay in Rapa Nui, they are very friendly and earthly people. They seem to enjoy themselves even if life might not be so bright on all aspects.

Being able to walk for a day without meeting anyone, just seeing a few farmers riding in the distance and then stumbling upon a moai just lying there on the ground, touches one deeply. Here you are in the middle of the pacific surrounded by thousands of kilometres of water in all directions, looking down at an giant stone statue that someone has carved out of a mountain and dragged (presumably) for kilometres over the plains to this place, makes you realise how completely different sense of reality these people must have lived in compared to oneself.

Unfortunately one got the feeling that a wind of change seemed to be sweeping the island. In what direction it would go still seems to be open for discussion. But it seems to be heading for the worse. When we visited the island it seemed to be in a cross-road of exploitation in a capitalist sense on one side and preservative nationalist movement on the other side.

During our stay we noticed some construction going on the island. Then we don’t mean just family run lodges but more like large resort kind of structures. If that’s the way they want to develop then in a few years I bet that lots of the unique vibe they now have on the island will be lost and it will become another Tahiti; a place for the rich with high prices and a franchised environment.

As Rapa Nui belongs to Chile and is a part of the state of Valparaiso, the main source of concern of the locals seemed to be a few clashing points between the island and mainland Chile. Chileans are free to move to the island if they want, and many seemed to have been lured by an easy going way of life and the fact that salaries are higher. This has resulted in mainlanders buying up property and bringing in another type of culture to the island. Another concern that angers the locals is the fact that the revenue from the park entry and other earnings are in a large part shipped back to Valparaiso. But the biggest clashing point ought to be that they don’t have the right to ancestral land or the right to govern themselves. Families that have owned their lands (well the whole island before the Europeans arrived) for generations don’t do that anymore. So there is a struggle with the government to reclaim stolen land and even a struggle for independence among the natives, which have even ended with some locals ending up in jail.

Arriving and having high hopes for the island but not being able to pinpoint what exactly to expect, we were totally blown away with what we experienced. It has exceeded all our expectations and a lot more. Where else on earth can one still wander around freely in literally an archaeological museum with priceless pieces of ’art’ without being bombarded with signs telling what to do, guards, fences, CCT cameras and herds of tourists polluting ones experience. Few places have ever captured ones imagination as Rapa Nui has.
My advice to everyone is to go and visit Rapa Nui now rather than later – to breathe in one of the last truly free breaths of fresh air left on the planet. RIVA-RIVA!

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Posted by AnnaMickus 08:20 Archived in Chile

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