A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about easter

Moais and Birdmen

Giant Heads

We have set up two days of touring. As everyone on the island - tourists that is - all go to the same place, we've joined a group to tour the Moais. So we are the second pickup the first day and then drive around to many other hotels picking up one or two people or small groups. Shows us there are a lot of hotels around and a lot looking far more interesting than ours and in better locations although ours isn't terrible.

Finally we are away to the first site and when we get there, the driver turns off the engine and Helen, our tour guide, stands in the open doorway and delivers a small lecture on the place we are visiting, first in English and then in Spanish. I have no idea if this is true when someone is in a country where the main language is English and they are waiting for the translation in their language but when I am waiting for the English translation, it always seems like they speak for 4 or 5 minutes in Spanish (or French, or Hungarian, or whatever) and then about a minute, if we're lucky, in English. Not sure if every other language has to take more words to say the same thing or if the translators just don't know the same explanation in English. I can say that it was getting very hot in the bus while we waiting for her to finish. She did this at each stop, alternating between speaking Spanish first and then English first. I so wanted to just get out of the bus and stand in the shade. Have to say that my blood has thinned out from living in England and the heat drives me crazy now (says the lady who is going to retire in Florida!).

We are finally out of the bus and going to see our first Moais. How exciting. Each location we will visit is part of their National Park System so we have a ticket that must be shown to get past the barriers. My hubby is in charge of the tickets. In the two days, we visited the main sites of the main Moais and birdmen. There are other sites as the island is ringed with them. Most of the sites are in ruins but the ones that are so prevalent in photos and the largest ones have been reconstructed. they are all amazing. Should we ever get back there, we'll rent a car and get a map and just head out to the places on our own and hit all of them.

The Moais were burial sites for important people, usually the rich and usually the chiefs of a tribe or family. One Moai for one burial. Moais face inward, away from the sea, as the important people had power or manna and facing towards their village would help give the people protection. The first ones weren't very large and then they started getting bigger and bigger and taller and taller. There are many theories on how they moved the stones from the quarry to wherever it was place but the largest ones are still in the quarry, never having been finished or never having been moved. The eyes were the last part of the statue that was put in place - after it had been put on it's pedestal or in it's hole in the ground. Putting in the eyes would imbue the Moai with the spirit of the person who was buried at its feet or underneath it and start the protection.

The top knot - or the red stone on some of the Moais - had a separate quarry. This is not a hat. It is a hair style with many of the Rapa Nui still wear today. My dive master had long enough hair to do a top knot but mostly he wore his hair in a man bun. Not many statues have top knots, only a small proportion of then. These Moais and these top knots weigh tons.

Birdmen came later than the Moais and involved finding an egg. The birdman competition involved repelling over a steep cliff on the island and swimming out to the third islet from the mainland (maybe 1000 yards) Then the men must find the first egg of the sooty tern which traveled there in the spring. He then had to swim back to the mainland, climb back up the cliff, and present the egg to the village in which case he would be rewarded with being in charge and also getting 7 women to be his wives. The wives-to-be spent the month before the competition living in an underground cave so their skin would get whiter. During the competition, anything goes so you might have the egg but your competitors would be trying to steal it from you. Trying to steal the egg might include you getting brained on the head with a rock or cudgel. Contestants in this contest were risking life and limb just to physically handle the challenge, not to mention trying to keep their fellow competitors from killing them. This competition went on into modern times before it was phased out. Now they do re-enactments.

Some of the sites we visited were ruins, as I mentioned. some had the remnants of village longhouses, some had the giant heads toppled over and almost covered by the dirt and grass, and a few were just some stones remaining. Of course, the most impressive sites are the reconstructed ones where you had many Moais standing at attention and giving their protection to the land.

We visited the quarry for the stone heads and there are hundreds there. Some are still attached to the rock walls. Others are scattered haphazardly over the hills and some have fallen or have been prepared for being moved down the hill and never got any further. It was magnificent to walk among these giant heads.

Only one location, our last, had 7 Moais that look towards Polynesia in honor of the ancestors that came to Easter Island and settled. They are the only Moais that look away from the land and out to sea. And there are no burials under these 7 Moais because they were not for protection and not for the manna that they could give.

We also learned that there is no harbor on Easter Island. There is one beach which we visited but even there, you must be careful as the waves crash into shore. Container boats bringing cars, trucks, construction materias, etc. sit offshore until the wind and waves die down enough to send barges out to the ships to unload. The airport is the best way in and out of Easter Island and we noticed it has a very, very long runway. It was built also as an emergency runway for the Space Shuttle. So the island has interesting history and culture at every turn. I've abbreviated everything to cover a couple of days at once. As stated earlier in the blog, Easter Island was the reason for this trip and everything else was just added on gravy. Supposedly it is one of the most remote islands in the world so not cheap to get there but well worth the trip and so very glad we took it. Of course, we now have a small Moai at our house, facing inward for protection, although nothing is buried underneath it. Fantastic place - Easter Island.

Posted by carpefeline 17:00 Archived in Chile Tagged island chile heads volcanic giant easter protection moais polynesia feline carpe burials birdmen sooty tern manna Comments (0)

Scuba Diving on Easter Island on Easter Sunday


How cool is that! Not something that I had planned but it just worked out that way. We had been driving back to Santiago for our flight, which is about 6 hours long, and gotten into Easter Island yesterday. Our guide took us for a short drive through Hanga Roa before taking us to our hotel which was one block up and across the street from the airport. Not the best of locations because it was a little over a mile into town - not that it was a large town but nothing but breakfast at our hotel.

We had one extra day on this trip and added it to Easter Island because I wanted to dive. There is a large Moai statue that has been sunk into the waters off Hanga Roa. No, it's not a real one but one made out of concrete and cement just to put in the water for the divers. So that was my purpose, to go see the underwater Moai. I had attempted to contact several diving companies on the island before hand and had never received a reply so I had my tour company set up the diving. There had been a lot of back and forths between us as she didn't want me to end up going with beginners and be bored but I don't like to swim so I didn't want to go with super advanced divers and have to swim a lot. So it was set up and my hubby, who is also a diver but on restriction at the moment, would get to go to the museum. I thought it would be a wash but in the end, he had a much better time than me.

I had not brought any of my dive gear with me because of weight issues with the airplanes and luggage. always a mistake as rental dive gear never works out well for me. I am dropped off at the dive shop where my divemaster is waiting, a small RapuNui man with hair in a top knot as is their tradition. He doesn't speak a whole lot of English but we can understand each other for the most part because we are talking diving. he is busy gathering gear for me. I had to try of a couple of wet suits to find one that fits and then while he is loading tanks into his truck, I am searching through the stacks for fins and a mask that will work. No snorkels anywhere and I always use a snorkel. Oh well. Usually I am very good on air consumption so shouldn't need to snorkel necessarily. Unfortunately, he did not stock dive lights though and I had brought my dive camera but not a light. That means I won't get any good photos. Bummer. No underwater Moai and no good photos.

He asks me how much weight I will need and I look in my dive log and tell him. He puts the weight in the truck. I am starting to put on the wet suit and he tells me to wait. I ask him where we will dive and say I want to see the Moai. He says no, and points at the sea which is bashing itself against the rocks where we are and says the Moai is right out there and cannot go out there today, too rough. well, I do agree with that but huge bummer. That was the reason I was diving!

Then it suddenly hit me that no one else was here so I asked him if I was the only diver - why yes I am. wow. personalized service for sure. So the truck is finally loaded with our gear and we hop in and he drives into town, around a couple of corners and pulls into a driveway and I'm looking all over for a boat and the water but we've come to a house. He hops out and goes and talks to the lady hanging clothes on the line and then back from the house and down to the main street of town. He is halfway down the street when he stops and talks to someone coming the other direction. I have no idea what he is doing. I do know he is not speaking Spanish. He and his friends are speaking their native tongue - RapaNui language.

We turn around and go back to the house were we had just left and pull into the driveway again. The man he was talking to on the street is there and pulling out a gas tank and putting it in the truck. Oh yes, well, fuel is definitely good. But then we go back to the main street and he pulls into a store that is open (remember, it is Easter Sunday) and comes out with bottled water and some cookies which I don't eat (only because I didn't like the kind he bought). Oh well, more for him. Then finally we are away to past the airport, past our hotel, past several places where I can see Moais in the distance, and finally we are on the other side of the island and pulling down a small dirt road to a small marina where there are four boats in a shelter from the waves. He backs up his truck to unload the gear and tanks (we have two tanks each). I start to put on my wet suit and again, he tells me to wait.

Of course, he goes over and gets the smallest boat from the line and brings it over to our side of the marina and starts loading it which includes putting in the gas tank and priming the engine and making sure it works. Now, I can put on my wet suit. All ready to go diving and we go putt putting out of the small marina and we are climbing the rollers. There are some big-ass waves out here but they are long waves so even though they are 4-5' tall, there is a large trough between each wave so we don't have a problem moving between them and we get far enough away from shore that it seems they are smaller. Easter Island does not have a reef so the waves just pound away at the shore all around the island. So the closer to shore, the closer the waves get to each other, I think. Not a wave dynamic person.

We are out far enough and my divemaster puts on his mask and upends himself over the side of the boat. If I were just to see him from a distance, would have though for sure he was barfing. In actuality, he was looking for where he wanted to anchor the boat. So he wasn't on the spot yet so he kept going a few feet and then look into the water again, another few feet, look again. Finally found his spot and dropped anchor and we got ready to dive. had to put on my weight belt first which is another reason why I prefer my gear as my weights are in my B.C. which I like better but oh well. I'm all ready to go and wait for him. Of course, it takes him about a minute to put on all his gear and then we do a back flip over the side and into the water. YIKES but it is cold. Then my wet suit warms up and I am OK. There is a bit of a current so I am hanging onto the boat. He comes around and we go to the anchor line and he makes the motion for descend.

041617122757 two outrigger kayakers

041617122757 two outrigger kayakers

041617120858 view of backside of easter island from the sea

041617120858 view of backside of easter island from the sea

041617120706 view of backside of easter island from the sea

041617120706 view of backside of easter island from the sea

041617120652 waves crashing on shore

041617120652 waves crashing on shore

041617113800 Diving Easter Island  fish

041617113800 Diving Easter Island fish

041617112554 lobster Diving Easter Island

041617112554 lobster Diving Easter Island

041617110024 views of easter island from the boat

041617110024 views of easter island from the boat

041617105850 waves crashing the shore

041617105850 waves crashing the shore

Dang nab it. I told him how much weight I needed but he didn't believe me. I am quite fluffy and marshmallow like or cork like and bob up and down in the water really well. SO, of course, I didn't have enough weight and for once, the divemaster had not brought any extra weights with him so I was struggling a bit to get all the air out of my BC so I could descend. I was going to kip over and just dive because that will usually give me enough of a kick to get down and then the pressure helps but the divemaster came over and grabbed me by the hand and just dragged me down. Nice that such little people can be so strong!

We are down but I am getting battered about by the surge. We are down about 30' and there is still a surge. Divemaster motions to me to hold onto one of the large lava rocks there and he has to go move the anchor which is tangled in something. I am having to hold on with both hands to keep from being swept off by the surge. I did come back with some nice new huge bruises on my legs and arms. He comes back and motions me to follow and I'm really having a hard time doing that. Finally he grabs me by the hand and pulls me around this pile of rocks and deeper where the surge isn't quite as strong. We are deeper and he goes searching for some large rocks which he stuffs into my BC pockets. whew, now I am weighted enough to be able to control my buoyancy with putting air into and out of my B.C.

We swim around for awhile and there are some nice fish, a really nice lobster, and some trumpet fish and a few little fish but not a whole lot. No coral, no anemones, no sponges, just mostly rocks. Time to head back to the boat and he indicates I should follow. We have swam much further away from the boat that I would have liked and we are in a surge again. So I swim hard to stay in place then let the surge take me towards the boat. This is a lot of work and I hate to work at my diving. It takes us maybe 15 minutes to get close enough to the boat that I can see the anchor line. I go to it to do my 3 minutes safety stop and now we are in the waves so I am bounding up and down the line. There is a limit to where you are supposed to stay for your safety stop and I am barely managing to stay in it as the waves and surge are throwing me all over the place. My poor dive computer is shooting up into the yellow and almost red and then down again to safety level. Not enjoying this at all but our 3 minutes are finally up and I got up the line towards the boat.
Once on the surface, I have to be careful that the waves don't smack my head into the boat and there is not a ladder. Divemaster does the graceful lift up and over the edge and is in the boat. He quickly strips off his gear and then I start handing him mine, weights first, then tank and BC and fins and then he just hauls me over the edge like a landed floppy fish. so inglorious. I hate getting on a boat like this but I am on the boat and out of the surge and waves. I sit there and think for a few minutes and then tell him it is OK to go back to the marina as I am done diving. that wasn't really a whole lot of fun and we really didn't see a whole lot so one dive is good.

He starts the motor and stops several times on the way in to shore to look over the side again and says he sees some sharks. Where were they when we were underwater?? Then back to the shore where I am useless as every time I try to help him unload something he tells me no, I don't have to do it. wow. he does ask me to take off the wet suit and I think he wanted me to take off more so I didn't get his truck seat wet but there wasn't anyway to do that so I just sat on my towel.

As I am waiting while he unloads and packs up, three ocean outrigger kayaks turn up in the small marina from their morning paddle about in the ocean. And then we are ready to go back to town where he will drop me off at the hotel since we drive right by it. I know my husband will be back from his tour. So in the end, he had a much better morning than me and saw some good stuff. I did get to dive Easter Island but no Moai, bad photos, fighting seasickness, and lots of bruises. And yes, diving is worth it overall.

The entire time we were on Easter Island, it was rather windy, so windy that the container ships were sitting offshore waiting for the wind to abate before they could off load their shipments. When I talked to one of the other dive shops, they said no one was diving! yep, what I thought. It was really too windy and wavy to be out there diving but I did get to do it, just didn't like it much.

Posted by carpefeline 17:00 Archived in Chile Tagged diving waves island chile lobster gear scuba underwater easter moais current feline carpe surge Comments (0)

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