Easter Island

Easter Island Photos


As a kid I saw pictures in National Geographic of the giant stone heads on Easter Island and thought it would be extremely interesting some day to see them up close.   It turns out that getting to Easter Island is not an easy proposition.  2,500 miles east of Tahiti and 2,300 miles west of Chile, Easter Island is one of the most remote places on earth.  LAN Chile airline flies twice a week from Santiago to Easter Island to Tahiti – and back.  That’s it; the only way to get there is to take one of these flights because the island is south of the traditional Pacific shipping lanes.   3,800 people live on the island, all in the town of Hanga Roa. To locals the island is called Rapa Nui and it was “annexed” by Chile in 1888.  The early history of the island is largely speculative because the people of Rapa Nui had no written language and the population was decimated in the 1800s by Peruvian slave traders and smallpox.  There are over 900 moai (statues) on the island, the largest standing one being 32 feet high and weighing 82 tons.  Many had ‘topknots’ (see picture) weighing as much as an additional 12 tons.  It is believed that the carving was done from about 800 to 1400 AD and it is really not known how the moai were transported from the one quarry and erected all over the island in ancient times.   All moai were knocked down by the 1860s, but 100 or so have since been re-raised.  Several signs warn, “Please Do Not Step on the Moai!”. The island is about 12 miles long and 7 miles wide and all of the interesting archeological sites, two volcanic craters and a beach can be seen by rental car in one full, fascinating day.  The moai of Easter Island are truly mystifying, particularly when seen in their natural setting.

While there are several modest hotels on the island, I decided to stay at a B&B (very loosely defined).  The one I chose had no air conditioning, no TV or phone and you had to keep the room door closed to keep out the dogs, cats and chickens.  It was great, at $35/day!  I had been told to go to church (there is only one church, Catholic) on Sunday morning.  The last time I was in a church other than for a wedding or a funeral was probably 30 years ago, but THIS was a real treat.  The 9:00 am service was in the local language (Rapa Nui) and the 11:00 am service was in Spanish.  There were about 500 people at each service (over a fourth of the island population!).  Kids were running around, a dog wandered in and there was lots of singing.  It was truly a wonderful cultural experience.