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Explorations in a Remote World

15
August
2012
 

The Island of Pascua was initially discovered by natives of the Marquesas and was theirs alone until a Dutchman happened to come across the island in 1722. The original people were Polynesians and they developed a society that believed that the spirits of ancestors could be stored in stone carvings fulfilling a dual purpose of protecting the ancestors remaining in the physical world and enhancing the spirits in the other world. These statues carved from soft volcanic rock from an inland quarry, bore the images of the departed, were larger than life and were called Moais by the people who carved them. In turn they called themselves Rapanui which was also their name for the land. Isla de Pascua translates to Easter Island based on the day of its discovery by Europeans.

The island today is a special territory of Chile sitting 2,200 miles from the Chilean coast with Tahiti being the closet major destination to the west. You reach the island by a daily flight from Santiago that sometimes continues on to Papeete and a stay of three days minimum is suggested to fully explore the island, its history and its natural wonders. We utilize a lodge that accommodates 60 people, is built on land of no agricultural or archeological importance and successfully blends luxury with ecology. During your stay all your activities whether trekking, cycling or boating are included as are all your meals.

The main reason that people come to Easter Island is to inspect the stone heads that are situated across the island. Currently there are a little over 840 chronicled but many others are believed to still be covered. Interestingly when early European explorers like Captain Cook visited the island noted that the statues were face down on the ground having been toppled in an internecine struggle in the 17th Century as a new religious cult called the Birdmen came to dominance. This would be analogous to the desecration of religious buildings or idols in other cultures.

 We talk of heads but the statues are usually torsos extending down to mid thigh but having sunk in the sand over time. When they were created they were mounted on a stone platform called an Ahu had a number of Moais on the same platform and always faced out to the spirit world in the sea protecting the villages and villagers on land. The standing images you see in travel books today were only set back up in the latter part of the last century.

You will learn all about this during your stay including a visit to the quarry where some of the Moais still remain, half carved and half embedded in the volcanic rock. There are other activities to absorb your attention however including boating in native craft and seeing the land as they saw it for the first time.

Snorkeling is also recommended since the transparent waters around the island are clear down to a depth of 160 feet and the water temperature stays a constant 68 degrees. Biking is also an option with Cannondales and Treks available for your use. One of the advantages of biking or trekking is the opportunity to meet the remaining Rapanui people who make up about 60% of the population.

 The trip to Easter Island makes an excellent extension to a stay in Chile or a stopover and cultural break before continuing on to French Polynesia either way you will leave with fulfilling memories.