Visiting Easter Island (Boat-Based)

Cruising Lifestyle (continued)

 
Looking east at the volcano cones on the Poike Peninsula.   Looking down at the rugged coastline and surf. These are some of the views that I enjoyed during my walkabout, when I sat on some convenient rocks to take in the scenery.

 
A piece of obsidian on the ground.   I took a self-portrait of my shadow. I look like a hunchback because I'm wearing my day pack.

Some things to ponder...

Easter Island nowadays is centralized in Hanga Roa and is mostly tourist-oriented. Most of the supplies and provisions are brought to the island, via the occasional freighter or the more frequent Lan Chile flights. Some of the people are probably natives, and of them some might have Rapa Nui or Polynesian blood in them. But they are all basically modern people and for the most part follow modern customs.

It's interesting to ponder what it would have been like during the period of the ancient moai-building culture. There would have been many more people spread over the entire island and they would have supported themselves entirely through local farming and fishing. They all would have been full-blooded Rapa Nui due to the island's extreme isolation. Everyone would have been fully immersed in the customs and rituals of the day, which no doubt would have been very different from our modern culture.

Whatever drove them to create the numerous ahu and moai must have been an incredibly powerful cultural and spiritual force, since they spent a huge amount of time and effort creating, transporting, and erecting the hundreds and hundreds of stone structures and statues. This process would have required coordinating the efforts of many people, which in turn would have required a stable hierarchical management structure of workers and bosses. The process also would have required numerous additional people to operate the island's basic infrastructure, providing all the necessities of life so the moai builders could concentrate on moai building and not farming or fishing, etc. So Easter Island must have had a large active coordinated and fully self-contained indigenous society, unlike today. And all of this activity was going on ashore by the moai right where we ourselves walked. We trod in the very same footsteps of the ancient moai builders.

On the day that I went for a walkabout on the path along the coast, I came to a beautiful overlook on a point of land. There were convenient rocks to sit on, so I sat down and enjoyed the view. There were spectacular views of the coast to the left and right on either side of the point, as well as looking down towards the surf crashing on the eroded basalt of the cliffs. Scattered on the ground where I was seated I saw hundreds of tiny flakes of obsidian, many more than I had noticed elsewhere. Letting my imagination wander, I surmised that perhaps the ancient stoneworkers sat here, chatting and enjoying the view as they worked the raw obsidian from the nearby gully, fashioning tools, weapons, or even the obsidian eyes of the moai. Over the years, the chipped-off flakes of obsidian accumulated on the ground, and they are still visible today. At least that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

It's also interesting to think about the time before human habitation when the all-volcanic island was still forming. The whole area around Anakena has very obvious signs of volcanism, such as cinder cones, surface lava flows, cliffs with layered lava flows, plus, most obviously, actual volcanoes. Back then, there would have been sporadic volcanic activity, and when active the cinder cone adjacent to the beach would have been spewing smoke and fire and clinkers of smelted earth. Downhill from the major volcano the landscape would have been covered by hot smoking lava flows, and where the lava reached the sea, there would have been towering white clouds of steam. At night, the sparkling swaths of starlight from the Milky Way would have been dimmed by the dull red glow of molten lava spreading over the landscape. From the output of these volcanoes, thousands of years later Rapa Nui islanders would carve hundreds of immense statues.


 
A spectacular wide-angle view of Anakena, taken from atop the cinder cone.  

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