Visiting Easter Island (Boat-Based)

Visiting Anakena

Ahu Nau Nau at Anakena.




Saturday, May 15, 2004 (Day 3 at Easter Island)

We got up early (relatively speaking, for a day off) at 7:00 a.m., although it was still dark at that hour. To keep the local time close to the time of the Chilean mainland, Easter Island uses Central Standard Time, which is at least an hour out of whack from the actual solar time. We're all really looking forward to going ashore here because it looked so great the day before and really charmed us and piqued our interest. This is what a South Pacific island landfall should look like—a white sandy beach with clear blue-tinted water, lots of palm trees, volcanic terrain, and mysterious statues hinting of past cultures and their spiritual preoccupations.

After loading the dink we headed in to shore; the ride was pleasant, calm, and short. It was an easy dry landing at a concrete pier with a very rusty steel ladder and a knotted electrical cord tied to a rusty bollard to help pull yourself up the ladder. We tied up the dink and deployed the stern anchor then walked over to the beach. As we got closer to the moai it was an exciting and interesting scene and Marcie and I started snapping pictures left and right.

There was a row of seven restored moai, mostly in good shape, including four with red stone topknots; they were standing atop a finely constructed ahu that had a few petroglyphs carved into the stones. In the Rapa Nui language, this site is called Ahu Nau Nau. From reading the tourist literature, we though they would have inlaid coral and obsidian eyes, but for whatever reason they didn't. The literature also pointed out that the moai and ahu were well-preserved here because they had been buried under a sand dune until being restored.

The moai were quite impressive, large and heavy with stylized features and long earlobes. Looking at them now, we see mysterious sentinels whose meaning can only be guessed. They stand all alone, separated by time from the people of their culture, like messengers from the past speaking a language no longer understood. However, centuries ago, in the heyday of the moai-building culture, they would have been an important part of the culture, taking up a great deal of the natives' time and effort. Today the moai are largely tourist attractions, but back then the moai must have been extremely relevant to the ancient people for them to have spent so much time and effort constructing them. When these moai were originally erected there must have been a beehive of activity at the site, presumably coordinated and overseen by powerful people. The very sand and grass we trod today had to have been trod by the people of the ancient culture as they created, transported, and erected the moai. And they did it all using stone-age technology.

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