Day 115: No Statues Today

Thur. 6th December 2012

I see no statues - Rano Kau CraterWho would think granola for breakfast would be a treat? After days of toast and jam it seems a luxury. Add to this a dining room with glass patio doors overlooking the ocean with a blue sky and life is just bliss. We contemplate the day. The island can be divided into one full day and two half day sections so we decide to tackle one of the half day itineraries on foot today and save the round the island full day tour by car for tomorrow. We then firm up this plan when we meet Birgit in town  who has booked a car  for tomorrow and we agree to share this with her and Janet.

Still avoiding being a gringo, we download onto the Kindle  “A Companion to Easter Island – A concise guide to the History, Culture and Individual Archaeological Sites of Rapa Nui. By James Grant –Peterkin” and start to formulate a plan for the day. The hotel also sell a signed copy of the book for $20 but we decide the £8 kindle version is the better option.

Orongo village on the cliff edgeArmed with a map from the Information Centre, cash from Santander (now that we have found the bank) and DIY sandwiches from the bakery we set off. The walk is around the south west corner of the island and so we head that way to find the marked walking trail to Rano Kau crater and Orongo perched on the edge of the cliff at the end of the island.

The next challenge was to find the start of the walk as we were distracted by visiting a small harbour first and landed up the wrong side of the approach lights for the runway. We did however spot one of the recommended restaurants which looks worth a visit.

ManavalThe walk starts at the CONAF (Corporacion Nacional Forestal) Headquarters heading through their small botanical garden where they have recreated manavai. These are circular stone walls to protect young plants from the wind and increase humidity.

View of airport and Hanga RoaThe path then continues uphill and through an eucalyptus grove – as we were heading to the volcano rim we should have guessed it would be uphill!! The views back over the airport to Hanga Roa town and the ocean were stunning (are we overdoing superlatives ?? ‘cos we are seeing loads of amazing sights!!). Stopping and looking was a good excuse to get our breath back in the heat of the day.

Rano Kau CraterFinally we reach the rim of the crater and are speechless at the view. We had seen pictures but were still not prepared for the panoramic view ahead. It must have been some explosion to make this crater which is about 1.6km across and the ‘bite’ 0n the far side has been eroded by the weather giving views out over the ocean.

Close up inside Rano Kau CraterIt is not possible to descend into the crater without a guide but it does not look very inviting anyway. Looking around we can see sea on all four sides and get an idea of how small the island is. Also walking around the rim  to Orongo you get an idea of how windy it is, but then the nearest land is Taihiti some 3,000 miles away and that will not give any protection.

Houses at OrongoThe visitors centre hides the old ceremonial village of Orongo from view so we are still not sure what to expect to see.

Islands off OrongoThe exhibition tells that the village was built in the 16th Century and only used for the  tangata-manu or Birdman competition which took place every September. Chiefs of the Islands tribes took part to be the first to collect an egg laid by the manutara (sooty tern) bird. The winner was held in high esteem for the following year so there was great pressure to win. They descended the cliffs and could spend days or weeks waiting around the Islands just offshore to find that illusive egg.

Our first petroglyphsThis area is also the premier petroglyph (stone carving) site, which has been fenced off since the book was written as tourists are no longer allowed to stand five at a time on the roof of the end house to get a close up view of them. More signs of tourists being stopped from destroying the sights, this is being seen at Chichen Itza, Stonehenge to name a few. However, the 3,000 horses which roam free on the Island do more damage than our human feet.

Ana Kai TangataThe final stop is Ana Kai Tangata which also relates to the time of the birdman competition. It is a cave with evidence of cave paintings. In complete contrast to Orongo there is no visitors centre or even a booth to pay. Tourists are free to wander inside the cave right up to the paintings with no barriers to keep them back. Although the paintings and colours of the rock are impressive more time was spent photographing the waves breaking in the entrance to the cave. With Dave’s new fancy camera he was able to shot 6 shots in quick succession to try and get that just right photo!

The best of the wave breakingIt may have only been a 8km walk but we feel well exercised by the time we return to the hotel. However the frustrating Internet in the hotel was not working at all. We therefore head out early to supper to find a restaurant with an acceptable menu but more importantly working WiFi! Good call as we can finally send emails and upload a few blog posts, which we could not do in the hotel even when the WiFi was working. Oh how we rely on this technology. As Dave’s brother said in a recent email – if only there had been internet when he was travelling all those years ago.  Double edged sword as you get to rely on it!!

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