French Polynesia | Easter Island | Part 3

Wendy PriestlyPostcards0 Comments

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Hi PMC members,

We are now on our way for 3 days sailing to arrive at the most remote inhabited island of the French Polynesia region – Easter Island or Hanga Roa. This location has been on my must visit list for many, many years and we are just about there.

In the meantime for the three days we enjoy the activities on board and meet new friends from Route 66 (our friend Ira has this on his shirt).

We dress up for the formal evenings. Our cruise director is the talk of the
ship in his gold jacket – what all the french are wearing this season to stand out!

Our nights are also filled with fantastic entertainment and we all wish we could sing and dance like our on-board entertainers.

After great anticipation we are finally arriving at Easter Island – Hanga Roa

It is a tiny harbour that requires you to have a Easter Island wave pilot on board the zodiacs to ensure the zodiac drivers power up the outboard motor or back off so they can surf the waves in and then make the hard left hand turn to go around the breakwater and into the very very small harbour. That is why Easter Island has its own international airport on the small island of 63 square miles. It lies 2,150 miles west of South America and Chile which annexed Easter Island in 1888.

It has been established by DNA analysis in the last 10 years that Polynesians sailed east to Easter Island and built their culture on the Island around 400 AD.

The theories of Thor Heyerdahl of Peruvians sailing west has now been shown not to be true. However that does not diminish the grandeur of what was found on the island in 1772 when Admiral Roggeveen came across the island on Easter Day.

Most notable on Easter Island are the Moai, or giant stone monoliths that dot the coastline and inland areas. They are found both singularly and in groups of 3, and upwards of 15.

They were originally found by Europeans to be smashed and torn down and believed to be facing seaward. With recent restoration and research the statues have been re-erected facing inward to be looking over the communities from which they were carved to depict their ancestors looking down and protecting them.

There are many Moais on the island. Around 300 were completed statues with another 400 in the process of carving and a further 200 + still partly cut out of the volcanic rock. They range in heights from 4 to 33 feet high.

There are some 150 more that appear to be buried up to their shoulders in what is know as the “Quarry”. These are the most famous and largest with some estimated to weigh more than 80 tons. When excavated around these Moais, it was found they were standing in a pit and carvings were made across their backs and heads which could not be done while being cut from the volcanic area of the quarry.

The restoration works have re-erected the Moai’s with some having their red volcanic hats restored and their white coral eyes re-set. The large stone platform the Moai’s were set upon is termed Ahu and these statues were moved up to 11 miles away from the Quarry to where they were erected.

Many theories are posed about how the Moais were moved but all acknowledge that as the Moai were carved larger and larger the palms on the island were cut down to assist in various ways with their transportation. Over time the palm trees were almost gone and war and fighting raged for years.

With no trees for building fishing boats nor branches for birds to nest the island culture went to war and fighting. Eventually the fighting lead to great losses and a new culture rose up – the Birdman culture. Here young warriors representing their tribe or community, would each year swim from the mainland to an island across shark infested waters to return with the first egg of the season in their hair. The first to return was able to have his tribe granted the kingship of the island for the coming year. Rock art near the location for diving into these waters show this culture very clearly.

As an old volcano the island is blessed to have its fresh water stored in a natural crater at the peak of the island. This water serves the nearly 5,000 inhabitants and over 50,000 tourist per annum that mostly fly in each year from Chile and smaller numbers by boat.

The fresh water is held in the top of the volcanic crater and is kept very fresh through natural means of purification. You can take a tour to the top and be blown away by the strong winds that come up from the southern ocean without any land mass to block their strength.

Easter Island has a large tourist population and these are catered for by local
produce that are gown on the island and the many restaurants that dot the main town area. Many people have migrated from Chile and bring with them a
south american flavour to the food and mixed with local Easter Island Polynesian flavours bring a unique taste to their meals. And of course a need to sample the local beer – Mahina. Made from local products with natural fermentation it needs to be consumed immediately!!!.

To finish our time on Easter Island we were invited to an end of cruise lunch on the beach with the Moai’s at our backs and enjoyed Polynesian feasting.
To end the afternoon an award winning Easter Island Dance group gave a most impressive 60 mins dance sequence showing the history and beauty of this wonderful Island.

What can I say??? What an amazing experience with PMC. If you ever get the chance to land on Easter Island, make sure to inspect the Moai and those statues at the”quarry”.


Wendy Zirins (Priestly)