Rapa Nui, Polynesia
Day 13 (part 2)
To be fair, we were warned that we might get to a roadblock and not be allowed past. Hannes and I stroll over to the young Rapa Nui lady who is guarding the roadblock, exchange pleasantries, and just like that she lets us past; no questions asked. All we have to do is sign something that looks like a petition to tell the Chilean government to do one. We will get to see all of Rapa Nui after all.
The moai are becoming increasingly impressive as we drive east before reaching the quite remarkable Rano Raraku. This place is off the scale. Known as 'the nursery', there are moai here, there and everywhere. Wild horses roam the slopes of this other worldly extinct volcano. This was the island's workshop, where the moai were carved before being transported to the ahus all around the island. There are close to 400 moai on the slopes and within the caldera of Rano Raraku.
As we walk to the coastal side of the volcano, we start to pass half buried moai. What you often see is only the head of the moai with some of these weathered sculptures up to 13 metres tall and weighing close to 100 tonnes. Yes, none of this makes much sense and the theories about the island's strange unique culture are still just that - theories. What on earth was going on here a thousand years ago?!
Some of these eerie statues are standing, some are fallen; face down, face up. Each has a different expression, usually content or proud looking, rather than sinister.
As we climb higher we reach a stunning vantage point where a couple of kilometres away on the sea shore, we can see the world famous Ahu Tongarki, with the Pacific waves crashing a few metres away. Incredible stuff.
At the highest part of the path we find the largest moai ever made. Lain flat, this absurdly large moai is 20 metres in length and is said to weigh 200 tonnes. But it is the 360 degree view all around that leaves the most wonderment: volcano, wild horses, endless moai, Pacific Ocean. Off the scale.
Inside the 650-metre-caldera, there is a freshwater lagoon and dozens more moai dotting the slopes. We are not allowed to venture as far as many of these but the whole setting is beautiful and utterly surreal.
Driving south east we turn a corner and set eyes upon the stunning sight of Ahu Tongarki: 15 huge moai, framed by the Pacific Ocean. The stuff of dreams and fairytales. Its 200-metre long platform is topped by fifteen very different moai figures, one of which is 14-metres tall and is wearing a hat of sorts. Some are short, others are dumpy. It is quite a bizarre sight.
I've read that these moai were returned here in the 90's after a 1960 earthquake caused a massive tsunami that washed these huge stone structures more than 100 metres inland. Just trying to take it all in, I lie on the grass fifty metres away and stare out at this ridiculous view. It is one of those scenes you spend much of your life longing to see, so it is worth lingering and trying to take in.