It had been a dream of mine for years to visit Easter Island, to see the magnificent Maoi statues up close. And boarding the plane, I could barely contain my excitement. Even though I had travelled to over 100 countries, Easter Island was making me feel like a kid too excited to sleep on a never-ending Christmas Eve. To make this trip even more special, a Dreamliner was taking me there.
I felt as though I was on holiday, amongst excited Chileans taking selfies of themselves in front of the plane once we landed. The temperature was a welcoming heat after being in a cold Santiago. I was greeted by just as warm a welcome as a necklace of fresh flowers were delicately placed around my neck.
Easter Island is one of the three islands which makes up the Polynesian Triangle, along with Hawaii and New Zealand. It’s an island which is literally in the middle of nowhere. Six hours from Chile, and the same distance from Tahiti.
Known for its giant, stone statues, Easter Island is a magical island drenched in myths and legends. The island was discovered in 1722 by Dutch explorers, who had arrived on the land on Easter Sunday. It instantly feels like a special place and I could see why the Rapa Nui had chosen this island to be their home.
Not born native to this land, the Tahai ancestors had arrived from an island near Tahiti. Their shaman, Haumaka found Rapa Nui in his vision so they sent seven adventurers to look for pastures new. Just as the shaman has said, they found fertile land and chose to descend upon this island, bringing rats and chickens with them.
Divided into different clans, each with a leader, the 300 people became fisherman or farmers. They built community houses where the clan could sleep, to protect them from the evil spirits which surrounded the island at night. Each stone house had a small door and accommodated up to 60 people.
Stone houses can be seen at Tahai, my first stop on my Easter Island tour. I was being shown around the island by Jose, my Easter Island Travel guide who was incredibly knowledgable about his native island.
There were 887 statues on this magical island and as I took in my first glance of the giant Moai statues, I gasped. I had dreamt about seeing these statues for so long and now I was here, looking up at them.
With eyes made out of coral, these volcanic stone masterpieces were tombs for the leader of the clans, resting on a platform influenced by the Incas. Their bones buried in the island’s earth below. The ’hat’ a top-knot resembling the chieftain’s long hair. The Rapa Nui believed that the power was in the hair so the hair was always kept long. Each statue or tomb faced inwards as they continued to watch over their clan even from the grave.
Not all leaders were made into statues. The council of the king and the wise people had the decision on whether or not they would become a god. The decision influenced by the abundance their clan had received during his rein.
At sunrise the people gave thanks to the statues. Their lives consisted of praying every day, fearful that if they did something bad they would be cast and become evil spirits. To touch the statue would mean death. Only the wise people who spoke with the spirits and the Moai makers had permission to touch.
To become a Moai maker you had to be chosen. There was no the role as this is what you were destined to do. The work was hard. The bodies were carved out of stone from the volcano, before the head was fitted separately, made to look like the chieftain it represented. The iris of the eye made from obsidian stone.
A visit to Puna Pau, the top knot factory was a chance to see this red scoria volcanic stone up close. Each top knot weighs nearly 12 tonnes and were transported in a long ritual from a large crater to the statue to be placed on top.
As generations changed, so did the statues as they evolved with each age. With an expansion of earlobes, and sea patterns added to the top knot.
The body of the statues were always carved and believed to weigh about 200 tonnes. The quarry where the statues were made (known as the factory) was a blessed spot chosen by the king and Make-Make god. A visit to the factory has tens of stone heads protruding from the hillside.
Watching over the people of the clan, all of the statues faced inland, except at Ahu a Kivi. These seven statues are the only ones on the island which face out to the sea. As legend has it this is a monument to the seven explorers sent here to check out the island.
The most preserved Ahu platform on the island is Ahu Nau Nau. This platform belonged to the king so it was never destroyed.
As we drive around the island, Jose tells me about the Birdman competition, a tough battle of strength, will and determination. One that would have beaten the likes of our Ironman competition today.
We stop at Rano Kau wetland which fast-becomes one of my favourite places on the island. This is where the Birman competition was held every August. It is now an important resource for the town and supplies the island’s water. The crater is more like a wild greenhouse which as Jose explains, plays a major role in Rapa Nui’s nature flora.
This was the spot where brave men once braved their lives to win the honour of becoming king. Each carrying an egg of fertility that would be offered to the chieftain at the end.
The island off the coast was where they had to swim to whilst avoiding the perils of the sharks which swam in the Polynesian waters. Looking out at Birdman Island felt even more poignant now after hearing the blood, sweat and tears that they went through to win and survive.
The pinnacle of this island has to be Ahu Tongariki – a platform of 15 statues, the most on the island. An earthquake in the 18th century destroyed some of the statues on the island. Ahu Tongariki was restored by the Japanese in 1990. Only one sits with a top knot.
This is by far the most magical spot in Easter Island. Siting on the grass in front of these magnificent pieces of stone, carved and transported from a nearby factory, I felt peaceful. As myself and Jose closed our eyes and took in the energy surrounding the monuments, I felt so blessed to be here. On this mysterious, magical island drenched in mythology which they call Easter Island.
Easter Island Tours
I took the Journey of Legends and the Megaliths tour with Easter Island Travel. These tours were so informative and my guide was amazing. If you only have time for two tours I definitely recommend both of these which cover the highlights on Easter Island. There’s also the opportunity to pay extra to see Tongariki at sunrise.
Where To Stay on Easter Island
Accommodation isn't that cheap on Easter Island. I stayed at Hostal Mihira’s, which although was one of the cheapest at the time ($30 a night) and also clean, it was really noisy at night with dogs barking. I would look at alternatives such as Hare o Ahani from £28 a night for a single room with a shared bathroom.
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