Although when we arose there was a threat of rain, when we arrived on the north shore the skies gradually became more blue. A friendly park ranger stopped his chore of clearing debris from the overnight rain and winds to stamp our National Park tickets.
Anakena beach, the only shoreline really safe for swimming was the next location of standing moai we viewed. According to legend, this is where Hotu Maru’a and his people arrived at Rapa Nui and established a village. Thor Heyerdahl landed here in 1955 when there were no trees. Now there is a large grove of coconut trees as seeds were imported from Tahiti and carefully planted so they would thrive. The moai were set back up on the ahu in 1978. It is said that the drifting sand covered them when they were toppled which helped preserve them from erosion. Four of the seven are basically complete with their burgundy topknots.
There are also a few remnants of the village, ceremonial sites, and such that are both above and below ground. We could see umu pae, underground ovens for baking; hare paenga, foundations of houses with an upside down boat shape; and poro, smooth beach stone used for terraced paving. The house foundations have rather shallow circular holes to hold poles, but they didn’t seem deep enough to have done the job very well.
We meandered around the outskirts of the beach with the ever present black lava flows. The beach itself is made from soft white sand with other areas having a coarser pink component. A few people were setting up for some sun and clear water and as we were leaving a group of young adults arrived with kayaks.
From there we drove down the coast towards yesterday’s end point. Close by is Ovahe which has a small sandy beach. Some people claim it is safe for swimming, but there are too many sharp craggy volcanic rocks to tempt me. These are deep red rather than black. We did make our way over to it, though. Ovahe is a site of some ecological restoration projects, and we did see a group of people with a park ranger in the distance gathering up something.
There is also a crematorium site here. The borders were built from slabs of basalt stone or other hard stone. Coral, obsidian blades, fish hooks, and other tools have been found inside. When wood became scarce they were abandoned in the fifteenth century. Burnt human bones mixed with animal bones were discovered in 1987 in one of the crematoriums which might suggest cannibalism. Others only have human bones but exclude the skulls and teeth. Legend says they were placed elsewhere. Those crematoriums which do have skull remains might be from their enemies and burning them a way to show disrespect. Some bodies were burned without treatment, others were left to dry and decompose before cremation, and others show the skin had been removed prior to cremation. Much more research is needed to truly understand this component of the culture.
Te Pito Kura has only one statue, and is the biggest moai moved and erected on an ahu at almost ten meters tall and weighing about eighty tons. It, too, is toppled and lies face down with its twelve ton top knot, pukao, resting by itself. There is also a circular enclosure with a large round stone surrounded by four smaller ones. Legend tells it was brought by the founder of Rapa Nui from his homeland Hiva, and contains a great force. Before it was put out of reach, one could actually touch it and feel the heat, or its mana. In reality, sorry, it contains a lot of iron with absorbs more heat than its surroundings.
Further on is Papa Vaka, a prehistoric ceremonial site with petroglyphs. Although difficult to discern due to erosion of the volcanic lava flows, one can find canoes, fish hooks, and sea creatures such as tuna and sharks.
Nearby is another stop, this time at Pu O Hero. This is an engraved stone and a talisman for fishing. Supposedly, by blowing through one of the holes fish can be attracted to the coast. This stone was also a war trophy and carried about to various places on the island.
We stopped again at Tongariki to view the fifteen moai which to me were the most striking. Then it was back to the hotel to rest and shower before my birthday dinner. We went to the restaurant near the ahu popular for sunset pictures. As we are wimps, we ate before the sun set and went home to bed. My ribs were supposed to have a sauce based on ancient family recipe; to me it tasted like it came right out of a bottle. The dessert was chocolate cake, but it was what we North Americans call a pie. The thin dark chocolate filling was absolutely wonderful on a rich crust.