Easter Island, Chile
There are over a thousand Polynesian islands but none captures the imagination quite like Easter Island. Also known by its Polynesian name “Rapa Nui”, it’s a truly magical place and with a population of 6000 it is often touted as the most remotely inhabited place on Earth. Even though this isn’t strictly true, it’s still pretty special to think that waves crashing on its shore have not touched land for over 2000km.
Just mentioning Easter Island conjures an image of the infamous giant heads, known as “Maoi”. It’s the mystery behind these ancient structures that has awarded them such archaeological significance and their UNESCO status. Why were they made? How were they transported around the Island? Why did the production abruptly stop? There are many questions and various theories all with one thing in common; we can’t be sure what happened!
We spent 3 nights on the island and rented bicycles and a quad motorbike to do our own exploring. We visited where the Maoi have been restored and stand tall in full glory overlooking the site of their ancient village, it was quite remarkable to just be in their shadow and marvel at the huge, mysterious, ancient works of art. A highlight was walking through the volcanic quarry, the creation point of the statues, where 400 heads remain in various stages of the production cycle. Some semi carved from the volcanic rock, some with their face only partially engraved, others stood upright with engraving on the back.
It seems the workmen downed tools suddenly one day to never return, with no universally accepted explanation to this day. We could almost feel the energy and purpose that once existed on this site along with the wonder of what could possibly have happened…
Interestingly, at some point in history all of the islands Maoi were mysteriously toppled, it was a humbling experience to visit unrestored sites where the once majestic Maoi now lie face down in exactly the same position as when they were toppled some 1000 years ago. Those we can see standing have been restored to their former glory only within the last 50 years when the intrigue of Easter Island began to capture the world.
One thing that can be agreed is that the ancient Islanders invested a huge amount of time and resource in the creation of the Maoi, whether it was to invoke good luck, protection and prosperity or just to pay homage to departed tribal leaders, we can’t be sure. They certainly didn’t anticipate the eventual payoff some ten centuries later with the daily arrival of a Boeing Dreamliner packed with tourists and their credit cards to marvel at their handiwork.