Easter Island: a mystery in the Pacific
Rapa Nui, one of the most isolated inhabited spots, distant almost 4.000 kilometers from the American continent, and other 4.000 kilometers away from Tahiti, raises many more questions than answers. Maybe because of that, almost 100.000 people visit the island every year, fascinated by the mysteries of their moai and of a culture that was almost extinguished in many occasions. There are documents about the place, even though no one can decipher them.
This triangular island, with its longest side measuring 24 kilometers, is a real treat to our eyes – but especially to our deepest senses. It is clearly visible, before landing, that we are arriving in a very special place, an amazing spot for the most adventurous. The plane wanders through the 4.000 kilometers leaving from Santiago (in Chile), and from the windows there’s nothing to see apart from the vast Pacific Ocean. There is no trace of humanity between the continent and Rapa Nui, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. Not even boats are seen along the way.
But suddenly, out of the blue, amidst this vast blue landscape, a small piece of land appears, emerging from the water with its volcanic craters and its group of moai over the coast. The inhabitants keep fighting for maintaining the land intact – something they have successfully done so far.
For hundreds of years there was no connection with the outside world, and the Rapa Nui universe ended as soon as they reached the coast. Maybe due to that fact the island is called Te Pito or Te Henua (the world’s belly button). From the top of the volcanoes it is possible to appreciate with perfection the Earth’s roundness.
There is no stress there. Rapa Nui is the total disconnection with the Western World, with modernity. There, time is used for making questions. Questions about everything that devours the hours of dozens of archeologists who dedicated their lives to studying the ancestors of an island that once had only 111 inhabitants, who survived tragedies, civil wars, hunger, and attacks from those who tried to take their men away to be used as slaves. Its population is currently of about 6.000 people. Almost all of them are, somehow, related.
The main question that fascinates the island’s visitors is a simple one, therefore without a clear answer. The moai, those huge human-form statues placed on the island’s most beautiful spots, weigh 30 tons, and are 6-meter-high. They were all made from a single stone. How did they do to move them 10 to 15 kilometers across mountains and valleys, if the population did not know the wheel? The answer, for the Rapa Nui, is simple: “the problem of the white man is that he doesn’t believe in anything”, says Pedro Pablo Edmunds. “You are not capable of believing in the simplest answer – the Rapa Nui moved the moai with their most precious good – time.”
The Rano Raraku quarry is a perfect time travel, one of the islands stars. It is not easy to find a place like that somewhere else in the planet, where time seems to have stopped. A few meters away from there is the result of this quarry, the work completed in its maximum splendor: Tongariki’s 15 moai sculptures. All by the ocean, with the sun rising behind them during the austral summer, creating a surprising view.
Apart from long car rides, in the island it is possible to do practically everything, including walks by the archeological wonders, dives in its crystal waters, high level fishing, surfing, horseback riding, and resting on beaches such as Anakena, with their white – almost pink – sands. Of course we can fund beaches like that one in other places, therefore none that is surrounded by the moai. Around there it is rare to encounter a Rapa Nui, since these places are filled with tourists.
They all get to the island bearing in mind that that’s one place where you should go at least once in your life. There are exclusive planes that offer a worldwide tour in three weeks, for 100.000 dollars – they include Easter Island as the Pacific’s central spot. It is common to meet famous people around there.
Of course there are all kinds of villages in Rapa Nui, not all of them famous. It is possible to go to Hanga Roa or to the luxurious Explora Hotel, hidden in an almost inaccessible coast, specialized in high level trips – although it is also possible to cheaply rent a hut built in a Rapa Nui’s garden. The island has no distinctions, and the moai are accessible to all visitors.
Some tourists celebrate Tapati, their local carnival, which happens between the last week of January and mid-February, when all the Rapa Nui who live abroad return to their homes, and reunite with over 16.000 people.