We had an early flight to Easter Island. Our airport accommodations made this extremely easy and we checked in found a Starbucks and awaited for our departure. We had a 5+ hour flight on a very comfortable plane. It had a pretty up to date media console. I began watching the complete season of The Good Wife, a series that had been recommended to me, but was never an offering in Argentina. I managed to watch about 7 episodes in this flight. I was totally entertained and the kids seemed equally engaged, not that I was paying any attention to them.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean you will find Easter Island. It is considered the most isolated inhabited island in the world. Its 2000 miles from anything. But what makes Easter Island worth a stop is the mysterious history and archeological evidence of life there starting 1000 years ago.
Off the plane, our host at the simple pension we were staying, greeted with flower leis. The boys weren’t excited about wearing the flowers. The pension was charming with a pretty little garden. We walked about the only village on the island had lunch. Afterwards, we promptly went down for a siesta. We were all tired. I was exhausted. After more exploring, watching a local futbol match, we found a spot for dinner. I had a $80 lobster (my money converting skills are not very good, I was a bit surprised). The kids continued to stay clear of the fish with the limited meat offerings. We walk back towards town to find an ice cream shop we had seen at the harbor earlier. Our walk was abruptly terminated when a very drunk dude in a truck, who had just hit a taxi a few meters behind us, pulled up to Owen and told him to come to him. Owen being the young soul that he is complied and approached Soon GM intervened and the guy was yelling “gringo loco!” We kept walking and he kept following us. Sa we turned around, away from the ice cream shop much to the kids’ dismay. Soon someone had thrown the drunken dude on the ground and there was a commotion. Police were being called and we assumed he spent the night in the tank. Owen and Georgie were pretty freaked out. There were lots of tears from Georgie so it was time for bed. Our nightly routine on Easter island was pretty much the same; dinner, search for desert and early to bed, but without any subsequent belligerent drunks.
The next two days we spent exploring this small (8 miles x 8 miles) island. Our first field trip was with Regis. Regis was French, who spoke fluent Spanish with an extremely thick accent. And while my Spanish comprehension is decent the kids are truly bilingual and even they struggled with understanding everything he said. So while we were not entirely clear with all of the archeological and anthropological lecture from Regis, I do think we understood enough to know that there is a lot that is not understood about the who, when, why and what of Easter Island. South Americans or Polynesians may have first inhabited the island. While there is both in the locals genetic makeup, culturally it is a Polynesian centered island. Sweet Potatoes used in all manners of food are the one clear nod to the American influence. Pretty clear there wasn’t much of a population until the 9th and 10th centuries. The Moai (the huge volcanic statues that Easter Island are know for, are similar to the much more demure moai statues found throughout the South Pacific) seemed to have been central to the people of Easter Islands lives for many centuries.
The moai found on Easter Island are just on crack. The largest one is 21 meters (70 feet). It had been knocked down at some point, another unsolved mystery. For the first half of the 2nd millennium the population grew and prospered. Around the time the Europeans showed up (1500’s), the locals had pretty much exhausted the natural resources of the island and there were rumors of cannibalism. The Europeans pretty mucked up a bad situation by exporting slaves, importing Christianity and white man diseases. By the turn of the 20th century there were less than 2000 people on the island. As ship travel became more regular in the South Pacific and then eventually air travel, Easter Island had a revival of sorts. It is a Provinca of Chile where everyone speaks Spanish as well as a Polynesia dialect. Life on the island appears to be heavily subsidized and there are an amazing amount of cars per capita. The ecology is forever changed. It was said to be a tropical paradise when the first settlers arrived, its now a barren almost Patagonia-like windblown landscape with palm trees.
We saw lots of Moai big and small, erect and half buried, some has even been abandoned, never to be finished. They are generally found at the sea, facing inward, protecting their descendants. According to most 19th century visitors, almost all of the moai had been knocked done from their equally impressive stone platforms. At some point the Moai became out of fashion and this form of ancestral religion was pushed out with a Bird related religion and inroads made by the Christian missionaries. There is an impressive Catholic church on the island now.
My final impression of the moai was that for several hundred years island life was really focused, almost obsessed with these impressive statues. It appears to be have been an important part of their economy, their spiritual life and cultural identity.
As well as viewing the numerous moai Statues we went to two lake filled volcanoes that where breathtaking. We lunched twice a beautiful sandy beach, one day more successfully than the other. We didn’t have the greatest weather. While Easter Island has hot summers and mild winters, we hit a bunch of rain and wind. Unfortunately, Henry was shut out of diving and snorkeling wasn’t an option. Despite the weather, we enjoyed Easter Island. The Moai are really something to see.