Day 66 - Maori and Moai

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of Chile  , Valparaíso,
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our second full day in Rapa Nui started with a very exciting event. We were told by the locals that today the chief of the Maori from New Zealand was arriving on a traditional boat and a ceremony would take place. So we asked our tour guide whether we could attend and he was very excited to take us. We travelled to the beach on the north of the island. It's a sandy beach in a lovely small bay and would be the perfect place for a day of beaching. We however arrived and made our way along the beach to where the boats were moored. We had missed the arrival procession but the boats were exciting to see. They were almost like old fashioned sailing ships crossed with a catamaran.
We then headed up the hill to where the ceremony was happening. Several hundred people were gathered around and the Rapa Nui people were in their traditional dress. So impressive to see. The Maori were gathered in the centre and the Rapa Nui headman and priest were officiating. Our guide translated for us and explained that the headman was welcoming everyone to partake in the feast that was being prepared. It was the same idea as the dinner we had been to the previous night with the pit dug into the ground covered with palm leaves. The guys started uncovering the cooked food and then a platter was prepared and presented to the Maori who all shared the platter with the Rapa Nui. It was very touching seeing them all stand together and share in a small meal of tasters. The Rapa Nui accompany every moment with spontaneous singing and it is a hauntingly special thing to hear accompanied by the blowing of the conch shell and the beating of the drums. Then it was time for the Maori to do the haka. Wow, absolutely amazing. So terrifying, passionate and emotional. We all felt moved in a big way witnessing this truly unique moment in the life of the island. Afterwards everyone moved around a stone platform and the Maori brought stones and stacked them on the platform. We presume they were stones from New Zealand. After that there was more singing and it looked like there may be some dancing followed by the feast. We had to leave to continue our tour but we felt so privileged to have been there. Absolutely amazing. It also showed us how strong the traditions still are with the Polynesian people.
We then took the coastal road and Mattheus drove us to the site with 15 Moai. He explained that the Moai were originally built as a tribute to a king that had died. The people would cremate the king and then build the platforms and place the ashes under the platforms. The Moai was then erected on top of the platform. This line of 15 Moai were erected in succession as the kings died. It was believed that the Moai would look over the settlement and the ancestors would bring good fortune and provide the tribe with what they needed. So interesting. Then as things started to deteriorate on the island and resources became more scarce the spiritual side of the Moai also started to deteriorate. Wealthy and influential people started erecting Moai for their dead and the bigger the better. The bigger the Moai, the more it boasted of the wealth and resources that that tribe had. They also started placing the red stone top knots (they look like hats) on top of the Moai.
At the start of the tribal wars all the Moai were knocked over and eventually the Birdman era started to put an end to the tribal wars. Fortunately archeologists have managed to re- erect many of the moais so we can see how they looked standing. Unfortunately many of them were damaged or broken when they were pushed over.
We then went to the quarry were the Moai were carved and were amazed to learn that all the Moai were carved at one quarry. This means that all 12 tribes would work side by side to carve their Moai. What was even more amazing was the way they were carved. The stonemasons would carve the face and front part of the Moai on the rock face. The Moai would be carved with the grain of the rock and lying on its back either vertically or horizontally. The carvers would then carve out the back part of the Moai leaving almost the keel of a boat shape at the back. A path was then dug in the hill below the Moai leading to a square pit in the ground. When everything was ready the would hammer off the keel and the Moai wold break free from the rock. It would slide down the hill in the path dug by the men and fall bottom first into the pit at the bottom. The momentum would force it to stand erect in the hole. They would then start carving the design on the back and, once complete, it would be moved to the platform site and erected. Absolutely amazing process to creat these stations that each with several tonnes. We were blown away by the dedication that these people must have had to the process. A Moai could take a year or more to carve and move and confiding there a over a thousand Moai on the island it shows how much time and sweat was put into them. We found it thrilling to see all the moais in different stages of completion sticking out of the rocks and hillside. It was like something out of a Hollywood movie.
Our guide then lead us up the other side of the mountain to the crater that is an inland lake almost. It was really dramatic climbing through the red clay cliffs and it opening up to this inland lake surrounded by the edge of a volcano. Brilliant!
After such a successful day we headed back into town and Mattheus recommended a good spot to try the local empanadas. They are deep fried pies filled with tuna and cheese. Yum! We sat at a cafe next to the sea and thought about our amazing day. We then grabbed our passports and took them to the post office where we got a stamp for Easter Island. Fun. We got an ice cream each and walked back to the guesthouse along the coast. It's been a wonderful experience coming to the island and we both feel sad to leave but onwards ever onwards. Our pick up arrived at 16:30 and we headed to the little airport. Our flight headed off to Lima and we arrived just after 23:00. We had booked into a hostel next to airport and crept into bed trying not to disturb the other sleepers in the dorm. Up early tomorrow to head to Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. Yay!
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milly on

Awesome stuff guys! So jealous as I never got there and always wanted to! Now you're off to my old hunting ground - enjoy Peru and have a cuscena for me xxx

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