Day 17: last full day on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
This was our free day on the island. No plans, no tours. We decided to hike to the other side of town to see the island's museum, and then return to the artisan's market in town to complete our shopping. After the usual buffet breakfast we set out on our walk around the coast. After passing one of the local harbors we came to the town cemetery, which was well decorated in the tradition of the Latin countries. Beyond that there was an open grassy area, which had an ahu with a handful of standing moai. Nearby was a park that contained a number of large lava rock sculptures, showing figures from the islanders' ancient past.
Two of the lava rock sculptures in the coastal park that we passed on our way to the museum. The figure on the right is a small (4-5 foot) replica of the "kneeling moai", based upon the full-size one at the quarry. The original (at Rano Raraku) is the only known moai that is kneeling, and looks skyward instead of forward. It also has an interesting beard that is curved inward.
A little farther on is a single moai standing by himself. It is the only moai on the island that has its eyes restored, and is also complete with its topknot. We took a number of pictures of it before moving on in our quest for the museum.
This is the only moai on the island that has eyes in the eye sockets. (This was done so you could see what all the moai used to be like.) According to island tradition, when the eyes were added, the statue became empowered.
Despite having a map of the island, we were having trouble finding the museum. We could not find any signs (at least from the direction we were traveling), but we kept asking the locals which way to go, and eventually arrived at the museum, which seemed to be at the end of a residential street. The museum was well worth the visit, as it contains displays showing artifacts from the past, renderings of ancient practices, and a replica of the island in miniature. In addition to a genuine Rongo Rongo board and a rare statue of a female moai, the museum has part of an actual moai head, complete with the remains of its original eye.
The sole remaining example of an original moai eye, on display in the Rapa Nui museum.
The white of the eye was made from white coral and the pupil was made from obsidian.
After going through the museum we headed up the road so that we could go back to the center of town. There was some uncertainty as to which direction to go, but after a couple of false starts (and with the help of a local girl who kindly led the way for us) we eventually found what we were looking for. When we got to the artisan's marketplace we decided to first try a street a block away that also had a number of shops on it. We checked out a variety of shops, where I found some t-shirts that I liked. We held off on purchasing anything, though, as we had more shops to see first.
We then returned to the marketplace, where Sue bought the second Rongo Rongo board, and I bought a poster, some postcards, and some other small items. We then returned to the street of shops we had seen earlier. When we went to the shop where we had seen the shirts we wanted we found it to be closed, but the proprietor was just getting into a car waiting at the curb. We didn't say anything, but I guess she figured that it was worth it to be a little late in exchange for some sales. I bought two shirts, that, while expensive, were better quality than any that saw elsewhere. Sue bought a very nice embroidered sweatshirt, and I even picked up one last small stone moai replica.
With our shopping done, we headed back towards the hotel, stopping momentarily to watch a soccer game at the local school field, before moving on to reach the road on the coast. We sat near an ahu with its moai, and watched some local kids attempt to surf the waves at the harbor's entrance. After resting up there for awhile, we made our way back to the hotel, where we relaxed in our room. We examined our latest purchases, and re-packed all of the suitcases so that they would be ready for the flight home the next morning.
We went to the hotel restaurant a little early, and made a half-hearted attempt to first shoot some pool in the bar next door. Afterwards we had dinner, which was good as usual, though I wished the portions were a little larger. We went back to the room as the sun was starting to go down, and went out on our patio so that we could watch the sunset. A pair of young local girls were riding a horse around in the grassy area between our room and the road, and we watched them and waved hello. They came over next to the patio, and Sue talked to them about the horse and riding. One of the girls got off, and the other offered Sue a ride. While the two of them rode around the grassy area outside of the room I filmed the event on the camcorder. After a short time they returned, and I went into the room and got about a dozen colored pens from my backpack (all that remained of the 'gift' pens), and gave all of the pens to the two girls as a way of saying 'thank you' before they left. They seemed pleased, and after saying thanks and goodbye, they rode off into the falling darkness.
We went back to our packing and general wrap-up to the day prior to going to bed. After a half hour or so there was a knock at our patio door, and when Sue opened the curtains, there were the two young girls. The older one handed Sue a six inch wooden moai as a gift. After everyone had said thanks and goodbye again, they left to go home. We looked at the moai, which was a little beat up and had some random paint spatters on it, but was otherwise a nice piece. The girl had probably had it sitting on a shelf in her room gathering dust, and had selected it as a gift, knowing that a tourist would treasure it more than she did. (Or that's what I assume.) Anyway, it was a very nice gesture.
(Click HERE to read Sue's account of the story.)