We woke up late, especially Justin, but in more than enough time to eat breakfast before our 10 am excursion. All meals are included at the Explora lodge, which made us think twice about wanting to go anywhere for dinner. At breakfast we saw two other couples, both probably in their seventies. One was from Philadelphia, the other was from somewhere in England. For our excursion, we went into one car and they went into another. Our guide's name was Yoyo. He was very nice, and his English was far better than our Espanol. We started our walk at Mahatua (in the Northeast part of the island, just west of the Poike peninsula), and headed west. Yoyo was very adamant that we drive to Mahatua to avoid going by any of the Moai, lest we want to stop and look. He told us in the afternoon we would be going to to Rano Raraku (the quarry where they carved all of the Moai), and he didn't want to spoil it for us by driving by.
We started at Mahatua, right on the ocean, and more or less followed the coastline for 6 miles (9.5 km) as it went Northwest. We walked by several ahu – the ceremonial platforms – and he told us about each one, including an explanation generally about what the ahu were, where the Rapa Nui came from, etc. We had heard a lot of this already from shows on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and every other show that our Tivo caught that included the phrases "Easter Island" or "Rapa Nui." Yoyo appreciated that we at least knew a little bit of the history of the island – makes us wonder if a lot of people come here knowing nothing – but we learned far more from him than we ever did from any of the television shows.
Along the walk, we went by a couple of very interesting spots. One was an astronomy building. We had to crawl in, but inside there was plenty of room to stand and look out the roof (think Texas Stadium – closed but not closed). This had the added benefit of giving us a break from the rain, which had started just before we crawled in. The rain did not last long, however. One of the best things about Rapa Nui is the constant cloud cover, which makes certain parts of the island bright and puts other parts in shade. Because of the hilly nature of the island, at any given time you can see quite a bit of the island, some covered in shade and others shining brightly. Another interesting spot along the walk was Te Pito O Te Henua – The Navel of the World. There was a large spherical rock inside of a small enclosure, and on the rock the directions from a compass would change drastically depending on where the compass was located. The Rapa Nui people thought they were the one and only group of people on Earth – not much different than the rest of us thinking we're the only populated planet in the Universe – and they thought Rapa Nui was the "navel" of the Earth. One of the first leaders divided up the island into four sections, and drew a straight line from this rock to Motu Nui (one of the small offshore islands) to cut the island in half. After the fact, it has been determined that this line did in fact cut the island exactly in half. We didn't find out where the other "line" was, that divided the North of the Island from the South.
Our trek ended up at Ovahe, one of two accessible beaches on the island. There were umbrellas set up and waiting for us, along with cold drinks and a catered lunch. We waded in the ocean for a bit, then came in to eat. They had set up for us Turkey, Prosciutto, Ahi, Ceviche, Pasta Salad, bread, and green salad. We stuffed ourselves, but we had earned it. We left to go back to the hotel, but we decided to go to the canoe competition instead, which Yoyo was competing in. During the summer – usually late January and early February – there is a festival on Rapa Nui with several historical events. The day before we arrived, for example, there was a competition for "skiing" – riding a banana trunk down the side of a 45 degree hill. The canoe competition pitted two teams, and lasted about 20-25 minutes. Both teams canoed out to sea, then went somewhere out at sea (we couldn't see where they went), then came back. Yoyo's team won by about 10-15 seconds.
We got back to the hotel around 4, just long enough to lounge around before our 5pm excursion. On this excursion we started at Ahu Te Tenga, on the Southern Coastline, and hiked 4.5 miles (7 km) Northeast to the Rano Raraku crater, where all of the Moai were carved before being transported around the island to be put atop the various Ahus. The walk was very peaceful, and we saw a lot of the countryside. With us were a couple from Switzerland and our guide, Tito. We assume Tito was with us because the Swiss couple spoke French, and Tito could speak both French and English (not to mention Rapa Nui and Spanish). We first went to the inside of the crater, where there is a lake, then went to the outside of the crater, where most of the Moai were carved from the Basalt. Tito told us an interesting story about how the Moai got their necks – the first one carved had no neck. We won't describe it at length, but we will say that Tito told us it was conceived in the "pee-pee room."
The size of the Moai was incredible. We saw "El Gigante," who was 21 m (69 feet) tall. He was never raised – he sits in the hillside carved yet glued to the ground. In the morning we had seen the largest Moai ever transported and raised – that one was 9.5 meters (32 feet) tall. That Moai, unfortunately, now sits face down near its ahu. Tito took a nice picture of us near two standing Moai that were waiting for transportation. At the quarry several Moai were complete, awaiting their final destination. There is still considerable debate as to how the Rapa Nui people moved the Moai – whether it be on their back on top of log rollers, on top of log rollers, standing up, with ropes tied around their necks to balance them, or by "mana" – supernatural forces. The Rapa Nui people told the explorers who "discovered" Rapa Nui that the Moai had "walked" to their ahu.
We got back to the lodge and ate dinner. There aren't many choices, so Justin ended up choosing a Pumpkin soup and a Wild Mushroom Risotto. He was doing a decent job of picking out the mushrooms until the power went out – a fairly common occurrence, so far as we can tell. After that he had to pick out mushrooms by candlelight, which was far more difficult, meaning he pretty-much starved. Crystal enjoyed her prawns and fish. Getting to sleep was no problem at all.