We woke up today a little earlier, ready to start our trek at 9:30 am . It was supposed to start at 10, but the night before we spoke to Eddie, one of the managers, and told him we had a limited number of days and wanted to see x, y, z, before we left. So he arranged it so that we could briefly stop at one of the restored ahus, Ahu Akivi, before our hike started. Eddie really wanted us to go on this hike it is the longest one Explora Rapa Nui offers because we could. Many of their guests are either quite old and/or in poor physical condition, and we guess when they saw us they said to themselves "Hey, we can go on the long hike."
Once again we were with the Swiss couple and Tito. We stopped briefly at Ahu Akivi, which pays homage to the first explorers who made their way from Hiva to Rapa Nui . We had always thought that "Hiva" referred to either Hiva Oa or Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas in French Polynesia, but apparently Hiva is a non-existent place supposedly destroyed by tsunamis and other disasters, but nonetheless somewhere in the Marquesas. The Moai at Ahu Akivi were the first ones built well, after the one with no neck and are the only ones that look out at the ocean. Some people think all the Moai look inwards to the center of the island, but the actual explanation is far simpler the Moai looked over the nearby villages, which in all but one case happened to be more inland than the Moai on top of the ahu. The Moai atop Ahu Akivi look out at Hiva, where they came from. The sense of direction was quite adept they did look out to the Northwest, where the Marquesa lie, several thousand km away.
Our hike started at Ahu Te Peu, roughly halfway up the Western edge of Rapa Nui . We slowly but steadily walked north up the coastline, stopping at many places along the way. We saw an old nursery, where the tribes would grow herbs, sweet potatoes, bananas, and so on. There were several fallen moai, including one that never made its way onto its ahu. This moai was roughly 20 kilometers away from its quarry, up and over several hills and uneven terrain, and fell less than 100 meters from the ahu it was intended to stand upon. Tito indicated that seeing a moai so far away from the quarry made him really believe that mana transported the moai to their ahu that it's inconceivable that people with nothing but ropes, logs, and lots of manpower could have moved such a heavy object so far.
He also told us that even today, people on the island have odd feelings come over them when they are on part of the island that did not belong to their tribe. For example, our entire hike would be in the Northwest, where Tito's family was not from. He said he felt a little off every time he did this excursion, and that he never ventured to this part of the island at night. He did once as a teenager, and left after 30 minutes. We asked him how everyone could now live together in Hanga Roa, given that many of them were from tribes who never lived in or near Hanga Roa. The answer is that when the missionaries came in the 1800s, they slowly got everyone to move to Hanga Roa, and nowadays, while everyone still has relatives that are of different tribes, everyone also belongs to the same all-encompassing "tribe."
There was a cave that had many petroglyphs on the ceiling, including one of Make Make the supreme being in Rapa Nui culture. Tito took a very good photo of us that included a carving of Make Make as well. Nearby there were some petroglyphs outside, including one of a turtle. Tito asked the four of us what we thought it was Crystal got it right. Lots of sea turtles surround Rapa Nui especially on the West side and thus there are many petroglyphs of them. Only the Royal family was allowed to eat the turtles.
We kept walking and walking up the coast, going up and down with the contours of the cliff face. Our trail was basically right at the top of a high cliff, and so at any time if had stumbled badly our trip would have ended badly. At around 1:00 we turned the corner Rapa Nui is shaped like a triangle, with Orongo being in the Southwest Corner, Poike being in the East Corner, and the area we were hiking being in the North Corner. Once we started East along the Northern shore, the cliffs were not so bad, but the heat really turned up. Being in the southern hemisphere, the north side is the hot side, and February is the hottest month in Rapa Nui. There was little if any shade at this point in the hike, and not many sites to see, meaning we had less stops.
At around 2pm we stopped at a small farmhouse to eat lunch. The name of the area is Hanga Oteo. We were at the base of an enormous hill covered in short grass and small shrubs. The angle of the hill was well over 45 degrees maybe 60 degrees or more. There happened to be a couple of other hikers there, and one of them engaged us in conversation. We were a titch tired, and not really ready to speak coherently, but he kept asking us all of these philosophical questions and waxing poetic about this and that. It was very strange. He asked us to describe the green hill, and we both determined that words could not do it justice we think that is the answer he was looking for, based on his reaction.
For lunch, we had sandwiches, fruit, and brownies. Tito had been carrying our lunch in his backpack the entire time. Justin wasn't much in the mood for brownies, being so hot and all, but when Tito jokingly (or maybe not) said "My friend, I carried these all the way from ", Justin stopped him mid-sentence and grabbed a couple.
After lunch, we continued on our death march, heading on towards Anakena, the other beach on the island. There were not many sights past Hanga Oteo, but one that we did see was a large Birdman petroglyph. The cult of the Birdman was a socio-economic competition that the Rapa Nui came up with to lessen the degree of their inter-tribal wars. Each tribe would send a representative to compete, and whoever won the race would lead the island for the next year. This had the effect of getting the tribes to treat each other better, because the leader one year would quite likely not be the leader the next year. All of the Birdman competitions started and finished at Orongo, so it was quite odd to see a Birdman petroglyph so far away. Tito theorized that this clan won the competition one year, and then drew the petroglyph to celebrate or commemorate the victory.
At around 4pm we finally got to Anakena having seen it from the trail about 30 minutes earlier. When we first saw it, Anakena resembled an oasis light blue water, white sand, and coconut trees surrounded by the short grass and scrub that we were still walking through. The last 30 minutes went noticeably faster because of this. At the beach, we slipped out of our hiking gear and went running into the ocean. The only problem was that we had been hiking for the better part of six hours and were dehydrated. Our legs, feet and toes kept cramping, especially when we tried to jump over the crashing waves.
Anakena is pretty much the best beach ever and this is even before the ahu and the moai. Right near the shore are two restored ahu with moai, including one with seven statues. Justin went up to take some pictures, but he was still barefoot from being in the ocean and he kept burning his feet on the hot sand. On the drive back Singha and Tito were listening to some Tahitian music, an artist named Angelo. The music was very good, and we'll probably pick up the CD (or at least try to) when we get home.
We got back to the hotel around 5 or 5:30 , and since we had no afternoon excursion we actually got to clean up and rest a bit. We relaxed by drinking Pisco and Cola (not nearly as good as Pisco sours) and reading travel magazines. Crystal is going to order a subscription to Conde Nast Traveler when we get back home. There were several interesting articles, including one on the Okavango Delta in Botswana, which is one of the places we plan on going next year on our vacation to Southern Africa.
By 8pm , when dinner starts, Justin was starving. We both got the tomato soup and the beef tenderloin. Justin wasn't sure if he liked the tomato soup because he was so hungry or if it was just that good. Crystal couldn't eat much of her steak, so Justin had a little more than half of hers plus all of his. And then he ordered another bowl of tomato soup, indicating that he really did think it was good. For dessert, Crystal had half a bowl and Justin had a bowl and a half of mango sorbet.
At 10pm we went to the festival to see the dancing. We weren't sure what to expect, as the brochure was in Spanish. All we knew was that it was some form of local dancing. We stayed for two hours, and in those two hours we saw a number of women perform a story-telling ritual called Kai Kai and a number of men and women discuss their body painting, Ta kona. In Kai Kai, the woman makes a design out of a piece of string held between their two hands, then tells a story while prominently displaying their design out in front of them. Ta kona was an ancient method of body painting meant to easily convey tribe, status, occupation to others on the island.