THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF MOAI: EASTER ISLAND

DUE TO YEARS OF ISOLATION, EASTER ISLAND REMAINS A MYSTERY. AS A RESULT, THE RAPA NUI CULTURE AND HISTORY HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY UNRAVELED, AND THE EASTER ISLAND MYTHS AND LEGENDS HAVE BECOME VERY RELEVANT. MYTHS AND LEGENDS PASSED DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ANCIENT VISITORS. THEREFORE, THE MYSTERY REMAINS BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY TO THIS VERY DAY.

BY MARIANA MEJIA

As you travel back in time and set sail for Easter Island, you’ll uncover 64 square miles in the South Pacific, which is located approximately 2,300 miles from Chile’s west coast and 2,500 miles east of Tahiti. However, what keeps bringing tourists to Easter Island? Easter Island attracts tourists with its mysterious tall statues called Moai, which have almost 900 giant stone figures that date back many centuries. Even though there is high speculation about the exact purpose of the statues and how their creator’s mastered these craftsmanship and engineering methods, the statues have played a significant role in the Polynesian (Rapa Nui) ancient civilization. Many archeologists and scholars believe the Moai were created to honor ancestors, chiefs, or other important personages. However, with no written and very little oral history existing on the island, it’s certainly impossible.

Even for 200 years, Easter Island remained a remote place, an enigma, a territory lost in the sea, inhabited by a group of people about whom little or nothing was known. While continental Chile grew closer to the world, Rapa Nui continued to live at its own pace, with a very strong feeling of unity, with families that opened their arms and their hearts to welcome their children and other children, forming numerous clans. So, when arriving on Easter Island, the hotel you’ll stay at is the Hare Uta Hotel, a familyowned hotel that opens its arms to anyone who visits. The Hare Uta hotel is open to all those who visit Easter Island just as the ancestors did with their houses more than 50 years ago, with an open heart so that you can have a true experience on the island. The suites in the Hare Uta hotel resemble the houses of the Rapa Nui of 1968. A designed space that is not only comfortable for the guests, but also a pace at which they can live and integrate with the environment around them while experiencing the true Rapa Nui experience of today. Thus, a place where they will be able to visit the hare Uta gardens, where the flora and local fruits, chickens and roosters, and obsidian (an important mineral in the Rapa Nui culture) abound. hotelhareuta.com

As you arrive and get settled into your hotel, there are several parts of Easter Island that show the history in a unique way through the variety of traditions as you explore and bind your way into the island. But to make that all possible, book a bicycle, and pedal through the island so you and your loved ones can go at your own pace through every corner of this magical environment. Especially when you are bound to head over to Hanga Roa Harbor. Although Easter Island doesn’t really boast a natural harbor, ships can anchor off Hanga Roa on the west coast, which is the island’s largest village, with a population of roughly 3,300. This stop is fairly popular for small craft fishing boats. The “harbor” piers are used to transport passengers off large transatlantic cruises that love stopping at the island. And from this harbor, anyone that visits heads on over by car or an excursion bus to Ana Te Pahu. Ana Te Pahu is located about a kilometer and a half from Akivi, and it is easy to get there after a short 10-15-minute walk. Ana Te Pahu is also known as the “cave of bananas” because there are a lot of these trees at the entrance, located a few meters below the surface. At the entrance of the cave, you will be guided through it by a tour guide. Inside the cave you can find petrified footprints of the endemic palm of Rapa Nui, called Niu, which in primitive times spread over much of the island. It is recommended to carry a flashlight to access the darker areas and suitable shoes for walking between the stones and avoiding slipping in the wetter areas. After walking a hundred meters through and out of the cave, you’ll probably want to head back to your hotel and rest for a bit till it’s time to eat back at the hotel.

Although the bike ride was fun and going on an adventure through a cave was a blast, this event helps you find your way while you get in touch with nature in a liberating way. The start of the adventure heads on toward the Marvel at Rano Raraku volcano and quarry. Rano Raraku volcano is one of the most astonishing archaeological sites on the planet. This magical place is full of mystery and was the “factory” for the giant moai statues that have made Easter Island famous worldwide to this day. The enormous figures and the quarry in the volcano will outstrip any expectations and will leave you astounded while you contemplate one of the most enthralling wonders of humanity. Next, in the southern corner of Easter Island, you’ll head on over to Ranu Kao volcano, which is one of the several volcanoes on the island providing a knee-buckling viewpoint, along with an amazing story. Hundreds of years ago, the Rapa Nui used the crater’s extremely fertile and sheltered internal walls as a kind of arboretum and horticultural nursery. Now these two volcanoes are what make tourism a highlight, along with several other locations like Tahai. Tahai is an ancient Easter Island village near Hanga Roa and is one of the few places where the sun sets behind the statues. Because of its beautiful setting and proximity to town, Tahai is a very popular place for taking sunset photos.

After taking several sunset photos in Tahai, grab something to eat at the Te Moai Sunset Restaurant. It is the best place to try Easter Island’s fresh fish, delicious meats, and homemade pastas in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere with unforgettable views. A true Te Maoi Sunset experience, with the flavor of Rapa Nui. But that’s not all. The night continues on and if you didn’t have this on your bucket list, it will be now, and it will be checked off with this romantic and magical Easter Island stargazing experience. This remote island has very little light and pollution, so the night sky here is incredible. You can see a clear night filled with stars and constellations, which are cast above the 15 Moai Statues. The Moai statues face away from the sea and towards the villages, it was the way in which they used to watch over their people and now watching over every visitor, as they set sail or fly away back home!