It is my third day here on Easter Island, and I am drawn out of bed early: At exactly 05.30 a.m., my sleepy gaze meets the shiny morning stars of the “Great Waka”, or Great Canoe, as the Maori people in New Zealand call the “Belt of Orion”. I look up into the clear sky with a happy sigh: Soon, I shall be there again, in the “Land Of The Long White Cloud”, Aotearoa New Zealand! Oh, New Zealand … A knock on the door pulls me back into the present, Lorena & Washington, my new friends & next-door-neighbours gently asking: “Elena, are you awake and ready to leave?” After all, we have a date: Watching the sunrise by the Moai here on Easter Island!
As we reach the 15 Tongariki Moai we have visited the day before, clouds appear on the horizon, but the early morning peace & stillness impose their magic upon us nonetheless. An event truly worth getting out of bed for!
Many of the Moai standing here bid us respect and silence, being holy ceremonial sites with a deep spiritual meaning to the first people on Easter Island.
“Your imagination is needed” here on Rapa Nui: The national museum in the “capital city” of Easter Island allows us to understand more about this enigmatic culture.
The so-called “Polynesian Triangle” consists of Hawaii, Te Pito O Te Henua (Easter Island) as well as Aotearoa (New Zealand): Language, culture & settlement history are closely interwoven across all Polynesian Islands.
Facts & figures concerning the Moai, their crafting & significance, are truly remarkable.
Travelling from the highest to the lowest point on Easter Island: Whistling volcanoes & windy cave ways welcome us to utter silence. …
… Is there really such a thing as “absolute silence“? Yes, my dear readers. There is. I swear. And I will swear that I have never experienced anything quite like it before. It is. Simply. Absolutely. Quiet. Out here. Some 10 metres below the ground, I may still see some light through the cracks in the cave ceiling above me, but only guess at the wind from the passing clouds. There is no (other) sound. So what do you hear when all else fades away, including the gentle breeze, birdsong or else?
Here on Easter Island, utter silence forces you to listen to … yourself. The beat of your own heart, and the very humming of your own thoughts! Seriously. I have never “listened to myself, being so alive” before.!
We start our day exploring the highest point on Easter Island, the Maunga Terevaka volcano located well over 500 metres above sea level.
The holy site Ahu A Kivi with its standing Moai once more inspires awe and respect …
… as we start our ascent up the volcano Maunga Terevaka.
Towards the end, there are virtually no markers left as all ways lead across the land and up to the volcanic crater …
… and this is what it looks like when you reach the top: Together with its two other volcanoes, this (youngest) one erupted some 300.000 years ago, ending up giving Easter Island its distinctive triangular shape.
“Ensemble, c’est tout”: Reaching the top with dear fellow travellers & friends of the road, Lorena & Washington from Chile (to my right) as well as Daniela & João from São Paulo in Brazil.
Making new contacts in the most remote of places: “Business meeting” with my Brazilians on top of Easter Island!
After all this excitement, we are happy to stop for some food: The “Dominican Restaurant” in the capital “city” (village) of Rapa Nui serves fresh seafood with home-grown veggies and salad.
Like this, we have all the energy we need to explore the cave systems around the only town on Easter Island …
… and this is where I find my moment of absolute peace and silence, a moment I shall never forget for the rest of my life. Pure awe-inspiring magic here on Easter Island!
The evening finally serves me a conflicting contradiction: Tera’ai Dinner & Show, something I normally avoid as the “staging of culture” – a far cry from authentic culture experiences on Easter Island.?
Yes and no. Based on my experience, I am tempted to say both. Of course, the single talks with the local people around the island would offer me a higher degree of authenticity and direct, unmediated cultural experiences. On the other hand, the effort and input of the people I meet that night is also genuine and heartfelt. Kia, who leads us through the evening of dance, song, cooking & music at the cultural centre Tera’ai, openly says:” What we can offer you tonight is time. Time that you take in coming here and your interest that allows us to revive and sustain our cultural traditions in the form of traditional Earth ovens, dance & song. My seven-year-old son here for instance is happiest learning new traditional rhythms and steps. He is very motivated by the exchange and appreciation of visitors from all over the world.”
Of course, there is no denying the fact that we are facing an environment of commercialisation of traditional Rapa Nui culture. However, one must also say that there is an element of trust, openness and sharing in all the explanations and dealings of the Rapa Nui we meet. And finally, experiencing a typical Easter Island dance makes me “step back in” into being the creative traveller I normally am, becoming part of the action & cultural understanding rather than just watching & observing …! 😀
Arriving at Tera’ai bids us a warm welcome …
… one that is marked by cultural immersion, transformation & memorable experiences – such as having your face painted to become part of the Rapa Nui community!
Ika, our leader & local “show master” for the night, is hardly recognisable at first owing to his elaborate, ah, head adornment !!
Visitors do like it, in any case!
Especially, as the aroma of dinner …
… rises like “Phonix from the ashes”: The traditional earth oven holds fresh fish & sweet potatoes …
… that are served to us a little later at the dinner table.
Enjoy your meal it is, then, having a toast with this lovely family from Santiago de Chile!
A little later, traditional forms of dance are being “served” to us!
The dancers are truly professional …
… and a real delight to watch …
… wouldn’t you agree?
We can only try our best in keeping up: Short introduction into Polynesian Rapa Nui dance for the ladies!
Thank you for a great night out: Love the look of these guys!
For even more magic from Easter Island, head on over to my Flickr Photo Gallery here:
I have also written & published the following stories about Easter Island:
Hope you enjoy! 🙂
Ready for learning even more about creative travel?
Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it