The highlight of our trip was the penultimate stop, our visit to Easter Island, lying far out in the Pacific Ocean, 2000 miles away from the nearest mainland in Chile.
Easter Island was one of the last islands in the Pacific to be colonised, somewhere between AD 900 and 1200, but it was here that the fantastic statues were erected that form one of the world’s most enigmatic art forms. It is also the site of the world’s biggest ecological disasters, for in the course of erecting the statues, they cut down all the trees which provided the ropes that enable them to erect the statues, so statue building came to an end, and their whole society changed irrevocably.
There are two major sites to see on the island. There is the Quarry, where over 300 statues still remain, some of them still being carved, but others are complete and waiting to be transported.
And then there is Orongo, the Birdman village, the great ritual site of the post-statue era, a most spectacular site on the rim of a volcano with superb views over the sea to some nearby islands — see our photo above, where you can see the islands to one side.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, all the statues were pulled down by the native islanders, but subsequently a number of have been re-erected, and there are now about half a dozen platforms where these can be seen. We visited most of them and I will be showing photos of some of the more spectacular. And there are also a number of settlement sites.
There is therefore a lot be be seen, and I hope to be able to put up a number of photos.
A note on terminology. Easter Island is called locally Rapa Nui, or Great Rapa. This is a comparatively new name, first recored in the 1860s, but it is the one that the islanders prefer.
The native term for the stautes is moai, which appears to be both singular and plural, and the word for the platforms on which they stand is ahu, and I tend to use these terms interchangeably.