THE ISOLATED RAPA NUI


Visiting the most remote place on earth could not be missed on my trip through South America. Many people call it Easter Island, but I like to call it Rapa Nui ("Big Island"), the traditional name given by the Tahitians who first came from French Polynesia.

After a 4 hour flight with LATAM over the Pacific Ocean in the incredible new Boeing 787-9 "Dreamliner", I finally landed on the island. My mission this time was to try and get to know the local culture, the Rapa Nui culture, in depth. And to do so, it was not enough to stay in the main city of the island: Hanga Roa. There I rented a car for about 20.000 Chilean pesos (almost 30 Euro) for two days to be able to move around the island easily and comfortably. I went directly to the Ana Tekena Sustainable Camping in the north, located in Anakena, the most paradisiacal and incredible beach of the whole island. At the campsite I met Pepe, a very cool Chilean guy who worked there, and Quichi, the owner of the Rapa Nui blood campsite. I also met Maira and Cristina, two travelers who, just like me, preferred to get away from the city and get more involved in the culture and the quietness of the rest of Rapa Nui.

According to Rapa Nui tradition, Anakena Beach was where the first sailors from Polynesia arrived. Here you can also find Ahu Nau Nau, a platform (Ahu) with the seven best preserved moais of the island. The Moais are Rapa Nui's most significant statues representing its most important ancestors or forefathers who, upon their death, could expel their spiritual power or "mana" over their tribe in order to protect it. For this reason, almost all the Moais turn their backs to the sea in order to project all the mana coming from the ocean.

Another obligatory Ahu to see is the Ahu Tongariki, with 15 very imposing and gigantic Moais. It is located on the east coast of the island, very close to the Rano Raraku quarry where the moais were made. After a night of laughter and partying at the campsite, we got up and went Maira, Cristina and I on the eastern road that passes through these places. In order to get in, it is essential to have bought the Rapa Nui National Park ticket at the Hanga Roa points of sale. If not, you cannot access many places of great cultural interest.

The visit to Rano Raraku was amazing. Walking through so many sculptures that were carved in volcanic stone hundreds and hundreds of years ago leaves no one indifferent. The island's carvers used this volcano almost exclusively because of its unique material: a type of compact ash with basalt incrustations. Here, 90% of all the moais were manufactured and then transported to different points on the island. Such transportation is still one of the great mysteries that remain unsolved in Rapa Nui. During the visit you can also climb the inactive crater of the volcano where there are also loose moais that have yet to be transported.


Being "isolated" in the middle of the Pacific also means tasting the delights of the ocean. After visiting the quarry, I went to Hanga Roa for a fresh tuna ceviche lunch with side dishes and strawberry juice. An explosion of flavor worthy of such a place. Then it was time to visit some caves with petroglyphs located in the south of the island, on the way to Rano Kau, the most spectacular and amazing volcano in Rapa Nui. At the southernmost tip of the island, between two cliffs (one towards the volcano and the other towards the sea), is Orongo: the only ceremonial village with stone houses where the most prominent members of each tribe performed the most important ritual. This annual ceremony consisted of the competition to get the first egg from the manutara bird, which came to nest on Motu Nui, an isolated islet 300 meters away from the cliff. The first to return to Orongo with the egg was proclaimed a tangata-manu or "bird man", considered sacred.

I had never been in a place with such an amazing and different culture from ours. I guess the further we go from one point to another, the more cultural differences we find. And Rapa Nui demonstrates this perfectly.

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