In honour of all who have played their part
It is several hours before we awake fully and although somewhat lost in time and space, we head off for a walk to meet our first Moai. Perched upon stone platforms, known as an Ahu, they stand with backs to the ocean, gazing inland – some alone while others are grouped. The Ahu are sacred to the Rapa Nui who believe they hold the Mana of their ancestors and it is prohibited to step upon them.
In total there are a staggering eight-hundred and eighty-seven Moai spread right around the island. Most stand (or lie where they have fallen) near the shoreline but many are still located within the original quarry at the extinct volcano of Rano Raraku.
Curbed by a cold southerly breeze we cut our walk short and return to the hotel for dinner. The restaurant is open-air – which our waitress (dressed in jacket and scarf) explains suits the normally year-round twenty Celsius climate. However, we’ve caught the tail-end of a three day storm and the current temperature is far from that! Apparently the island has been lashed by unusually high winds and torrential rain – and it seems we are lucky to have missed it. Despite resembling a shivering granny with a blanket across my knee I smile, appreciating the cleansing hand of nature. I do however, make a mental note to pack warm clothes in the future – no matter what the guide books claim as normal.
The following day we learn this is not natures only surprise. A friendly local tells us whales were sighted just a couple of days ago – apparently a very rare occurrence. And when we inquire about the naval frigate we see offshore we are told there has been signs of activity in the ocean and the ship is here to investigate the possibility of a new volcano forming! OK: storms, whales and land shifts - I think we are ready. Game on!
There are endless theories regarding the Moai’s existence and numerous enthusiasts have attempted to reconstruct their story – the biggest mystery being how they were moved. None have proven particularly successful and there is certainly nothing unanimous. Figuring the oral tradition of the Rapa Nui is likely to shed the most light we book a tour.
Along with our guide, Patricia and several Spanish speaking couples we set forth for a full day of exploration. Being the only English speakers proves beneficial, allowing us to wander alone as Patricia repeats her spiel in Spanish.
The first thing to capture our attention are shards of obsidian scattered about. At our first stop Simon is drawn to a particularly large one, shaped like a Bishops hat. He holds it for some time before placing it on a nearby rock for its next recipient.
Further on we are greeted with the commanding sight of fifteen standing Moai, lined up for all their worth like a great Council. With their backs to the ocean and heads tilted slightly upwards they face inland, directly towards a rocky escarpment on the back side of Ranu Raraku – the volcanic quarry from which the Moai are carved. The line of energy between the two is potent and I find myself repeatedly looking from the cliff to the Moai. The scene further enhanced by a group of horses roaming free amid the terrain. The energy here is palpable.
As we get closer we note the fifteen statues are quite different from one another, each with their own individually chiselled characteristics. Tuning in I sense many lineages represented and instinctively I look to the stars.
Like most of the Moai on the island these figures were toppled during tribal warfare sometime around the 17th century. A time when a peaceful community orientated civilisation who had existed in harmony with nature for centuries suddenly descended into violence – a startlingly familiar story! From Patricia we learn the Moai were further scattered by a tsunami in 1960, following the largest earthquake in recorded history (9.5 on the Richter scale). Interestingly, it was the Japanese that funded the entire restoration project and thanks to their generosity the Council stand once more: regal, masterful and majestic.
Our next stop is the quarry, where more than three hundred Moai can be seen. Some still attached to the rock face from which they have been carved and others varying in position from perfectly upright to face down on the ground.
It is commonly accepted that in the latter years of the Moai’s construction they had become no more than status symbols for families or tribes attempting to satisfy their egos by commissioning larger and larger statues. Many were discarded as inferior or fell during transportation and were abandoned where they landed. Carving eventually ground to a halt when a new social and political structure overtook the island. Known as the Bird-Man cult is was based around an annual competition to harvest the first Tern eggs of the season. The victor of the treacherous race, which involved scaling sheer rock cliffs, was thereby charged with selecting the islands leader for the coming year.
All history now and so our attention turns to the wondrous sight before us – a panorama akin to a Disney inspired sculptural park.
Again we are struck with the diverse feel or essence of the Moai. Whilst they are all remarkable and highly appealing some simply emit more than others. Some feel ancient whilst others comparatively new. And it is to the oldest of them that we are drawn. As I move about them I find myself drifting to other places – most noticeably the Pyramids of Egypt and New Grange in Ireland. At one statue, standing non-descript amidst all the others, I capture several orbs on camera and note how similar they look to ones that appeared above the Pyramids when we were there. The connection to these most ancient of structures is tangible. Again I am reminded the island is a switch board, linking many (if not all) of Earth’s grids.
Not for the first time, Simon and I find ourselves questioning the commonly accepted theory that the statues were carved by Polynesian settlers within the last six to eight hundred years. People who arrived with no previous inclination towards stone carving and hammered away at a cliff face using nothing more than shards of pointy rock to depict God’s that in no way resembled anything in their history.
In the oral tradition of the Rapa Nui their ancestors arrived in vaka from an island in the Marquesas that sank beneath the ocean during a large land shift. Following celestial visions the King and his family were sent forth to re-establish a civilisation on a new land. A land known as Te-Pito-O-TeHenua – the Navel of the World. Here they carved Moai to honour their ancestors and keep their “spiritual energy” alive so their “super-natural powers” could be preserved for future generations.
Sounds more feasible to me but perhaps it is time to find our own version of the truth. Snatching a few moments alone we connect with the more enigmatic forms and are transported back through time. We are shown, as suspected, that the first of the statues were here tens of thousands of years before the relatively recent arrival of the Polynesians.
With Patrica’s permission we leave the group for a detour into the volcano’s interior, following a narrow track up to the rim. Here emerald green grass gives way to a rich red scoria landscape, beyond which lies the Crater Lake. It is a breath-taking sight. The rocky crater rim forms the backdrop whilst the vivid blue lake edged with spiky bushes takes centre stage. The entire scene looks as if it has been photo-shopped; so vibrant, so colourful and completely surreal. And just when I think it couldn’t possibly get better I notice the familiar outline of Moai on the far side the lake. From this distance they look tiny but using the camera zoom I see they are several metres tall, and like most of the others, their bodies are buried beneath the soil leaving only the head visible.
It feels like we have struck a jackpot. I hear the call of the Inner Earth and the echo of Lemuria. This place has a story to tell - but as our bus is waiting it will have to wait a few more days until we return…
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