Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shore Leave - Easter Island

Ah, finally some real shore leave! We arrived at anchor a few days early and the decision was made to keep our original departure date making this a 9 day stay. On arrival day the swell was quite big meaning we couldn't get our boats ashore and no one got off the ship that night. Happily by morning a local boat had been hired as water taxi to take crew to land and back. 

The students and teachers went ashore every day and camped out for 2 nights so they could enjoy evenings ashore (the boats can't run after dark due to needing to see the shoals to avoid them). The crew each got 2 days off and it was a much needed break for all invovled. 

The first day off I rented a car with some crew mates and we drove around the island looking for moai. Didn't take too long as the island is only 24x12 km. 

The landscape here is rather barren, part of the reason the rapa nui population decreased so much hundreds of years ago is that they just didn't have the natural resources to support a large population. (Population of the island is currently around 6,000 with 800-1,000 tourists at any given time).

The island is volcanic and this makes for some spectacular shore lines. 

From what I learned during the field studies class I attended in the 18th century all the moai got knocked over. Likely from ongoing battles between tribes. Anyways, some have been restored but many, like these are are lying as they must have fallen. 

This hill is the quarry where moai were carved. It would take 5-6 men about a year to carve an "average" moai. Can you see all the moai on the hill? There are also some that weren't completed but lying partially carved in rock. 

This row of 15 is probably the most impressive set I saw and it's a scene on lots of postcards here. 

Again, with some people for size reference. 

And the obligatory "pretend to be a moai" shot. 

Only one moai on the island has been restored to how they all probably looked when they were first made. The eyes have whites and pupils and it's got a red hat/hairstyle. It has such a different feel with these details. That row of 15 must've been quite a sight when they were all like this. 

On my second day off I joined the school for a field studies program. They went to see the triathlon that is part of Tapati - the yearly cultural festival where two tribes/families compete to earn the most points over a series of events held over 2 weeks. 

A little different than the triathlons we are used to… the first event is to paddle a reed kayak down the lake (about 650 m). Then pick up 20 kg of bananas (in two bunches, each plastic wrapped to avoid chafe and keep the fruit from falling off) and run around the lake (2 km). Drop the bananas and run on the higher path back to the start and get in the water again to paddle a bundle of reeds surf board style (on your tummy). Each contestant makes their own reed craft, harvesting the reeds in November or December to let them dry properly. There were 5 divisions: children, youth, adult (the "main" competition), masters and - for the first time - women! The race I described is what the adult males did with the other groups doing a slightly "less" version. Each race took about 20 minutes to complete. Another difference to "normal" triathlons is the athletes wear traditional clothing… meaning a loin cloth and bare feet (ladies wore more modern clothing).

Here are the reed kayaks to start the race. 

And a close up of the water craft. 

Here's part of the run course. The high route is up by the moai. 

This is one of the most well attended events on the island, and this is the crowd:

Other than these outings I also spent some time in town perusing souvenir shops, eating ice cream and eating food I had nothing to do with preparing or serving!

These are the type of boats we used to get to and from Sørlandet. 

And so another port complete. Next up, Pitcairn - home to 46 people!


  1. Well, I not even sure how I would find enough bananas to train for that triathlon... I think Ill stick to the swim, bike and run version! But what an experience to be there for that. And such an interesting place. Glad to hear you had two well deserved days off and found some ice cream :)

  2. Thanks again! Love your blog! - doug