jeff's career break

The Power of the Moai

Written By: jeff

Posted On: June 6th, 2010

Career break rtw blog on Easter Island

Rapa Nui show

Last night I went to a little show put on by the Kari Kari company showcasing the traditional dancing of the Rapa Nui people.  Given the Polynesian roots of the people, the dances and chants were familiar to the styles I saw in Hawaii and in New Zealand.  I typically eschew these types of events, but I figured, why not.  I walked to the hotel where the show was and got a little lost on the way but eventually found it.  There are few street lights and no street signs.  So, if you lose your way – look out.  The problem came in going home.  Somehow I got completely turned around.  I made it to a main road, found a cab and got in.  The driver basically took two right turns and we were back at the hotel.  In reality, it was very simple.  I was soooo close.  But, I wasn’t about to find it.  Walking around at night alone usually doesn’t bother me.  i’ve done it in lots of places.  But, I have to say it was a little creepy here.  I don’t believe in ghosts, but another walk like the one I took last night and I might change my mind.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a torrential rain storm.  The wind was blowing and the rain was coming down in buckets.  I found out later that we’re in the middle of the rainy season here.  And, I think that the term rainy season is too mild for what I saw last night.

Career break rtw blog on Easter Island

Moai knocked down

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, I went to the lobby to wait for my tour to pick me up for my all day excursion.  I thought yesterday was impressive.  Today blew me away.

Every moai was created to pay homage to a king so that the king could protect his clan in the afterlife.  From previous pictures I thought that all the moai were the same.  But, I started to notice the slight differences among them.  Each was created to be a likeness of the king it represented.  And,  I began seeing differences in noses, eyes, ears, etc.

The moai with their backs to the ocean and with white eyes are sacred.  All others are either works in progress or were destroyed and no longer considered sacred.

Career break rtw blog on Easter Island

Unfinished Moai

We also saw the ruins of the houses in which the Rapa Nui lived.  We saw how they collected water, where they held their celebrations.  We saw moai on their platforms (or ahu), some standing with others, and others that had been pushed over during “wars” among the different clans.  At one point, there were an estimated 14,000 Rapa Nui on the island.  The island became overpopulated and wars over resources began.  The island was completely stripped of its natural resources.  Before invading another clan, the raiders had to overcome the protective power of the moai.  To do so, they pushed over the moai.  In time, cannibalism took root and the population dwindled in a death spiral.  There are an estimated 4000 on the island today and only 40% (I am told) of them have Rapa Nui roots.

The highlight of the day was visiting the volcano which served as the quarry for the moai.  The statues were carved out of the rock on the inside and outside of the volcano.  A “keel” was left on the backside of the moai and was the final part of the rock cut to free the moai and move it.  There are 887 moai on the island and over 300 are still on or in the volcano.  We walked through fields of moai.  3 were still part of the volcano and never made it to the stage where they were cut free.  It’s a very powerful place to see.  The moai made in the early days were smaller and rougher around the edges.  Over time, the kings felt the need to outdo each other and the moai began to grow in size and were finished off more smoothly.  Some we saw were buried from the neck down.  For these, the head alone was 10-12 ft/3-3.5 m.  The part that was buried was 12 m/39 ft.

Career break rtw blog on Easter Island

Me at the ¨Belly Button¨ of the World

We stopped off at a place known as “The Belly Button of the World.”  This spot is magnetic and compasses don’t work around it.  There are stones marking the spot and people lay their hands and heads on the stone to ask for wishes.  I gave it a go and wished for health and happiness for my family and friends.  I figured it couldn’t hurt.  Some people claim to have visions when they lay their hands and heads on the stone.  I was not born with that power.

These statues are powerful.  Their shape is so simple yet they are so awesome to look at (and I don’t mean awesome in the Valley Girl way).  Maybe it’s their simplicity that gives them a purity of presence that is, well, humbling.  I am sitting outside the hotel by the beach writing this entry.  And I am trying to come up with words to describe the majesty of the statues.  I’m not sure I can manage the words.  Maybe I need some time to let it marinate a while.

It is easy to understand why this place, and the moai specifically, have earned the respect and admiration of the world.  People from all over have come here to study and pay respects to the moai.  We had some nasty weather today during the trip.  But, it didn’t matter. Being here amongst these great statues was more important than a little short-term discomfort from mother nature.

Now I have to start sorting through the 160+ pics I took yesterday and 160+ I took today.  I have no clue how I’m going to organize all these.  And, I still have one day left.  ¡Ah carumba!

Originally published April 22, 2007

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One Response to “The Power of the Moai”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Jung, Jeff Jung. Jeff Jung said: More from Easter Island from Jeff´s #CareerBreak #Travel Blog "The Power of the Moai" #rtw… [...]

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