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Easter Island: quarry, Aku Akivi, lava tubes and dances

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

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View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Today is Saturday and the Post Office should have been open, but it’s not. I am not worried about the last four stamps we need, we should have time before we leave on Monday, if not we can always leave the post cards with reception. The e-mail cafés are still both closed. There is internet access in the hotel, but it’s their working PC and they charge £20 an hour to discourage surfers. Today is sunny and we put the washing on the balcony before walking around town killing time before lunch. We revisit our gay friend’s place, and his service is even slower today than it was last time. I can’t understand how 2 sandwiches can take 45 minutes to prepare, especially as we are the only customers in the café. It isn’t even a ploy to make us drink more, as we can never find him when we want to order another beer. We succumb and use the internet at the hotel. Wonder how much he will charge us for 23 minutes?

This afternoon Victor takes us to the quarry where they made the topknots for the moai. The rock is red, there are a few remaining topknots in place, but there really isn’t much to look at there. When you see the size of the top knot and you realise that this would have had to be raised to be fitted on top of the moai, it makes you appreciate what an enormous undertaking each and every one of the moai were. In all, there are 1015 moai dotted around the island, many of which of course are still unfinished.

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At Aku Akivi, we see a further 7 restored moai, the unusual feature about these is that they are the only ones on the island which face out to sea. They are said to symbolise the seven original inhabitants of the island. We meet two other people here, they have walked from town, not a mean feat, and it must have taken them at least 1½ hours. It looks like rain again – I hope the washing on the balcony dries. The tracks here are very muddy with deep puddles; just as well Victor is such a good driver.

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One of the more interesting places on today’s agenda is the lava tube cave. During long-lived volcanic eruptions, lava flows tend to become "channelled" into a few main streams. Overflows of lava from these streams solidify quickly and plaster on to the channel walls, building natural ramparts that allow the level of the lava to be raised. Lava streams that flow steadily in a confined channel for many hours to days may develop a solid crust or roof and thus change gradually into streams within lava tubes. If liquid lava stops rising from its source deep within the earth, the still-molten lava moving beneath the crusted-over top of a lava flow will continue to drain downhill and may ultimately leave an open lava-tube cave. Parts of the roof have since collapsed, showing where people lived inside, their brick walls and the gardens they created where there was no roof on the cave. Bananas are growing inside, also tobacco, and you can see traces wood where trees became petrified during the lava flow. These tubes run for 2km across the landscape. It is my first experience of a lava tube and I find it absolutely fascinating.

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We return to town via some beautiful coastal views, and it doesn’t rain, but the washing is still not dry, despite having been out on the balcony all afternoon.

I feel very unwell: sick, windy and a runny nose. I drink lots of coke, water and Dioralyte, and feel well enough to pop next door for dinner. It is Saturday night and the restaurant is closed. The only people eating in the hotel restaurant are the resident archaeologists, and I don’t feel inclined to join them. We would have had to pre-order our food early in the day anyway. The restaurant further down the road is also closed, but fortunately the one around the corner on the sea front is open. I have a pizza which is disappointing, but at least it isn’t served with chips. David has Lomo de Pobre (steak and chips with onions and fried egg). We share a bottle of wine and even have a dessert of bananas in rum. Still the bill only comes to £20 including a tip. When the guy on the next table gets up to photograph the (disappointing) sunset, we continue chatting to his friend with the opening line: “which part of England do you come from?” On finding that he derives from Germany, David exclaims in true Fawlty Towers style: “Oh, you’re German….” I resist the temptation to finish the quote ….”I thought there was something wrong with you”. We giggle about this for ages after they’ve gone.

Marcia orders a taxi to take us to Hanga Roa Hotel for the traditional dance display. We notice on the way that the e-mail café is now open for the first time since we got here, at 22:30 on a Saturday night. Nothing makes sense in this far flung place, but I love it!

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Hanga Roa Hotel is full of fat, rich Americans, I am glad we’re not staying here! We have front row seats for the performance with a great view of all the dancers. The sound of the drums goes right through me; there is a primitive urgency about tribal drums. The dances are very Polynesian in tradition with grass skirts and coconut shells covering the girls’ breasts. The movements are energetic and sensual, with lots of hip shaking. The men are covered in tattoos and the girls are pretty. During the audience participation, David is chosen by the prettiest of them all.

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The same taxi is waiting to take us back to our hotel. I feel sick again and go straight to bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:21 Archived in Chile Tagged rtw south_america easter_island moai polynesia traditional_dancing lava_tubes

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