Our Favorite Pictures and Stories from Easter Island

After Jon’s last blog post I figured all of us might need to take a break from cancer and the dark side of my disease.  We write what we are feeling at the time, so although everything he wrote is true, right now I am feeling fine and almost like my normal self, aside from all the side effects from radiation and steroids. The fatigue comes in waves, but it is manageable. I am not dying right now (knock on some wood very loudly), but I do need to be flexible, since I will have no idea if the treatment is working until September. I may have to have some surgery or more treatment, or I may find out that the treatment worked. Then I can make some decisions. All I know right now is that I need to eat healthily, do my research about cancer survival, and rest and recuperate to give my body the best chance of beating this, since the side effects will last for another two months.

I am also glad that Jon was so honest about his feelings in the last blog because writing is great therapy for us.  Both of us feel so much better when we put our thoughts down on paper and we no longer have to think about them so much.  At this time I need to take some time off from cancer because I feel pretty good about life right now, despite all the hardships. It helps me to feel positive and optimistic and more like my normal self when I don’t dwell on the realities of my situation.    During our week of teacher in-service, I have gone back twice to school for meetings and professional development, and although they have been long days, I am very happy to have retained a sense of normalcy during this time. Escapism: isn’t it great?!   

On another note, Jon and I have finished editing the Easter Island pictures. I must confess it was a little difficult to travel to such a remote island with floating head syndrome, ear ringing, extreme fatigue, headscarves, lots of pills, and my wig, but it is what I love to do, so with my mom and Jon looking after me we managed to pack suitcases, get on a plane, and make some great memories. We have lots of beautiful pictures of both trips since both Jon and my mom are fabulous photographers, so I’d like to share some of them along with a few stories of our travels. I’ll start first with our favorites of Easter Island and hopefully just a few of the many pics of moai statues: hope you enjoy!  If you don’t know what a moai is and you want to know more, click here: more info about moai 

Our favorite place: The rock quarry at Rano Raraku

We went to this place three times because we liked it so much AND we didn’t have to pay the Conaf fee of 60 USD that normally provides entrance to both of the Chilean national park sites.  Usually that fee allows you to visit each site only once.  The Rapa Nui have recently taken over all of the Chilean sites and are running them themselves, with no fees.  Lucky us!  The first time we visited with our guide, Paul.  We had to avoid a large school group from Santiago that was visiting at the same time so we first visited the volcano crater while they went right and visited the statues.  My energy was pretty low that day so I just sat in quiet contemplation looking at the lake water in the crater while Jon and mom took pictures of the moai statues.  On the second visit, we went by ourselves and got caught in a torrential downpour.  Both mom and Jon had panchos to cover their camera equipment, so they stayed out in the storm.  Luckily I was able to run back to the car before I got completely soaked, because I, sadly, had not brought my rain gear from the jeep.   After the brief rain storm, the three of us ventured around the complex to see the many rock faces, in the very green, wet grass, and muddy paths.  It is incredible that all of the statues were carved here and then moved to their various locations so long ago when there was no form of transportation. There are many theories for how the statues waddled down the side of the crater to their current resting places, but our guide, Paul subscribes to the theory that the rocks were rocked side to side on their feet to the various resting sights.

Rano Raraku on approach.  All of those black rocks on the hill are moai
Rano Raraku on approach. All of those black rocks on the hill are moai
Eli resting and gazing at the volcanic crater
Eli resting and gazing at the volcanic crater
Moai statues at the rock quarry
Moai statues at the rock quarry
These moai are apparently buried halfway in the grass and some are falling over.  Fascinating!
These moai are apparently buried halfway in the grass and some are falling over. Fascinating!
Completely soaked after being caught in the downpour
Completely soaked after being caught in the downpour
Birds fly amongst the rocks
Birds fly amongst the rocks
Mom got a little wet, but she was still all smiles
Mom got a little wet, but she was still all smiles
The rock quarry.  To see the most famous moai, like the Gigante you have to climb up the hill to see them
The rock quarry. To see the most famous moai, like the Gigante, you have to climb up the hill to see them
On the way back down.  I climbed the hill!!
On the way back down. I climbed the hill!!
Tukuturi statue at the top of the hill.  The statue is of a kneeling hermaphrodite, and you can see remote Poike Peninsula and Ahu Tangariki in the background
Tukuturi statue at the top of the hill. The statue is of a kneeling hermaphrodite, and you can see remote Poike Peninsula and Ahu Tangariki in the background

Anakena Beach and the North Shore

On day two of our trip to Easter Island we headed to a beautiful beach on the North Shore.  Despite being surrounded by coastline, the island only has two sandy beaches, the main one being Anakena Beach.  I was unprepared for the gorgeousness of this location: palm trees, sand, crystal blue weather, horses, roosters, and historical moai statues to boot.  We had gorgeous weather there (mid 80’s and sunny) and the beach was almost to ourselves.  It was like a speck of tropical paradise, just for us.  I would go back to Easter Island just to relax on this beach.  Spectacular!

The entrance to Anakena Beach.  Although I had seen pictures of this place I was totally unprepared for the gorgeousness
The entrance to Anakena Beach. Although I had seen pictures of this place I was totally unprepared for the gorgeousness
View of Ahu Nao Nao from the hillside, at Anakena Beach
View of Ahu Nau Nau from the hillside, at Anakena Beach
Sand, Palm Trees. and the Ahu at Anakena Beach.  What a great place to relax!
Sand, Palm Trees. and the Ahu at Anakena Beach. What a great place to relax!
The Moai up close.  You can see the archaelogical number on the topknot of moai number three
The Moai up close. You can see the archaelogical number on the topknot of moai number three
An absolutely gorgeous Polynesian beach to relax on
An absolutely gorgeous Polynesian beach to relax on
The beautiful colors of the coast
The beautiful colors of the coast
The beautiful hidden beach of Ovahe on the Northern Coast.  It reminded me of some of the pristine nudist colonies in Hawaii, hidden away and difficult to get to
The beautiful hidden beach of Ovahe on the Northern Coast. It reminded me of some of the pristine nudist colonies in Hawaii, tucked away and difficult to get to

The colors of sunrise/sunset at Ahu Tahai

One of the things that is so magical about Easter Island is that because it is in the middle of nowhere, the colors of the sky are so intense.  This ahu structure known as Ahu Tahai, near where we stayed, is known for its mesmerizing sunsets, so many people sit on the grassy hill in front of these structures and watch the sun fall into the ocean, spreading pink hues across the clouds.  Our guide, also the owner of our lodge, helped restore this Ahu back in 1968 when he was 16.  Our guide, Paul, was recommended by our friends, the Flanagans, who told the most amazing stories about the island.  He made the trip very memorable for us.

Sunset at Ahu Tahai.  Our guide, Paul helped restore these moai statues.
Sunset at Ahu Tahai. Our guide, Paul, helped restore these moai statues.
Last orange hues of sunset
Last orange hues of sunset
The whole complex at sunset
The whole complex at sunset
I love the topknot on this guy. The pukao, or topknot, indicates that the moai represents a chieftan, and also that the statue is more modern than others. The red rock is also a sacred color for the Rapa Nui.
I love the topknot on this guy. The pukao, or topknot, indicates that the moai represents a chieftan, and also that the statue is more modern than others. The red rock is also a sacred color for the Rapa Nui.
The Ahu Structure during the morning overlooking the bay of the main (and only) town, Hanga Roa.
The Ahu Structure during the morning overlooking the bay of the main (and only) town, Hanga Roa.

Wandering Around the Town of Hanga Roa

There are very few inhabitants of Easter Island (about 5,700) and only one main town. However, we really enjoyed walking around the coast line with its colorful boats, fun places to eat and shop, moai statues, both ancient and modern, tropical trees and flowers, wild dogs, parks, and unique church.

The bay at Hanga Roa in the fading sun
The bay at Hanga Roa in the fading sun
A statue outside of a souvenir shop
A statue outside of a souvenir shop
Cool statues and palm trees abound
Cool statues and palm trees abound
The backs of the moai are intricately carved.  This one displays the Bird Man, one of the main symbols of Easter Island for the traditional competition that took place at Orongo
The backs of the moai are intricately carved. This one displays the Bird Man, one of the main symbols of Easter Island for the traditional competition that took place at Orongo
The Chilean armada anchored in the harbor
The Chilean armada anchored in the harbor
Jon captures a fisherman bringing in his catch of Tuna.  Amazing!
Jon captures a fisherman bringing in his catch of Tuna. Amazing!
Lots and Lots of Horses on the island.  The islanders have been trying to control their population using native poisonous bushes
Lots and Lots of Horses on the island. The islanders have been trying to control their population using native poisonous bushes
Beautiful blue colors of the coast near the town
Beautiful blue colors of the coast near the town
A typical house in town, surrounded by tropical plants such as the local banana tree
A typical house in town, surrounded by tropical plants such as the local banana tree
The cemetery of Hanga Roa in the setting sun
The cemetery of Hanga Roa in the setting sun
More cemetery pictures.  The religion is very colorful.  Much of the Catholic traditions have been influenced by the Rapa Nui culture that believes in devils and other spirits
More cemetery pictures. The religion is very colorful. Much of the Catholic traditions have been influenced by the Rapa Nui culture that believes in devils and other spirits
Tropical flowers,  We went during their winter so I would imagine the island simply shines with flowers at different times of the year
Tropical flowers, We went during their winter so I would imagine the island simply shines with flowers at different times of the year
Sunset on our last night outside the restaurant where we had drinks
Sunset on our last night outside the restaurant where we had drinks.  It is the rainy season so we watched the storm as it approached.  The plane flight home was definitely turbulent, as they said it would be.  We arrived home an hour and a half faster than it took to get the island!

The Coast of the Island and other random Moai:

During our five days there, we managed to see just about every fallen moai statue on the island.  The following pictures are from our multiple trips to the Southern and Northern Coast.  We rented a jeep from Paul for a few days and had him as our guide for the others so he could tell us more about these fascinating structures that lie along the coastline, along with various boathouses and petroglyphs in the rocks.  Not a lot is known about the moai for certain but we really enjoyed hearing the theories of how and why they got there from one of the archeologists himself.  Good thing Jon is interested in history also!

Paul first showed us the cave where his wife lived.  It was definitely a made for TV movie.  I didn't know that humans still lived in caves.. and later became Ms. Chile but I guess there's a first time for everything
Paul first showed us the cave where his wife lived. It was definitely a made for TV movie. I didn’t know that humans still lived in caves.. and later become Ms. Chile despite refusing to be included in the swimsuit competition, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
Petroglyphs on the inside of the cave.  Put there by the Explora Lodge for their guests
Petroglyphs on the inside of the cave. Put there by the Explora Lodge for their guests
Our second stop: Ahu Tongariki, with the rock quarry used to make the statues
Our second stop: Ahu Tongariki, with the rock quarry used to make the statues
Moia statues at Ahu Tongariki: A great place to come for sunrise
Moai statues at Ahu Tongariki: A great place to come for sunrise
Top knots on the ground
Top knots on the ground
Jon and Paul gazing at the moai
Paul and Jon gazing at the moai
The missing moai
The missing moai 
One of our favorite Moai stops.  A lot of the moai were pulled off their stands by tsunami waves.  A lot of them haven't been restores
One of our favorite Moai stops, Ahu Akahanga.  A lot of the moai were pulled off their stands by tsunami waves. Many of them haven’t been restored
Faces are everywhere.  This is Ahu Vaihu which is near the airport.  Behind, the rocks look very similar to those of the Incan architecture at Machu Picchu so it indicates contact between the Incans and the Rapa Nui
Faces are everywhere. This is Ahu Vinapu which is near the airport. Behind, the rocks look very similar to those of the Incan architecture at Machu Picchu so it indicates contact between the Incans and the Rapa Nui
Jon and I walking around the ruins of some Ahu.  I loved the contrasting colors of the black volcanic rock, and the greens, browns, and reds of the land.
Jon and me walking around the ruins of some Ahu. I loved the contrasting colors of the black volcanic rock, and the greens, browns, and reds of the landscape
Heads everywhere, not restored
Heads everywhere, not restored
Remains of an animal.  The sights and smells of decomposing livestock gave us a feel for the rustic nature of the landscape.
Remains of an animal. The sights and smells of decomposing livestock gave us a feel for the rustic nature of the landscape.
Me in front of the fallen moai at Ahu Te Pito Kura near Anakena Beach. It is the site of the largest moai ever erected. Unfortunately it is face down
Me in front of the fallen moai at Ahu Te Pito Kura near Anakena Beach. It is the site of the largest moai ever erected. Unfortunately it is face down
Ahu Te Pito Kura: the site of the largest moai ever erected.  Unfortunately it is face down
Ahu Te Pito Kura: the site of the largest moai ever erected. Unfortunately it is face down
A fallen moai
A fallen moai
Petroglyphs at Papo Vaku
Petroglyphs at Papa Vaka

Rapa Nui Food and Culture:

One of the things we most enjoyed about Easter Island was the distinct culture that exists there.  We loved all the Polynesian influences including the food and the dancing.  One night we went to the Kari Kari show which displayed beautiful hula dancing and extremely attractive men that were half dressed.  I really enjoy the show because it was similar to Hawaiian culture and I gained an affinity for Hawaii during high school and college.  My first boyfriend was Hawaiian and his family taught me how to do a traditional hula dance that my teacher tells me I also did during my “How To” speech during senior year.  (I have blocked this out, but Ms. Wiley will swear to you that I danced in front of the class in my swimsuit…there might be video proof as well…)  In addition, a good friend of mine in college is from Hawaii and got married on the Big Island so my California friends went to her wedding and had an amazing time “taking the plunge” aka jumping into the ocean from rocks 40 feet high in the southern most location in the United States.  I also have some great memories from the time Grandma Doft took me, Ali, and our cousin Kate to Oahu and Maui.  Good times!  Easter Island wasn’t quite like those experiences, but it was fun to drink tropical fruit juices and eat delicious seafood dishes cooked in coconut milk, all the while watching this ancient and unique culture exist all around us.

Getting
Getting “lei’d” on our arrival to the island from the porch of our lodge.
Delicious fish dishes.  This was at the cheapest cafe we could find in the town.  Food is expensive because everything on  the island is imported
Delicious fish dishes. This was at the cheapest cafe we could find in the town. Food is expensive because everything on the island is imported.  Mom had to show Jon how to de-bone and eat this local fish.  Jon was also a fan of the local beer, Mahina.
A Rapa Nui dancer shakes her hips
A Rapa Nui dancer shakes her hips
The band for the Kari Kari show: a must see when you visit
The band for the Kari Kari show: a must see when you visit
Hot, fit men shake it also!
Hot, fit men shake it also!
Dancing during the show.  (I might have cheered a little too loudly...)
Dancing during the show. (I might have cheered a little too loudly…)

Orongo, Ranu Kau Crater, and Ahu Akivi:

These sites are must sees on the island, but were not our favorite, maybe because the other locations were so spectacular.  Orongo is the site of the ceremonial village and the really impressive volcanic crater, just outside of the town of Hanga Roa.  We walked along the edge of Ranu Kau crater and gazed into its depths, which was quite spectacular.  We then walked to where Paul met us outside of Orongo, but I didn’t feel quite as informed about what took place there as I did at some of the other sites.  The bird ceremony is quite famous and displayed on many souvenirs, but I must have tuned out and actually missed the petroglyphs that depicted the ceremony.  Oops!  Ahu Akivi is an inland set of seven moai, the only ones on the island that face the sea.  Very neat.

Me and my mom in front of the crater
Me and my mom in front of the crater
A bird perches itself on the edge of the crater
A bird perches itself on the edge of the crater
Peering into the crater you can see floating islands like those used to make the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca
Peering into the crater you can see floating islands like those used to make the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca
The doorways at Orongo were very fascinating.  You have to crawl through them and I'm not even sure Jon could fit in them.  Paul thinks they were so small to keep out devils, but Jon thinks they were to protect the homes from wind from the sea
The doorways at Orongo were very fascinating. You have to crawl through them, and they are so small I’m not even sure Jon could fit in them. Paul thinks they were designed to keep out devils, but Jon thinks they were to protect the homes from wind from the sea
The only ahu to face the sea
The only ahu to face the sea
Holding up the Moai at Ahu  Akivi, an inland ahu.  These seven statues are the only ones on the island that face the ocean
Holding up the moai at Ahu Akivi, an inland ahu. These seven statues are the only ones on the island that face the ocean
The structure at Ahu Akivi facing the sea
The structure at Ahu Akivi facing the sea

Alright, that’s it for now!  You’ve made it to the end:-)  I am going to edit the Salvador pictures now.  This took much longer than I thought it would and I left out so many pictures!!

2 comments

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  1. Julie Kaifesh

    Wow. Your photos are absolutely amazing. What an adventure–and I am so glad to see your Mom there as well. I so hope I can make it there some day!! I really hope you are truly feeling not quite so bad right now. We love you, Eli Cheesecake.

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  2. weddingphotographywithheart

    Eli and Jon, You are both amazing! I am sad for the dark side of this disease and amazed at your lovely focus on today and the adventures you can get up to! It is the strange thing about cancer that we will have periods of being able to just buck up and be with our people and do the things we love. (Or as my kids say you can be sick at home or somewhere with a view.) What an wonderful tour you gave us, I love the photos and descriptions!!!!!

    Thank you for sharing your journey, You both inspire me!!!!!

    love and light,

    Mimi

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