A Mountain of Moai on Easter Island – Day 3.5

*To fully appreciate the pictures, click on them to see them full size*

The day is just getting away from us. Taking the unexpected cave tours with Bill threw off our timing for the rest of the day so when we finally arrive at the gate of Rano Raraku, it’s already 5:30.  The sign says they close at 6:00 but the ticket says they close at 7:00.

Whatever the time, there is no one around. The souvenir shop is closed and no one is at the ticket booth. Out of nowhere, a man appears. We ask if we can go up to the quarry and he looks at our stamped tickets.

These are the tickets we bought at the airport where the sign said they were only good for one entrance at Rano Raraku. We stopped here yesterday on our tour with China. The man hesitates for a moment and then tells us we can go if we promise to be back by 6:10.  We swear we will and race up the path.

The Path (from yesterday when there were people on it)

No one is around so we are free to stop and shoot video of the moai unobstructed. It’s incredible to have the place to ourselves! And then we spot a lone 20-something guy from an undetermined English-speaking country off the path TOUCHING a moai!

Mike tells him that he isn’t supposed to leave the path. His response is that he’s seen other people do it so it’s not a problem. Well, it IS a problem. This is a serious offense.

Moai at Anakena Beach

In 2008, a Finnish guy broke an earlobe off one of the moai at Anakena Beach.  To do this, he had to climb onto the ahu, another sacred no-no. That guy spent some time in jail and could have been fined $19,000 US and been sentenced to up to seven years in prison for the offense.

The Finn claimed that the statue had a profound impact on him and he wanted to keep a piece as a memento.  The final verdict was to fine him €10,000 (around $17,000 US at that time), require him to make a public apology and bar him from returning to the island for 3 years.

Path to the moai

Secretly, I am hoping for the park police to swoop down on this guy and toss him in a cell for a few hours to teach him a lesson. It has been engrained in our brains that we are to look but not touch. We give him the stink-eye until he steps away from these treasures.

Moai at Rano Raraku

What is wrong with people? Is everyone on this planet so entitled to do whatever they please? It’s not lost on me that I ask this question as someone in the park for a second time when the rules say that we can only go in once per ticket. But I was fully prepared to plunk down $120 for the two of us to go in again if we were asked.  I understand the draw because I have to see these guys again before we leave.

Once we are pretty sure this guy isn’t straying off the path, we start to shoot video of as many moai as we can in our limited amount of time. We’ve already blown at least 15 of our precious 40 allotted minutes getting up the path and dealing with the Mr. Entitled.

One of these moai was the one that Heyerdahl excavated to reveal a body.

The 25 minutes fly by. The camera is blazing nearly non-stop. I’ve edited together shots from that run-and-gun photo shoot. Luckily my subjects stand stone still, but the wind continues to blow the camera around.

Incidentally, the moai are not just heads. There are bodies below ground. Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame spent seven months on the island and excavated one of the moai at the quarry. Click here to see what current excavations look like.

Click on this photo below to locate the largest moai ever carved and then it will be easier to see him in the video shots from the road. Look above the branches in the right bottom corner and go straight up. He is carved into the lower face of the mountain just above where the grass ends.

A little further to the right of him, there are blocks that have been outlined, probably for the birth of a new moai. And on the left, there are many places with squared off walls where moai were cut from the rock. This is a really magical place.

This video shows the view from the approach as well as the mountain of moai in the quarry.

At 6:10, we are racing past the gatekeeper.  This time it’s a girl who doesn’t seem to be in a rush for anything.  We squeal on Mr. Entitled and although she doesn’t speak much English, I think we get the point across.

We pay a buck apiece to use the toilets before we leave because we now know there will not be another chance before we get back to the hotel.  And there is one more stop before we call it a day.

Tongariki beckons again. The 15 moai resurrected with their backs to the beach, staring at a fallen brother as another moai looks down from the hill. The restoration project started in 1992 and took a team from the University of Chile until 1996 to complete. The Japanese government paid for the project and a Japanese construction company donated a crane capable of lifting the giant stone people.

Moai on the hill at Tongariki

They took the moai that stands on the hill to Japan for a couple of trade fairs. So now people call him the traveling moai.

My aim here is to get some shots of this giant ahu without the crowds.  I just want the moai in the shots. On the way in, we are greeted by one of the many stray dogs. This one reminds us a bit of our Buddy back home. He keeps his distance and I go off to set up to shoot some video.

As soon as I hit record, he comes over and plunks himself down on the hill in front of me. He stays for quite a while, meditating with the moai.  Occasionally he grooms himself while keeping an eye on the barking dog in the distance.

I am thrilled by his presence. Pictures of the lone moai are all over the place.  I have the mutt and the moai!

The clock is ticking. By the time we get back in the car the dashboard clock says it’s almost 6:30.  We believe that this is the first clock we have seen with the correct time and that means we will be late for dinner with George and Elaine. We definitely need showers before we go anywhere.

We drive up the dirt road towards Anakena Beach to one of the only stop signs outside of town where we hook up with the cross-island paved road.  It takes us about half an hour to get back to the hotel.

We are pleasantly surprised to see fellow travelers George and Elaine are still there and willing to wait for us to take showers.  They made 7:30 reservations for us to have dinner at Tataku Vava, a place on the water with the little slipper lobsters called rape rape (RAH-pay RAH-pay).  Someone heartily recommended it at breakfast. Plus, it’s our last chance to watch the sunset over the Pacific.

Cleaned up in record time, we make it to the restaurant at the stroke of 7:30.  Tataku Vava is in a great location on the water on the south side of town. It’s on a tiny dirt road that is pocked with what seem to be potentially axle-breaking potholes that are more the size of large ditches.

Our little group is seated at one of the handful of tables on the large, westward facing deck. There are more tables inside but all are empty. Even on the deck, only two other tables are taken on this Tuesday night.

From our vantage point, there will be an unobstructed view of the sunset over the vast Pacific Ocean where it feels like we can see the curvature of the earth.

It’s our last night so I have to start with a Pisco Sour ($3.500 CLP/$7 US).  Mike wants to try the local beer called Mahina ($3.000 CLP/$6 US).  He is disappointed when it arrives at the table warm with a chilled glass.  The waiter explains that it is not pasteurized. It’s not a hit.  Mike switches to Escudo ($1.500 CLP/$3 US) for the next rounds and I stick with the sweet Pisco Sours.

Rape Rape

As usual on this island, we are starving. We haven’t eaten since breakfast. After hearing rave reviews about the rape rape, ($15.000 CLP/$30 US) how can we choose anything else? It comes with a small salad and an island staple – sweet potatoes.


George and Elaine go for the fried plantains to start. ($3.500 CLP/$7 US) I try a piece and it’s okay, not great.

After all the discussion about the rape rape, Elaine decides on the Camaron al pil pil or shrimp in olive oil with garlic and chili peppers ($10.000 CLP/$20 US)

George orders in Spanish so I am not positive but I am pretty sure he asks for the Grilled Fish ($9.000 CLP/$18 US) which turns out to be tuna.

Slivers of bread come with an herbed aioli and we quickly attack it. As we wait for dinner, we are treated to a nice sunset. It’s not as spectacular as the one we saw in Concon, Chile but it’s a nice way to end the day.

Dinner arrives and immediately, I want Elaine’s bubbling shrimp dish.

My salad is welcome. I have been craving some greens and this hits the spot. On the other hand, the highly touted tiny “lobsters” are dry and tough to handle. Lots of work and not much pleasure.  The sweet potatoes are not the deep orange that Americans are used to.  These are pale in color but still quite sweet even though the texture isn’t quite right. I think they are undercooked for my taste.

The company makes up for this less than stellar dinner. But it’s hard to compete after having dinner at China’s Restaurant Manuia last night and Kotaro Japanese Bistro the night before. The mediocre meal is our least favorite food-wise and most expensive yet. Total tab for it is $51.700 CLP including a 10% tip or just over $100.

We are sad to say goodbye to our new friends.  They have an early morning flight to Santiago and need to be at the airport at 6:00 am.  We are also leaving tomorrow but our flight to Lima doesn’t leave until 5:40 pm so we’ll have most of the day to play.

NEXT: Furry beasts in the dark!

About Journeys By Jill

I have spent most of my adult life working in and around TV, film & radio production. As an avid traveler, I have a goal to visit at least 100 countries using the Century Traveler's Club Country List. At the moment, I have 54 to go. My favorite form of travel is to get off the beaten path and discover weird & wonderful attractions. Basically, I wing it. I'd love for you to come along for the ride.
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