…great waves crashed and hammered all around them, but the little raft rode the crests and dipped the troughs with aplomb and its own sort of wit, rollicking about like a cork out on the open sea. All one could do was laugh at seeing the little craft coast into the open harbor at Hanga Roa, composed entirely as it was of logs culled from the Peruvian balsa jungles and strapped together with homemade twine, a 1975 Honda motorbike lashed in the center with its captain on top, swearing loudly and doffing some unknown substance from a ceramic Moche penis mug, which next he held aloft and then brought down thunderously upon the rocks below, smashing it to bits and declaring yet another victory and another land for the great American road trip.
Isla de Pascua.
…and we shoulder on, discerning the secrets of the ages as the Great American Road Trip leads us out into the Pacific. The most isolated place in the world is more accessible than one might imagine, and thrice weekly flights from Lima will deposit a body on the rocky volcanic shores of a mysterious land once thought only to be spied from dreams.
Claim to Fame: Giant stone heads dot the land. Large and always in-charge the heads, dubbed Maoi, are thought to embody the souls of departed chieftans and what-nots, though no one really knows for sure. Placed atop ceremonial platforms called Ahu, many of the giants can be found sporting delightful red hats or topknots, themselves weighing many tons and carved out of volcanic stone.
15 Maoi stare out and watch the moonset over the Rano Raku head quarry as dawn emerges. Many Maoi lie fallen, as legend tells of a brutal civil war between the long ears and short ears which brought about an end to the head cult.
The landscape is visually stunning, indeed even haunting in places as the ocean stretches to infinity, a constant reminder that this is the only speck of land for thousands of miles in a vast blue wilderness.
A little museum on the island yields some real gems. What the hell is that first statue supposed to be? It’s a female Maoi indeed, but with an oddly shaped head. The above pic shows another strange head, discovered inside of an ahu and likely never to be found save for the fact that a tsunami blew the ahu it was hiding in apart in the 1960s. The ancients may still have a few tricks up their sleeves, eh?
It should be noted that Easter Island is a pretty modern place, with a definite bend towards tourism, which pretty much makes up their entire economy. As such, though small, it approaches first world status and is literally a world apart from the rest of Latin America(technically it is part of Chile). Hot water showers and drinkable tap water rule the roost and the island even plays host to a microbrewery.
Mahina Pia Rapa Nui Pale-Ale: Magic Hat-esque. What a weird surprise, though nothing should surprise anymore. Internet connections and an artesinal brewery on God’s loneliest outpost. What surprises most is that the beer is actually good, delicious even and the best beer I’ve had in Latin America. Mellow fruity undertones at the end of the world make a body forget its painful swollen leg recently crushed beneath a top-heavy dirtbike on a visit to the topknot hat factory. Unfiltered and unfettered, Pia Rapa Nui would be at home in any Magic Hat summer series. Although one point of contention is that the bottle art is pretty shitty and uninspired. Cmon, slap a better picture of a Maoi or something on this thing. Eh, it’s all good bro.
Mahina Porter:Dark, black…scary! Yo tengo miedo! Ha, a delight en serio. No es bien impressionante…but passable. The Pale Ale reigns supreme as a gift from the Gods!
Orongo crater and the seat of the Birdman cult. Sometime after the end of the Maoi era, Easter Island played host to the Birdman cult, which was still in full swing up until the dawn of the 20th century. Participants would race down the outside of the Ranu Kau crater into the sea and swim through shark infested waters to garner a sooty tern egg from a sacred islet a mile off shore. First to make it back up with an intact egg would become the Birdman for that year and rule all of the land.
Ahu Vinapu and its master stonework have led some to question a possible American influence on ol’ Rapa Nui somewhere in the mists of time and prehistory. Indeed, while not as megalithic as their Cuzco brethren, there is no mistaking the similarity in style between the facing blocks at Vinapu and stonework of the Incas.
I’ll always be a wordboy, better than a birdboy.
-The year of our Lord 2012.