We arrived on Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua) after a 5 hour flight west from Santiago. The jet spots a dot on the ocean, swoops over the entire island in a fraction of a minute and then turns and lands on a runway that goes from the surf on one side to the surf on the other. Our visit comes during the last 5 days of the island’s annual celebration with music, dance and traditional cultural events. Here are a few highlights:
By the time that a Dutchman named Jacob Roggeveen found Easter Island (Easter day, 1722) most of the trees on the island were gone and people had turned to building small canoe-like boats out of reeds that grow in the caldera of one of the many volcanoes on this tiny land. The first contact was made with natives who paddled out to the Dutch ship on these tiny rafts. Now, each year, Rapanui young men build these rafts and race each other.
Mobs of competing dancers, young and old:
One evening is given to a competition between two groups who are supporting different candidates for “queen of Easter Island”. Nearly 600 dancers turn out for this annual competition, and turning out means training for the dance and making the elaborate costumes they all wear. (Going “off-island” to get materials needed is 2000 miles each way, so planning ahead is essential.)
Music on the island:
Mahani Teave (Ric and Dorry’s granddaughter) performed two concerts on Easter Island while we were here. One of the concerts was a private one for various invited islanders and guests. In addition to playing a variety of classical pieces, Mahani included two piano students whom she has been mentoring here for the past 2 weeks.. The crowd of about 200 Rapanui was simply thrilled with the entire performance.
The second concert was for the festival and was set next to the rocky shore with giant waves heard crashing during the quiet parts of her performance. This public concert had perhaps 1000 people in attendance, had two giant video screens as well as an unbelievably loud sound system, and was periodically interrupted by precipitation (mist, light rain, and then driving rain for a few minutes). Mahani and her three fellow musicians (plus the page turner and dryers of various instruments) maintained their cool as the performance proceeded. At times, the piano could likely have been heard all over the island’s only town, Hanga Roa.
The community parade:
Part of the competition for queen involves getting all your friends to paint and dress themselves up and march along with floats in the annual parade. Each queen’s team gets points for the number of supporters and the quality of their decoration. Multiple hundreds spend their day getting dressed (undressed, actually….), painted, judged and then walking with the floats down from the top of the town to the shore. This is an island of about 5000 residents which makes it similar to San Juan Island. A big difference is that in comparison with our Fourth of July parades, Easter Island is far ahead in terms of civic involvement and pride. The preparation and parade made quite a culturally-compelling scene!
Our Easter Island home:
Mahani had suggested we stay in the home of her boyfriend, Hangu, and doing so has been a great experience. Both young adults have been taking very good care of us, from seeing that we pick bananas from a huge bunch hanging on the patio, to eating the mangoes and avocados which drop from trees in the yard, to picnicking with pineapple “popsicles” on Mahani’s newly-purchased land. Hangu and Mahani have also been very good at suggesting hikes and places to explore on this historically intriguing island.
Chickens are everywhere on Isla de Pascua, and our backyard is no exception. Check out our feathered alarm clock below.
Hangu is startng a guesthouse business. Come to Easter Island and stay at his wonderfully-located abode! http://www.MeVoyARapanui.com