s/y Nine of Cups
Easter Island Revisited
April 2009
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Since we'd already visited  Easter Island in 2004 (twice), we won't give
geography or history lessons here.There are several things we couldn't do
on our last visits, however. Stricter rules were in force, e.g. one person
always had to remain aboard the boat. Now, with the permission of the
Capitania, in settled weather the crew can go ashore together with a VHF
constantly monitoring Channel 16. Additionally, one mooring has been
installed off Hanga Roa for use by visiting yachties and we were lucky
enough to get it...since we were the only sailboat in town. We're hoping to
do all those things we didn't get a chance to do previously, plus revisit
some of the sights that so enthralled us on our first visit.
There was very little excitement (that's good) on our trip from Juan
Fernandez to Easter. It was warm. We did see white-tailed tropic birds en
route. David counted squid on deck and in the scuppers each morning, but
three was the high total for any given day. We dragged a fishing line, but
caught nothing. There was little wind. All in all, pretty pleasant, but slow.
The total trip mileage was 1,735 nm in 15 days...certainly no
speed records. As always, the first glimpse of land after a couple
of weeks at sea is exciting.
We stayed aboard the first night and went ashore early the
next morning and had the place all to ourselves. It's mystical,
magical and seems sacred.
With a southwest wind blowing, we opted to anchor the
first night on the north side of the island at Anakena, which
just happens to be our favorite spot on the island...and
obviously a favorite spot for lots of beach-goers as well.
Above, Ahu Nau Nau in the morning sun faces
away from the water and inward towards the
island as do all the moai, except one.  Moai
were erected as a form of ancestor worship.
The morning quiet was broken only
by the screeches of the many cara
caras (falcon-like birds) that
populate the area.
David insisted that this particular
fellow was a dead ringer for a
guy we used to work with! Uh,
uh...we're not telling who.
One of the many positives about visiting again is that we
already knew several of the key spots for best photo
opportunities and this was our favorite.
A view of Cups through the volcanic boulder breakwater
near the dinghy dock.
An old cement wharf provided a handy place to tie up the dink
when we went ashore.
Anakena is part of the Chilean national park system
and a stand of palms provides a beautiful picnic and
camping area.
Ature Huki, erected by Thor Heyerdahl and
crew, stands alone and solemn, his only
company the ever-present cara cara.
We needed to check in with the Chilean Armada and
proceeded the next morning to Hanga Roa, Easter Island's
only town on the southwest side of the island. Above, Caleta
Hanga Roa and its tiny, protected fishing boat harbor is a
place to tie up the dinghy safely.
Pleasant, tree-lined Avenida Atamu Tekena offers
lots of cafes, boutiques, car rentals and internet.
Surfing is a big sport here and the breakers
just in front of Cups were pretty big.
Next to the Capitania's office is the
"Compass Rose", a signpost with distances
to many cities of the world... all far away.
The moai, Hotumatua, greets
yachties when they arrive in
the Caleta Hanga Roa. He
faces the sea!
We had not visited the museum in
the past so made it a point to stop
this time. It provided lots of info
including the volcanic evolution of
the island above.
The museum was actually the first stop of a
recommended walking tour along the coast north
of Caleta Hanga Roa. The moai above, Ahu Ko
Te Riku (whom we named Obsidian Eyes) had
coral and obsidian eyes added in the 1990s in an
effort to please tourists.
One of the major questions about the moai
has always been...how did they erect them?  
There are lots of theories from aliens to
cranes. The moai cartoon above cites "mana"
(the force) as the easiest way to complete
the chore.
Ahu Tahai is in the foreground; Ahua Vai Uri
hasa five moai in varying degrees of erosion and
Nine of Cups peeks from the anchorage in the
The cemetery by the sea combined a wonderful
fusion of Christian and traditional cultural symbolism.
An interesting observation was that several gravesites
had benches nearby for family to visit, sit and chat.
There are more horses per capita on Easter Island
than any place we've ever been (including
Colorado). They're everywhere and seem to be
free to wander and graze at will.
Horseback is also a major means of
transport on an island with few kilometers of
roads and lots and lots of green space and
hillsides. This rider and horse were as one.
We were blessed with settled weather and light
winds from the southwest so decided to rent a car
to tour parts of the island we hadn't seen before.
As we approached Hanga Piko, the tiny caleta
south of us, we were delighted to see masts
sticking up over the hill as the moai stood sentry.
The reef and rock-ridden entrance to Hanga Piko is
shallow, dangerous and requires a pilot. Most of the
boats inside were owned by local residents.
At the southwest corner of the island is the Rano
Kau crater (above) and the Orongo ceremonial
village, part of the Rapa Nui National Park.
Aguja Roca and Motu Nui in the distance
with petroglyphs in the foreground, all
instrumental in the annual festivities
associated with the birdman cult prevalent
here in the18-19th centuries.
Along the coastal road, there are so many moai
to stop and view, it's almost overwhelming. Here
at Vinapu, many of the statues are toppled, but
the stonework above has been compared to that
of the Incas.
The Ahu Tongariki was destroyed by a tsunami in
1960 and subsequently restored by a Japanese
archeological project. Yes, Marcie posed next to
the same guy last time...he's still taller than she is.
They're not as tall when they're on their backs.
At the Rano Raraku volcano, over 600 moai and parts of moai are scattered about, half buried or
left half-carved "in situ". Fun to roam about, but way too many tourists!
End of the day and pretty much the end of our
stay at Easter. We couldn't leave without visiting
the Mercado Artesenal and the Feria.  
After 5 days of great settled weather, a low pressure
arrived bringing northwest winds, untenable at the Hanga
Roa anchorage. By now, two other sailboats had arrived
and we all headed to Hutuiti on the east coast to wait it
out. The backside views of the 15 moai of Tongariki and
Rano Raraku were great.
Anakena - 27S04.22 / 109W19.48
Hanga Roa  27S08.69 / 109W26.13
Rongorongo is an undeciphered script which was
carefully inscribed on wooden tablets. No one, to date,
has been able to translate it and the script is not related to
any other known form of writing. It is unique to RapaNui.
For Brennan's sake, we always try to list the
high point of each place we visit. On Easter
Island, it's Maunga Terevaka at 507M.
For five more days, we sat and waited for the weather to change and finally the
forecast called for south/southeast winds again, but the port of Hanga Roa remained
closed due to wind and waves. With S/SE winds, Hutuiti was not a tenable anchorage,
so we moved to Anakena again on the north shore. The Chilean Armada, efficient and
courteous as ever, came to the cement wharf in Anakena (all services...Immigration,
Navy and Customs) where David picked them up in the dinghy and ferried them to the
boat. We checked out for Iles Gambier. In actuality, we're heading to
Pitcairn Island
and hoping that our good luck will hold and we'll be able to stop and go ashore there.
If we do, you can be sure you're invited to come along with us.
Hutuiti  - 17S07.59 / 109W16.16
We ended up with a very
interesting "ao" (left)... a
carved ceremonial
paddle which now
proudly hangs on the wall
behind the nav station on
Cups. We also bought a
coffee mug with a
traditional "magai"
(pronounced mahn-guy)
motif (right), a fish hook
particularly associated
with good luck. And, of
course, we bought the
Read our SSCA article
Easter Island Revisited