Easter Island / Rapa Nui: The Forbidden Quest to Rano Raraku

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Easter Island, South America, Travel Blog and Destinations | 0 comments

Easter Island / Rapa Nui: The Forbidden Quest to Rano Raraku

The second day was our time to see Rano Raraku; the place of postcards and virtually every book cover and magazine image associated with Rapa Nui. We resolved to watch our first Rapa Nui sunrise there to make it extra amazing, which was not as straightforward as we thought. Such an expedition happens to be impossible if you follow the rules. Fortunately, punk roots run deep, and I find the challenge of a closed gate unbearably seductive.

We rose well before the sun, as the rooster at the hostel had just begun to murmur a prelude to his ode, and we threw ourselves into the jeep. Upon arrival the gate to Ranu Raraku was unexpectedly locked. This wasn’t an anticipated obstacle, since we had been roaming the island unchained, with all the moai just out and about, unguarded. This was surprising. And frustrating. Well, gates be damned, I had no intention of revising the plan. How bad could it be to just go in? (Turns out it is hella illegal, by the way. We shouldn’t have done it, you shouldn’t do it. Seriously… We read the signs later.) We walked up the road with gravel thundering beneath our footsteps. At the top, was another gate with an empty toll booth, that I swiftly walked around, and turned to see Dave standing on the previous side. After much bravado and enthusiasm from the forbidden side of booth, I persuaded Dave to join me on the side of adventure and wonder. (To be honest, I would have possibly turned back myself if it wasn’t for him telling me we shouldn’t go through. I can be quite contrary.) In it together, we relaxed and headed onwards in the pre-dawn glow. The air began to smell like the damp grass of morning as I ran up the volcano path towards the postcard moai. Everything was quiet compared to the steady rhythm of the path that crunched and fled as we explored the stillness of the park.

Ranu Raraku at dawn, Easter Island

Ranu Raraku at dawn

Rano Raraku is where the moai were harvested. The figures were be carved right out of the mountain and then taken to their destination platforms where their shape and details would be completed. The landscape is full of moai who had been abandoned partway through their construction hundreds of years ago.

A car buzzed along the street below. We ducked to the hillside and I laughed at the brief quickening of my pulse. (On the road you could scarcely tell this mountain is covered in stone heads, let alone two people.) I watched as warm floral light carefully painted in the features of a scene that seemed too shockingly surreal and familiar to even photograph.

Rano Raraku at Dawn

Just before sunrise.

Suddenly it was almost daylight, and we became very aware that the park would open soon and we were in it. The laws protecting the moai are strict, we found out while we were inside the park; jail time and huge fines just for poking the moai the wrong way with an exploratory index finger, let alone trespassing into their home and gallivanting around while their caretakers sleep. We saw a vehicle making its way up the street toward the park gate and realized our way out was now in peril. We were trapped, and were going to die in jail or be fined more than either of us made in a year because we wanted to see a sunrise. In a mutual glance of of panic we opted to run down the side of the mountain. Dashing and leaping to steer far away from the litter of moai we didn’t previously realize was there, I imagined that the huge stone faces toppled all around were once bounding humans like us, caught by the park police and turned to stone for their crimes. I wondered if Dave was turned into stone what adventures I would have releasing him from the spell. I wondered if I was turned into stone what Dave would tell my family. With luck we were able to make it to the base of the volcano in full flesh and blood, and found a lava stone fence covered in barbed wire, which we scaled and ducked through to get back to the jeep in time to watch the rest of the rising sun in safer territory.

The irony is not lost on me that we stayed respectfully on pathways until security actually arrived and we had to flee.


No Comments


  1. Easter Island / Rapa Nui: Tongariki – One Curious Life - […] is an amazing place to watch the sunrise.  After bolting down Rano Raraku, Tongariki was the second location where…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *