Easter Island / Rapa Nui: Tongariki

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Easter Island, South America, Travel Blog and Destinations | 0 comments

Easter Island / Rapa Nui: Tongariki

At the base of the extinct volcano Poike, looking away from the distant shores of Chile is the largest ceremonial platform, and an example of the pinnacle of moai construction; Tongariki. Fifteen moai each about 8 m tall stand on a platform 220 m long, or  about the length of 15 city buses. (About one city bus length for each statue.)

Horses at Tongariki

This is shortly before the horses were shooed away from the ahu by a local girl. I suppose they walk all over thongs and damage them.

After much driving and stopping at every smaller and toppled moai on our first day on the island, Tongariki was not only significantly larger, but also restored and fully upright.

Tongariki Topknot

The one with his hair and his dignity intact. If I were allowed on the ahu, I would stand about as high as his guy’s belly button.

“Now that’s what I’m fucking talking about!” my travel buddy, Dave, burst out as he  slammed the palm of his hand on the steering wheel and our little jeep crested the hill above tho moai. I jumped out of my seat when I saw them, lowered my sunglasses and squinted against the sun. (Just imagine my hair in the wind and my hand limply shielding my eyes. As clique as possible. You’ve got the picture.) I tried to record every detail in my head from the first sight and the way my perspective of them changed the closer I got. It’s one of those moments travelers live for – the ones when all the books, photos, and stories pale in comparison to being right there- a tiny little person faced with the immensity of history.

The moai at Tongariki are extensively restored. In May of 1960 the largest earthquake in recorded human history (9.5 on the Richter scale) hit the coast of Chile and sent a giant tsunami, scattering the 80 tonne moai across the field they face. Although the statues were already mostly toppled from their platform at the time, the tsunami made sure they were an absolute mess. It wasn’t until 1992 that an archaeology team from the University of Chile, lead by Polynesia enthusiast, Claudio Cristino set out to restore the site. With over 2 million dollars from the Japanese government over 4 years, the fifteen moai stand again. Pity that all but one of their red stone topknots were too damaged to return to their heads.

Easter Island - Tongariki perspective By Alexis Baran

Playing with perspective.

Tongariki is an amazing place to watch the sunrise.  After bolting down Rano Raraku, Tongariki was the second location where we watched the sunrise on Rapa Nui. At dawn their shadows stretch all the way across the field toward Rano Raraku.

Tongariki Shadows on Easter Island

Me playing with the giants.


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