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Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island
We spent four days on Easter Island visiting the various sites with these fabulous heads .Until our visit I hadn't realised that no heads were left standing and that those now standing had been restored to that position in this last century.
The heads are called Moai while the platform they stand on is known as the Ahu and the hats or hair on some of the Moai are the Pakao. These particular Moai were restored and replaced on their Ahu specifically for the Rapa Nui film and of course for encouraging tourists to visit the island.
Ahu Tongariki is the largest restored Ahu with fifteen Moai and one of them is the largest Moai ever erected on the island. In the quarry behind this Ahu there is an even larger Moai half buried and unfinished. The largest Moai on the Ahu at Tongariki weighs 86 tonnes. I struggle to picture how the islanders with their limited lifting equipment moved and erected even the smaller Moai and some were taken quite some distance across the island.
Ahu Tongariki is in a large field with a view of the Pacific Ocean behind and is a stunning site. All around the area are wild hoses grazing that you have to make you way through to get to the site. Horses roam wild all over the island and they are owned by no one does anything much with them there are a few places where you can ride but most just breed and roam wild.
Our small bus parked in the car park and we made our way to the site. Annoyingly we seemed to be the last of many groups to arrive so there were people all around the site. This made photos without stranger in them almost impossible.
When you visit the sites you are told that you must keep off the Ahu and stay a certain distance from the actual site but sadly some people either chose to ignore this or had not been told by their guides. We had to wait while people posed pretending to be another Moai and so on then finally the coach party left and we weer able to take photo without silly performing people in our photos.
Behind the Ahu are many more toppled Moai and bits of Moai which we did go and have a bit of a look at. I think what makes these Moai look particularly spectacular is the backdrop of the rocky shore line just behind so you get the great blue sea and skies contrasting with the Moai standing so regally in a line.
On this Ahu there is only one Moai with a pukao or hat on. We were told that there were probably many more Moai upright at this site and they may well have all had pukao. They eyes were carved but had long since lost their coral whites and obsidian black pupils. The pukao are made from a red volcanic stone from another part of the island and most of the others lay around this site broken
These Moai had been toppled back in the seventeen century but these Moai were also swept hundreds of feet inland by a tidal wave in 1960. in1992 the Ahu and its Moai began to be restored under the direction of a Chilean archaeologist, Claudio Cristino assisted by Japanese archaeologists and their finance and after five years the Moai were standing on the Ahu as they are today.
Also at this site you can see a number of flat stones with petroglyphs carved on them. These pictures include fish and turtles., some were easier to see than others but the turtle was particularly clear. Our guide was rushing us a bit by this time as lunch was being delivered to our next stop on the tour.
We almost ran across the site and left via a gate where the rather small sign told us that this was Ahu Tongariki. Another large restored Moai stood alone and beside it there was a rather scruffy and cracked photo of a crane lifting one of the Moai into position. Considering the struggle they had with the restoration using all the modern lifting equipment it makes the fact that the Rapa Nui people did this without the assistance of heavy lifting cranes even more amazing.
It is easy to see which Moai had been on the Ahu as the eyes are only completed once they are on the Ahu. Until they are raised onto the platform the eye sockets are not really fully carved out, they are then carved out and the eye balls of coral placed in them. The coral being soft has meant that none have survived in tact.
At the site you will find no toilets or little shop to buy water. There are a few local people selling highly priced souvenirs. There is also very little shade anywhere at this site unless you go in the shade of the Moai.
You need to take plenty of bottled water, a hat and sunscreen if it is hot and rain protection as it does often rain.
Entrance to the site is free as it is part of the National Park and the ticket you bought at the airport covers entry but should be carried when visiting all the sites just in case you need to show it.