Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Easter Island: Mysteries of the Moai

For even the most seasoned travelers, Easter Island offers a new and genuine experience unlike any other on earth, truly feeling liked the edge of existence. Situated 1,260 miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean from the next nearest inhabited island and 2,360 miles from South America, it is no wonder that it was left unfounded by the outside world for so long. It is believed by researchers that the first inhabitants were Polynesians who arrived around 400 A.D. and had no subsequent contact with the outside world. It wasn't until 1722 that Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen arrived and named the island for the day he anchored: Easter Sunday.
Upon landing, he found the primitive island full of large stone faced human shaped statues called moai. They were all faced with their backs to the ocean, and instead faced inward toward the highest point on the island, Terevaka Volcano. There seemed to be no explanation for the existence of these statues, and by the time the famous British Captain James Cook arrived in 1772, the gigantic stone statues had all been toppled over. To this day, it remains a mystery what happened that caused them to fall, and why the island's inhabitants suddenly stopped creating them. Another puzzle is how the ancient people on such a barren island were able to create and, more importantly, transport and maneuver their multi-ton creations.
Today, visitors can fly out to Easter Island by way Chile, to which it became a territory in 1888. It is not a cheap flight, and not a short one at that, but the trip is sure to be one of a lifetime. It is popular to arrange this trip as part of any South America vacation packages or simply add it to your existing Chile holidays plans. Even with its tourism slowly growing over the years, there is still only one town named Hanga Roa on this 64 square mile island which hosts most of the main hotels, restaurants, and tourism facilities. From there, it is easy to rent a car or bicycle with which to tour the island independently.
Because the island is well preserved and very pristine, it takes deliberate effort to get to some of the most remote sites. Over 1000 moai statues carved out of volcanic rock are scatted about (many more are thought to be unexcavated), more than 300 religious temples still stand mysteriously, and the grassy and hilly landscape itself is worth many impromptu stops. The moai is of course what draws most people here, artifacts whose mystifying existence rivals that of Stonehenge and the Georgia Guidestones. Most of them still lie faced down, although a few dozen have been restored to upright positions. They stand 30 to 40 feet tall, weighing more than 70 tons each; the largest, which was never completed, is 65 feet tall, weighs over 80 tons, and is aptly called "El Gigante." It may never be known precisely why the moai were created or how their abandoned fate came to be, but nevertheless, their silhouettes against the blue Pacific and green volcanic hills of Easter Island are one of the most striking scenes in the world.
This article about Easter Island was written by a travel expert at Chile For Less who specializes in helping you customize your Chile holidays or even more all-encompassing South America vacation packages.
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