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Rano Raraku, Easter Island – April 2, 2012

From Akahanga, we make our way to, what I consider, the most awesome part of touring Easter Island… a visit to the Moai quarry… the volcano of Rano Raraku, where all the Moai on the island were carved from. Of the 887 Moai on the island, 397 of these are still at the quarry… still waiting to be transported to their Ahus all over the island.

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Just a short drive along the main road from Akahanga, we pass a few minot Ahus en route, and then we see a sign to Ranu Raraku

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En route, you can see the volcano in the distance.

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As we reach the side of the volcano, we can begin to see the unfinished Moai on the side of the volcano slopes as if walking down the mountain.

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We get to the parking area. Luckily… we are once again ahead of the other tourists and visitors to the park.  At this point, I take out my ticket from yesterday for the Rapa Nui National Park I bought the previous day at Rano Kau.

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From here… we walk. Along the way up to the mountain side, we are greeted by several Moai that didn’t quite make it. Some fell and broke at the neck. You can imagine how the ancient natives probably felt when they saw the statue they carved for pretty much a year fall and break…. @*&^#)&!!!

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You will notice the pathways around the Moai. Visitors are not supposed to wander away from the paths. And of course, one is not supposed to touch the Moai to avoid further erosion due to human contact.

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These guys here are the most famous Moai seen on most tour books and websites…

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So naturally, I needed to have my picture taken here! Too bad it’s a little “against the light.” My guide, Matti didn’t want me to go beyond the pathway and step between the Moai.

As you can see there are Moai everywhere. In case you are wondering “why are they standing up?” They are carved from the side of the mountain, then they slide down the mountain into waiting holes to prop them up. It is at the point that the carvers do the finishing work on the statues, particularly on their backs and the heads. The faces are refined at this stage, and the rest of the bodies are smoothed out.

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Here are some of the Moai being carved out from the mountain rock.

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Here are two Moai being carved side by side.

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This guy… while still unfinished. If completed would be around 21 meters or 69 feet tall and would weigh 270 tons.

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At one end of the path, we encounter the most unusual Moai on the island. While most Moai are heads and torsos… we encounter Tukuturi… a kneeling Moai we was complete with feet… and a butt

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Its not entirely clear if this Moai was supposed to an ancestor, or one of the carvers who dies at this spot. It was earlier believed that it was an earlier Moai… but it is too big to be one of that era. The mystery remains.

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From the kneeling moai, you can see the 15 moai of Ahu Tongariki in the distance. That would be our next destination from Rano Raraku.

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It was time now to make the trek inside the volcano crater.

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As we walked into the crater… you could see the opposite side of the same crater wall where the other moai were carved.

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So from here… more unfinished moai. I learned that the moai were only carved from this wall. There must have been something special by this section of the volcano. The other sides of the volcano were not suitable for carving.

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Meanwhile… while insider the crater I was able to observe several wild horses drinking from the crater lake. The island was full of wild horses. Remnants of a time when horses were that main form of transportation around the island… prior to the importation of cars and trucks.

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After a while it was time to make our way back to the pickup for our next destination.

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As we exited Rano Raraku, Matti showed me the strange stone enclosure below. These things are also all over the island. What are they? Ancient chicken coops. Due to the scarcity of resources on the island, these stone enclosures were a way to prevent chickens from being stolen.

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Next stop… the awesome 15 moai of Ahu Tonariki