This island has quite a horse culture—I’m told that there are as many horses as people and they are being ridden around town everywhere. While I was having coffee on an outdoor terrace, a young girl came galloping (yes, galloping!) bareback down the sidewalk right in front of me. There are also cattle around in the rural areas but Christian, my guide on a tour, told me that they are rarely raised for milking. At one time in the late 1800’s a private company rented the whole island for a giant sheep farm. Eventually the proprietor left and the islanders ate all the sheep—there are none here now. There is a surfeit of feral dogs, however. I’ll say they are quite well mannered but there are scores too many in this town.
I went back to the church to have another look at those rare carvings. As usual the missionaries papered Catholicism over the native religion so here the statue of Mary has birdman symbols on her cape.
Another tour taken to many more ahus with upright and toppled moai; to the quarry that had the special red stone from which they carved the topknots for the moai; and to caves used for living during the bad times. Two ahus showed why Thor Heyerdahl thought the original settlers came from Peru. These ahus had Inca-like stones on them, and the decorated parts faced the sea to Chile—very unusual. Heyerdahl was also shown Peruvian pottery by the islanders.
A logical theory is that the Rapa Nui people with their amazing seafaring knowledge probably did visit Chile and see Inca stones which they imitated on Rapa Nui. They also must have brought back pottery, sweet potatoes, and chickens—DNA testing confirms that Rapa Nui chickens are related to chickens in Chile.
After the ecological disaster (no more trees after 1655—therefore no more boats—therefore no more tuna in their diet) and after civil wars when all the moai were toppled; and after 1500 of the islanders were kidnapped and taken to Peru to work in the guano mines in 1862, and after the survivors of this won their right to return to Rapa Nui, bringing with them leprosy and smallpox, the population on Rapa Nui fell from about 20,000 at its height to 107 individuals.
A new religious/social order was established. Each year seven men would compete by descending the dangerous outside wall of the Rano Kau volcano crater (over 1000 feet), swimming to a small offshore island, finding the first frigate bird egg of the season, swimming back with it and ascending the crater wall. The winner became THE BIRDMAN for a year—in effect, the king! I stood where they stood at the starting gate—I could barely stand to look over the edge! There were many petroglyphs in this location showing the ‘birdman’ symbol.
Well many, no mostly, mysteries remain. What exactly happened is not known, but this lovely island with its green, rolling volcano-filled interior (there are 71 in all), the beautiful Pacific surrounding it, the dramatic moai on their ahus, standing or toppled, make this a unique and wonderful, if mysterious, place.
Three more flights and I’m now in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I’m staying at a hostel—somebody’s house, actually, that has four rooms that they rent. I’m the only guest now, and have a very large room with two beds, a private bathroom, free pick-up from the airport, breakfast, free internet, and the run of the house and small swimming pool—all for $20 a night. To boot, the family is lovely and thinks I’m a genius because I can speak a little Spanish. They will also provide lunch or dinner for $6—I had dinner here the first night, as restaurants are kind of a long bus ride away.
Ecuador uses American money plus they have their own, but at the same value. For example the bus fare is 25 cents—I used one American dime, and Ecuador’s dime and nickel when I went to the Supermarket the first day to buy wine and fruit. Some of the wine is to take on the boat in the Galapagos—I don’t trust them to have the good Chilean wine that I’ve learned to love. (Casillero del Diablo). The fruit is to eat for a very light supper after a heavy meal at about 2:00 PM. Speaking of fruit, I see beautiful bananas and mangos growing on trees right outside my window!
Saturday I took two buses to get downtown. Two lovely women helped me get the right bus and to get off at the right stop. I walked all around visiting the 1940’s cathedral (old one burned down in big fire in 1917) and Seminary Park with years-old iguanas. Andrea said her mother took her there to feed them when she was a little girl.
I walked on the Malecon (boardwalk) along the river for a very long ways. Guayaquil is not a tourist city, but the commercial hub of Ecuador. Nevertheless, they’ve put a lot of resources into the Malecon.
Then down to their anthropological museum with a wonderful show of 10,000 years of Ecuador history. Yes, their ceramics go back to 8000 BC. Only trouble was that every pot and artifact was virtually perfect. I’ve never seen that before. Barely a crack or a nick—were they all restored or reproduced based on originals? It was a bit disturbing.
There was also a wonderful exhibit of modern art, including an Orozco, a Miro, a Dali, and many others from South America, especially Ecuador. An oddity—-virtually all of the men had their birth year on the label, but none of the women did—-I suppose that’s because it’s BAD to be an older woman!?
Onward to an IMAX movie in Spanish that seemed to be the BIG BANG over and over, but it was a chance to sit down and cool off—it’s hot and humid here.
Then on to two churches that were both closed (!) and to an Indian market. I almost bought a Panama hat—Panama hats are made in Ecuador. Remember, Jim Rice—-I brought you one from Ecuador 20+ years ago!
Next was lunch—duck a la’orange (sp?) with a half bottle of Casillero del Diablo Chilean Cab. Sauv. This restaurant, in the Hotel Continental, has won gourmet awards, but, you know—it’s not comfort food. I need some skin and bone, and the veggies to be sloshed together a little, not each one steamed separately to perfection. Really, I did enjoy it, though.
Back to home on the metro via (no trouble) and then the bus –“#81 Biujo” —but where to get it? I got several conflicting directions until one man finally figured out that I meant Buijo (boo-ee’-ho) and not biujo (bee-oo’ho) as I had been saying. Oh well, all’s well that end’s well, and I finally got my bus and got home.
They had also restored about five buildings from circa 1900 and had some song and dance performances to match. A fun, but low-key day.
Tomorrow I’ll be flying to the Galapagos to start my week aboard the sailing yacht, the Angelique.