Easter Island – Would you have entered the Birdman competition?

Easter Island has always been on my bucket list and I finally made it. It is considered one of the most remote islands in the world. Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888 and is over 3500 kms from mainland Chile and nearly 4300 kms from Tahiti. The closest destination is Pitcairn island which is several hundred kms away. It is known locally as Rapa Nui by the locals.

  The island has a population of about 5000. and every year thousands of people make the long journey to see what this unique location has to offer. I was lucky to be one of them. I was met at the airport by my wonderful hosts from the Hare PakoBa guest house. A family owned establishment with huge rooms and great breakfast. Its about a 20 minute walk to the center of town but you will often get a ride from the host so its not really an issue and I often enjoyed the relaxing walk (a teensy bit creepy at night) . There are over 800 statues on the island. They represent the ancestors and under each statue is a burial place of someone of great importance. you will notice that all the statues face inland which is no coincidence. The idea is to protect and look after the Islanders. Only seven of the statues do face the ocean and this was to both guide and welcome people to their shores. One of the most awesome experiences is to see the statues at sunset. Most of the inhabitants of the island are of Polynesian descent althouth there is some evidence that people may also have arrived from South America. The climate is subtropical although it was actually rather chilly when I was there in September. Some people say global warming has even reached this far flung destination and its only very recently that chilly conditions here have prevailed.  You can reach the islands from either Santiago (several flights a week) or from Tahiti (only 1 flight a week). You will have to pay a fee when you arrived to visit the parks to see the Maoi. It wills set you back $80 and you will have to show it each time to you visit one of the many sites on the island. It is not included in the many excursions on the island.

So one strange event that is now obsolete is the Birdman competition.  It once took place every year to coincide with Easter. There was once a time when the struggle for power on the island became an issue. The Rapa Nui wanted to settle it by nonviolent means so a competition evolved called the Birdman Cult competition. This would decide who would go on to lead the people for the following year. The idea was simple enough although not without extreme danger. One of the elder made a bid for leadership and then choose one of his champions to steal an egg. So far so good however the participants would have to climb/dive down a dangerous cliff edge and then swim to a small island not far from the coast named  Moto Nui. This was no resort. The participants would then have to wait for the first egg laid by the sooty tern and then swim safely back with it, climbing again up the precarious cliffs where he would have to present the egg to the elder. Whoever made it back first to his elected elder would then become the supreme ruler for the next year. So one other recommendation is to take the star gazing tour. Due to the islands remoteness and so far lack of pollution the night skies can be spectacular.  I was amazed to see Venus sink into the distant horizon. Also saw 4 of Jupiter’s moons. This is an amazing destination. Some of the facilities are basic and the wifi is limited. There is a square in the center of town where you can usually find it.