26 January 2009

My Return to Rapa Nui

28 November 2008

Image: The horses of Rapa Nui.

My plans for this week long trip will be to meet with my friend Sergio Rapa to discuss developing a proposal to continue the work here. I also hope to me with the Governor of the Island, as well as representatives from CONAF and the Museum. I want to start the process of applying for research permits, as well as get all the other details dialed in for this work.

Sergio, my good friend, as well as my colleague in a proposal to study the cave archaeology and biodiversity of the island, was unable to pick me up at the airport. He had meetings that had delayed him from picking me up.

Fortunately, I was met by another good friend of mine, Alicia Ika. She and a friend of hers, Jenny, came to the airport to welcome me back to Rapa Nui. And in the Polynesian tradition, Alicia gave me a flower lei, as well as a ride to Sergio’s hotel. Alicia and I will be working together in the island the entire week.

Once at the hotel, I awaited Sergio’s arrival. Sergio leaves for Santiago tomorrow; he and I need to discuss our proposal before he departs. We decided to meet tonight to discuss the proposal.

I then gave Alicia a call to set up our plans for the week. Interestingly, the hotel phone does not permit you to call to a cell phone. So, I had to go to a tattoo parlor, that also happened to serve as a central telephone facility – here I can make calls to a cell phone. After trying to speak with her for about 20 minutes and dealing with a horrible connection, she invited me over to her house to chat in person.

Alicia, her Mom, and Jenny had just completed a large fish lunch and a nap. Upon my arrival, Jenny told me they had left-overs, and she asked if I was hungry. Knowing that I was going to eat fresh fish, my answer was a resounding “yes!”

I then proceeded to stuff myself on a large plate of fresh fish and potatoes. While eating, Jenny was playing Elvis, and she was telling me how much she liked his music. By this time, another one of Alicia’s friends arrived at her house. We then decided to go down to shore. We went to Ahu Vinapu -- a Moai site characterized by the most impressive stone Ahu on the island. This Ahu is comprised of large basalt monoliths puzzled together in sheer perfection. Some of the contact points where stone is pieced together is so tight, one cannot slip a piece of paper between the two stones.

I marveled at this structure and the toppled Ahu for some time. Then, Alicia and I down-climbed the cliff face to the water. We went down to the shore to collect water-worn rocks for Alicia’s garden. We spent some time walking along the shore.

She observed an outcrop of yellow soil, which she indicated is of the correct consistency for making body paint for ceremonies. However, we were unsuccessful at finding a safe route to this outcrop. We determined the best way to do this would be to rappel down from the edge of the cliff. We want to do this on this trip, but it may have to wait until I return in June.

After our little outing, we dropped off my new friends, I went back to Alicia’s house, grabbed her motorcycle and then she gave me a ride back to the hotel.

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