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Today, we rented a car with a Swiss guy named Manuel who's also staying at our campsite.
First thing in the morning, we headed back to see the sunrise at the 15 moai. This is supposed to be a spectacular view, but the heavy cloud cover made it slightly less thrilling than expected. Still cool, though. The weird thing about the sunrise here is that it doesn't happen until around 8 or 8:30 a.m., while the sunset is the normal 9 p.m. that I've experienced in the rest of South America. I'd love to know why this is, if anyone reading this can venture a guess. Maybe it has something to do with being closer to the equator.
Anyway, the 15 moai are right near the quarry, which Manuel hadn't seen yet, so we drove there and discovered the gate closed over the road. The sign said the quarry opened at 9 a.m., so we waited there until 9:23, when a park ranger finally pulled up on his motorcycle. He sure didn't look like an official employee; but, we knew from the day before that many of the rangers didn't wear uniforms. However, he introduced himself and said his friend had the key, so we'd need to wait a bit longer. When said friend never came, he directed us to drive up the hill and around the gate. We should've just done that in the first place. Lucky Manuel then had the entire site free to himself while we played with some kittens we found in the parking lot and napped in the car.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the northern coast of the island. Our first stop of the day was Papa Vaka, home to some petroglyphs that focus heavily on sea creatures. We saw crabs, turtles and lots of fishing hooks, plus a mystery creature that’s been subject to a lot of speculation on its origin.
Leaving the petroglyphs, we continued to Te Pito Kura, home to the biggest moai on the island.
Te Pito Kura is called the "navel of the world," a nickname also attributed to the island as a whole. The "navel" itself consists of a large round center stone in the middle of four smaller rocks located at the compass points around it.
There were four of us, each person had a rock to sit on. When I held my compass in the air over the center stone, it pointed north, as it was supposed to. When I laid the compass against the center stone, the needle spun until it pointed to east or west or south, depending on where I held it. Christoph (our guide the day before) had told us that the rocks had magnetic properties. The Rapa Nui believe the center stone holds "mana," meaning life or creation energy.
In the afternoon, we headed to the beach at Anakena. This is the best swimming beach on the island because it’s nestled in a little cove, with soft white sand to sit on and even a few palm trees to provide shade. The water was exactly the right temperature, just cool enough to feel refreshing and comfortable, and the waves were just the right size to keep swimming interesting but not dangerous.
Shelley, Patti and I had packed peanut butter and jelly for lunch. In between a couple of intense rain showers, we introduced Manuel to our American delicacy. It was a success.
After Anakena, we drove a small distance to Ovahe, a more secluded pink-sand beach tucked into the cliffs. The sand there was disappointingly dirty, with lots of trash mixed in, but the beach itself was pretty. We climbed up into a two-story cave overlooking the ocean, where a couple of Rapa Nui had settled in for the day. They didn’t mind sharing.
Our guidebooks said that Ovahe wasn’t safe for swimming, but never specified why. My guess was riptides, so I stayed out of the water. Nonetheless, several people were swimming without a problem.