going > rapa nui part 2: the birdman

Marcus’ Birdman Tour starts with a few more moai.


ahu akivi

There’s a legend that might explain why these face out to sea (they’re the only moai that do). I will not even attempt to retell the legend. You’ll need to book Marcus’ tour or do some Wikipedia-ing for the real story.

After a short drive and quick walk we’re in an open plain (which I failed to photograph) dotted with a few trees and the occasional crumbling stones. It started pouring again so we were running/hopping on lava rocks in this open field aiming to seek refuge at our next stop: the lava tubes.


spelunking time!

Rapa Nui is basically volcano on top of volcano next to volcano next to another volcano (times, like, 10). Some of the ancient lava flows made these caves.

My face when he says we’re going inside. O_O

Sara’s face: 🙂


bed o’ rocks

To the left is supposedly a bed. Of rocks. Surely the ancient peoples who used these caves as refuge could find something better than jagged lava rocks to sleep on, right?

Anyhow, we use some flashlights to make it though the largest of the caves. We spend a few minutes (or seconds bc I was scaredy cat status) taking in the darkness and silence in one of the parts. We emerge from the lava tubes in one piece and mosey on back to the car for our next stop.

We head to Puna Pau which is where most of the moai’s topknots are from (topknot picture at the end of this post). I love a good topknot as much as the next girl but what I really like about Puna Pau is the view. (Click on the image below to get the full sized panorama.)


sara and marcus are chatting and i’m taking a million pictures #businessasusual

Now it’s time to really take your breath away because after a few other stops we end up at Rano Kau and Orongo, the center of the Birdman cult.


my favorite from day #2

Alright time to explain the Birdman.

Sometime after the height of the moai-making and after the first visit from the Europeans began the Birdman cult. Each of the island’s chiefs would nominate a man to compete. That participant would have to make his way down the rim of Rano Kau, cross the crater, and make his way out the little lip and into the ocean.


the thought of swimming to that island… O_O

From there he would swim to the bigger of the two islands pictured here and find an egg from a specific bird. Once he found the egg he’d yell to the spectators watching from Orongo. The chief he represented immediately shaved his head and became the Birdman, something of a spiritual leader for the island.

There’s some evidence that says this cult went on until the 1860s. To put it in perspective that was during the American Civil War. Weird to think these two things happened around the same time.


looks a bit hobbit-y

These are the shelters that housed the spectators. There’s a direct, unobstructed view of the little islands from here. The crater is a ways behind the shelters.


a topknot!

We ended our day at Tahai and after Marcus gave us the details of stuff we had not noticed in the 3 previous days we had walked by this place he dropped us off in town so we could do some souvenir shopping.

Like I said in my previous post, we can’t recommend Marcus enough. If you’re visiting Rapa Nui he has many, many tour types (after our 2 days with him he was prepping for a 3 day camping/horseback tour) and you won’t find a nicer or more knowledgeable guy on the island. Book him here.


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