Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunrise at Tongariki

Tuesday morning and we are up early. Fortunately sunrise at this time of year does not come until about 7am or so but we do not want to miss one second of it. We had arranged the night before with Mike to pick him up from his hotel at 6:30 for sunrise at Tongariki. He was not late and neither were we and we were actually on the road by 6:25. It is pitch black and cloudy but no rain and we are hoping the clouds break up a little. We had been told to drive slowly because of the wildlife and horses. Driving yesterday the one thing that surprised us was the number of herds of horses wandering around. Sergio had later told us that owning horses was very prestigious and many islanders claimed the herds but to our eyes they seemed to be unchecked and untamed. They are obviously breeding because we did see many foals and quite a few mares that looked pregnant so their numbers, if unchecked, will just grow. Arriving at Tongariki in the dark was amazing. We were the first group to arrive and after parking the car, quickly turned our headlamps (we use the Princeton brand and they are fabulous). We have found headlamps to be better than flashlights as it leaves our hands free to do other more important things. On this trip it was to prepare our cameras. As Tom positioned himself beside a wall at the back of the site, Mike and I wandered down the road to get closer. By now a few more people had arrived but there is plenty of room and the sheer silence that surrounds us is permeable and we find ourselves speaking in whispers. Gradually the sky starts to turn from pitch black to streaks of creams and pinks. It is still cloudy but that does not deter us from taking pictures and just soaking in the phenomenal atmosphere of being in such a special place at a magical moment. Tom was correct in his assumptions the day before and the sun did indeed rise over the left side of the moai. As the 15 moai slowly began to take form in the lightening sky we were left simply with feelings of wonder at this marvelously restored ahu. After day break as we slowly made our way back to the car, Mike summoned up all our feelings pretty well “If I see nothing else today and nothing else happens today, this will be enough”. Of course our day is full of sightseeing again but first, breakfast. We drive back to the town of Hanga Roa and find a small cafĂ© by the ocean. Over breakfast, all we could talk about was Tongariki and our experience. After breakfast, I ordered a second cup of coffee, Mike took a walk down to the water and Tom went to talk to someone at the dive shop to see about a snorkeling or scuba trip. There are a few options but we finally decide that a trip on Thursday afternoon would fit our schedule better. As we gather together again, to start touring the island again, Mark from Ottawa who is staying at the hotel wanders by. He is thinking of renting a bike but since we have the car, a Suzuki SUV, we invite him to come along with us and he quickly accepts. We sit and review what we have all seen, what we still want to see and come up with a plan. For the rest of the morning we will visit some of the unrestored ahu burial sites, the quarry at Puna Pau and take in visits to Ovahe and then Anakena beaches. Later we will explore the lava tube caves that riddle the island. Another full day of sightseeing is emerging.

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