Combination of Sesame crusted Yellow Fin Tuna, grilled Water Melon and Capsicum Parfait
Combination of Sesame crusted Yellow Fin Tuna, grilled Water Melon and Capsicum Parfait
Mongolia!
Mongolia!
The edge of the dormant volcano - our destination of the day.
The edge of the dormant volcano – our destination of the day.

The day after our lengthy walk around Rapa Nui we decided to take an “easy day” and visit one of the closest attractions to Hanga Roa: the ceremonial village of Orongo.  The village is located on the rim of Rano Kau, the dormant volcano at the far western end of Rapa Nui.  The surf was quite rough that morning so we had some good fun watching the waves crash into the rocky coastline on our way over to the volcano.

To get to the rim of the volcano’s crater you can either drive a winding road, or you can take a trail that takes a steeper and more direct route.  At sea level the trail weaves its way through some small farms that enjoy the wind protection afforded by the mountain before breaking out into a clearing covered mostly by guava bushes (they are all over the island).  Slightly further on is a small band of eucalyptus trees and, from there, it is grass all the way to the top.

The crater or Rano Kau
The crater or Rano Kau

Once we reached the rim of the crater we had a spectacular view of the freshwater marsh inside of the volcano.  Though we couldn’t see it up close, the vegetation inside of the crater was noticeably different.  Some signs along the way indicated that the cone of the volcano creates a completely different ecosystem by sheltering its contents from wind and by trapping rainwater.

At the far west end of the crater rim is the ceremonial village of Orongo.  The village, which was the center of the birdman cult, was inhabited until the mid 19th century.  The stone buildings as they stand today were restored in the mid 1970′s but much of the stone is original.  The roofs of the houses are stone but they are covered in a thick layer of grass.  It is not known whether these houses we occupied permanently or only during ceremonial times.

Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo

Speaking of ceremonies, one of the birdman cult’s more interesting annual competitions was to retrieve the first sooty tern egg laid on the nearby islet of Motu Nui.  The competitors had to depart the village, survive the 250m descent to the ocean, swim a few kilometers, fight off some seriously angry birds and then go all the way back to the village while carrying an egg.  I’m am sure that the village’s stunning location perched the cliff above the ocean made this competition quite fun to watch!

In addition to the stone houses and spectacular views of the volcano and the ocean, one can also find numerous stone petroglyphs at Orongo.  Some of them are pretty hard to discern (and to photograph!) but they are very interesting nonetheless.

The descent to Hanga Roa was much faster than the climb.  Part of this was due to the downhill slope and the other part was due to the fact that we had a rainstorm bearing down on us.  All in all, this little excursion ate up about half a day and was certainly worthwhile.  Given more time I think it would be fun to hike all the way around the rim of the crater, I read somewhere that this is doable in a day.  Maybe next time!

Easter Island – Day 2 (Rano Kau and Orongo)
Strong surf in the morning
Strong surf in the morning
The edge of the dormant volcano - our destination of the day.
The edge of the dormant volcano – our destination of the day.
Some locals out having fun
Some locals out having fun
Amy's favorite part of the day: a nice seasaw complete with turtle seats.  We rode it.
Amy’s favorite part of the day: a nice seasaw complete with turtle seats. We rode it.
Half way up the volcano we happened upon a rest station.  Much-needed as we are wimps.
Half way up the volcano we happened upon a rest station. Much-needed as we are wimps.
Made it to the top of Rano Kao
Made it to the top of Rano Kao
The crater or Rano Kau
The crater or Rano Kau
Looking back towards Hanga Roa
Looking back towards Hanga Roa
The restored ceremonial village of Orongo which is on the rim of the volcano.
The restored ceremonial village of Orongo which is on the rim of the volcano.
The nearby islets of Moto Nui, Moto Iti and Motu Kau Kau
The nearby islets of Moto Nui, Moto Iti and Motu Kau Kau
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Another view of Orongo
Another view of Orongo


One Response to “Easter Island: Rano Kau”

  1. Now you’re just really pissing me off. These places in your pictures are gorgeous. I hope you get a splinter or sunburn or a papercut or something.

    If you get a chance, tell us more about personal anecdotal stuff too — pictures of people you talked to, stories about the people and interactions, travel issues, etc … just curious.

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