You can see here I am ready to come back to work. They’ll just have to jack hammer the mud body paint off, or better yet, leave it on for camera work. Trust me, it’ll look fabulous.

So how did I come to lose my inhibitions and surrender to the will and mischief of the local people?

.. and is this something I can import back home? Well not literally. I imagine Australian Customs would have a word to say about these chicken feathers.

Rapanuians are fiercely proud people, but extremely generous enough to allow outsiders into their celebrations.

For us, it is an brief insight into another way of  life. I think this will be hard to forget.

Parade day is a last-ditch but fun way of shoring up support for one of two candidates for Queen of the Tapati Rapa Nui festival. This year it was Celine Bour vs Lili Pate. Both are beautiful and, I am sure, talented young ladies put forward by their clans.

I came to support Celine because I chanced upon her clan’s painting area first and dove straight on in to another world of mud, feathers and g-strings made with care by local grandmothers.

The mud was either ochre red or creamy white.  There was no time to worry about taking clothes off. They had to go or they were going to get a mud bath.

Two guys, taking immense pride in their work, helped me into the white mud and ensured I was well coated. The mud then had to dry before the next layer of paint could be applied. Freshly muddied people were sent next to the pig and cow BBQ spits at the back of the yard. There was scores of tourists wandering around in various states of tribal wonder and grins. The numbers grew to the many hundreds throughout the hot afternoon.

It was about this time I realised it was too late to apply sunscreen and I now have a décolletage burn in the shape of the design that was applied by one of Celine’s clan members.

Some people got turtles, others got fish and birds, mine I am not sure about. It was an abstract swirly pattern that will probably stay with me for months.

Feather, grass and shell headpieces, skirts and bikini tops made on the spot by local ladies completed the look.. and many hours later with everyone ready, the parade began.

We had to pass a judge in single file who gave us a 10, 5 or 2 for appearance and effort. Carrying a beer can while being judged is an automatic 2. I am pleased to say I got a ten despite carrying a modern handbag with my clothes and camera. The brown colour must have blended in with the mud paint.

There were people of all shapes, sizes and ages; a guy in a wheelchair, mothers pushing prams and older women.

The job was then to walk down the street alongside some very serious looking floats with Moai and other symbols of Easter Island.

This is my candidate Celine Bour looking fabulous. Her clan’s effort was self-evident and the effect was stunning.

Celine’s section of the parade cascaded down the main street first. The road is not that long so the parade stopped for quite a long period of time but the locals lost none of their enthusiasm. The men performed warrior dances and if anyone was drinking a beer it was wrapped in a banana leaf.

The sun went down and the combined effect of sunburn, a chill in the air and two ripped knees from an earlier tumble on a muddy road led to me slipping back to my hotel for a shower.

The mud was in my ears and up my nose and I had to shampoo my hair three times.

I made this friend when I went back to the parade, which had not moved in my absence. He was a large gent with a whip and great dark rooster feathers in his hair. He was in charge of a group of “slaves” pulling Moai down the street. He could not speak English but I could however gather that he loved me and wanted to dance with me later.

It all ended down near the water with local music being played well past midnight.

The Queen was chosen the next night under the intensely bright stars. The numbers were crunched and the winner was sadly not my lovely Celine.

Lili was announced as the Tapati Queen just as rain drizzle spun into the area. She danced for the crowd and was carried to this carved wooden boat to symbolically sail off into the night.

Tapati is now done for the year, but my time here is not. Now to explore.

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  1. Sue Cal #
    February 19, 2012

    Was Easter Island a plan or a pin stuck blindly in a globe?

    • February 19, 2012

      I have wanted to come here for years. Turns out you can do it on a round the world ticket so I jumped at it. I did not deliberately fly for the festival but I highly recommend it. This trip was just timed after a heavy work period.

  2. February 20, 2012

    This festival is absolutely amazing. I am so gonna come here one year!

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