I’ve had just had one of those wonderful encounters that makes you review your life.
I’m travelling alone at the moment and I’d got it in my head that I would hire a car to witness the next sunset and sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. That’s the spectacular set of 15 restored moai found at the north east of Easter Island. Sunrise in particular is supposed to be stunning, but sunset was to be done too as the stony-faced gents are less than 20 kilometres away.
Well it is less than 20 kilometres of rough pothole riding, but soon enough I was seated in front of the 15 stone giants as they gazed inland.
At first glance there were only a father and daughter nearby taking photos, but I as I waited for the sun to go down, I saw there was a Rapa Nui fire over behind the sacred set of rocks known as an ahu.
From a distance, I could see a brown, possibly naked, body near the fire as well as a more clothed man or boy and several dogs.
I let the image go. There are quite a few local people camping and fishing at moment. I was there to capture the moai under a golden glow.
Suddenly, a deeply tanned Asian man came from nowhere with a long lens, took a few photos of the moai and left. Strange. I would have stayed longer as sunset was coming.
Then, both the Rapanui man and the Asian man called from the fire and waved in my direction. Me? I looked around. There wasn’t anyone else. Me? Yes me.
They wanted to share the dinner that was speared moments before in the shadow of the colossal sculptures. Both men had big grins and neither spoke English very well. I don’t know how they were talking with each other.
The camera guy was from Korea and the young Rapanui man was “dressed” in a traditional Polynesian g-string with his long black hair all tied up. This was not the time to mention that I had not touched fish for 17 years.
The Korean had evidently been hanging out with the local man for at least that day. They were in synch. The Rapanui man kept nudging me to eat the earth-scented fish that had quickly cooked on hot rocks. The Korean broke open a packet of instant noodles and dipped the fish in the seasoning while eating the noodles like biscuits.
The handsome Rapanui was called Moa and he said his home was Tongariki, i.e. everywhere he pointed. There was a surprisingly deep cave hidden from tourists next to the fire and he said that was just the place where he slept.
Moa said he’d only left Rapa Nui twice. He’d gone to Chile to dance. He said he did not like the “wind” and gestured as if he was choking. Yeah, that would be the smog.
As the Korean and the dogs ate the fish, Moa went down to a nearby rock on the grass and started hammering away at something. He let me sit next to him as I watched him pounded a reed into submission with a dry cow bone.
The post fish dinner activity was making reed ropes and he wanted my help. Moa had flattened a reed pulled from a nearby crater lake into papery material then tore it before my eyes into four strips. He got me to hold one end as he wove a plait.
He wanted to know where I was going next and when I was going. Did I like my job? I asked him where his horse was and how his life was. He kept smiling and laughed as he said something about the Korean taking photos.
It was starting to get dark so it was time to go. I still have plans to go back to Tongariki for sunrise so I gave the bewildered Moa a peck on the cheek (he looked seriously confused by that) and waved at the Korean.
I hope to see them again in the morning.