Volume 1 Number 9
March 14, 1997
ON EASTER ISLAND:
The first taxi on the island was such a roaring success that there are now four of them. More vehicles are arriving weekly, some by air freight. The traffic jams at the airport and (at times) around the village are astonishing.
Public telephone booths have appeared around the village and islanders have direct TV from the continent. The island has been assigned a new prefix: it is now 32. All island numbers are preceded by 100. Thus to send a fax to Entel on the island, one would dial (56) for Chile; (32) for the island, and 100-105 for the number. The 100 numbers replace the formerly assigned "223" numbers.
The festival parade began one hour ahead of schedule-surely a 'first'. The Tapati Mardi Gras type parade is always the highlight of the festival. Those participating in the parade were resplendent in body paint and tattoo, feathers and hami. Some 200 Maori from New Zealand were expected for the festival and were scheduled to perform but, at the last minute, they canceled out: someone in New Zealand who was arranging their tickets absconded with the funds.
A new feature of this Tapati was a large statue carving contest. Huge blocks of scoria were set up at Hanga Vare Vare and carvers had a week to complete their entries. The stones were not of equal quality for carving and carvers got them by a random drawing. Some were outraged by the blocks they were assigned and refused to work them. We noted that most carvers used hatchets and files but a few employed electric drills and other electric tools. The final collection of carvings will be permanently set up at the site to enhance the area and make it more attractive to visitors.
Haka Pei (the "banana slide") was again a spectacular event, one contestant being carried from the field on a stretcher. Other outdoor activities included the triathalon at Rano Raraku, and two nighttime outdoor performances - one at Vaihu, and one at Anakena Beach. The final event was held at Hanga Vare Vare where a newly carved moai was erected by traditional means (levers and rocks). More conservative members of the village deplore the putting up of modern moai, feeling that tourists will mistake it for an original statue.
No canoe races were held this year as only one canoe remains on the island; the other was swamped on the south coast and subsequently dashed to pieces on the rocks. The crew swam ashore safely.
Ahu Huri A Urenga is now off limits to all visitors. Alejandro Rapu, whose family is said to have owned the site, has claimed it, closed off access and chased off visitors with a spear gun. He claims that the family was supposed to have another parcel of land in exchange, but never received it.
Improvements along the shoreline in the village include stone benches and walking paths, and a new swimming area. The latter was created by closing off a small hay near Hanga Vare Vare with boulders that permit the water to enter but make the new "bay" a safe place for swimming.
Drought in December and January caused vegetable gardens to wither and subsequent fires at Poike made the shortage of edible grass even more scarce. Herds of cattle have been turned loose to forage over the island. Many animals look like kavakava figures, with ribs sticking out. Clearly, too much livestock is on the island for the available feed. Despite this, we heard rumors of more milk cows being sent over to begin dairy farming on the island.