This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary.
To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.
Morning Visit to Rano Raraku Quarry
Rano Raraku, the quarry where the moai statues were carved from the mountain face, was my favorite site on the island, both for the history it represents and for the photographic opportunities it offers.
The site is a grassy hill of half-buried moai waiting to be finished and taken to their intended platforms. That day never came as the site was suddenly abandoned. Now the hillside remains as a time capsule demonstrating the fascinating story of how the moai were carved and transported.
The site is also a visual spectacle, as if the layout and angle of the stone statues were intentionally and artistically designed waiting to be photographed.
From the upper pathways you can see how the figures were carved as they lie prone in the stone. The front side was carved in this position, then the backside was carved out releasing it from the stone. It was then tipped upright into a hole where the backside of the figure could be finished.
On the back side of the quarry is a crater. On this morning it was a short 10 minute walk up a muddy path as it had rained the previous night. The lake inside of the crater, one of the few fresh water sources of the island, was pretty low in mid-March.
The grassy hills around the lake were a brilliant green with a few moai standing on one side in the distance. They don’t let you get very close. Here most photos in the morning light are into the sun.
As the quarry is popular they now restrict visitors to one visit to the site, so you have to decide on a morning or afternoon visit. According to the guidebook, the site is best visited in the early morning or mid to late afternoon. I decided on an early morning visit thinking we would have better light.
Located a short distance from Ahu Tongariki, the quarry is easy to reach after a sunrise visit to the former. Unfortunately, I had the park’s opening hours wrong. The hours listed in the guidebook are out of date. The correct hours are printed on the front of the National Park map they give you with your park entrance ticket.
Arriving at 9AM I asked if the site was open. The park ranger told me it didn’t open until 9:30 but I could ask at the ticket office if we could go in. The entrance attendant checked us in and let us through a good 20 minutes before 9:30. Consequently we had the quarry to ourselves for about 30 minutes as the sun was just making its way around the hill.
Around 10:00 we headed back toward the entrance and on to the crater. More and more small groups were entering the quarry. Just before 11:00 when we were leaving three big van loads arrived.
Talking My Way in for a Second Visit
Eduardo, the owner of the guesthouse where we were staying, mentioned on our arrival that you could possibly talk your way in for a second visit. He said that if you try you should be very polite and not argue. Thinking that afternoon light might be better than morning’s, I decided to try to talk my way in for an afternoon visit.
They really frown upon second visits unless your first visit was hampered by rain or some other natural disaster. My excuse, wanting to photograph the site with different light, turned out not to be an acceptable reason, but I adhered to Eduardo’s advice, accepted what she told me and simply looked sad. I should also mention that I made my case in Spanish hoping for a more sympathetic response.
After lecturing me for a few minutes on why a second visit was not possible she suddenly gave in and allowed me 20 minutes in the quarry. Thrilled, I stuck to my 20 minute gift and hit the highlights of what I wanted to photograph again – for sure the twins as they are only lit in the afternoon and the view of Ahu Tongariki in the distance as it too is only an afternoon shot.
Overall both times of the day have their photo opportunities, though I think there is more to work with as the sun works its way around the hillside in the afternoon. The other advantage of this second visit was a killer blue bird day. Although clouds can add interest in certain settings the blue sky really sets off the gray stone of the moai.