22nd April: Easter Island (Cemetery in Hanga Roa)

The cemetery in Hanga Roa, right beside the Tahai Complex, is a curious mixture of Spanish Catholic, Polynesian and traditional Rapanui influences.

View over the cemetery from near the front

We came past here after we stopped in town for lunch as we travelled between Orongo and Ranu Raraku.  Not perhaps your typical cemetery….

Petroglyph on the back of a tombstone

The image to the right shows the back of a tombstone with a petroglyph of a tangata manu (the birdman) as we saw in the Orongo post.  My guess is that it’s genuine.

It’s probably a bit hard to see unless you know what you’re looking for.  It’s a man’s body with the head of a frigate bird.  The head of the bird (above the body) is round, with a big round eye inside that, and above that is the hooked beak of the frigate bird.

Hanga Roa

Hanga Roa itself is a nice laid back friendly little place.  You can sit at a seaside cafe and watch the surfers and the bathers (depending on the weather).  The food is surprisingly good, especially the seafood, and there are lots of restaurants.

It might not be a good place to get drunk at night because the drains in the gutters are about three feet deep and have concrete covers but many of the covers are missing.  Many of the roads on the island are pretty good but some of the minor paved roads in town have as much pothole area as road surface.

There many dogs roaming around in Hanga Roa and they are surprisingly friendly and well-behaved.  It’s the only place I’ve ever been where in the late afternoon when the roads are warm, you may have to drive especially carefully to avoid running over dogs asleep on the road.

However, the recent history is not pretty.  From the annexation by Chile in 1888 to the mid 20th century – I think, 1964 – those few Rapanui who had survived syphilis, smallpox, kidnapping, murder and rape were confined to the village of Hanga Roa and commonly treated savagely by their farmer, colonial or naval overlords (depending on the period).  The population of the island is approaching 5,000 and the vast majority of that remains in Hanga Roa.

8 comments on “22nd April: Easter Island (Cemetery in Hanga Roa)

  1. Murv says:

    Well I finally looked and it’s stunning – congratulations – some potential prizewinners in there.


  2. Murray Foote says:

    Thanks very much Murv. Probably another 6 or 10 posts to go.


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