Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hiking Easter Island - A story in pictures

It's one of the most remote populated places on earth, yet a place with more big, imposing, ancient man-made monuments per square mile than almost any other.

Some statistics: It's only 15 miles long, fewer than 8000 people live there, 42 percent of the land area is a UNESCO World Heritage protected National Park.  There are 313 ceremonial platforms--each one representing a village ceremonial site, and there are 883 of the iconic monolithic stone statures, called Moai, such as those shown above (These stand at Rano Raraku, the main quarry site, awaiting transport).  The largest completed, transported, and erected statue is 32 1/2 feet tall and weighs 90 tons.

This is just a place that is in a class all by itself.  There's nothing else even remotely comparable.

The best part is that is very accessible for hikers.  There are a number of well maintained trails and some surprisingly remote and secluded stretches, particularly the 7-mile roadless north coast.

I just spent twelve days there.  You have to buy a National Park pass when you arrive, and it's only good for ten days and not renewable.  So I maxed out.  Yet I was only able to hike about half way around the island.  Here's a map of the continuous coastal hike venues I covered.  I also hiked shorter isolated segments that are not shown.

The island consists of three volcanoes and several smaller cinder cones and craters.  Here's a look at the most spectacular, Rano Kau, with its deep crater lake covered in floating mats of reeds of a species that came from South America.

Legend says that Easter Island was first settled about 1000 years ago by Chief Hotu Matu'a and his wife Vakai, along with extended family, traveling in two canoes, who arrived after a long journey from the west, probably from the Marquesas Islands.  This rendering of the imagined likeness is my favorite of many.  Easter Island seems to be somewhat of an artist colony these days, with many talented artisans.

Of course the main attractions are the Moai, and Tongariki has the most in one place.  Fifteen.  This site was destroyed by a Tsunami in historical times and restored by the Japanese in the 1990's.

The so-called Traveling Moai is also located at this site.  It had been shipped to Japan, where it was on display at various museums and fairs for many years, then returned at the time of Tongariki's restoration.

Petroglyphs and 'canoe houses' and numerous other remnants of the ancient culture are so abundant that you're virtually never out of sight of something of significance no matter where you go, especially along the coast. Shown here is the iconic 'bird man' holding a precious Sooty Tern egg.

There's spectacular scenery too.  The best of it is this view from Vai Atare, at the top of a 1000 foot sheer cliff on the western end of the island, looking out at the three 'birdman' islands that lie a mile and a half offshore.

Here, without much more commentary, is a pictorial tour of highlights from around the island.

One of the many stone fence rows.  This one is continuous across more than half the island
View of the south coast and the so called "Moai Trail' from a small hill
Best souvenirs are found in unexpected places.  These carved statues will set you back US $250
Canoe house foundation--homes for chiefs and aristocracy
Anakena Beach, the island's only real beach
Turtle petroglyph
View from the trail to the island's High Point, 1663 foot Terevaka
Trail view of the island's only town, Hanga Roa, looking north
Shoreline just outside the Island's only town, Hanga Roa
The remote north coast
Restored ancient canoe launch ramp with stone work and moai.  No mortar used.
Top of a seldom-visited coastal cinder cone south of Anakena beach

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hiking Mo'ore'a, French Polynesia, Most Beautiful Island in the World

One of the best views in the world, from Belvedere Overlook looking north from the very heart of heart-shaped Mo'ore'a. I could stare at this photo all day. I went back there three times and this is the best shot by far.

Here's a quote from Arthur Frommer, founder and owner of Frommer's, and the author of best selling travel guides for fifty years: "I think Moorea is the most beautiful island in the world. Nothing compares with its sawtooth ridges and the dark-green hulk of Mount Rotui separating Cook's and Opunohu bays [photo above]. The view from Tahiti of Moorea's skyline is unforgettable. [next photo]"

The nearby island of Bora Bora is far more well-known around the world.  I had time to visit only one; and for me Mo'ore'a was the better choice because of the scenery and hiking trails.

"Mo'ore'a" means "yellow lizard".  Why name it that? I have heard two versions.  Either it is just the name of a family of chiefs, or it's an ancient legend about a magical egg. When it hatched, a yellow lizard came out. The couple who found it called it Moorea and raised it until it got big. It became immense and its parents were afraid and decided to give it up and abandoned it on a canoe that drifted to the East of Tahiti.

It was formed 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago from a volcanic hot spot, just like Hawaii, and was populated by Polynesians 1000 years ago or so, just a bit before Hawaii was.

Today it is a world class vacation destination, especially for honeymooners.  Here's the view from near the Island map shown above, overlooking the Sofitel, rated 9th in this list of the Twenty Best Overwater Bungalow Resorts in the world.

From one of those bungalows one may be treated to stunning sunrises over Tahiti Island.

Looking down, there are the crystal-blue tropical waters at your feet,

And turning the other direction, as a shower passes through, come the most vivid rainbows.

Mo'ore'a has a first-rate trails system in the middle area of the island.  The map shows the entire system with dark lines, with the red lines marking the sections I had a chance to hike, between Three Coconuts Col/Pass and Three Pines Overlook.

From Three Coconuts Pass, here's the view of Opunohu Bay, the left of the two bays in the headline photo, and often frequented by Cruise Ships. 

Turning to the left and craning your neck upward one has a close-up view of Mou'a Roa, such a sharp spire that I'm not sure it's ever been climbed. There is no info on it at 'Summit Post' which is my go-to authority on mountaineering destinations and one of the most comprehensive lists of peaks I know about.

Here's another look at Mou'a Roa from down lower and further north.

At the other end of my hiking exploits, from Three Pines viewpoint, one has a superb look at Cook's Bay, the right estuary in the headline photo, with the town of Paopao at the head of the bay.

Three Coconuts Col actually has more than three coconut trees, surely planted.  Three Pines viewpoint, on the other hand, is exactly as advertised.

Even the chickens on Mo'ore'a are beautiful.  Here's a rooster hanging around Three Pines looking for a handout.

One of the truly unique features of Mo'ore'a is Mou'a Puta, the 'pierced mountain'.

The hole is visible from the Ferry Harbor in the east, and from Cooks Bay in the west.  I did not climb it, but there is a steep, slippery trail to the summit, and here Summit Post does have a report, as does Wikiloc, where I found this stunning view back down to the Harbor:

My hikes were short ones.  Other than the Three Coconuts and Three Pines walk, which were both based at Belvedere Overlook, I also strolled the long beach at the Sofitel.  Half of it is the hotel's private beach, the other half is a long strand of public beach.

Bucket list item ticked off--a paradise destination that I did not want to die before seeing, because the experience is unquestionably one "to die for" :-)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Best kept secret on the Big Island's Coastal National Historic Trail

Remote, apparently seldom visited dual blowholes at 19.76653, -156.04914

This is the last report on the longest continuously hike-able section of Hawaii's Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, and the section I recommend as Hawaii's contribution to the nationwide Fifty Trail.  The entire segment is 41.2 miles in length.  Here's an overview map. 

This post only covers the southern 7 or 8 miles of that.  Parts of it pass through an 1801 lava flow, so the historic old Polynesian-built footpath is lost here, but what is there is some well-marked modern trail.

The southern end of the long hike is at Honokohau Harbor, and on the way north through Kaloko-Honokau National Historic Park (before you reach the 1801 lava field) there are some nice beaches with ancient fish traps, restored dwellings, fish ponds, and interesting petroglyphs.

But then you strike out into the lava.  The world-class blowhole shown in the headline is in the middle of this stretch, a mile and a quarter from the nearest public access point, and not often visited.  I could find no photos or information about it, yet when I was there a whole line of spectators were lined up watching it.

These little 'a'ama crabs (Grapsus tenuicrustatus, also known as the thin-shelled black crab, rock crab, or natal lightfoot crab) are so wary and so lightning-quick and nimble that I've been unable to get close enough to get a good photo of them until now.  Here their attention was on the surging surf in the blowhole and not on me.  They're on the flat in the foreground in this shot, which came a second too late for full gush of pressurized water.

The new Kona Airport is also situated in this 1801 lava flow,

As is the Hawaii Ocean Sciences and Technology Park (note the landing airplane near the top of the photo)

In the middle of the lava flow is one tiny little coastal oasis with a few trees and a modern 'shrine'

And at the north end is some more modern coral art.  Behind the art below is the airport control tower and Hualalai Volcano.

So with that, I bid you adieu from