This is the fifth part of the posts about the trip to Easter Island that really got me thinking, but I’ve kept what it got me thinking about secret. The next post will be the “big” reveal. Until then, please enjoy this short report about an Easter Island family and the lunch they provided in their home for our small tour group.
Other post from the trip to Easter Island:
On a full-day tour, lunch is often a welcome break from the physical confines of the tour bus and mental stress of a trying to absorb a steady stream of new facts and new sights. In this instance, lunch for our small group tour was a rare affair – dining at the home of a local family.
The only other time I recall enjoying dining in the home of locals was last year in Tibet returning from Everest Base Camp.
With that experience in mind, lunching with a Rapa Nui family was a much anticipated part of the small group tour in Rapa Nui National Park. Lunch followed the stop at Ahu Akivi, one of the few inland ahus with moai facing the ocean.
Our host family consisted of a husband and wife, two beautiful pre-school aged daughters, and the wife’s mother They live on a small farm on the outskirts of Hanga Roa near Ahu Akivi.
Before lunch, the wife (I did not write down their names) showed us around the property. The family raised chickens and other livestock and grew a variety of fruits and vegetables. They seemed to be pretty much self sufficient as far as food.
There are several breadfruit trees on the property. Their horses had taken care of most of the low hanging fruit as it were. The wife made a huge assumption about my athletic skills. She asked me to jump for some of the fruit sitting in plain sight but higher in the tree. Twenty years ago I might have reached it. To her great disappointment (I think she was expecting a display of hops like an NBA slam-dunk contest), I failed miserably.
But there is more than one way to skin a cat. The flagpole scene in Captain America: The First Avenger flashed through my mind. I was able to grab some of the lower branches and pull the fruit down to a height where it could be picked without jumping
Her husband arrived on one of the family horses which promptly devoured much of the fruit we had retrieved. Her husband is from Sweden. The couple met when he was a tourist and ended up marrying.
The breadfruit was very similar to a banana in taste and consistency. Breadfruit though has many large seeds mixed in with the fruit. It is easy to separate the seeds from the fruit in your mouth.
After the tour, we were invited to the house for a delicious home-cooked island lunch. It was served on the veranda. Lunch consisted of fruit, chicken, fish, salads and veggies. The wife, husband and mother joined us. They related some of the family history and talked about life on Rapa Nui. The mother explained that she is full-blooded Rapa Nui and that she and her daughter are members of Rapa Nui royalty.
The demographic history of Rapa Nui is remarkable. It is estimated that the population of Rapa Nui varied between 7,500 and 17,000 before contact with Europeans. European contact brought disease, conflict, emigration and slave raids that reduced the native population to a low of only 111 in the 1860s. Of those 111, only 36 produced descendants. All of today’s Rapa Nui trace their heritage to those 36 individuals.
Rapa Nui receives approximately 100,000 tourists annually. That is a huge number compared to the permanent population of about 7,500. Recently, the maximum stay for tourists was reduced from 90 days to 30. The wife said most locals are very supportive of tourism but wanted to limit potential erosion of local cultural identity and damage to the environment. Tourism is important because it is nearly the sole source of income on the island.
On the other hand, the native population objects strongly to immigration. Given the small population, that is understandable though somewhat ironic given that the husband in this family was from Sweden and Jerome, the proprietor of the B & B where I stayed, was from France. Both had married natives and were now apparently regarded as members of the native community.
The real treat came after lunch when the family performed several native songs.
Then it was time to visit the public restrooms they had built near the house for tour guests before piling back into the small van to visit more sites in Rapa Nui National Park in the afternoon.
The healthy and delicious lunch provided a full stomach and the discussion offered more food for thought about the mysteries of Rapa Nui. Those thoughts will be addressed in the next and final report on the trip to Easter Island.