When we picture the mysterious Easter Island, we tend to think about the giant stone carvings and Polynesian culture and forget that in fact it is also a part of the great nation of Chile. It is this mixture of Pacific island traditions and pure South American fun that has created this most unique of festivals: the Tapati. The locals, or Pascuenses, have combined the essence of these two culture to come up with (in true Latin American fashion) yet another excuse to have a 2 week festival!
Having originated from the festivities following Easter Islands inclusion into the voting register in Chile in 1963 (like we said, any excuse for a party!) the Islanders celebrate for 2 weeks from the end of January and into February every year. The festival holds as many Polynesian centred activities and competitions as it can possibly manage, from body painting through to riding the trunk of a banana tree down a 45° slope at speeds of up to 80kph. But despite the apparent lunacy of these competitions, there is a general aim to them. The islanders split themselves into tribal teams and compete against each other to win the crown for their “queen” (usually a stunning beauty chosen before the competition as their representative).
Some of the more bizarre and compelling competitions to behold are the Tau’a Rapa Nui and the afore-mentioned Haka Pei (of tree trunk sliding fame). The Tau’a Rapa Nui is a triathlon, loosely based on the traditional one, however, the running section of the race involves the participants carrying two enormous bunches of bananas on their shoulders, balanced either end of a long wooden pole. It is, however, the Haka Pei that steals the show. This competition is a rite of passage for the young men who sit on top of banana trunks and ride down an impossibly steep slope at break neck speeds. The aim is to stay on the longest as reaching the bottom is an almost impossible task!
The festival is not all sporting prowess and bizarre races; there is also a very traditional side to things. There are competitions like the Riu where the elders recount word for word the stories and legends of old and they are judged on the accuracy and storytelling ability. There are dozens more competitions like exquisite body painting and also traditional cooking that aim to keep their authentic traditions alive and kicking
One of the best things about the festival is its location. Easter Island is not only filled to the brim with those amazing stone carvings and the world famous caves, but it is also naturally breathtaking. There are a huge amount of things to see and do including horseback riding, scuba diving, surfing and hiking. We cannot, however, forget about those world famous statues.