Hanga Piko

The Hidden Bay

Hanga Piko means “hidden bay”, since it is surrounded by small hills which keep it out of sight, unlike most of the other coves or bays of the Island which are usually on a plain.  Given its good access to the sea and its conditions for anchorage, this place was inhabited for a long time in the past, as is shown through the archaeological remains that are still to be found there.

This bay is associated with an archaeological complex that reveals evidence of successive reconstructions and the recycling of its elements such as tombs, artifacts and statues around a very ancient platform. It has been altered, as other monuments of its type, over centuries by human activity and natural phenomena. In 1946, there was a major earthquake in the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska which created a tsunami that affected the greater part of the western and northern coasts of the Island, including the area of Anakena. On the upper edge of the slope in front of Ahu Riata at Hanga Piko, there are scattered two moai and some hare paenga (houses) which were brought from other places, as indicated in the signs now placed there.

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Complejo de petroglifos en Hanga Piko
imagen Sistema UAV – Secretaría Técnica de Patrimonio Rapa Nui – Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales

At the center of the shore rises the Ahu Riata, a semi-pyramidal platform, which was previously called Ahu Tataku Vave.  In 1999, the only currently standing statue was re-erected, a monolith of 5 meters (16 feet) in height and weighing 30 tons, on a platform that is 40 meters (130 feet) long by three meters (10 feet) high.  The task of salvaging this megalithic moai (statue), which was at risk of sliding down the rough slope, was given to the Municipality of Isla de Pascua and the expert in conservation, Rafael Rapu-Haoa.
Farther to the northeast, on the slope, is the ancient Ahu Ataranga and over the narrow peninsula which serves as a breakwater for the boat harbor are the remains of the Ahu Roto Huero Kava.  In a cave, of the name of Ana Kororupa, on the southern end of the bay, a large number of human bones which had been deposited in various avanga, or funerary chambers, by the ancient inhabitants were recovered. Today, the entry to this cave is covered by weeds and tall grass and is very difficult to find.

In the sector of Puku Rangi Atua at Hanga Piko, behind the slope of Ahu Riata, there is a mass of basaltic rocks alongside a small cavern (karava) where the external faces are carved with petroglyphs unique on the Island.  Unfortunately, this site has suffered considerable vandalism in recent years. Of particular interest are the panels with figures of canoes and others which seem to be tree trunks and palm leaves, although representations of plants are uncommon in Rapanui stone art. It is difficult to speculate on the antiquity of these petroglyphs, since almost all of the designs have been over-cut with recent graffiti.

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Península rompeolas con el Ahu Roto Huero Kava / Breakwater peninsula with the Ahu Roto Huero Kava

The pier was built by the Williamson Balfour company for embarking their annual shipments of wool. Later, under the administration of the Chilean Navy, the installations were amplified and, between 1988 and 1991, other work was done to modernize them.  The present pier handles the movement of disembarkation for the merchandise that arrives on the ships and is off-loaded onto lighters.  Sometimes, the conditions of the sea are not apt and it is necessary to wait several days to unload, with the consequent lack of some products on the Island.

The port of Hanga Piko shelters many different marine activities.  The Association of Craft Fishermen has its headquarters here as, with more than 40 member boats, it attempts to maintain the traditional methods of fishing species such as albacore, kana-kana, tuna, barracuda or swordfish, as well as the harvesting of the Pure sea snail, which is used for making typical Island crafts.  Two of the five diving centers are also located here. Another sporting activity that has grown in this area is Va’a, rowing in Polynesian canoes, the favorite sport of the Rapanui. From Hanga Piko,  groups of mostly young people carry their canoes to the water’s edge to train in the ocean along the shore. An evening visit to the illuminated Ahu Riata is recommended, while the sea turtles appear at the edge of the shore in search of food; then, some of the best, fresh sea food can be enjoyed at the Tataku Vave Restaurant, located alongside the pier.

Restos arqueológicos posiblemente del Ahu Ataranga / Archaeological remains possibly from Ahu Ataranga

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