Looking for Jaguars, Pantanal, Brazil

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“Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”  Suzy Kassem

Spotting a jaguar in its natural habitat is one of those surreal experiences. One of the best places to spot them is in the Pantanal, Brazil. It is easier to find them here because there are less places to hide than in the Amazon. (photo Emilio White)

Oncafari is a jaguar conservation project on the grounds of the Caiman Reserve in Brazil. We set off in our jaguar printed vehicle to spend the day with Oncafari. Victoria is our expert guide.

As in Africa, Oncafari has worked to habituate the jaguars to the sight and sound of the vehicles.Some of them have tracking collars and we can follow them deep into the bush. Victoria points out animal and bird sightings along the way.

This beautiful female jaguar with piercing green eyes is sitting in the bushes. It was not bothered by our presence and eventually strolls back in the brush.

The pattern of a jaguar’s spots is unique to every individual, allowing Victoria to identify this  particular jaguar.

 Later we learn more about the Oncafari project and how they use radio collars to monitor the jaguars. Camera traps are set up throughout the reserve to allow Onçafari to keep track of their jaguars without the jaguars ever knowing they’re being monitored. Jaguar sightings have increased at Caiman over the past seven years due to the success of Onçafari’s habituation program and the stability of the refuge’s jaguar population. 

In the afternoon, we are less successful. But we finally find a jaguar hidden in the bush and track him for a while.(photo Emilio White)

The next day we spot a jaguar sitting under a tree near the water. Four capybaras (very large rodents) are at the water’s edge not moving.

A herd of cows look back and forth from the capybaras to the jaguar as if they are watching a tennis game. The jaguar sprints to the water’s edge.The capybaras dive under the water where they can only stay for two minutes.

The capybaras run out of the water into the brush. The jaguar follows. There is a rustling but no noise. Three capybaras run out of the brush into the water. The jaguar paces at the water edge and makes some noises. Another jaguar appears. It is her daughter..(photo Emilio White)

Eight caiman rase their heads out of the water. Eventually the jaguars leave. The three remaining capybaras run away and the caimans go back under the water. When it is all over, the cows drink the water. A guide from Oncafari goes into the bushes and takes a picture of the dead capybara.

The jaguar had bitten his neck and he died instantly without noise. The jaguars may or may not come  back later and eat. 

The only sound is the jeep and the birds. It the kind of quiet that reminds me that I am a long way from home and it is not a good day  to be a capybara.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Beaches In Bahia, Brazil

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Beaches in Bahia, Brazil

“May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes.” unknown

What does it mean to be happy? 

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For me, it means to be on some of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, drinking coconut water from fresh coconuts, picking up shells and rocks.

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I always come home with sand in my suitcase.

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 On our last day we go out to Ilha Dos Frades We Anthony Bourdained it and instead of the crowded boats with live music and people dancing (also fun) , it is just us. I’m the king of the world.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

Churches In Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

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Churches in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

“The places of quiet are going away, the churches, the woods, the libraries. And it is only in silence we can hear the voice inside of us which gives us true peace.” James Rozoff

There are nearly 100 churches in Salvador to explore and some are exquisite examples of colonial architecture. These churches help tell the story of the city, so wander around, visit some of them and hear their stories.

From the outside, Sao Francisco church seems relatively simple, but this eighteenth century church  shines on the inside—literally.

Ornate gilded wood carvings and paintings adorn much of the interior of the cathedral—from the pillars and archways to the vaulted ceilings—while golden foliage, angels, and birds decorate the altarpiece.

Nicknamed “The Golden Church,” São Francisco is also considered one of the best examples of the Brazilian-Portuguese Baroque style of artwork.

Of particular note here are the ceiling paintings in the entrance hall created in 1774 by José Joaquim da Rocha, and Bartolomeu Antunes de Jesus’ azulejo tiles that run along the lower walls of the main chapel depicting the life and times of St Francis of Assisi.

These tiles are particularly notable for their size (they’re much larger than traditional azulejo tiles), and stand out in contrast to gold you’ll find elsewhere. It is believed to be the wealthiest church in all of Brazil.

 Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People was the first church that African slaves were able to go to. They were not allowed to pray in any of the churches, and they really wanted to have a place  of worship. It took more than one hundred years for them to build it, and they worked mostly at night because they had to be on the plantations all day. I cannot imagine how difficult their lives must have been.

We are lucky enough to attend a party in the back of the church.

The party is in honor of Mestre Moa de Katendê—a capoeira master and advocate for Afro-Brazilians who was killed in a local bar  after saying he would not support then hard-right candidate for president, Jair Bolsonaro.

,His daughter spoke and though I did not understand all the words, I felt her pain. The strength of the human spirit through adversity is really uplifting.

This is a street art painting near the church of her family. 

The Church of Bonfim is possibly the most famous place of worship in all of Brazil. The simple white edifice built in 1754  has long been the juncture of Catholicism and the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé traditions. As in other countries ,enslaved Africans were forbidden to practice their own religion and had to adhere to that of their masters. As a result, Catholic saints and rituals became a cover for African ones.

For many years people have left offerings, or ex-votos, to Nosso Senhor do Bonfim on behalf of the sick and the healed. In a room to one side of the church, wax body parts hang from the ceiling grouped according to which limb or organ they represent, while the walls are plastered with photos of people who are suffering or have been cured.

Outside the church and all over Salvador, people sell multicolored ribbons with ‘Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia’ written on them, which are often seen tied to railings in front of churches dancing in the breeze.Each color represents a different Candomblé god, and they are thought to bring luck.

Julia McNaught Da Silva was our wonderful guide in Bahia. She is smart, funny, super-organized and very knowledgeable about Salvador. It was a great introductory visit to the city and we enjoyed spending our time with her. T.hank you Julia, for a great time in Bahia.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Things I Have Learned In Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

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Things I Have Learned In Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” Anita Desai

Salvador de Bahia was the first capital of the Portuguese Empire and currently  is the third most populated city in Brazil. This city is full of life, culture and music. 

 It was one of the largest slave ports on the new continent and now has  the largest black population outside of Africa.

Daily life still has a very strong African influence –  from food, music, religion (the Yoruba derived system of Candomblé) and martial arts (Capoeira).

 Pelourinho is the old town of Salvador now a UNESCO World Heritage site and major tourist attraction in Bahia and Brazil.

The famous district of  Pelô, as they call it is one of the best preserved colonial settlements in all South America.

Its cobbled streets and colorful houses will impress you as you step into this place full of tradition and history. This is where we spent most of our time. Everywhere there is art, sound and music.

Casa De Amarelindo is a beautiful boutique hotel in a restored nineteenth century building in the old city. The staff are extremely helpful and always smiling.

The restaurant is beautiful and  the breakfasts are amazing. Their attention to detail for each guest is outstanding. The double paned glass blocks out the noise of the city and views of the Bay Of All Saints are beautiful. 

 Julia our guide recommended that we spend our first  night at the Ballé Folklorico which is a one hour show from eight to nine PM in the Miguel Santana Theater in Pelourinho, a block from the hotel. The theatre is simple and inexpensive and reminded me of a theatre outside Havana. The  first part of the show  is a good introduction to a Candomblé ceremony. In the second part they introduce the capoeira, ‘makulelé’ and ‘samba de roda’ dance. There is something very special about this performance and it should not be missed.

The Elevador Lacerda is the most representative Art Decó icon in the city . Built in 1873 to connect the low neighborhood with the high neighborhood, it was the first urban elevator in the world.

The ride costs only a few cents and leaves you in front of Mercado Modelo in the lower part of the city. This market had been Salvador’s former Customs House and “storage” area for slaves not yet auctioned off.  Today, it’s a place to buy souvenirs, check out the  architecture and feel the past.

Feiria De Sao Joaquim is an authentic local market near the port.

Vendors come from all around. Smells, colors, sounds and chaotic movement makes this crazy and authentic market  a great place  to shop.

You should probably go with a local.

The prices are very cheap- especially for tourists and every day I think of more things I should have bought .  We had lunch there as well. Julia said no one will bother me because I had so many shopping bags, I was clearly not there to look.and take photos.

The city’s biggest attraction, though, is Carnival. Beginning in January, Bahia launches into a season of feasts and festivals that, over the course of six weeks, escalates into a rocking, high-decibel street party. Those who know claim that it’s better than Rio’s—that it’s the best in the world.

Safety in Salvador is tricky.. You are in the robbery  capital of Brazil.  If something does happen – just hand it over- your safety is the most important thing. Anything outside of the main tourist neighborhoods of Barra, Rio Vermelho and the Pelourinho is broadly considered unsafe for tourists. Our taxi driver drove through the red lights at night to avoid robberies. We were usually with a guide during the day or friends at night. But, I did see them watching if we wandered off. Don’t pull out your wallet or your cell phone without a friend watching you and definitely not in a crowd situation such as listening to music or a market. Don’t wear large jewelry or carry all your money or credit cards with you. Showing a bit of respect to all those people who don’t have as much as you do is not such a big deal and it will make your life easier. Salvador is a place worth going to in your lifetime and we were fine.

Fly safe,

JAZ

24 Hours In Sao Paulo, Brazil

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24 Hours In Sao Paulo, Brazil 

“The world is like that — incomprehensible and full of surprises.” Jorge Amado, Brazilian author

I have  been to Sao Paulo before.  My boyfriend had never been though we both have spent a lot of time in that airport.

Metropolitan São Paulo is more that three times the size of Moscow and six point five times the size of New York. With almost twenty million inhabitants, it is the biggest city in both Americas and the Southern hemisphere.

I guess that is why they have some really bad traffic jams.

Six PM – We land in Sao Paulo and check in to the  lovely Hotel Emiliano. I would like to have spent more time there. 

 Eight PM  Dinner at house of new friends we had met in the Panatanal – fun. 

Eleven AM  We are picked up by Josanna (most upbeat person ever)  and we start our tour of the city. It is Monday and everything I wanted to do was closed so I go with them. It isn’t raining yet.

Eleven Thirty AM   Parque Ibirapuera is the city’s largest green space and one of the largest city parks in Latin America. The name means a rotten tree in the Tupi language and despite the unfortunate name there are many beautiful trees.

There is plenty to do here…paths to walk or bike or people watch, museums, Niemeyer architecture, a lake, and more. It is rated as one of the best urban parks in the world.

Most of the buildings are designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the landscaping is by famed landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx.  I saw  alot of both their work and wrote about it the last time I was here  but it was so fun to see it again.

 One PM São Paulo is considered one of the best cities in the world for the development of creativity in street art.

For some of the best, we visited the area of Villa Magdalena, especially Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley).

 One Thirty PM  Shopping!!!!

Two Thirty PM  The rain has started and we are having lunch at Figueira Rubaiyat ( Fig tree). The restaurant is built around a huge fig tree with a glass ceiling.

Four PM  We drive through the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade. Brazil has the largest number of Japanese living outside Japan of any country in the world, and many of these Japanese Brazilians live in São Paulo. It is a fun place to explore and see how the influence of Japan has influenced Brazilian life here and, of course, try some great food.

Four Thirty PM We stop  at Mercado Municipal to pick up  cachaca, dende and Brazil nuts (which turned out to be stale.) The market, located in the old center of the city, attracts large crowds every day. The ground floor has hundreds of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, spices, and cured meats, while there is an upper level with a number of charming restaurants.

 Five Thirty PM  Head for Airport 

Special thanks to Josanna for her knowledge, humor and kindness and maybe the best personality and attitude of anyone I have ever met in the world!!!!!!

Fly safe,

JAZ

Humans Of Chile

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Humans Of Chile

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” Robert Frank

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I have to thank our Santiago, Valparaiso and Casablanca guide Carolina for everything. She is knowledgeable, kind, fun and has a great sense of humor.  We felt completely taken care of in Chile.  Our driver Victor was great and funny.

If you are going to South America, Gabriella at Vaya Adventures https://www.vayaadventures.com  is a the person to help you plan your trip. The trip was perfect. Thank you so much for this amazing adventure.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Wine Tasting in Chile

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Wine Tasting  In Chile

“I like on the table,when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle of intelligent wine.” Pablo Neruda

Casablanca is a newer wine region between Valparaiso and Santiago. In the 1980s some entrepreneurs started drilling for water underground and the first vineyards were planted. The climate is good for grapes. Cold air from the nearby Pacific Ocean give the grapes a long ripening period.

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The summers in Casablanca are warm but not hot, which is perfect for white wines. In the beginning, the wines in Casablanca were mainly white. Now Pinot Noir and Syrah are also doing very well here.

Our first winery at 10am was Loma Larga Vineyards. It is a Chilean boutique winery.  Alejandra Guiterrez  greeted us with a smile  and was very knowledgeable about all things related to wine.  This vineyard is a good place to taste red wine in an area that is famous for whites. The setting is beautiful with the vines growing among apple, avocado, almond trees and rose bushes.

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We toured the production room, a modern facility with a steel walkway overlooking the tanks, and the barrel cellar.

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The vineyard produces two lines, Lomas de Valle and Loma Larga, which ages in French oak casks.

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The tasting took place indoors because it was a really cold morning. Breakfast is the most important wine tasting of the day. We bought wine. They have a warehouse in Napa, California and they deliver.

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Our second winery was Kingston Vineyards. It is another boutique vineyard with a small but high quality group of wines.

It was closer to lunchtime and still very cold for spring.

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We walked through their exquisite vineyards. By we I meant  me and my stray dog.

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The American Kingston family splits their time between the US and Chile. This vineyard was founded in the 1900’s by their ancestors as a dairy and cattle ranch. They began growing grapes  in 1998. In the wine production room there are stainless steel tanks, French oak casks and concrete eggs.

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The shape of the eggs allow for optimal circulation of the juice. I had never seen that before. A few other vineyards in the valley use them.

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We then had a tasting and lunch in a small private room. It felt more like sitting and tasting their delicious wines with friends. Lora Kelley our guide was from the US and taught us a lot about the vineyard.

Kingston also has free shipping to the United States. We bought more wine.

Our last vineyard of the day was The Matetic Vineyards which are located in the Rosario Valley. This completely enclosed valley is perpendicular to the ocean and features ideal climatic and topographic conditions for both red and white wines.

The Matetic family emigrated from Croatia to Chile in the late nineteenth century. Chile has the largest Croatian community outside of Croatia. In 1999 they planted their first vineyards.

The winery now owns about 120 hectares of vineyards, all which are certified organic and biodynamic. They produced the first cool-climate Syrah in Chile, and with their success, other wineries began producing their own cool-climate Syrahs too.

In 2004, the Matetics constructed a state of the art winery.

The wine tasting was outside overlooking the beautiful vineyards. The wines were superb. It had warmed up by then. Tipsy and happy by the third vineyard, I could not remember this pleasant French guide’s name. They don’t deliver to the United States. We had brought wine travel pouches with us so we bought more wine.

We broke one of the cardinal rules of wine tasting that day, which is that evaluating the later wines will be difficult if you swallow the earlier ones. The alcohol you consume will cloud your judgment  and your memory. A few weeks after we arrived home, bottles of wine started arriving. We did not remember buying that much.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Myths Of Chiloe Island, Chile

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Myths of Chiloe Island,Chile

“After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.” J.R.R. Tolkien 

There is a rich legacy of myth and magic infused into the island of Chiloe. Mythology and religion live side-by-side on these shores, which is a testament to a history molded by both the indigenous Mapuche and Spanish conquistadors. 

The Jesuits who came to Chiloe did not wipe out the Native culture but incorporated it into a religious context.

The wooden chapels of Chiloé are considered as UNESCO World Heritage sites for their cultural significance, blending native and Spanish beliefs into the churches.

Each chapel has southern-facing front doors to protect them from the rain.

We see many of them throughout the island.

  i appreciated the calming, subtle colors of the church’s interior and the solid construction of its supports, all made from wood.

You can see how functional and integrated into daily life these churches  are.

Residents of Chiloe call themselves Chilotes  instead of Chileans. Their remote location, enabled them to keep their identity and remained loyal to Spain for many years.

The first thing we seen in the town of Castro are small children dressed in the costumes of these mythological creatures.

I am surprised they let us photograph them.

The teacher tells me in Spanish “I am bruha (witch) like my people. I know who is bad and who is not. “

Witches and Warlocks are often blamed for the unexplainable things in Chiloe.

Every night there is a post card with a child’s drawing on our bed at Tierra Chiloe. It is one of the colorful supernatural mythological creatures of Chiloe with an explanation in English and Spanish. It is from books written by the hotel manager’s wife and illustrated  by their children.

La Pincoya is one of the most ancient mythical creatures In Myths and Legends of Chiloe.

It says that “If Pincoya appears to fishermen facing the sea, their catch will be abundant. If her back is to the sea, the fish will be few.”

Huenchula is a girl who falls in love with the King of the Sea.

“The legend of Huenchula lays down a number of rules about how to extract shell-fish from the sea:

Take them out by hand; don’t fight over them; don’t use wheel-barrels or trucks to extract them.”

 Fiura  is an ugly woman with bad breath. She lives in the woods and seduces young men before driving them insane.

Trauco, the forest troll, seduces young women and is blamed when they return — pregnant.

 Caleuche is a ghostly ship  which glows in the fog and travels at great speeds both above and below the water, emitting beautiful music, carrying the witches to their next stop.

Journeying through the archipelago, it’s crewed by shipwrecked sailors and fishermen who have perished at sea.

There are many more creatures. I realize at the end of my visit that these stories, like the scenery, architecture,  handicrafts and food is part of the essence of Chiloe and a bit of what makes it so special.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Isla De Chiloe (Chiloe Island), Chile

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Isla de Chiloé, Chile

“In winter the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded: to have a week of fine weather is something”Charles Darwin about Chiloe Island

In the beginning of the 16th century the Inca Empire ended at Chiloe Island and a strange and unknown world began. I like going places that not a lot of people have heard of.

Chiloé is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean composed of more than 40 minor islands, just off the Chilean coast. The archipelago was formed from lava and debris from the ring of volcanoes that cluster near the bottom of the world — producing scenery that can be other-worldly.

The Mapuche Indians and the Spanish lived there together for over three centuries. The culture in Chiloe is based on this relationship. There are many beautiful small wooden chapels and fascinating local mythology.

The Incas called it the place of seagulls. Up until recently it was only linked to the mainland by ferries.

Castro is the island’s main town. We saw the ‘palafitos’ (colorful houses on stilts) down by a beautiful lake, surrounded by rolling green hills.

The Incas were definitely right about the seagulls.

In Chiloe there is no excuse not to eat well. The food market in Castro is small but interesting filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables and plenty of fresh seafood. Chilean woman are surrounded by woolen sox, hats slippers and sweaters. There are strings of smoked dry mussels and boxes of multicolored potatoes.

Curranto is the national dish of Chiloe. Cooked in a hole in the ground covered with leaves, the dish consists of clams, mussels, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, chicken, and potato pancakes It is 6000 years old and the oldest dish in Chiloe. It is very delicious.

The people of Chiloe have been making clothes out of wool for centuries in the cold winter months. Sheep’s wool is a southern Chile speciality.

Dalcahue is about an hour from Castro. It is best known form its Feria Artensal Manos Chilotes and Sunday Market.

.Artisans here produce higher quantity handiwork than the commercial market.

Maybe the most representative local art is the one made with wood. Boats, houses, furniture and utensils highlight the work of the carpenters, who are artists in their construction of ships and fishing boats which are so necessary for both fishing and transportation.

A lot of rain falls here. It is green like Ireland.

There are sheep and cows throughout the landscape like New Zealand and Tasmania.

This time of year, there’s an added splash of color: bright yellow flowers known locally as espinilla coat the landscape, great for photographs but bad for agriculture — the plant is actually an invasive weed the islanders could do without.

Many of the buildings and houses on Chiloé also take advantage of the wooden architecture, and are often covered with wooden shingles called tejuelas cut from the native Alerce tree, to create roofs that can withstand the frequent rain showers in the region.

The more intricate the shingles, the fancier the people.

Our hotel, Tierra Chiloe is a perfectly designed wooden building with comfortable space and spectacular views.

Wooden furniture, Chilean books, woven baskets, woolen throws, wooden dishes and platters give an authentic yet modern feel. The food is some of the best I have had in Chile.

Every day we have excursions which include culture, nature and hiking.  The staff is attentive and personable.

The hotel’s beautiful wooden boat called Williche took us to small fishing villages.

I brought home a lot of seashells.

 All the guides were knowledgeable and fun. We spent most of our time with Gonzalo who bent over backwards to make sure we had an unforgettable experience.

Chiloe has a subtle beauty. It’s a place where it is quiet enough to take time away from the noise of your daily life to figure out what you really want. Sometimes what you really want is just to look out the window at the landscape.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

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Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

“History teaches us many things. Most importantly, the things that made us who and what we are.” Robert Bonvill

When Jacob Roggeveen arrives on Easter Island he finds few trees, a couple of thousand people and nine hundred statues.

Both he and later Captain Cook surmise that there must have been a much larger population at one time to have built all these giant statues. The statues are lying on the ground in disarray and the natives ignore them.

The statues you see standing up now have been restored.

The story goes that at some point in the island’s history, the art and the increasing population were depleting the natural resources. There were too many trees being cut down. Without trees you have no canoes to get fish.There are no fishing nets to be made  without the mulberry trees. Rats were overrunning the island and eating the seeds and fruit.

Speculation is that the people were starving, fighting and blamed their idols.

They threw them down or lay them down and started killing each other. There is evidence of cannibalism.

The natives that were there when the Europeans came, follow a Birdman Cult, Tangata-Manu. The Rano Kau area has been considered sacred since ancient times. It is here in the fifteenth or sixteenth century that the Orongo ceremonial village is built for the new order.

After the fall of the Moai carving era society, new gods replaced the old ones while a struggle for power came to light. In order to settle this in a non-violent way, the Birdman Cult competition was established to help decide who would lead the Rapa Nui each year. They competed in a yearly Hunger Games-style race to retrieve an egg from an island in shark-infested waters with many deaths. The supreme deity of the Birdman Cult was the fertility god Make-Make.

There are petroglyphs that show the fish, marine life and canoes near Papa Vaku. Many Birdman petroglyphs were found near the Orongo village.

Over the next 150 years the remaining Rapa Nui culture shrunk to 150 people due mostly to European diseases.

The fate of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island is often used to illustrate how humans destroy their communities with environmental destruction and warfare. They had a highly developed civilization for about six hundred years and then they destroyed the environment and it ended in catastrophe.

We don’t know what is true and what isn’t, but the Moai stand as a reminder of the demise of an ancient culture.

As we deplete our natural resources, do we go the way of the Rapa Nui or do we hold ourselves accountable for our global excess?

Fly safe,

JAZ