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  • Janet Radley

Off the Beaten Path - Six Sights I want to See

Hopefully with the vaccine we can get back to more of a normal life and this will include seeing the world once more. There are a number of sites I have always wanted to go and explore and I thought I would share 4 of the sites I wish to see.

Easter Island (Rapa Nui is the native name) gets it name as it was first visited by a Dutch navigator on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722. It is a remote island in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean and is a Chilean territory. The reason I wish to visit is to see the giant stone statues called “moai”, which means, “so that he can exist”. Until recently the moais, also known as the Easter Island heads, were thought to be just large statues of heads. That was until a team of archaeologists from UCLA excavated several heads and discovered they had toros and bodies. There are 887 moais on Easter Island but only 288 of them made it their final locations. The others are either still in the quarry or only made it part of the way to their final location. The moai average just over 4 meters high and weigh just under 14 tons. The largest moai ever erected was just short of 10 meters in height and weighted 82 tons. Unfortunately, it is no longer standing. The moais are believed to have been carved as early as 1250 ACE to as late as 1650 ACE. The moais were carved from the volcano Rano Raraku which consists, to a great extent, of tuff (compressed volcanic ash). Tuff is easier to carve as the native people did not have metal but only stone tools to carve with. The statues were carved to honour chieftains or other important people who had died. It is believed there was only one group of carvers and the tribes bought the statues from them with food and obsidian tools. The eyeholes would only be carved once the reached their destination and then coral would be put in the eyeholes. Then the moai become “aringa ora” or “living face” and the spirit of the person forever watches over the tribe and brings fortune in life.

There are a few islands called Christmas Island but the one I want to visit is located in the Indian Ocean lying south of Java, Indonesia. It became an Australian territory on the 1st of October 1958 after power was transferred from Singapore. This is a small dog-shaped island and gets its name from an English sea captain who landed there on Christmas day 1643. Most of the island is covered by a national park. I have wanted to visit ever since I saw a program about the red crab migration (rare orange or purple-coloured crabs are sometimes also seen). The migration starts with the first rainfall of the wet season and this is usually in October or November but can be as late as December or January. As many as 40 to 60 million red crabs leave the safety of the hills and head down to the coast to mate. The males lead the migration and the females join along the way. The exact timing and the speed of the migration is determined by the phase of the moon. The crabs always spawn before dawn on a receding high tide during the last quarter of the moon. The crabs migrate with the first rainfall and if the first rainfall is close to the optimal spawn time they will hurry to the coast. If the rains are early, they will take their time stopping to feed and drink on their way to the coast. If the rains are too late some of the crabs will wait until the following month to migrate. Many years very few baby crabs emerge from the ocean as they have been eaten by fish, manta rays and whale sharks. But once or twice a decade a large number survive which keeps the crab population stable. Once the migration is over there are beautiful beaches to explore on Christmas Island and for people who wish to go diving some of the world’s longest drop offs can be found here.

Gobekli Tepe, also known as Gire Mirazan, is older than Stonehenge by 6000 years and is considered by some to be the World’s first temple. Located in southeastern Turkey 6 miles from the ancient city of Urfa. In 1995 excavations started at the site and since then archaeologists believe what they have found will change how we think about the origins of civilization. It is believed that agriculture led to civilization. Once hunter-gatherers settled down and started growing crops it led to food surplus which made it possible for people to organize into complex societies. But with the discovery of Gobekli Tepe some people are now thinking that the vast number of people needed to build it may have led to the development of agriculture to provide a stable food and drink source for the workers. There is no evidence of a permanent settlement which seems to indicate that the hunter-gatherers, many travelling long distances, met and worshipped and helped built new monumental structures at the site. There is evidence of feasting which would have attracted a labour force to construct Gobekli Tepe. The site is made of circular structures and elaborately carved stones and T-shaped pillars. In each monumental enclosure are two T-shaped pillars which have carvings on them of abstract depictions of people, clothing such as belts and loincloths and also of wild animals. Some of the pillars are up to 5.5 meters in height and the largest weighs more than 16 tons. The age of Gobekli Tepe is believe to be around 12,000 years.

Wadi al-Hitan (Whale Valley) is a paleontological site located 150 kms southwest of Cairo. This UNESCO site is the home of hundreds of fossils of a long-extinct suborder of whales known as archaeoceti. These early whales are different from modern day whales as they had hind legs. This shows that these massive seafaring animals began their existence on land. These archaoecte skeletons have provided a rare look at the whales in their final stages of losing their hind legs and moving into the sea for good. The largest fossil is 21 meters in length. There are other fossils of sharks, crocodiles and turtles found at this site. The fossils are not the oldest in the world but due to their high number and remarkable condition (some still have their stomach contents) they are an important find for paleontologists and evolutionary scientists. This is not an easy place to get to and sees only about 1,000 visitors a year.

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela are located in the mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia 645 kms from Addis Ababa. There are 11 medieval monolithic churches which were carved out of rock. King Lalibela had the churches built in the 12th century to construct a “New Jerusalem” after the Muslim conquest halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The churches were not built in the traditional way but carved out of monolithic blocks. All the doors, windows, columns, floors and roofs were chiselled out of the rock. The churches have an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages. Some even have hermit caves and catacombs. The church, Biet Golgotha, has a replica of the Tomb of Christ and of Adam and the crib of the Nativity. To this day the churches remains in use and is an important place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox worshipers.

The Nazca Lines and Geoglyphs are located in the arid Peruvian coastal plains 400 kms south of Lima. The Lines and Geoglyphs are one of the most impressive archaeological areas in the world. The lines were drawn in the ground between 500 BCE and 500 ACE. The geoglyphs depict living creatures and plants and imaginary beings. There are geometric figures which are several kilometres long. The people making the lines and geoglyphs made depressions in the desert floor and also removed stones leaving differently coloured dirt exposed. The individual geoglyphs measure between 0.4 and 1.1 km across and the combined length of all the lines is over 1,300 kms and cover an area of 50 km squared. The lines average 10 to 15 cm deep and between 30.5 cm to 1.8 metres wide. The largest geoglyphs are around 370 meters long. To see them it is best done from the air but can also be seen from the surrounding foothills. Unfortunately, the lines are deteriorating due to an influx of squatters.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and feel free to contact me if you would like to plan any future travel plans.

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