Terevaka, the highest volcano
The Terevaka volcano, with a height of 511 meters above sea level, is the highest point on Easter Island. From its summit, which offers a 360 ° panoramic view, you can appreciate the limits of the island surrounded by the immense Pacific Ocean and allow you to experience the sensation of being in one of the most remote places on our planet.
Geological origin of the volcano
The Ma’unga Terevaka volcano, or simply Terevaka, is located at the northern end of the triangle that forms the island. Its other two vertices are occupied by Poike and Rano Kau volcanoes. The three are now inactive, but thousands of years ago the first lava effusions emerged under the surface of the sea that originated, first, the cone of the Poike and later that of the Rano Kau.
More recently, about 360,000 years ago, the Ma’unga Terevaka arose that, unlike the two previous volcanoes, does not have a main crater. This is because its origin is the product of numerous eruptions from a system of small volcanic centers oriented mainly in a north-south direction.
The large influx of lava from this system formed the main body of the island, which was gradually annexing the cones of the volcanic islands of Poike and Rano Kau, along with their parasitic centers, giving rise to the peculiar triangular silhouette that presents currently Easter Island.
The youngest eruptive centers are located in the Roiho sector. Among them is the Rano Aroi, a small crater with an inner lagoon covered with reeds of totora, which is the third freshwater reserve on the island after the bigger deposits of Rano Kau and Rano Raraku.
Other secondary cones are the Maunga Omo Anga, the Maunga Maea Horu and the Maunga Hiva Hiva, which would have emitted basaltic lava flows during eruptions that would have occurred some 10,000 years ago and which would correspond to the last volcanic episodes on the island. However, it is likely that more recent minor eruptions have occurred, only 2 thousand or 3 thousand years ago, a sign of which would be the harsh nature of the surface and the poverty of the soil and vegetation.
These lava flows caused a series of caverns (tunnels and lava tubes), of great speleological interest, such as Ana Vai Teka, Ana Te Pahu, Ana Kakenga and Ana Te Pora, which make up one of the longest volcanic cave systems in the world.
Traces of human occupation
Walking the undulating slopes of the Ma’unga Terevaka, covered with grass and sprinkled only by some lonely trees and shrubs, it is hard to believe that in the past, the highest hill on the island had many trees and held an important human population.
However, in various parts of the sector several ahu, ceremonial centers and other outstanding archaeological remains have been found, which demonstrate the importance that the Terevaka had in the lives of the ancient natives.
Terevaka’s own name gives a clue about the activity that took place here. Although there are several interpretations, it seems that the literal meaning of Terevaka is “extract or throw canoes” and could refer to the time when the mountain would be covered with trees (a kind of palm), from which the wood was extracted.
At the foot of the Terevaka, more than four hundred foundations of square and rectangular houses dating from 800-1300 AD have been discovered. Inside of them, tools to work the wood were found, so it is believed that they were occupied, perhaps temporarily, by the workers in charge of cutting the large trees used in the manufacture of fishing canoes and the necessary material to extract and transport the moai, the great ceremonial statues.
Read more about moai, the giant statues
Similar structures were found in Vai Atare, on the opposite side of the village of Orongo in the Rano Kau crater. Here the basalt quarries were concentrated, from where the rectangular stones used in the construction were extracted. In the small crater of the Rano Aroi a basalt deposit was also exploited for the same purpose and to make the toki, the tools to carve the statues.
Ava Ranga Uka
In Easter Island there are no rivers or streams due to the peculiar geography of the terrain and the great porosity of the volcanic rock, which absorbs rainwater and forms underground deposits. However, in the Terevaka the water flows intermittently through the Ava Ranga Uka ravine from a small lagoon, called Vaipu near Rano Aroi, and descends to lower levels.
The name of the quebrada (ava) comes from an ancient legend that tells the sad fate of a young girl (uka) who died drowned in this place. And it is that when it rains intensely, the channel of the ravine leads a powerful torrent that drags everything in its way. In this singular beautiful place, whose full name is Ava Ranga Uka A Toroke Heu, there are abundant ferns and endemic flora of the island that must be protected.
For several years, archaeological studies under the direction of the German archaeologist Bukhard Vogt, belonging to the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), have been developing in the stream. Excavations have uncovered two dams and a stone pond, which would have been used between 1300 and 1600 AD. These remains show how the ancient inhabitants learned to control the water supply, a good always scarce in Easter Island, to ensure the consumption and irrigation of crops.
Ahu Hanua Nua Mea, the rainbow ahu
A few meters from the old hydraulic work, there is the ahu Hanua Nua Mea, which means the ahu of the rainbow and is located in the geographical center of the island about 200 meters above sea level. Its structure consists of a central terrace of about 20 x 3.30 meters and contains a single moai knocked down on the ground.
The statue, which is quite well preserved and measures 3.40 meters, presents the peculiarity of not having carved eye sockets. It is known that all the moai that were erected on their platforms had carved basins, since later the coral eyes, that gave them “life” and spiritual power, were inserted in them. It is strange that after the enormous effort of transporting this image from the quarries of Rano Raraku and uploading it to its position, it was decided not to finish the work.
Tips for visiting the Terevaka
The ascent to the Terevaka is not usually a priority for travelers who have few days to tour the island, because the visit of the most important archaeological sites will occupy most of their available time. However, for those who are lucky enough to enjoy more than 3 days in Easter Island and like to practice a little hiking, it is highly recommended to spend a morning or an afternoon to make this excursion.
Increasingly, the tourism agencies of the island are offering activities related to nature that complement the classic organized tours, basically aimed at observing the moai. The proposals for the Terevaka are based mainly on ascending to the top hiking or riding a horse accompanied by an experienced guide. Horseback riding is a unique experience because it allows you to get to know the island without haste and to recover the feeling of adventure.
Read more about Easter Island horseback riding
For those who do not wish to hire any of these excursions, there is the option of walking up on their own, following the instructions detailed below, since the route is safe and not too difficult.
In any of the cases, it is necessary to buy in advance the ticket to the Rapa Nui National Park. Although the ticket is valid for 10 days to visit the different sites of interest, the visit to Orongo and the quarry of the Rano Raraku volcano can only be done once, so it is advisable to plan what you want to see each day.
More information about Rapa Nui National Park
The most common access is by the road that starts from Ahu Akivi. A few meters before entering the site there is a kiosk of the National Park, where it is necessary to present the ticket. Further on there is a parking area to leave the vehicles. Nearby there is a small establishment that sells handicrafts, souvenirs and where it is also possible to buy something to eat and drink. There are also public restrooms whose use costs 500 pesos.
It is advisable to bring sunscreen, comfortable clothes and sports shoes with a thick sole, since the paths of the route are steep, there are quite a few stones and they can be slippery especially if it has recently rained. Despite the low elevation of the Terevaka, the climate at the summit can be very different from the base, so it is advisable to wear a windbreaker or a raincoat to protect against strong winds and occasional downpours.
Although the ascension to the Terevaka can be done at any time, it is best to do it in the early morning or at sunset to avoid the strong sun of the central hours, since there is no shadow to protect yourself.
On a clear day, the view from the top is great and you can see the ends of the island with the immense ocean surrounding it. In the southeast, Pu’i hill, Rano Raraku and Poike are distinguished; and to the southwest Hanga Roa town is observed under the slope of the Rano Kau volcano. However, if the day is rainy or very covered it is not worth the effort because the experience can be frustrating.
How to get to Ma’unga Terevaka
Before starting the ascent to Ma’unga Terevaka it is necessary to approach the foot of the volcano from Hanga Roa. There are two main accesses at the base from where you can start the climb. The first one is in front of the old facilities of Fundo Vaitea. To get here you have to take the main road that crosses the island that leads to Anakena beach and travel 8.5 km from Hanga Roa. By vehicle it will be just 10 minutes and by walk an hour and a half.
The other access, which is the most common, is located a few meters from Ahu Akivi, which is 5.5 km from Hanga Roa along the path of Ara Piki that begins at the Santa Cruz church. Here you can get there in just over an hour walking or in a few minutes by car.
Read more about Getting around Easter Island
For those who want to save energy and arrive by vehicle until the beginning of the roads, they can rent a car and park it in the parking lot or take a taxi to take them and pick them up at an agreed time.
Another fantastic option is to reach these points by bicycle, since the distance is short and the terrain presents no difficulties. Even if the bikers are very trained they could try to face the strong inclination that separates them from the target. It is possible to rent bikes in Hanga Roa where they also provide customers with maps and everything necessary for their tours.
Read more about Easter Island Biking
Regardless of the chosen starting point, the ascent to the top of the volcano can only be continued on horseback, on foot or mountain bike, on an excursion that lasts approximately 4 hours (round trip). From Akivi the length of the route is about 3.5 km and from Vaitea 4.5 km. Previously the tracks were also open to motor vehicles, but they were closed to protect the fragile terrain from erosion. It is a little frequented route, so in most of the way the visitor will find himself alone and enjoying a feeling of absolute serenity.
Near the summit there are several craters that stand out among the pastures and that can sometimes mislead the hiker. The highest point of the island is located further north and is marked by a pile of stones and sticks that is usually crowned by a horse skull.