Bucket List: Easter Island

BucketListEasterIsland

Located in the South Pacific, Easter Island – Rapa Nui – is a beautifully tiny speck of green amid a literal sea of blue. Known the world over for the Moai statues that dot the land, this little island is so far removed from the rest of the world that it’s a wonder it was ever even inhabited at all. Although the island is technically a territory of Chile, it was once inhabited by the Polynesians who, despite being isolated, managed to create some of the most imaginative artistic and architectural works in the world.

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Flick Photo: © Frank Kehren – Rano Raraku

It’s thought that the Polynesians came across the vast ocean in wooden outriggers (Canoes), and settled on Rapa Nui around AD 300. As the population grew steadily, and evolved from the stone age society they were a part of when settling on Rapa Nui, the Polynesians began to create Moai statues (thought to represent sacred ancestors) near their villages and ceremonial shrines, called Ahu, that lie along the coast. When over-population and environmental deterioration caused the population to split into two separate clans in the 16th century, the inhabitants on the island began waging continuous war with one another, and the Polynesian society on Rapa Nui began a sharp decline.

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Flickr Photo: ©iko – Moai[s] sunset

When Jacob Roggveen of the Dutch East India Company stumbled upon the small island in 1722, he took the liberty of christening his newly found land Easter Island after the date on the calendar. It would later be claimed by the Spanish in 1770, and visited by explorers and whalers alike throughout the next 100 years who would introduce the natives to venereal diseases and forced slavery. By the time the island was annexed to Chile in 1888 there were roughly 100 native Polynesians left out of the 10,000 estimated to inhabit the island by the first European explorers.

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Flickr Photo: © Louis Vest – Fallen Moai

Today the island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts great diving, surfing, beautiful beaches, and multiple volcanoes to explore along with its rich and interesting history. You can tour the island via car, motorcycle or guided tour, and should make a point to check out the rock quarries where hundreds of Moai statues still sit in various stages of completion.

Bucket List: The New 7 Wonders of the World

bucketlist7wondersOut of all the places I want to visit, none are as commonly found on bucket lists or more photographed than the new 7 wonders of the world. When the new list was announced on 07-07-07 in Lisbon Portugal, it replaced the original list – often referred to as the seven ancient wonders of the world – which had stood for nearly 2,000 years. Since only the pyramids of Egypt were still standing, the New7Wonders Foundation started a campaign in 2000 to allow the world the opportunity to come together and vote for a new list. After seven years and over 100 million votes, the following seven places were announced in random order to convey their equal footing, and are listed here in alphabetical order by country.

Christ the Redeemer – Brazil

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Flickr Photo: © Vincentraal

Located in Rio de Janeiro at the summit of Mount Corcovado, the Christ the Redeemer statue is easily the most iconic image of Brazil. Built between 1922 and 1931, Christ the Redeemer is the brainchild of engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and artist Carlos Oswald. Standing at roughly 124 feet tall, da Silva Costa designed the structure to be large enough for it to be seen from the city center a few miles away. While the original plans called for the statue to be constructed purely out of reinforced concrete, the design was changed after da Silva Costa saw a mosaic tiled fountain during a trip to Paris. The beautiful tile-work had inspired him, and soon the statue would find its finish in an intricate triangular design of tiny soapstone tiles that were to be adhered to the unseemly concrete. Today the statue has become a popular tourist destination and takes selfie with thousands of visitors every day.

The Great Wall – China

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Flickr Photo: © Marianna – The Great Wall of China

Built between the 3rd century BC and the 17th century AD on the country’s northern border, the Great Wall of China stretches across the country at the length of roughly 13,170 feet. Easily the greatest construction project in human history, the building of the Great Wall of China spanned multiple dynasties with each successive ruler adding to the wall for the same purpose – protection. With three borders safely guarded by natural barriers, the wall with its watch towers, horse tracks, supply stations, and shelters was built to protect the country from nomadic warriors. Constructed out of various materials over the span of the project including soil, leaves, hay and mud, the Chinese quickly settled on a much sturdier coating of bricks, granite and stone which has helped to preserve the wall for centuries and gives it the iconic appearance of an unmovable and imposing line stretched out across the land as far as the eye can see.

The Taj Mahal – India

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Flickr Photo: © Michael Foley – The Taj Mahal seen from across the Yumana river

This stunning white marble mausoleum was built for the favorite wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1631 and 1648 in Agra. Hailed as both the jewel of India and Muslim art, the Taj Mahal is considered by many to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of mankind. A symbol of romance in all rights, the mausoleum itself was constructed out of white marble and precious and semi-precious stones from around the world, with exquisite ornamentation and Arabic inscriptions. Symmetrically planned from conception, the building is surrounded by arcade galleries, walkways and gardens, and is centered between a mosque and guess house built to be identical out of red sandstone in order to contrast the beautiful white marble of the mausoleum in the center. As one of the most universally admired masterpieces in the world, it’s no surprise that the Taj Mahal made the list as one of worlds wonders.

The Roman Colosseum – Italy

Colosseum

Flickr Photo: © Joostv – Colosseum

As the most famous monument left from the Roman empire, the Colosseum is still as imposing today as when it was opened for the entertainment of the masses in 80 AD with 100 days of games. After it was built, the Colosseum was used consistently for close to 400 years, during which time audiences watched everything from gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights, to hunts and mock naval battles which called for for arena to be flooded with water. When the empire became clouded in trouble and audiences craved something new, the Colosseum was closed and fell into disrepair and neglect. During this time, the amphitheater was often used as a source of building materials for many of the other iconic places in Rome, and was stripped to the bones. Today only about 1/3 of the original structure remains, but its allure and history continue to draw large crowds of people daily.

Petra – Jordan

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Flickr Photo: © Sylvain L. – “Khazneh” Petra by night, Jordan

Half built, half carved into the sandstone hillside, the ancient city of Petra is situated on the edge of the mountainous desert of Wadi Araba and is surrounded by gorges and passages. Comprised of an extensive list of archaeological remains containing elaborate tombs, tunnels, cisterns and reservoirs, the city also includes temples, churches and other public building along with the imposing beautiful facade we all known at first glance. Once a thriving trading post for the Nabataean empire, the city was lost to the world for centuries, during which time it sat desolate and near ruin. Since its rediscovery in the early 1800’s by a Swiss explorer, the ancient city has been drawing visitors from around the world, and is hailed as one of the places everyone should see in their lifetime.

Chichen Itza – Mexico

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Flickr Photo: © Alistair Edmondson – El Castillo’s 91 Steps

Established sometime between 415-455 AD, Chichen Itza is not only one of the greatest cities left from the Mayan civilization, it’s also one of the greatest cities left from the Toltec civilization as well. The main difference of the civilizations can be seen in the two settlements that make up this ancient city. The first was build during the Mayan reign, and contains many monuments built in typical Mayan fashion including a church and nunnery, as well as the Temple of the Panels and the Temple of the Deer. The second settlement was built after the Toltecs invaded Chichen Itza and imposed the practice of human sacrifice upon the local population. The monuments found within this section include the Great Ball Court, the observatory named El Caracol, and the Temple of the Warriors which are made up of a unique blend of styles that ultimately created the most important archaeological site in the Yucatan.

Machu Picchu – Peru

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Flickr Photo: © Ken Bosma – Machu Picchu, Peru

This great city of the Inca empire is perched high in the Peruvian mountains and seems to have been effortlessly carved into the land surrounding it. Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu contains about 200 structures within its upper and lower sections that are divided into areas designated for residential living and farming. While little is known about the role Machu Picchu played in the Inca empire, the extensive road and trail systems, subsidiary centers, irrigation canals and agricultural terraces lead historians to believe that it played host to inhabitants for a long period of time. When the Inca empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century, the city was abandoned and remained unknown to the outside world until the early 1900’s.