Waka Tapu crew prepare for welcome to Easter Island

8:48 am on 5 December 2012

The Waka Tapu expedition is preparing to be welcomed ashore by the people of Rapanui.

Two waka - Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti - left New Zealand in September to sail the last leg of the Polynesian triangle using ancient navigation methods.

The two canoes have been anchored just offshore since Saturday and are waiting for other guests and elders to arrive for the welcome on Thursday (NZ time).

Skipper Jack Thatcher says his crew predicted that the final leg of their journey, from Mangareva to Easter Island, would be the most difficult part.

But he says they were fortunate to sail through a corridor of favourable winds from the north and west that gave them a boost, so they arrived ahead of schedule.

His crew are so close to the island they have been watching the locals practising their welcome and he says they can't wait to walk on dry land.

He says the man who built Te Aurere 20 years ago, Hekenukumai Busby of Northland, will be part of the welcome ceremony.

Mr Thatcher says as part of the ceremony they will be taking some mauri (sacred) stones they brought from Aotearoa to be laid at the foot of the Moai - the ancient human figures carved out of stone.

He says after some time on the island his crew will make a return journey via Tahiti. But they will leave their canoes in French Polynesia because of the cyclone season and plan to complete the trip back to New Zealand in March and April next year.

He says now they are in Rapanui it means they have sailed to all three points of the Polynesian triangle, which is made up of Hawaii, Aotearoa and Rapanui.