4 Dec 2012

Easter Islanders prepare to celebrate with Waka Tapu crew

11:38 pm on 4 December 2012

The tangata whenua of Rapanui are preparing to give their Maori cousins a warm welcome as they disembark from the Waka Tapu expedition.

Skipper Jack Thatcher says his crew were ecstatic after reaching Rapanui, or Easter Island, in their two waka on Friday local time, nearly 90 days after they left New Zealand.

Two double hulled canoes, Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, have been raising environmental awareness by retracing the epic journey of their crews' ancient Polynesian ancestors, using traditional navigation methods.

Rapanui Elders Council president Koro Alberto Hotus says his people are getting ready for a big celebration.

He says the local community is preparing to give the same sort of formal welcome as Maori would do.

Mr Hotus says the Waka Tapu crews will receive a hearty reception as the Rapanui people embrace their Maori relatives.

He says the tangata whenua will be honouring their guests with a special ceremony.

Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti currently are anchored just offshore. Their crews are waiting for master waka builder Hector Busby to arrive, as well as Mr Hotus who is also coming from New Zealand, to be part of the welcome party.

Easter Islanders have been ferrying food and water to the crews, who have been surviving off fresh fish and dwindling provisions they received in Mangareva, their last pit stop.