Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
|First tiki to welcome us to Nuku Hiva - Located at the market near dock|
|Tiki in reclaimed park by the bay - Mike nearby also contemplating the ocean|
|Tiki with head bashing weapon...|
|Plantation like home with huge front yard|
|Front entrance to church|
|Cross leading to church|
During my night watch I saw two brilliant shooting stars so bright the whole sky was clear as day for a few seconds. I don’t believe I have ever seen such a bright natural night light show before. Spinner dolphins – very small dolphins were dancing all around the boat at sunup – a welcome sight reminding us to live life!
|Daniel's bay - can't see ocean from here...|
|Working phone booths are still found in middle of no-where|
|River leading to waterfall|
While not as green as the first two islands we visited it is very lush despite the drier than ‘normal’ year some claim. Micro-climates are very distinct from island to island and even from valley to valley. Within the Marquesas, Nuku Hiva supposedly has the most bugs and because of them it is looked down upon by locals from the other islands. Nonos (sand flies) brought in the sand ballast of German boats during WWII live here and studies are being conducted to find best ways to eradicate them, especially since they are not endemic. So far these biting critters, mostly active at sunup and sundown, have not been the problem people have made them to be.
We arrived Easter Monday and the town is practically shutdown. We watched the locals enjoy the beach, play music and ball games, cook on the BBQ, paddle their pirogues, etc. The population seemingly has more money than the first two islands we visited probably due in part to the government work available. We see larger homes and yards, wider paved streets, a bigger hospital and even a college.
Our first encounter with a native happens in a revamped park by the beach. He was born and raised here then left for 25 years working in the French Army. This was his first time back and he could hardly recognize the place he used to call home. When he left there was only one car owned by the mission and shared by the gendarmerie, everyone else walking, biking or using horses. Now the horses are wasting away along roadside fields or in pastures or used during weekends by the kids around town.
The cost of living is very high, everything coming from far away. Added to that, corporations have ensured everyone is now using credit to buy $70,000 trucks, prefab homes, etc. Not very long ago many lived on $500/month, now it is $2,200/month. That is a lot when you consider most grow all their own meats, fruits, and some of their vegetables and own their land and homes.
We take a beautiful hike to the Hakaui waterfalls. Many touristic guidebooks falsely claim that at 350 meters (1,150 feet) it is the 3rd highest waterfall in the world – NOT… Thankfully our guide, Eric Bastard of Marquises Excursions, loves to research facts and figures rather than simply regurgitate what others have written and found that it is at least the 242nd highest in the world (more waterfalls get added to the list as they get discovered). If you only include waterfalls that do not touch the ground on the way down, it is the 60th highest. He has tried to have the tourism office correct the error for many years but they are not interested. Truth doesn’t always sell…
The valley we hiked was called the Valley of Kings and it had a Royal Road made of large boulders still apparent today despite the rapid jungle growth. It was the most populated valley in the Marquesas in its heydays having good water, great natural protection (cliffs and mostly enclosed bay) and a lot of food. Here too it was said that nearby valleys would trade some of their newborn male infants in exchange for precious water.
The valley is extremely narrow and we have to be on constant watch for rocks or coconuts coming from above, planning where to duck and hide should we hear something coming down. Our guide has already witnessed one death from a coconut on the head (70 year old woman), a broken tibia from a rock (younger male that took 11 hour to evacuate), and a couple more bruises from smaller falling stones. He is extremely cautious and keeps reminding us to be attentive as we crisscross the river. Thankfully we are safe.
This is where a few years ago a German sailor was said to be killed by a Tahitian/Marquesan (depending who you speak to) guide while hiking that area. The full story will never be known but the trial is finally underway making headlines across French Polynesia. Burnt remains of the German sailor were recovered and sent to Europe for identification and DNA proved his identity. The father of the family we stayed with was part of the recovery team that searched for the guide (missing 51 days) and the body.
Our guide was there when the lady was asking for help after the incident. This tale had made the rounds of many sailors’ dinner party scary story telling times and we always wondered if it was true. Now that it is in trial we know there is a kernel of truth somewhere but will it be cannibalism as some proclaim, revenge, money, sexual misbehaving, or simply someone gone crazy or high on drugs. Most locals think it is the latter, the killer still claims he was raped (hard to believe when you see how strong and big he is). The locals called him a 'tweaker' - he liked to do drugs. The trial ended while we visited Tahiti and he was found guilty and I believe he received a 28 year sentence.
|Pool at bottom of waterfall. Waterfall cannot be seen from here - sorry no pix|
|Peaks surrounding well protected valley|
They also have their version of chestnuts called mape. They are much bigger and need to be boiled for a long time before they can be eaten. They are rather good and filling. We had mape and coconut bread one breakfast and it was delicious.
We see many good examples of volcanic dykes (chimney like rock formations) as we tour. Basically Nuku Hiva has a crater within a crater – between the crests of each crater valleys have formed with their respective rivers.
A couple from Tahiti is on the hike with us and they shared sausage and cheese one of them just brought back from France! What a treat – this food comes from thousands of kilometers away!
We stayed with a loving family for a week while figuring out our next move. Leaving a boat without plans doesn’t make for the easiest transition in the world of reservations, schedules, etc but we find a pension who takes us in with open arms even though they are full. Claudine and Alvane take us under their wings and work it all out for us. We also live with a teenage boy Mo’u (meaning Peace), two younger daughters (Ku a La – God’s Presence and Hine Ou – Desire) and their newborn baby girl. We are truly entrenched in everything they do. From cleaning dishes to preparing meals and setting the table to doing homework and disciplining of the kids – they don’t hide any of their ways from us. From breastfeeding to brushing teeth or shopping – everything is in the open.
|On weekends horseback riding is very popular|
|Cow hides drying in someone's front yard|
|Cultural center Lucien Rookimitete - Where they have special events|
Just like the paepae of ancient Marquesas, most activities are done out of doors even if under a roof. There are no locked doors or windows on any of the homes we visited. Kitchen, dining room, and living room are all on veranda-like areas of the home. Only bedrooms and bathrooms are closed and private.
|Nearly everywhere there are archaeological treasures there are huge banyan trees|
|More of the cultural center|
|Alvane cooking urus (breadfruits) on coals|
|Urus are ready when the black skin starts turning white|
|Urus have a very tough thick skin - difficult to remove|
|Once removed the cooked center is pounded into sticky dough. |
Hands are kept cooled off with water (in the green bowl).
I think the best way to express how the Marquesans think of us foreigners can be represented by this question I posed to our host family one night: “How do you keep some family intimacy while always having strangers in your house?” The instant reply came from the 7 year old who said: “We don’t know any strangers…”
|View from Pension Koku'u when eating|
|Beautiful peaks along old crater's crest|
|Archaeological site with same crest background|
|Church by the beach|
“Haere mai, haere mai ra”
Come, you are welcome
“Haeru mai, haere nua mai”
Come, come as you are
|More steep crests|