You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.
|Bénitier (giant small clam) |
|Mairie (town hall) - quaint|
|Smiling female tiki - The other two tikis are in the Tahiti Museum|
We had seen a smiling tiki in the Marquesas and were assured it was the ONLY one in French Polynesia
Things grow so fast in this lush region that the first time we try we fail to locate the trail to the highest point, Mt Hiro at 437 meters or approximately 1,400 feet. Being late in the afternoon we are not too distraught by our misadventure and wander about the island to see what will come up. Wouldn’t you know we come across the Airport Chief and his wife. They had moved here only 3-4 months prior and had already climbed the summit twice. They gave us the directions we needed for the following day’s exploration. We had asked a local young adult and to our dismay, although he had been raised here, he had never been to the top and didn’t know how to get there. How can you live on less than 40 square kilometers and not know every inch of it by the time you are 12 years old? That seems so inconceivable to us! They wished us luck and had hoped to come along but had to work that day. The airport only receives three flights a week – not exactly backbreaking work.
|Steep rugged cliffs|
|Not so well maintained church - They call them temples here...|
|Still beautiful colors and patterns|
|Dog chasing sea life...|
|Copra goes to Tahiti in these bags - You see them in brown burlap or white plastic everywhere|
|Our front yard - well landscaped|
Unfortunately smoking cigarettes still is rampant. The visiting French and the locals smoke heavily and they do not have the consciousness to only smoke out of doors, or away from non smokers, something we have become accustomed to in Canada, the US, and even Mexico… Other than the Marquesas, we have been surrounded by smokers everywhere in French Polynesia.
|Drying pandanu leaves for making of hats, mats, purses, bags, curtains, etc|
There is also much jewelry made from mother of pearl, again, no one is around working on any of the pieces we see so we don’t buy.
We hardly see a soul even though we walked nearly the whole island. We are told everyone is either in their field or fishing. Fields all seem to be further away from the road and/or behind tall edges so it’s hard to see anything. When we do get a peek at what’s behind these edges we are always charmed by beautiful gardens and colorful homes. Some people prepare and dry the famous pandanu leaves for the various types of weavings they make.
Few tourists invading these islands mean much fewer vehicles invading the roads. It is a lot more peaceful, quiet, and clean.
Crickets have the air, we barely hear the surf since the reef is far away and the winds are nil. Geckos take over with their clicking sounds when the lights come on at night. The further we go away from the Equator, the shorter the days and the taller the tidal ranges. We enjoy the Southern Cross in the show of stars above.
|Female rock (read legend below)|
After showing us the only remaining tiki on the island, our hostess Linda tells us the legend of the male rock and of the female rock. Before I get to that let me mention that this tiki was female, was missing an ear, and was SMILING! We were told in the Marquesas that there were no other smiling tikis and that few; very few tikis were females. We must have just lucked out!
|Going on daily pirogue practice|
At our arrival we didn’t receive a flower necklace and thought it was just another pension who no longer cared for the tradition but we were reminded that we were supposed to arrive a day later by boat – they didn’t have time to make a flower necklace. Instead they would make one for us and give it to us at our departure, which they did. It meant that when we received another necklace upon our arrival in Tubuai, we were loaded with two beautiful and colorful necklaces laced with a little basil to supposedly help ward off the bugs.
Being that there are more colorful leaves than flowers at this time of the year on the islands – remember it is nearly winter solstice here (only a week to go), we get many leaves, some seeds, and fruit pieces in the necklaces. It is very creative, beautiful, and sometimes very nicely perfumed.
|From the top of Mt Hiro|
|To the blue lagoon below|
Around the table are people from Iran, Switzerland, Germany, France, Canada, and US… Two itinerant medical people are also there. She is a midwife, he is a GP and they do various rotations around the islands. She stays only in the Austral Islands, he covers all archipelagos of French Polynesia. They were also supposed to be on the boat that never came to get us, waiting for its arrival – whenever that will be. Meanwhile they have many stories to share and help us understand the local medical system.
|Before the descent|
|Ferns 5 feet tall - Runway in background|
Acacia trees here too are taking over but we see that most have complete bands of bark missing from their trunks, a way to kill them and get rid of this invading specie. We had hoped that being this far away invasive species wouldn’t have such strong hold but they seem to.
|View from reef motu (islet)...|
|...to island of Raivavae|
|Discarded bénitier (giant small clams) shells|