[090706, 2157 UTC, Hakahau, Ile Oa Pou, Iles Marquises, French Polynesia; 09°21.5'S / 140°02.9'W]
We left off last time - abruptly - when we were anchored at Hakatea on Ile Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas and planning on hiking up the Hakaui valley to see the falls. The village of Hakaui is tiny and neat and few people live there full time; most live in Taiohae (ty-oh-hah-eh) and come to Hakaui to work their farms - copra for export, papaya, bananas, pamplemousee, vanilla beans.
To get to the village from the eastern anchorage where we were anchored at Hakatea, or Daniel's Bay, we landed on the beach and hiked around the bay, over a hill, past a manicured cemetery containing only a handful of white cement grave plots and then forded a cold mountain stream. The village has only one dirt road which runs its length and is parallel to the mountain ridge above it with peaks that stretch to the clouds and beyond. The volcanic spires covered in jungle vegetation seem to have been folded accordion-style when they were formed long ago and the pattern of light and shadow is intricate. The simple comfortable village homes are made of wood posts, are open to the air and have shallow-peaked tin roofs. Some have raised floors in a section but some only have dirt floors. This village, like many others, has a park-like feel - flowers abound and there is no garbage or underbrush anywhere. Ancient tikis carved in stone or wood are scattered throughout the village. Women and children employ rakes and the men weed-whackers to constantly keep the encroaching jungle in check. In the main valley through which the stream runs, the villagers have planted their crops. Though it seems they are growing wild, the villagers know where every banana or coconut resides.
Surprising to us all was the relative lack of friendliness in this village. Folks would return a "kaoha" (hello) but seemingly reluctantly. That impression changed quickly once we met Augustin, who would be heir to the throne for his tribe if the Marquesan monarchy still reigned, and whose family essentially owns the western end of the island. Augustin, a tall, muscular, 45 year old man with tattoos (of course) but also large bones thrust into holes in his earlobes, was working with a recalcitrant weed-whacker as we walked by his house. He quickly dropped the tool and began to chat with us. It was fortunate that we were hiking with the Dutch family from the sailboat Suwarrow Blues as French is one of the many languages Jan, Wieske and their three children speak. Augustin gave us gifts of pamplemousse and papaya and urged us to stop by to visit once we finished our hike.
The hike to the waterfall led us up a valley along a raised path with stone edging, a road made long ago, and crossed and recrossed a mountain stream. Along the trail we passed through jungle and ancient Polynesian village sites, now overgrown. Frequently, we would come upon a cluster of old stone platforms on which homes had been built. Clearly, significant numbers, perhaps thousands, of people once lived throughout this lush valley.
After a two hour hike into an increasingly narrow canyon with rocky peaks hanging well over us 1000+' above, we reached the falls and were somewhat disappointed by the amount of water cascading over the rocks. We had to remind ourselves that this is the dry season. Still, with the sun yet to peek over the rim of the narrow canyon, we peeled off our outer clothes and, in our bathing suits, swam in the clear, cold, soft water in a seemingly bottomless grotto that stretched right up to the base of the falls. By the time we returned to the village, ate our picnic and visited with Augustin once again, the sun had set over the tall mountains immediately in front of Carina to west and we puttered home in the dinghy, tired and happy.
Back in Taiohae, the main village of the island, we met the Aranui 3, got our new oar which was the replacement for the one destroyed in the dinghy accident, and soon cast off to Baie de Controleur. This baie, is a large multi-lobed inlet on the far eastern end of the island. Before we departed though we had the opportunity to participate in a community-wide supper - of poissan cru, pork and mushrooms, beef, chicken, rice and wine - and to see amazing dance demonstrations. The dancing (haka in Marquesan) included three acts with the final act by a large group of palm-clad Marquesans performing chanting and singing to the rhythm of pahus or traditional drums. The Marquesans are working very hard to preserve their rich culture and we were thrilled to get the opportunity to share in this.
As bad luck would have it, after we settled into Baie de Controleur, snotty squally weather moved in and stalled and seas outside our haven were once again monstrous, preventing us from traveling further around the island as we had hoped to do. Our first anchorage, called Hooumi, was glorious with black zagged-rock mountain peaks above us, revealing glimpses of wild goats and cattle, plus a lovely beach at the bay's head. Unfortunately, only one narrow peninsula separates this gorgeous bay from the (then-howling) Pacific and we were buffeted by strong winds which came at us from all directions and caused Carina to constantly dance around on her anchor. After a sleepless night on our second day at Hooumi, we moved to the main bay called Hanga Haa with a village in a valley by a stream is called Taipi Vai. (Typee is what Melville called it in his novel; this bay is where he hid when he jumped ship.) The great news was the holding was good in the bay (even if there was some swell rolling in) and we had friends nearby and got projects done and visits to the village. Here we were shown tremendous hospitality by Pua, who gave us and our friends a load of veggies from her garden and by Sylvana, her friend who later brought us veggies from the market.
We later traveled back to Hooumi where we were guests of the family "Bris", who is a talented young tattoo artist and whose family owns land on the bay and in its surrounding mountains. An afternoon BBQ / potluck on the beach at Hooumi included Bris' mother, father, sister, local children who wandered in and out, and a whole bunch of cruisers including some of Bris' customers such as Hans of Babalu and Leslie, whose right ankle is now the canvas for an amazing Polynesian lizard of Bris' design.
(We have posted photos on our website of our Nuka Hiva adventures).
The nasty weather has gone on now for almost two weeks and is just beginning to abate, leaving us anxious about moving onto the other islands of French Polynesia. Today, after a one day delay to repair a failed weld on our Monitor windvane, we crossed from Nuka Hiva to Oa Pou (Wah-Poh or Wah Pu depending on who you ask) against the still lumpy seas and at a beat into the wind. Thankfully it was a short day of about six hours despite getting slapped around a bit by waves which reduced our speed. We'd missed Oa Pou on our northbound journey and regretted doing so as Oa Pou's skyline might rightfully be called the most gorgeous anywhere with solid rock volcanic spires that soar vertically to reach over 4000'.
Vos amis du bateau Carina,
Philip, Leslie et le beau chat, Jake
At 7/6/2009 and 00:35 UTC (GMT) our position was: 09°21.50'S / 140°02.89'W