Let's see: we went on a tour of the island, then we left Hiva Oa and came to Fatu Hiva; here we have spent days snorkeling, hiking and hanging out with the townsfolk.
Back in Hiva Oa we took a tour of the island with Marie Jo. We spent the whole day driving around the island, stopping at what seemed like totally random places in the jungle to hike in a bit to see a tiki statue or petroglyhps. I had to wonder, why build a religious site here? It was hard to get to by car- let alone on foot. The tikis were small stone statues, some with fierce expressions and others smiling and rather goofy looks on their faces. The petroglyphs signify "family, tribe, etc.," according to Marie Jo, but who knows? They looked kind of like crop circles, except engraved in stone. And being a few thousand years old, it is hard to know exactly what the early inhabitants of the island were thinking, although "family, food, fight" are basic human concerns.
The abundance of food on this island is amazing. Hiking through the jungle we came across tons of coconut palms, pamplemousse trees (a way better French name for grapefruit), orange, lime, almond, and breadfruit trees, as well as little plants that had bright red chili peppers on them. One could cook quite a meal with food picked from the jungle. There is only one little problem: in theory, every piece of fruit on the island, every tree is owned by somebody (which is hard to imagine because there are SO many trees). This means that when I see that perfect mango hanging from the tree, those huge stalks of bananas tempting me, they are forbidden fruit. Fortunately fruit is not hard to come by. The locals are very willing to trade a bunch of bananas for a bottle of nailpolish or a pack of colored pencils.
Back to the island tour. My favorite place we went on the tour was a little village and bay called Hanaiapa. When I walked down to the beach I found a very nice little river mouth that had a nice wave peeling across a cobblestone point. Fortunately the wave was too small to surf that day, otherwise I would have flipped-a-shit trying to get in the water. Outside the bay there is a giant rock. Marie Jo asked me, "what does that rock out there look like to you?" with her very thick French Polynesian accent. "A man's head? I guess..?" "YES!" she shouted. "Like head of neeegro! Hahahahahahah." Not very tactful, but that is how people are here: straightforward and blunt. Then she bent down and picked up some seed pods, cracked them, and gave me fresh almonds. In my opinion, if you can surf a perfect wave and eat almonds and coconuts fresh off the tree all in your little village, that is pretty damn close to paradise.
The rest of the tour was spent driving up very steep roads, down little dirt trails hugging sheer cliffs looking down into bays of crystal clear blue water and immense sky. Every now and then Marie Jo would stop the car and say, "now you get out and take a picture." Yes ma'am. We ate lunch at a little place. Poissoncru and a shrimp curry-ish kind of thing with lots of coconut milk, breadfruit, taro and baguette. Poissoncru is a raw fish salad cured with lime and coconut milk. Taro is a pretty awful food- dark green, slimy and starchy. A note on breadfruit: it is kind of like a potato, kind of like bread, and the locals here love it. I am not crazy about it, but it has great potential... deep fried. French Polynesian fries? I think I am onto something.
Moving on. We left Hiva Oa a few days ago and sailed upwind (more like bashed) for 9 hours to get to Fatu Hiva. We are anchored in the Bay of Virgins, which used to be called the Bay of Penises because of the giant spires and volcanic pillars that stick up from the sheer, green cliffs. Then the missionaries came and named it more appropriately, in their opinions.
The night we arrived there was a big community dinner, complete with a traditionally cooked pig (in the ground wrapped in leaves), more poissoncru, rice, and coconut milk for all. There was singing and music by a local family and traditional dancing by a few kids. One little girl in particular was quite the hula dancer.
Some of the kids here are very beautiful, some look like the result of in breeding, many have health issues (I was told yesterday that 85% of all Polynesians have diabetes, thanks to Coca-Cola, candy, and the fact that they drive everywhere) and they are all very friendly. They are friendly to the point of being aggressive. When we go to shore they run up to us saying, "Bon-bon?" Candy? NO. Then they ask me for my shoes. NO. I am happy to trade for things, but it throws off the balance of community commerce when they are given everything.
Ok, this is getting very long. Gotta wrap it up. Two days ago a bunch of boat friends hiked up to a waterfall. It was so refreshing to jump into a cool pool of water after hiking in hot, humid, bug infested jungle for 2 hours. Never mind the giant, bitting eels that live in the pool. So worth it. Yesterday I went snorkeling with some friends. We had about 30 feet visibility, but the mountains are so steep and sheer here that we swam on what felt like the edge of the blue abyss. I was prepared to see a shark, but we only saw a spotted eagle ray. *Sigh of relief. Then we hiked up to a cross at the top of a hill in the pouring rain. Last night we went to a German guy's boat who is a dentist and sails around the world doing dentistry on his boat. He gave us lots of advice about cruising the Tuamotus, where we will go after the Marquesas. He said you will see tons of sharks, but they are, "friendly," and it is really "no pwoblem, no pwoblem."
Rainstorms have been coming through every few hours for the past few days. The heavy rain and high winds that come in short gusts make the boat seem more cozy and nice to be on. Yesterday, right before the sunset a rain squall came through as the sun was setting, producing the most perfect rainbow I have ever seen. It arced across the boat and went right into the water. Then another one was created above it: DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!!
I wish I could post pictures of my adventures, but the internet here is very slow and unreliable. I'm sure my words have not even started to convey the beauty of this place to you, but for now it is the best I can do.
At 4/18/2011 7:06 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 10°27.93'S 138°40.10'W
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