May 31, 2011

Toward the Tuamotus--in convoy

The four of us (WGD, Piko & Britannia)left Ua Pou yesterday. And this morning, as the sun comes up, I can see two masthead lights around me. I'm thinking Brittania, with their leaking rudder stock, is taking it slower than us and is the missing light. Because even though Piko, at 35', is the smallest, the Laurens are racers and they sail the hardest. We are sailing at 7-8 knots, reefed down. We could go faster--but until the wind shifts it's upwind to Makemo. We don't like going full-out upwind. In a couple of hours we'll have our morning net on the SSB--which is funny, because our VFH's would be adequate. But Bluemoon is starting their trip today and they'll also be checking in.

It may seem odd that the boats out here work so hard to stay together. If you've read the old voyaging adventures you'll know it should be one man (or one family) and the sea; having solitary adventures; befriending the locals; experiencing the world... But when we started doing this, I realized that so much of my time is spent on the very edge of my comfort zone that I need friends and a community like never before.

It's easy for me to romanticize this life and wax poetic about its charms. Except for maybe those moments like last night when I was woken from a sound sleep by a wave coming down a hatch I thought was dogged shut. When those moments happen and I'm seasick and stripping the bed in my precious off-watch moments the poetry sort of stops. But when I tell people at home that there are times when this is hard, really hard; and that sometimes I wake to howling wind full of fear and wishing I was in a solid home, or tied to a dock; or that the other night just when we were congratulating ourselves on attending a non-touristy celebration and are loving the atmosphere the banquet arrived, complete with all sorts of little sea creatures I never knew were food and that could have really benefit from a visit to the stove...

I'm not complaining. I wouldn't change this. But this is why we travel together. It gives us someone to share and savour the best moments with but also someone to lean on when one too many things goes wrong. But this morning all is well. The sun has come up into a clear blue sky. Our friends are sailing nearby in moderate tradewinds. In a few days we'll arrive in the atolls and the next part of this adventure will be underway.

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May 29, 2011

Stuck in Ua Pou

Almost all the boats that we know out here seem to be stuck somewhere in Polynesia right now (except for a couple of intrepid souls who seemed comfortable passage-making in the kind of weather that can only be described in terms like howling wind and mer agitee forte…).

Our little band of merry travellers is still huddled behind the breakwater—as best we can be. But despite this, boats are still bumping and dragging, and yesterday two dinghies were flipped in strong gusts. Strong wind is an exhausting thing to live with. I’m not sure if it’s the motion, the anxiety, or the constant din that leaves you hyper alert and a bit irritable but it’s not that peaceful to sit out this kind of weather aboard. So yesterday we took advantage of an open house at the College (basically the equivalent of a Junior High) and did a little cultural immersion time.
sewing races at the college
The College, we learned, is the only secondary school on the island and it serves kids until they are about 14-years-old. A number of the kids board at the school (as they’re coming from remote villages or smaller islands) and after they graduate they have to continue their education in Tahiti.
We learned all this as we wandered through the grounds talking to the kids (who practiced their English on us)—and seeing the classrooms where they learn practical skills including construction, welding, sewing and cooking. The open house was a fundraiser to buy the school some computers—which it doesn’t have.

This was actually a bit surprising. While it is expensive here, and we know unemployment is extremely high, people don’t strike us as impoverished. The teens have Ipod boom boxes, their parents drive newish Toyoto pickups and the stock in the stores turns over at a fast rate. But we don’t see much excess or waste. What we do see is a very leisure-driven society; every sports field is filled with teams in action; someone is always paddling by in a canoe or surfing at the break; and most nights we hear the rhythm of the drums—indicating there is a Haka (mens) dance happening somewhere.

It was the drums that pulled us back to the stage area at the open house. When they began to beat it let us know a dance performance was about to begin. The dancers were blushingly awkward and it certainly wasn’t the polished performance we’re sure to see at events down the road. It was more the equivalent of a high school play—the kind you feel privileged to see.

Ev and Michael were bad students...
From the school we headed to the town hall—where, we’d been told, there was an excellent display of traditional attire. I’m not sure what I expected, but what we got was the 3rd mayor touring us through the hand-made tappa costumes—explaining the provenance and meaning of each item. She also showed us all how well the old tools worked (like a sharpened shell as a cucumber peeler). Then she posed with us for a picture—Michael and Maia decked out in head dresses.
With the mayor at our disposal, Michael decided to ask how he might find a massage therapist for his injured back. So the mayor summoned him one—and his complimentary treatment occurred in the back room. And she also told us about a Mother’s Day fĂȘte that occurs tonight (one we have been hearing about from everyone). There’ll be music, food and dancing.
And so we remain stuck—whether by will or wind it’s hard to decide. But we’re making do.

May 27, 2011

Adventures with the Aranui

The harbour at Ua Pou is a small bite protected by a breakwater. For the boats that can fit behind the breakwater it’s pretty comfortable—but the swell still wraps round and it’s by no means still. But it’s better than being outside the breakwater—which is not unlike being on the open ocean; just shallower and with a rocky lee shore.

We were on the outside. There was room on the inside but it was being saved for the arrival of the Aranui 3—the 300’ supply vessel/cruise ship that makes two passes through the islands every 21 days (the first to bring supplies, the second to retrieve the shipping containers). The arrival of the Aranui is an event in these little islands; the artisans pull out their wares, there’s live music, tours are available and on the first visit there’s dancing and drumming.

This all sounded so inviting that all the sailors also headed to shore and up to the cafĂ© (to get the best view) when the Aranui arrived. The first clue something was wrong was when the Aranui stopped outside the harbour entrance and blew its horn five times. Then it deployed work boats which all sped directly toward WGD. Michael had checked with the gendarmes that his boat was out of the Aranui’s way, but now it was obvious the 300’ vessel would like a little more elbow room for what was a tricky manoeuvre.
Jogging down a steep hill in sweltering humidity to save your boat could not have been comfortable. And by the time Michael and Barb were back aboard, the Aranui had sorted out a way to enter the harbour without taking them out.

After the Aranui left there was a general reshuffling of boats. Those of us that had been in the surf line snuck in behind the breakwater, and the ones that had been stacked like cord wood spread out a bit. With 14 boats here the harbour is definitely beyond capacity—but with the trades blowing like they’re on steroids, now is not the time to make for the Tuamotus. We just have to hope there are no other freighters due…

May 26, 2011

Unicycles, Marbles and French Lessons

Ito was undoubtedly the leader of his posse. With his gelled hair, pierced ear and swaggering walk he was a few steps ahead of his playmates in the transition from child to adolescent. But he looked at Maia on her unicycle with the same puzzled wonder that his buddies did.
"What's that called?" he asked.
"A unicycle," Evan told him.
"No, in French. What's that called in French?"
We couldn't tell him the name, but we could let him try it. And after several attempts Evan wore out in the heat so Ito and his friends taught Evan and Maia to play marbles. It's a school holiday they told us. And the kids learn a bit of English in school we discovered—which led to everyone practicing numbers and colours. And maybe we will see them tomorrow. Yes, with the unicycle.
We travel slowly. Even with a rudder. We don't even try to see every anchorage and every island because we know there is no chance of that. But when you go slowly—there's sometimes the chance to play marbles on the beach, or perhaps find a favourite shopkeeper, who you go back to day after day. And who after a few days starts saving you your favourite things—and you don't have to ask. And sometimes you spend just long enough in a place that it starts to feel a little like home—so much so that it hurts to leave.
There are many ways to travel. You can travel by lists, or by schedules, or by stories. We travel by stories, I think. We arrive in each place and wait for the narrative to reveal itself. We could march through town—entering every store, recording what we see, seeing it all (whatever that means). But we tend to meander aimlessly down roads that look inviting; entering stores because we like the tree out front; stopping when we see a flower we haven't noticed before.
And when there are children on a beach who want to teach us to play marbles—we have time to learn and hear their stories.
* We were unable to get Internet today in Oa Pou--but will try tomorrow. It seems though our little group of boats is again waiting for weather before we can head to the Tuamotus...
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May 25, 2011

Steering a Course


Maia is certain that it was the Barbie sacrifice that she made to Tommi our personal Tiki that made the difference—but after almost 4 weeks without; we once again have a rudder.

The process of getting the rudder was relatively straightforward; Evan sent the design out for bids and we chose based on what we could afford, who got back to us (most took well more than a week to respond), and how quickly it would arrive. We ended up going with Technimarine in Papeete—they gave us a bid of $3700. This was more than the 3k bids we had from Canadian shipyards (and almost 3k less than the competing FP bid…). But Techni could build it in seven days and ship it to us in one. The difference in shipping was $170 for the French rudder (thanks to our awesome ship’s agents, CMA-CGM) and >$2000 for the Canadian ones…

Once it arrived the next step was to have the new rudder shaft welded to the part of our old shaft where it attaches to the tiller. This could be done on Nuku Hiva but when the welder attempted it the first time he didn’t take into account that the shaft needed to stay straight.

This sounds so benign now. But when Evan, Maia and I hoofed it 30 minutes up the hill (Ev’s second visit that day) and arrived at the weld shop (after being consumed by bugs) only to find the rudder that we had taken almost a month to get was now all crooked, there was a bit of sadness. And when the welder suggested we just use a car jack to straighten it, our concern turned to alarm (well, mine did…)

It was late, and the next day was Sunday—so Ev asked to come back Monday at 7am and work with the welder then to get it right. This was the point that Maia started beheading her toys and making offerings to ancient gods… We were fairly worried (I’m not sure Ev slept much the night before) because everything was cut to size and we had no spare material. But the welder and Ev nailed it. And at 10:30am the welder drove Ev and the rudder back to the dock (total fee about $100).


 So we installed the rudder, hit the bank, got some groceries, went to the fuel dock, checked out, said miscellaneous goodbyes and then pulled up anchor and sailed the 25 miles to Ua Pou (pronounced Wa Poo)—arriving just in time for sun downers (sunset here is just before 6pm) on Don Quixote along with our friends from Pico, Britannia and WGD.

We’re back in the groove.

May 24, 2011

Excitement—Polynesian Style


There is a festival atmosphere in town today. The community center is filled with plants and flowers, and artisans displaying their skills. There’s live music on the beach and out on the water outrigger canoes are racing ocean-ward. The calls of the paddlers are loud and joyful—and the energy behind each paddle stroke is awesome

I asked a few people what the day was about—but my French wasn’t up to the task of deciphering the mixed French-Marquesan answers. So instead we wandered around—looking at the canoes, communicating in smiles and hand gestures.
Outrigger canoe racing is the official sport of French Polynesia. And clearly, by the numbers of people participating, its popularity rivals that of hockey in Canada. The impossible skinny canoes (which occasionally are forced to fit some, umm, large paddlers), voyage out of the harbour and into the open ocean swells before they return to music, flower garlands and cheers.

There were races and a craft market
I guess a race is a race, in any language. And a party is a party.

May 22, 2011

Lending a Hand

Last night about an hour before sunset I heard a boat named Q-Wave call on the radio looking for advice for entering the harbour. We passed Q-Wave, at sea, about five weeks ago, and while we knew they had been having problems, we had no idea they were still out there. But they were. And 47 days after leaving Nuevo Vallarta--after a trip where the generator that ran their electric engine died, and their batteries failed to hold a charge, and running out of water (another boat rendezvoused with them a few weeks ago to give them water) and food, and having chainplate bolts sheer through, and having all manner of things that could possibly go wrong, go wrong--they were limping into harbour.

Evan & Maia and a few other dinghies headed out to tow the boat in through the dying evening breeze into harbour. With Ev & Maia I sent a care package of homemade chicken stew, jugs of water, tins of pop and beer, and a pile of local fruit. Ev reported the two aboard were exhausted and past being able to think clearly—but clearly grateful to be here and genuinely moved by the help that came their way.

One of the coolest aspects of the cruising community is the way people maintain the old maritime traditions of aiding a fellow boater in need. If you need a bolt (or have lost your rudder) a call on the radio will almost always bring assistance.

Almost always. In the past few months we have heard far too many calls for help answered in silence--including a 'Pan-Pan'--where a cruiser was badly injured when the prop he was diving on was accidently put into gear (our friends on Bluemoon went to render first aid and then the crew went to shore and used a phonebox to call for additonal help...)

This is one of the more significant changes we have seen in the past 15-years of cruising. The circle of people willing to lend a hand has begun to shrink. It tends to be the same people who answer the radio calls and go out of their way to render assistance.

I’m not sure of the all the reasons our community is changing but, in broad strokes, the people who lend a hand tend to either be long term cruisers (who have probably been at the receiving end of a helping hand) or confirmed DIY types (the kind of people who know how to fix stuff or aren’t afraid to try). This leaves a bunch of people who sit quietly and listen. Maybe they don’t feel skilled enough to help, or maybe they figure someone else will answer first. But I have to say something is lost when someone calls for assistance on the radio and no one responds.

Fortunately boats did respond to Q-Wave. And an hour after sunset their 47-day voyage was over…

May 20, 2011

Moving On


 If things go as planned (bwahahahaha—I’m laughing at that too…) we should be departing Nuku Hiva in just a few days. We have a new-to-us outboard. There were two for sale on the island, but only one was running. And because we already own the type that doesn’t run, we thought it was time to spend some money on the other kind…

We also have it on good authority that our new rudder is jetting toward us from Tahiti. We even paid extra money to be sure it got on the plane, instead of languishing at the airport until someone to pity on it and sent it our way. So if it does arrive today, and it was built to plan, and we can find the welder, and he can get it welded tomorrow, we should be able to fit it to the boat by Saturday. Which means we will be able to leave.

I have to admit I’ve started to empathize a little too closely with Herman Melville in his true story called Typee. In 1842 Melville deserted from a nasty whaling ship, hiked over the mountains and took refuge with a tribe over in Taipivai. While he enjoyed his exotic new lifestyle (and made the most of every moment, despite a severe leg injury) he felt somewhat trapped on the island, especially because he no obvious means of escape.

I’m at the point in the book where he’s still certain he will get off the island, eventually, maybe, someday he just doesn’t know how or when…But like Melville, we’re doing our best to enjoy each moment (I can here the snickers from you folks in the office cubicles, “sure, making do in the Marquesas, sounds rough.”)

adventuring with WGD
 While we wait we’ve been hiking, snorkelling and exploring, as well as trying to rid our boat of bugs and mildew. (See? There is a downside to paradise.) I know it’s really humid and hot here but I seriously can not understand how these nasty little ecosystems can crop up so quickly. We had 3 bags of flour mildew on us and the rest developed bugs (we are currently flourless…). I’m very much regretting that we never took WGD up on their offer to use their vacuum sealer—and if I were to do this again I’d make more of an effort to seal stuff.

The plan now is to ready ourselves for the passage to the Tuamotus. Because like Melville; we have faith in our eventual escape. The to-do list includes picking up more fuel and provisions, getting a few final chores out of the way and finishing Typee. I’m slightly nervous though—what if he never does escape?

May 17, 2011

Sharks in My Parking Lot

your parking lot may come with aggressive drivers--but mine comes with this


If you’ve ever had to park your beloved wheels in a less than savoury locale, you’ll understand the dilemma of the dinghy dock.
Dinghy docks (where anchored-out cruisers park their version of the family car) are for the most part an afterthought of marinas and public piers. If we’re lucky we get a half-sunk dock that’s typically encircled by about 3X as many dinghies as you’d think can fit into the space. Often though, as you move further from the land of marinas, a dinghy dock is no more than a space along a breakwater. It might come with a cleat to tether your dingy too and if you’re really lucky the ladder you have to climb isn’t of the dangerously condemned variety. Just be sure to climb at high tide. Low tide can be tricky.

In a not-so-suburban lifestyle the dinghy dock is just another reminder we’re a long way from the mall. This is as far from a Walmart parking lot as it gets. But despite the hazards I never thought of a dinghy parking spot as particularly deadly. After all, tying up at a wall (even a slippery wall that’s being washed by surge) beats having to time your landing through big surf.
the yellow dinghy is ours and those splashes? those are sharks...

Unless there are sharks.
I know, rationally I know, these sharks a fat and happy and not interested in eating me. But when the boats are all shifting in the swell and it’s crowded as you make your way from one to the next to reach the ladder, it’s hard not to think about just who’s swimming around down there…

May 16, 2011

Swimming in the Sea


Both yesterday and today’s posts might be more correctly titled “Procrastinating over deadlines”… But then I came up with another name for being off the boat exploring when I should be earning money to pay for a new rudder, a replacement outboard and Marquesan-priced lettuce: Research. I’m not slacking off, I’m researching future stories.

Honest.

Yesterday—when we were on a cliff some 400’ above the ocean we saw a bay filled with big black manta rays. I’m not sure if you’ve ever looked down from the top of a 40-story building, but from up there even cars look small, which made us think that mantas that looked big from over 400’ must be awfully big.
the four dark shadows are mantas
 So this morning we got another early-ish start (well, it was meant to be an early start…) and headed out in the kayaks. Ev and I used to ocean kayak all the time—we’d go off on week-long expeditions and could paddle for hours on end. This was in nice fibreglass boats though. These days we have floppy inflatable boats that make you work for every stroke, and here, with the breeze, choppy seas and big swell, we worked really hard.

But eventually we were out of the bay and around the point and aimed at where we thought the cove was. The swell, which had been unnoticeable from 400’, lifted us and sent us surfing toward a volcanic-rock reef. The waves refracted off the cliffs and exploded on the rocky shore. The mantas, which were so obvious from above, were no where to be seen.

Ev and Maia paddled their double one way, while I aimed myself at a frothy area in the middle. Pausing and looking down I saw a fast-moving cloud’s shadow darken the water. Then I realized the shadow had a diamond shape to it. “It’s bigger than my kayak. I saw a Manta and it is way bigger than my kayak!!” Continuing forward I saw a turtle and then I saw more mantas—a dozen or more.
 In the Sea of Cortez we saw loads of mobula—most with a wing span of 3-4 feet and the occasional one would be 6’ across. Here though a 6’ wing span was just the start. And as the massive creatures glided under and around our boats, wings nearly brushing us, Maia asked if we were absolutely sure that they were gentle creatures.

We had planned to jump in and swim—but the cove, which looked so inviting and peaceful from above, turned out to be frothing and tumultuous. Maia slipped in though and held the kayak while she drifted on the surface. A parade of eight or nine mantas swam past her on one side, then the other, then dove beneath her to get a better look at our funny little fish.
Maia's attempt at getting a whole manta in the camera frame
 When she climbed back in the kayak we asked if she was ready to paddle home yet. “No, not quite yet,” she told us “I’m still working to memorize this.”

I think we'll need to go back though--our little waterproof camera fogged up and never did the trip justice.

May 15, 2011

Walking on Land

 The fantasies start round about day 12, best as I can tell. When you’re on a long passage, after a while all you can think about is walking on solid, unmoving, sweet-smelling earth (that and sitting in a solid, unmoving, sweet-smelling restaurant and drinking an ice-cold beer…). Barb and I would talk about it on the radio—how once we got into harbour we’d go for daily morning walks and how we’d find hikes, lots of hikes. The cold drinks were a given.

Happily the Marquesas Islands may have been created with hikers in mind. The snorkelling isn’t fab, but the hills are steep and are crisscrossed with intriguing footpaths which once linked various tribes to each other in trade and, occasionally, warfare.

This morning we got up early and headed into the market (which starts at 4:30am!). After loading up on lunch fixings we headed home and roused Maia and Sasha then headed back to shore to meet Dino (Sasha’s Dad) and the folks from Architeuthis. Then we set off on a hike to the headlands.
The trail is that little cut in the cliff face--look close and you will see little people

 The start of the trail was dry and grassy—and seemed almost savannah-like. But then we were in the jungle. The trees grew dense and wildly around us—and bird song echoed through the lush and humid green. As we hiked up the switchbacks we talked about Herman Melville’s book, Typee (which was set here) and wondered if the ridge he first climbed to escape the whale ship was the same we were now climbing.

 We crossed dry stream beds (it hasn’t rained in a week—so many of the little waterfalls are dry) and edged along cliff faces. I was near the back of our group so I could hear the gasps and cheers as the folks at the front broke out of the jungle and came out to the headland.

 It’s simplistic to say it’s gorgeous here. It’s more of a fairytale than that. The trade winds blow soft and warm over vistas we sailed across an ocean to see. And when we looked downward: at giant mantas swimming in clear water, and outrigger canoes slicing through the waves, and islands outlined in puffy clouds, and verdant cliffs fading into the curve of distance I think we all ran out of words, and simply cheered.

May 14, 2011

A Stitch in Time--is still a lot of freaking work...


suncover-all 150' of seams needed restitching

We noticed that the sun-cover on the Genoa was flapping in the breeze back around the equator. Our initial plan had been to lower in then and stitch up the panel while at sea. But wrestling down a huge heavy sail is not the easiest at the best of times and on a bucking, heaving boat covered in salt-spray the chance of causing more damage—to the sail, our Sailrite machine or us--seemed pretty high. So we looked at the sail more carefully, determined the damage was superficial, and decided it would be safer and easier to wait until shore.

So we waited. And waited. Wrestling down a huge heavy sail at anchor isn’t fun either.

We’re pretty diligent with sail care. We had all our sails out for inspection several times this past year and did some extensive work on the main (which is probably nearly as old as the boat). The Genoa though is new, it’s only two—but sailing in the tropics takes it’s toll and as we lowered it to resew the sun-rotted seams on the suncover we discovered a significant amount of sun rot and a small tear on the luff tape at the head of the sail.

This is the sort of early damage that you can’t see from deck level, so it’s easy to miss. But had it been left for another long passage, or two, it could easily have caused a significant problem.

Considering the number of boats that arrived in port with some degree of sail damage or another (nearly all of them…) having a good sail repair kit is essential.

The other essential is learning how to inspect sails. Several people were shocked that relatively new sails (like ours) could have so much damage. But sun rot happens pretty quickly in places where it never rains (i.e. Mexico…) and once a seam goes, the pressure on the next seam kicks in and pretty soon you’re flying an expensive rag…

Our habit is to inspect all the sails at deck level a few times a year: With the main we start at the battens--removing and examining them and the batten pockets for signs of wear and damage. Then we look carefully at the stitching along the seams, leech, and luff, and reinforcement patches; and examine the slides; and the hardware on the corners. The top of the bolt rope or luff tape tends to get the least protection from the sun and is most likely to experience damage (this is how WGD lost their main and how we could have lost our Genoa). You should have the skills and material to repair most of the problems you find yourself, but our luff tape (for example) goes through too many layers of fabric for our machine so we’ve taken that to the sailmaker.

So now we're rudderless, sailess and our outboard is irritable (although the local mechanic got it working...) Seems like progress...

May 11, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

 I think we’ve committed a tapu, or taunted a Tiki, because in a scene straight out of the Brady Bunch (season 4 episodes 1-3), things aren’t going so well for us or our friends on Whatcha Gonna Do.

Good news first—we have a shipyard in Papeete which started construction on our replacement rudder today. The first French Polynesian quote we got was for over $6000, so the new quote of less than 4k seems almost reasonable, especially because a more affordable 3k rudder from Canada would cost over 2k to get shipped here. Unless we don’t mind waiting 6-8 weeks—in which case the shipping drops to $1200. Being rudderless in paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—especially because we would like to move on at some point.

Which brings us to our next issue—the outboard. It’s been acting a bit moody since we arrived and the day after apparently offending Tiki in the jungle Evan pulled it apart and discovered the little fuel pump was shot. So he tried to fix it and now it doesn’t work at all. Do you know how hard it is to get a fuel pump for an outboard in Nuku Hiva?
See above.
Currently we’re sort of regretting just how far we are anchored from the dingy dock.

But we’re not regretting our choice of anchor spots nearly as much as WGD. Because it seems our run of bad luck jumped ship and landed first in their engine compartment (their engine and generator failed to start yesterday—the second day they planned to set out on a bit of an explore around the other islands…) And today its moved on to their ground tackle.

Michael (with a little help from Ev) managed to get his engine and generator running yesterday. But when they made their third attempt to leave today (attempt #1 was rained out, the same rain which fell heavily when we were at church and that we forgot to shut the hatches against…) their anchor wasn’t coming up very easily, then the rode sheered inside the windlass and they lost all their chain and their anchor.

So they set a stern anchor and arranged to have someone dive through the murk, muck and sharks(!) for it. But so far neither the diver, nor their efforts to grapple for it has yielded an anchor. And it now seems that the stern anchor is hooked up as well.

Which brings us to Tiki
 In the Marquesas Tiki is recognized as the wise and potent ancestor of the human race. He’s usually portrayed as a squat, heavy figure with a big head, large round eyes, a flat nose and a straight-line mouth. Some myths say he is the offspring of Papa-'una and Papa-'a'o and some say he is Papa, himself. But either way he’s a powerful deity who was the recipient of many a bloody sacrifice and it’s tapu (taboo) to mess with him (or touch him, or move him…).

Honestly—I really thought we were being respectful and if any of us bothered Tiki during our jungle meanderings it was accidental. But I’ll apologise anyway—I’m sorry, Tiki.

Now give the anchor back.

Lectronic Latitude

Pop on over to Latitude 38 and check out the story of our arrival day party:
In Celebration of the Big Jump

May 9, 2011

Lost on Nuku Hiva

 “I think we’re on the wrong trail. Again,” Michael mentioned, as our intrepid group followed a muddy track deeper into the jungle. But I insisted I could hear the cascade, or waterfall, that we were searching for. Anyway—there were cute little feral piglets up ahead (the local pigs that roam free are a cross between the original Polynesian pig and a European wild boar) as well as ruins all around us. “The pigs are cute, but I’m sort of sick of tikis,” Maia said, when I pointed out these unexpected highlights of our collective inability to read a map.

 We were road tripping. Yesterday our two families (ours and the crew of Whatch Gonna Do) rented a 5-seat truck (you do the math) to tour the island. Barb volunteered to be our tour guide after it turned out that hiring an actual guide (and a vehicle big enough for all of us) would cut too deeply into our rudder budget. So we set off at 8am—with a map of the island and a Lonely Planet guide in hand.
copra drying shed with its removable roof
a woman weaving herself a birthday crown
 Our first stop were the villages of Taipivai and Hooumi on Controleur Bay. Here Barb told us that Herman Melville had written his book Typee. What I personally found even more interesting were all the ancient pae pae (house foundations) that lined the river—and in some cases the old stone platforms even acted as modern home foundations. I also rather liked the copra drying (coconut) sheds.

At the end of the road we came across a group of men who were preparing a luncheon of poisson cru (fish cooked in lime and marinated with coconut) for the island children who were gathered at the nearby church for their catechism class. They gave us coconut milk, grated meat and even the nut of a coconut (which none of us had encountered before) to sample. Then we squeezed back into our truck and went in search of a nearby Me'ae (religious shrine) that was located in the hills above Taipivai.
 It took us about 15 minutes to hike up to the Me’ae. The religious areas were separate from the village sites and were often tapu (taboo) for women and lower class types to visit, unless they were being sacrificed--which makes them sort of lucky, because they stuck these places way far up... These are the sites where the tikis (the stone ancestors of man) were most commonly found are most powerful (touching them can release bad spirits).
 After bonding with the gorilla-like tikis (while doing our best not to irritate them and release their bad spirits…) and dropping the kids in one of the sacrifice pits (archaeologists found sculls and other signs of cannibalism here) we headed off in search of the cascade. We looked hard for the trail to the waterfall, a couple of times—encountering feral pigs, feral chickens and feral horses as well as discovering dozens of pae paes and other interesting structures (the Marquesas is one giant archaeology site and only a tiny fraction has been excavated).
 Eventually though we had to give up on the cascade and carry on along the squeal-inspiring roads to the (wait for it…) next archaeological site that Barb had selected for us. By this point the kids and Michael and Evan were getting surly about tikis (I think one of the kids must have rubbed a tiki the wrong way and released a few bad attitude spirits)—but luckily this site was right on the main road and when we all saw the huge tohuas (main meeting area) as well as the massive banyan trees we all opted to explore one final site (although Barb had a few more on her list…)
the banyan trees are found at important sites
 The rest of our day was spent touring the island—marvelling at the changing geography (we actually got up into a chilly pine forest) and the awe-inspiring views. We also marvelled over the fact that seven people jammed in a five-person truck could remain so cheerful after almost 1i-hours of travel over rough, winding (death-defying-sheer-cliff-edged) roads. But it turns out that not only do we and WGD cross an ocean similarly, we have a similar tiki tolerance. And it helped to be exploring in a place where everyone we met was unfailingly friendly and smiling.

looking out to sea