Day 8 – Hiva Oa Aranui Cruise 2010

Day 8: April 14 – Hiva Oa: Puamau and Hanaiapa

Our arrival in Hiva Oa was as beautiful as ever. Although the mountains were not towering over us in this little harbour, there was one unique feature in the pointed rock that jutted out of the water about one third of the distance across the entrance to the harbour. This pillar stood alone in the water behind where the Aranui was anchored by the time we woke up in the morning.

The true adventure however started when it came time for us to disembark the whaleboats when we arrived on shore. It was perhaps the most treacherous landing so far as the boat bounced against the concrete landing amid 4 foot ocean swells. Old and young disembarked from the boat with the skilled help of the sailors that were in charge of assuring we made it on land safely. It was especially exciting for us as parents to see the boat drifting up and down as one sailor on the boat passed our youngest children to another on land. But we were also rather distracted with making sure all of our other children were safe as they made their way to the disembarking gate on the boat. Our older children enjoyed the challenge of stepping off the boat at the right second to safety on shore.

Where we landed there was an extremely narrow and steep road that mounted slightly before levelling off towards the village and along the waterfront. Those who chose to do so were able to walk 40 minutes to an archaeological site just outside of the village. With our children however, we chose the easy alternative by taking the 4×4 jeeps that were provided along the paved streets to the Iipona archaeological site. This site is said to be one of the best precontact Marquesian historical sites with the largest Tiki at over 6 feet tall.

It was overcast as we drove the six kilometres to the site, a break from the brief drizzle that rained down on the whaleboat before us. Armed with a plastic bag holding our camera equipment we were fortunately the first vehicle to arrive at the site. As we arrived the first of the hikers who had a head start were not far behind. I jumped out of the vehicle to grab a few photos before the rest of the 120 passengers arrived. I only had about one minutes before my few moments of photo taking were limited to shots of individual artefacts and tikis due to the flood of passengers which were arriving on the site from the Aranui.

The boat passengers where shortly divided into three groups in order to accommodate for a 30 minute lecture on the history of this archaeological site. Due to past experience, I opted to listen to the historical presentation given by the French historian Didier who has been with the Aranui for many years. My experience has shown that the other lecturers are not that well versed on the depth of knowledge that Didier had to share and so my family listened to the condensed 10 minute version given by Vai in English while I had the opportunity to have a detailed and intellectual account in French.

This site was created by a Marquesian tribe called the Nike who were constantly at war with the neighbouring tribes (wars consisted of the death of two or three warriors before being brought to a close until the next one). These people were very powerful and always successful in their wars. After they captured and ate a neighbouring chief following one battle, multiple neighbouring tribes chased them away and the prominent people left on canoes for other islands.

The uniqe thing about this site was the relatively large Tiki statues that we saw here. The largest one in the Marquesas islands was located here and is over 6 feet tall. It was amazing to see the amount of work that these people put into carving the stones that represented and immortalized their ancestors.

As we were finishing up, it began to pour down with rain. At first a warning shower which quickly cleared up and then a 10 minute downpour. The man selling his carvings at this site quickly packed up his things and headed for home while the rest of us without raincoats ran for a small overhanging shelter that was part of the entrance sign. By the time we reached this place however we were all very soaked as the tree we were initially standing under did not offer any refuge from the rains.

After waiting a few minutes the rains calmed down enough for us to slide the children into the second row seats of one of the pickup truck taxi’s. We however hopped into the back of the truck for a rather wet ride to the location of Tohua Pehe Kua, the valley’s last chief and queen’s gravesite. There wasn’t too much exciting going on at this location which was also conveniently a Pension’s back yard. They also sold honey, fruits and other products for the many tourists crammed under a small little shelter. My kids were more interested in the four week old piglet that was tied to a post in the back yard than anything else. The little tiny pig although on someone’s dinner menu of the future, was more of an attraction to play with for my children (especially my 4 year old son).

After a short stop we were all rather anxious to be getting back to the boat and into some warm dry clothes. Although it does not seem to get cold in the Marquesas, I was beginning to feel on the verge with my wet clothes. About a kilometre from where the whaleboats were picking us up, my two oldest children wanted to get out of the truck with some of the other passengers and hike back on foot. It was a nice flat trip for them most of the way and was a great chance to stretch out the legs before the rough boat ride back to the Aranui. My 11 year old son was all for running the all the way back while my 12 year old daughter just walked with some young 8 year old girls and their parents.

Our second stop for the day was in a sleepy little town called Hanaiapa. This was probably the first village I saw that did not have the main centre of town along the seashore. The only people I saw along the shore as we arrived was a young family who were having a picnic together with their three children along the edge of the ocean and a group of three boys who were jumping into the waves with their short surf boards. I guess even here in the Marquesas surfing is as much a sport as anywhere else. Although the waves in this semi-sheltered bay were not gigantic, they gave a good 10 second ride to the young surfers who would ride them as far as they could. It entertained them for hours.

The road to this little village was a small dirt road, the first dirt road from a pier that I had seen. Trees lined the road with yellow flowers that were falling off and spread out all over the ground. The road turned abruptly inland about three quarters of a kilometre from the pier when we reached a stream that emptied into the ocean. The stream was lined with a beautiful rock wall and nearby there were some Polynesian canoes sitting up on land.

As we turned up the path you could hear the sound of the stream as it flowed alongside the dirt path which soon turned into a paved road as we neared the town. It is here where I saw a Marquesian man riding his horse back home near the end of the day. The occasional homes were to the side of the road as we approached the tiny village. Flowering shrubs and plants dotted the sides of the road with Hibiscus and other flowers. At least a kilometre inland we found what seemed to be the centre of town. Homes were a little closer together here and to the side of the road looked like a small community building where people had set up to display their handicrafts. This building and the small little church that you could hardly see from the main road were the only indication that there was even a town here. Otherwise it would have just looked like a countryside road.

Some intricately drawn tapa paintings were found here along with a brisk business of selling coconuts with a convenient straw stuck into it. I saw even local Marquesians shelling out the 150 CPF for a drink from a coconut and then they would break their “glass” and eat the fresh coconut itself. It was a small and relaxing little town. Not much happening and it seemed as if not even a single shipment from the Aranui was destined for this little town as nobody was waiting for their cargo at the pier.

Written by Norm Schafer, Victoria BC

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