Day 9 – Tahuata Aranui Cruise 2010

Day 9: April 15 – Tahuata: Hapatoni (Archaeology)

This morning we arose early for church services in the small town of Hapatoni on Tahuata. This little town only three years ago was opened up to the rest of the island when it received access via a small road. As a result the first cars in this village only appeared around that time. It is a very much traditional island that has kept its friendly traditions and old way of life.

My 8 year old son Dailin, this morning was rather sick and throwing up from midnight until we left and so we left him behind with my wife who was taking care of him. As my four children and I arrived on shore, we were greeted by three warm and friendly ladies who sang out to us in Marquesian a song of greeting and presented each of us with a crown of woven greenery as they placed them on our heads. Each of the children were happy to receive one except for my four year old who didn’t recognize these strangers. He embarrassingly threw his on the ground while Alyssa scooped it up and held onto it until he warmed up a bit and placed it on his head for a photo.

When we asked the local residents of the village what churches held services in the town, there was only one. For a town of 100 people everyone wanting to go to church went to the stone Catholic Church. One gentleman I spoke to said, oh yes there are Protestants here too but they go to the Catholic church, there is no other choice. Our church was not present in this village and so we followed the steady stream of visitors that had come with us on the first whaleboat to the little church in the village. There were two rock walls that contained a path which lead to a field in front of the church. When we arrived all the local villagers waited outside as a father and his boys beat a drum outside by the bell calling all who wanted to worship to the church. After a short break they would beat their drum again until one final time when the church bell was rung by pulling the rope and the drums beat along with the bell. When the bell was rung all the parishioners sitting outside came in to join all of the visitors who were already seated. A mat was placed in front of the front pew and all of the local village children seated themselves here.

The harmony of the songs that were sung and the energy with which they were sung was breathtaking. Each person seemed to sing as if from their heart and even the children belted out the songs with all of their might. The music in that church was harmonious and heartfelt.

After the church services we wandered back to the boat where we spent the rest of the day relaxing. I stayed behind to take care of my son who shortly thereafter was well again. Orin and Eli wanted to stay out of the sun and so they stayed with me. It wasn’t until about 11:45 AM (45 minutes after the last boat to shore) that I realized Alyssa and Jaeden had been so busy reading or daydreaming that they too missed the day on land with their mom. So we all ate onboard and had an extremely relaxing day.

We were a bit sad to have missed the meal in the village and the friendly Marquesians who hosted a dance performance. The people here were so friendly and hospitable. Their smiles were warm and one could tell they were genuinely happy to have visitors on their island. We were told that this little community will not accept any small amount of money from the Aranui 3 company to provide the greetings and local fruits that they generously offer. They want to provide this from their hearts and in gratitude for the souvenirs, passengers buy from their local artisans. Although the Aranui only stopped here three times last year, it is now on the itinerary for the entire year in 2007. A great choice.

Written by Norm Schafer, Victoria BC

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