Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Fatu-Hiva - Landfall

The Anchorage at Fatu Hiva

After anchoring, Emerald and Island Sonata welcomed us with fresh local fruit, we showered, and took in the sights around us.  We couldn’t get enough. We took a brief rest, and then kayaked to shore with Rick and Corby from Emerald.  Little kids helped us ashore in trade for a turn to play in our kayaks, which we gladly turned over.  Next we joined the village in watching a huge soccer (or Football) match that was taking place, the winner would go on to Tahiti to continue in the games.  (A neighboring Island boated in its team).  After the first game, and no longer able to sit in the sweltering heat, we hiked to the waterfall with Emerald and Island Sonata.  It was quite a hike, and we were continually amazed by the sites, it was truly everything I every associated with “Tropical Island”.  The waterfall shocked us with its size and beauty.  We expected cool, but not outstanding.  We swam in the cool pool beneath the waterfall and snacked on Pamplemouse (aka Pomelo) (a delicious local fruit, like a grapefruit without the tartness and bitterness, and a bit sweeter).  Hiking back, John (from Island Sonata) persuaded us to detour UP for further exploration.  And up.  And up.  And up.  Truly exhausted, half of us stopped in a shady spot, while the men ventured on, to the top-most point they could reach.  Could this Island be any more breath taking?  Chris got some wonderful [photo] shots, yet when we looked at them later, we knew that no photo or video could do this Island justice.  The problem with going up is you still have to come down!  At the bottom of the “trail”, just before the “real road” starts we took a break and swam in a fresh water stream.  By now our legs were in shock, after 23 days of nearly no use, this was quite the introduction back to land!  When I stood still, my legs quivered.

We were introduced to the Chief of the Island.  He showed us a magnificent bone carving he made from the tusks of a pig - such craftsmanship and detail.  He also plays on the soccer team, so we were able to learn that Fatu Hiva won the match (hooray).  I still find it a bit entertaining that the Chief's name is Marc ... not quite as authentic as I was expecting!!!  (We later learned that the Marquesian's typically take a Euro-Catholic first name and a native middle name ... unfortunately I'm not sure what his middle name is).

Finally we made our way back to Billabong, exhausted and near starving!  My only other wish for the day was an In-and-Out Burger!  At the waterfall I joked that it would’ve been perfect if there were a guy frying hamburgers at the base.  We settled for spaghetti instead and then drifted off into the best sleep of the month … knowing that tomorrow we could do paradise all over again!

Landfall in Fatu Hiva: Every thing you dream of... and more
We only spent two days in Fatu Hiva.  We would have enjoyed more, but Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry, and we [technically] were there illegally.  Our second day there was every bit as joyous as the first.  In the morning Chris escorted in a few friends who had just arrived to introduce them to the Chief.  They hooked up with a cruiser who spoke excellent French, and spent the next few hours visiting with the locals.  Oh how speaking the language helps to unite!  How I wish Chris or I (or both) could communicate in something other then English.  Of course it wasn’t all bonding, the locals spent a large portion of the time telling Chris and gang what they “wanted” … in terms of items they were looking to trade for (things such as hats, shorts, t-shirts, etc).  On Fatu Hiva, such goods were preferred over cash (understandably so, since they had no shops and grew or raised most their own food).  The locals are not shy about what they want and are quite aggressive in making their trades … Chris and I were definitely outmatched!  When Chris returned to the boat, we gathered a few items and attempted to prepare for the upcoming trading.  Based on some readings and other cruisers experiences we knew the following:  make a SPECIFIC offer, do not just show them a number of things and ask them to “pick”, as they will pick EVERYTHING; separate items so that you are not pulling out a lot of stuff … once they see something they’ll want it (even if they don’t need it); and be prepared for them to ask for things “off your back”!  From Emerald, we also learned that the kids LOVE candy, so we brought along a bag to dish out along the way.

Before tackling the trades, we enjoyed another peaceful hike to the waterfall, taking more pictures of the same thing, but never getting enough!  Coming back into town we went hunting for the Stone Tiki and Tapa we were thinking of getting.  Our first stop was for the Tiki and to look at woodcarvings.  They were all beautiful, easily making us jealous that we don’t hold such a talent.  Chris really liked the Tiki, so we offered to try and trade. Chris pulled out two t-shirts and a hat.  She immediately grabbed all three and then asked “What Else?”  We said “Nothing, that plus some money”.  But she had a quick eye and had seen another t-shirt inside Chris’s bag.  “What’s that?” “That’s for the Chief.”  “Let me see.”  “Oh, it’s just a t-shirt for the Chief [lots of pointing and hand motions to try and further convey this]”.  “Let me see.” Reluctantly Chris pulls out the shirt to show her still saying it’s for the Chief.  She basically takes it and throws it over her shoulder.  Hmmm, guess it’s hers.  They continued to ask what else we had … looking for everything from soap, shampoo, and perfume to shorts, hats, bras, and t-shirts.  We offered fingernail polish as well, but it was the one thing she didn’t [originally] seem interested in.  Finally we convinced them that this was all we were willing to trade for the very small Tiki we wanted.  Luckily it was accepted, along with $20 dollars (originally she wanted $60 for it).  Of course in the end, as I was picking back up the fingernail polish, she said, “Oh, ok, we’ll take that too!!!"  

There were a few kids hanging around and we asked their parents if it was ok to give them some candy.  Of course it was, but little did we know that Chris was about to become the Pied Piper.  After handing the five children a piece each, the parents stepped in for some as well, not only for themselves but also for the other two to five children they had at home.  Then, after leaving the house, the kids immediately ran out in front yelling “Bobo! Bobo!” (Candy! Candy!).  Kids seemed to appear from everywhere.  When we entered the next house (to look at Tapas) kids hovered outside the gate peering over with their wanting little eyes!  We obliged giving out more and more candy … and laughingly turning away the kids who were trying to sneak in for a second piece!  We purchased the Tapa for straight cash (phew) and were lucky that a few other French-speaking cruisers were there at the same time … it was through them that we learned the prices were “Tahiti” prices and that the “local” price was less.  I think indecision helped as well, the longer Chris and I stood there debating which one we wanted the more the price dropped!  

Chris also got a kick out of the stickers on the woodcarvings, which read, “Made in the original Marquesian way”.  ‘Er, how original is the guy outback carving away with a sand saw and other power tools???  A tapa, by the way, is a painting or drawing done on thinned out bark.  The bark is typically brown and the drawing black.  The designs vary from abstract Marquesian symbols to animals and people.  Our tapa was stained with ginger root and therefore is light yellow rather than brown (this is what actually made it hard for us to decided on, I loved the design but wasn’t sure about yellow instead of brown).  The design is a Marquesian turtle with the Islands of the Marquesas within the design of the turtle.  The only downfall is that it’s too large to hang in the boat, so we’ll have to wait until we are land based again to appreciate it.

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