Saturday, April 21, 2012

Midnight in the Bay of Virgins

Hanavave village lies under 2000 foot cliffs in a verdant valley. Fruit grows in every yard and trails lead up side valleys to banana and coconut plantations. Much of the population appears to be engaged in crafts - carving tikis, masks, bowls, and boxes from island wood (a sort of ebony and rosewood are commonly used). One carver uses boar's teeth and cow bones to make ivory jewelry. This is also the only place in the Marquesas where tapa cloth is made from tree bark that is beaten with an ironwood stick and then painted. Some of the men fish and octopus (pulpa) is a common catch. Copra is still made here of dried mature coconut meat and we passed several drying racks during our various outings.

On our first full day here we hiked to 'les cascades' - a 300 foot waterfall with a delightful swimming bowl carved out of the rock below. The hike was not too arduous, passing through rain forest and along a slippery boulder strewn route beside the stream. Two Frenchmen from a large yacht anchored behind us preceded us up the path and Mike and Karen from 'Chapter 2' joined us in the pool. We floated on our backs looking up the dripping rock walls to where, far above, the clouds scudded past. Mike and Karen brought Mexican beer and we enjoyed a swim-up bar 'au natural'.

Today was trading day. Rani had deliberately brought many items to trade in the South Pacific, including cloth from Mexico and jewelry from India. We also traded the camera I found washed up in an underwater housing in Mexico. We tried to be fair and match the value of what was offered with what we had, coming away with a wooden pannier (a fruit carrier) carved from some sort of ebony with a tiki-head handle, a wooden box with typical Marquesan motif, a boar's tusk pendant in the shape of a manta ray, some necklaces and earrings made from strung seeds, and two pieces of Tapa cloth - one with three glorious repeated circular figures and the smaller one with two dolphins embracing a turtle.

While Rani traded, I hiked a side valley. Un petit enfant attached himself to me as a guide for the first part of this trip, trying to teach me some French words. Little Alex (10 years old) told me that it was noisy in the town, but quieter up the valley. I guess all things are relative as the sleepy little town of a few hundred people seemed pretty peaceful - the main noise makers being roosters and the occasional dog. I left Alex at the last house and hiked up a muddy road into the hills.

I passed two men husking coconuts to extract their meat. They had their horses tied to a tree nearby and large burlap sacks bulged with the morning's work. Rani told me that she saw them ride into the village with the sacks tied to the horses around lunch time. Further up the trail I met a woman gathering palm leaves, perhaps for the Catholic service. She asked if I was looking for the waterfall but I told her I was just walking. She informed me that this road went to a Banana plantation and indeed it lead me to two such plantations, both planted on top of archeological sites (stone terraces or pae paes). I was surprised that the Marquesans had planted their banana farms on what would have been a sacred and tapu site to their ancestors. Accessibility and leveled land perhaps account for this choice.

Tomorrow we will attend mass at the little Catholic church by the river and then hike up to the plateau overlooking the anchorage. This hike follows the road to Umoa, carved in a series of switch-backs, which slash the hillside a thousand feet directly above Hanavave Village.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just took some time to read your blog and look at the gorgeous pictures!!
Amazing!!! Sending you well wishes.
Love Josie