Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hana Tefua on Ille Tahuata

After a rambunctious sail from Fatu Hiva to Tahuata (almost 45 miles in 6 hours), we dropped our hook in Hana Tefua, just across the bay from the tiny village of Hapatoni. Our guide books say that some of the best snorkeling in the Marquesas is in this bay but the same books didn't mention anything about the winds. It will be flat calm one minute and then 25 knots the next. One minute it will be 12 knots out of the southeast and then 25 knots out of the northwest. One minute it will be bright sunshine and a torrential downpour the next. In fact, there has been so much rain lately that the water visibility has suffered so we didn't even try to go snorkeling.

But, this morning we did go into the village of Hapatoni, located on the southern edge of the bay. The sides of the bay are steep and thickly covered with very tall coconut palms. What's hard to see from the shore is that under the palms is a equally thick layer of mango trees, breadfruit trees, banana trees, papaya, ferns, hibiscus and thousands of other plants and trees that thrive in the rich soil and abundant water. Above the steep sides of the bay are sheer cliffs that tower over a 1,000 feet above the shore.

We tied the dinghy up to the concrete quay and walked towards the village, which was just a few hundred yards away. A couple of men were sitting in front of the lone grocery store and I greeted them in my best French, which also happens to be the worst French anyone could speak. Fortunately, one of them spoke some English and I asked him if anyone in the area carved tikis. "Ah, yes," he said, "The next house." and he pointed to a low-roofed building. It was a building without walls, just a low tin roof. Inside, about a dozen different tables were set up with local handmade crafts. Tikis carved from rosewood, tikis carved of bone or shell, tiki earrings and amulets. There were ceremonial fish hooks, carved with tikis and other designs and ceremonial paddles. I started shopping for a paddle. The workmanship was very good though still slightly crude. Many of the designs were quite intricate while others more simple. Finally I selected a paddle that's about 30" long with a beautiful pattern carved on the blade, a tiki carved into the shaft and a carved dolphin for the handle. Ruthie bought a necklace while Corie got a stunning tiki amulet carved out of bone.

Was this market set up just for us? There can't be more than 50 people who live in the entire village. There were only four boats anchored in the bay and we were one of them. Whereas I thought the things we bought were a good value, they certainly weren't cheap so I can't imagine the locals are a significant market.

With my paddle in hand, we walked down a very old stone road and out of the village. The road became a path which began a sharp assent up away from the shore. When the path ended, we bushwhacked up to a dirt road that connects to another village. That was something! Climbing through the thick tropical rain forest with one hand (my new prized paddle in the other), up to our ankles in the soft, black earth while trying to gain altitude. The mosquitos were very thick but we were fortunate that none of the other insects that live in those parts tried to bite us. We eventually came out on the road, just as it started to rain. The rain was warm so we continued our walk until we came to a small stream where we were able to clean some of the mud off our feet. On our way back, we came to a mango tree loaded with fruit but way too high to reach or climb. Luckily Corie still has an excellent arm and she was able to displace a good quantity of fruit with some well-placed rocks. We were completely soaked by the time we got back to the village. One of the women saw that the paper wrapping my paddle was muddy and soaked and motioned for us to follow her. She took us to her house where she dried off the paddle, rewrapped it and gave us five huge grapefruit. It had finally stopped raining.
At 4/21/2011 7:52 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°57.71'S 139°07.16'W

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