22 Apr Hakahau, Ua Pou – Thursday 19 April to Sunday, 22 April 2001
Our favorite place in the Marquesas Islands is Hakahau on the island of Ua Pou. Here, we made many friends. First I will go backwards alittle to the day that the Rabinowitz family left for home, Thursday 19 April. After they headed off to the airport Don and I went ashore to find Jezebel, the wife of the French Gendarme, Olivier. When Don had checked Starr into Ua Pou, she had offered to take us to the homes of various artists and act as our interpreter and we now took her up on this offer. We had a wonderful afternoon meeting Gabriel Kiihapaa, a woodcarver; Augustine Taupotini (Marquesean name Tui), a woodcarver and Julie Kohumoetini, who makes seed necklaces. With Jezebel’s help we were able to actually talk with the various artists, who spoke very little English. We bought a small bowl from Gabriel, ordered a walking stick from Tui and bought some necklaces from Julie. Jezebel was very kind to take the time for us; she was busy packing all of their belongings to move back to France as Olivier’s term was up as Gendarme in Ua Poa. She also introduced us to Pascal (Teikimaakautoua Hatuuku), a delightful thirty-something Marquesean who works as a tour guide on the Aranui and who agreed to take us on a tour of archeological sites and artists homes the next day. We enjoyed Jezebel’s company and the pleasure was mutual; before we parted company she gave us a small “flower stone” found only in one of the valleys of Ua Pou and told us that when we looked at it we should think of her. She told us that the people of Ua Pou give the flower stone to people who are “beautiful and simpatique”. She then invited us to a kaikai friday of the next week, a farewell party for the community to commorate their return to France. We were honored to be invited; a kaikai is the ultimate Marquesean experience.
Pascal picks us up Friday morning and with Mel and Gildi from Itasca, the sailboat anchored next to us, and a woman traveler from Belgium we tour the island. Pascal takes us to a reconstructed paepae in the village and into the church where he explains the carvings. He takes us to the home of Albert Hatuuku, the woodcarver who carved the doors of the church (and we later learn is his uncle). We then went to the home of Christian and Katherine Krevella, a French couple who make museum quality replicas of old Marquesean tattoo patterns, woodburned onto polished bamboo. For the past three years they have been living on about two hectares in Hakamoui Valley where they are building a small farm with horses and various kinds of fruit trees. Their banboo work is amazing: detailed, precise, beautiful and authentic. On the trip across the island, we stop at a tohua, buried in the woods, and Pascal teaches the guys the Pig Dance. Onward and upward to the far side of the island to Hakatao village, where we stop at a family’s home for a traditional Marquesean meal of goat in coconut milk, poisson cru, octopus in coconut milk, chicken with rice, poipoi in coconut milk and pumpkin in coconut milk. This is as far as the road goes in the Northern direction, so we turn around and return to Hakahau. Pascal is a wonderful tour guide: well informed about history and custom, flora and fauna, and very funny as well. We part agreeing to take Starr to his village of Hakahetau, a short distance North.
What interesting people! On Saturday, we return to Alfred’s with Mel and Gilde and each buy a carved paddle. I also buy tikis and a lizard bowl that is so lifelike that it appears to be moving. We surprise Alfred, who usually disappears when people come to view his carvings. He is incredibly shy. We learn from his son-in-law, Luke, that his chainsaw is broken and Don tells them that he can probably fix it in the shop on Starr. We insist that Alfred has to come too and we all head back to the harbor and to Starr. Don and Luke tear the chainsaw apart and fix what they thought was a plugged exhaust system, but turns out to be a plugged up fuel line. Don is the hero of the day and he had fun too.
On Sunday we go to church. The music is the best that we have heard so far. The people here in Hakahau seem to be exceptionally artistic and creative and we feel that they sing from their hearts. After church Christian and Katherine Krevella come down to the boat for lunch. We learn alot about them. They moved to Ua Pou from Paris and have lived on the island for 12 years, three at their own homesite in the valley next to Hakahau. It was difficult for them to acquire land, as almost all land is owned by families and there are too many owners to ever get agreement and/or signitures to buy their land. Their place is in the Hakamoui Valley, once the valley of the kings of Ua Pou. Two elderly sisters owned the small parcel that they purchased; they wanted to sell their land in order to be able to purchase a four wheel drive vehicle. Christian and Katherine spend half of their day creating their beautiful bamboo pieces; the museum tattoo pattern replicas, nose flutes and necklaces of bamboo; and half of the day working the land. Madelaine, Katherine’s vivacious mother, also lives with them.
Lunch on Starr was an interesting experience. While Christian speaks excellent English, Katherine only speaks French. It was clear that she understands most of what was said in English because she would answer questions and join into the conversation, chattering away in French, but responding to the dialogue taking place in English. Amazingly enough we could understand much of what she said, or else, she would fill in with an occasional word or phrase in English. We are trying to learn French, but it is a difficult language and my Spanish gets mixed in as well.