28 Apr Hakahau, Ua Pou – Wednesday, 25 to Saturday, 28 April 2001
We leave Ua Huka at 0730 and arrive back in our favorite harbor, on our favorite island in the Marquesas by 1400. We had planned to be back by Friday, anyway, in order to go to the Kaikai for Olivier and Jezebel, so we are just a couple of days earlier than we planned. (Flexibility is the key to enjoying long-distance cruising). When we arrive the 300′ Aranui (supply freighter, copra boat and passenger cruise ship) is in the small harbor, filling up the space at the quay and hanging over each end. The Captain of the Aranui is a master of manuvering his large vessel as if it were an articulated bus. It is a festive occasion. The quay is full of people: some passangers off the ship, some people from the village who have come down to the waterfront to watch the activity. The arrival of the Aranui is family entertainment The crew from the ship is bustling about unloading and filling the dock with piles of lumber and containers of cargo. The people from all over the island are there with their 4×4 SUVs and trucks to pick up their freight. The children are running about underfoot and swimming around the ship, hanging off the bow line like birds on a telephone wire. Our friends Tui (the walking stick is ready to pick up) and Luke (the chainsaw works great) are sitting under a tree near the quay watching the activities. Our friend Pascal is on the Aranui in his official capacity as “tour guide” so he gives us a tour of the freighter..
The next day Thursday, Rob, Donna, Don and I all go off in search of Emille Tisso (Marquesean name Aro) the “master” stone carver that Christian told us about. We find his house, but he is not at home. Back in the village we pick up our walking stick from Tui and give him photos that we printed on Starr. He offers us fruit that we arrange to pick up the next day. We drop by Gabriel’s and give him photos that we printed for him. We run into Christian and Katherine and they invite us to their home for dinner that evening. Back on Starr, we spend the afternoon working on the website.
At 1600 we walk up the road out of town, over the crest of the hill to the next valley where Christian and Katerine are building their small homesite. It is about a 45 minute walk and when we arrive we tour their land. It is awesome how much they have accomplished in three short years, clearing and building and planting. They have built a main house and a studio, corrals for their three horses and a mostly cultivated “back yard”. There are so many archeological ruins in the Marquesas that Christian and Katherine have five paepaes (piles of rocks that are ancient house foundations) on their small piece of property. They love the land and are very happy on this island in their very own valley (they are the only people who live in this valley where the kings of Ua Pou once lived). Katherine’s mother Madelaine makes pizza for dinner. We have a great visit, even though only Christian can speak English. Both Katerine and Madelaine understand and chatter away in French and Franglish; it is suprising how well we can communicate.
We spend Saturday morning with Aro. Very few people here have telephones, so we find him by once again tromping up to his house, about a 30 minute walk from the harbor. Hakahau is a most interesting place. Here we have met two very unique persons, each with a dream. Aro is one of them. For the past seven years Aro has been working as a carpenter to support himself and in his off time, carving sculptures from stone from all of the various valleys of Ua Pou. Mostly he carves turtles, but also lizards, saddles, mountains, pestles and egg like objects. Some of the turtles have penises for heads. The penis is big in traditional Marquesean culture and art. Aro travels about the island and selects the rough stone pieces which form the basis for his art, and he then studies the stones and decides what is inside them. He releases from the stone what is living inside and the sculptures have incredible life and movement. At last count he had carved 75 stone pieces, but he won’t sell them individually. He will sell the total collection for $20 million pacific francs (about $150,000 US). That is alot of money for the Marquesas Islands, but Aro has a dream. He wants to invest half of the money to generate income for him to live on and with the other half he wants to build a building where he can teach carving to young people. He holds firm to this dream, even though people offer to purchase individual pieces all of the time (ourselves included). He will only sell small carved turtle neclaces or other less significant pieces. People think that he is either crazy or brilliant. We are not sure which, and admire both his dream and his tenacity. He keeps carving away, making more sculptures while the price of the total collection stays the same; it just contains more pieces. We are bringing home one of the turtle sculptures and would like to find a buyer for the collection. We think that he is an amazing artist
Saturday night is the “Big Night” that we have been waiting for, the Kaikai. We feel honored to have been invited and are the only outsiders at the party. The 200+ guests each arrive with a lei, seed neclace and/or a gift for Jezebel and Olivier They are weighted down by the piles of necklaces that they have draped about their necks.. The pigs have been roasting in the omu (the earthen pit with hot rocks) since early morning and in addition, there is poisson cru, roasted banans, poipoi, roasted breadfruit and many other delicacies. Beer and pop are in abundance, and lots of cake for desert. The traditional Marquesean dancing is for themselves, not in order to entertain tourists, and as such is heartfelt. They dance to say farewell to Oliver and Jezebel who must return to France because his three year term as Gendarme has expired. It is obvious to us that Olivier is much-loved by the whole community and during his speech of farewell and thank you, he breaks down and starts to cry; Jezebel has been crying most of the night. It is a beautiful evening and a wonderful conclusion to our stay at Hakahau.