19 Apr Our travels with the Rabinowitz family – Wednesday, 11 April 2001 to Thursday, 19 April 2001
Our travels with the Rabinowitz family, from Nuku Hiva to Fatu Hiva, Tahuata and Hiva Oa, ending in Ua Pou
Donna and I shop for fresh veggies in the morning in Taiohae. In the afternoon, Rob and Donna go to the internet connection in town to pick up their personal emails.. We aren’t sure when Neil Rabinowitz, Beth, Chad (treize ans) and Cole (huit ans) are going to arrive. Late in the afternoon, Don and I launch the rowing dory and row to the entrance of the harbor. At 1700 Neil hails us on our portable VHF and we row over to the quay to pick up our guests. Their plane arrived at 1300 and the 18 km taxi ride to Taiohae takes two hours. Roads on Nuku Hiva are steep, twisty and muddy. Bon soir mis amis.
Thursday morning Neil and Beth go to the Tahiti Air office and learn that their return airline reservations have been given away. There are no longer any seats for them to return to Papeete from Hiva Oa, as originally planned. Flexibility is the rule of the day. We decide to do a 130nm night run to Fatu Hiva, the most Southern island in the Marquesas, and then return North with the wind and waves, to Nuku Hiva in order to arrive by April 19 to meet their return airline schedule. We originally planned to take a leisurely run South, leave them in Hiva Oa and take a leisurely run back to Nuku Hiva, arriving in Taiohae by April 30. This is more running than we would like to do, but manageable. Thursday afternoon, we return to Daniel’s bay. The Rabinowitz family and Rob and Donna hike to the waterfall.
Friday morning, it is Good Friday and Daniel and Antoinette’s family is visiting. We discover that Elaine, who I met in the bank and later at the magasin (grocery store), is Antoinette’s niece. This is a very small community; Elaine and I have never spoken to each other, because she speaks only French. Nevertheless, we have tried to communicate with one another and feel that we have met. Don & I give Antoinette a box of See’s chocolates and leave in the afternoon for our long passage to Fatu Hiva.
It is a long lumpy ride, against the wind and wave. Don and I need seat belts for our bed. We take turns doing watch, and arrive by 0700. Beth and the kids were seasick. Not a lot of fun. Fatu Hiva, on the other hand, is beyond words. We will share a photo with you all after Neil returns home and develops his slides. I cannot begin to describe in words the unimaginable beauty of the bay of Hanavave. Maybe this will help: the early Europeans called it the Baie des Verges (Bay of Penises). The Catholic priests added an “i” to the name, and voila, it became the Baie des Vierges (Bay of Virgins). You can probably guess what some of the pinnacles resemble. We will get pictures. We were too busy going ashore meeting the people who live there to go out in the “rubber duck” and snap pix.
Upon arrival, we were met by an outrigger canoe with 15 hp Suzuki and three handsome guys on board. We couldn’t understand them, French speaking again. We sent them off to find someone who speaks English and they came back with lovely Vanessa, who speaks excellent English. They also brought with them paintings on tapa, masks, tiki and bowls carved from rosewood and various other crafts to sell. We invited them on board and bought several items. Later, when we went ashore, Vanessa took us to the home of a bone carver who carved intricate designs into pig tusks: tiny designs including minute tikis. Threaded on a cord with seed pods as further decoration, the carved tusks became a beautiful necklace. We gave Vanessa nail polish and lipstick that we brought to give as gifts to the women and girls of Fatu Hiva. Don gave Bruno a pocket knife which was much appreciated.
It is Easter weekend, and the Church is an important part of life in this village of 150 people. We watched the women spend a good part of the day decorating the church. Inside, pareos hang on the walls and croton leaves decorate the benches. Saturday night we attend the candlelight service. The women are dressed mostly in white and the little girls are in white organza dresses. The villagers meet at a bonfire in front of the church and light individual candles. A procession enters the tiny church and we join them. Our new friend Vanessa is one of the singer/presenters at the beginning of the service and her husband, Bruno, plays the ukulele. Music is comprised of drum, ukulele and voices singing in beautiful harmonies. The service was the Marquesian equivalent of The Messiah. As the service progressed through the Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and Christ rising from the grave, so did the passion and intensity of the singing. It was beautiful; the people of the Marquesas Islands have music in their soul.
Easter Sunday we did not attend the service, but as the Church emptied Don took video pictures, and was mobbed by the children as he shared with them images of themselves. We hung around for a while, received more gifts of fruit, gave away more nail polish and lipstick, and watched families launch outrigger canoes to spear crab on the rocks at low tide. Bruno, Vanessa and Brunilla, their 16 month old daughter, left in their outrigger for the only other village (of 150 people) on the island, Omoa, to visit their family. There is no airport and no roads on Fatu Hiva and it is the least changed of all of the Marquesas Islands. Most of the women here still make tapa. We sadly took our leave after lunch, to start our passage back to Nuku Hiva. Sunday night we anchored in Hana Moe Noa on the island of Tahuata shortly after dark.
Monday is a holiday associated with Easter in the Marquesas Islands. We traveled the 20mn to Hanaiapa on the North side of Hiva Oa, arriving late morning. Hanaiapa seems to me to be the village of flowers. It is a small village of 150 people with families picnicking on the beach when we arrived. It was too rough to land the “rubber duck”, so we took turns going ashore and being the dingy taxi driver. On our turn ashore, Don and I met Soti, a sculptor with terrific tattoos, who spoke good English. He showed us paepae (ancient house foundations) and tiki buried in the vegetation. In fact, the whole village was one large archaeological site with many flowers growing on top of scattered stonewalls and ruined Paepae.
We bring Soti back to Starr; he picks limes from his yard, watercress from the river, coconuts from the beach, Marquesian apples from a huge tree at the quay on the way to the dingy. We give him a tour and a Starr t-shirt.
Tuesday was spent making the 65nm passage (nine hours) to Hakahau on Ua Pou. We go ashore and Don goes to the Gendarmerie and checks us into the island. Back on board, we eat a tuna that Chad caught on the day’s passage for dinner that night. Yummy!
Wednesday morning we finally manage to get a good photo of Starr with some of the unusual landscape of these islands in the background, the magnificent spires of Ua Pou. We then go ahore and all spend the day exploring. While wandering about the town, the Rabinowitz family meet a German who is married to a Marquesian woman and are carried off to his home a couple of valleys over for a visit. Don and I walk about and to get the feel of this town, the third largest in the Marquesas (after Taiohae and Atuona on Hiva Oa). We like what we see; Hakahau feels prosperous. It is compact and even more clean and tidy than Taiohae. It is the site of a college (high school) and a Cetad (vocational school). We learn that there are many artists living here, woodcarvers, stonecarvers and bead makers. When the Rabinowitz return we learn that they have been able to change their flight to Papeete to leave from Ua Pou the next day. We change our plans and decide to spend the next few days here in this delightful place.