“” What is this life without a home? “, one day Atanua asked her husband Oatea. He stood up, summoned divine forces, and said to his wife, “I will build our house tonight”. He placed two pillars in the chosen place and named them: “Ua Pou”. Than, he took the wooden beam, mounted it on two posts, tied with coconut fibre rope and said: “This is Hiva O’a”. Raising the porch, front and long beams all the way to the back stone slabs, it was created “Nuku Hiva”. “What will we cover the house with?” Atanua asked. “With coconut palms”, Oatea replied and he build roof of nine-parts, giving it the name “Fatu Hiva”. To make the job perfect Oatea dug a hole before sunset … “I see the picture bright and sparkling”, Atanua shouted, “It’s Tahuata”, and then added, “I hear the morning bird song”. “That’s Mohotani”, the husband replied. Oatea worked and didn’t stop. “I’ll collect the garbage and put it in the hole”, “It’s Ua Huka”. “Take care! Be careful! The land of the Men is bright”, exclaimed Atanua. “It’s Eiao”, Oatea replied firmly. ” ……… And so, little by little of this twisted story and the magical prophecies that flowed through the chapters of time, the legendary Marquesan family tree was created on whose branches Hiva O’a represents the main beam of the “Great House of Gods”, now known as ” Marquesas Garden ”. In this, as one of the most remote places in the world, as in the story of Snow White, there is twelve islands overall, like twelve dwarves, of which only six are inhabited.
That Hiva’O conquers not only by the sound of its name but also by the throaty roosters, we realized the next morning when “Pavarotti” woke us up with his penetrating kuku of soprano. It was still dark, and as soon as we were able to get to sleep on the carriage of happiness, his devastating vocals were heard, just like on Eurovision. He did not stop for an hour. And as I wondered, “why right now, and how does the rooster know when to sound,” a hell of a plan popped up in Peter’s head, how to silence the rooster in three strokes. With laughter and joke, it was clear to me that there was no more sleep, so I got up, made some coffee, and went out on deck to touch the world we had sailed into. Looking at this wild island with steep cliffs and high ridges covered with lush jungle, there was no doubt that on this “dragon island”, in whose forests could truly accommodate the enchanted world of Grimm Fairy Tales, we would start another unforgettable adventure that will remain in our long memory.
The sun was already rising a lot when we left the boat and drove to shore with dinghy. After 23 days of sailing it took us a while to get used to the land again because we were still under the impression of waves and rolling at sea. We stumbled like a drunken Tom as our ground swayed and eluded under our feet. As the heat became unbearable, it was quite normal for us to sit somewhere first and cool our brains in that burning kettle and then work out a plan for our stay. However, the environment we found ourselves in, unlike other places and ports we sailed into, was very empty. Apart from the cabin, where was settled down the ARC office, petrol station and tap with basin to handwash clothes, there was nothing else to notice. Roads and houses were rarely seen, while the villages seemed hidden. However, one of the roads stretched in the direction of the small town of Atuona, about five kilometers from the bay where we anchored, wereas the other, bit shorter, led up the hill to Hanakee Pearl Lodge. Two guidelines, two interesting stories. Which one to go? For starters, we liked the shorter version, just to see how to get to the finish line. It was clear to us that this time we will not even ride with a scooter, let alone a bus, so I cheerfully suggested we walk that few kilometers to the restaurant and then hopelessly added …… “maybe another time, I mean”. Peter would rather lie in the arms of Cori’s crocodile, than walk in such deadly heat. Shortly after, we returned to the ARC’s cabin, in which we called the hotel and ordered a “Jeep” to pick us up.
It was another crazy ride through a winding road in the “Flintstones” at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level where the warm Polynesian welcome and incredible beauty of the island was become the epitomes that describes our visit. From the platform of the pool surrounded by flowers, with cold refreshment we were served and a view of the majestic mountain Temetiu, Bordelaisov channel and the small island Hanakee. Looking in the direction of the horizon, we fully enjoyed the fact that nothing can actually be prevented between the ocean and us. We walked the winding path and descended to the bungalows surrounded by slopes, steep cliffs and valleys full of bougainvillea, lilies and jasmine. Wherever we stopped, we felt some strange belonging to this distant world, which even the writer of “Moby Dick” believed had found a true paradise in this mysterious chain of islands in the South Pacific. The words were superfluous, so we stood silently admiring the natural spectacle, which Meermowe’s Great Adventure brought closer to some of Grandma’s good-night stories more than to reality that was only a mug of refreshing beer still reminded us of. It would hardly be, on that day, that we would have left this place if the twilight had not descended, and the sun had already hung on the harsh mountain peaks. It would hardly be, on that day, that we would have left this place if the twilight had not descended, and the sun had already hung on the harsh mountain peaks. We returned to the ship as after the pirate crusade of Jack Sparrow, with the feeling of the absolute masters of this island.
On Hiva O’a live a relatively small number of inhabitants. Here life flows so calm and relaxed that you simply forget what day, month and year it is. Time seemed to stop, the clock hands do not move, and the calendar sheets do not change. The word “stress” simply does not exist in the jargon of these wonderful people. Atuona is the main and largest village on the island where, at the same time, happens everything and nothing. With a smallish harbour it is located within the valley on the top of Taaoa Bay. Looking at the mountain massif that surrounded us, our instantly thinking was like we were somewhere in the Alps, while, after just a few minutes of staying on the island, we did not bathe in sweat. The next morning, our exploratory tour took us to visit his centre.
The town is famous for its Belgian singer Jacques Brel and also the French painter Paul Gauguin who, in search of new life values, left the old continent and renouncing of Europe, immerse into French Polynesia. Although Peter and I do not have great fondness for art, we did not miss the opportunity to take a look at the Paul Gauguin Museum to find out more about his life and work. Today everyone knows of this glorious painter and his inestimable deeds, so I have no intention of bothering you by analyzing his art creativity. Instead, here I would like to discover something interesting about the lesser known “Gauguin as a Man”, his view of the world, a very turbulent and a bit messy life from which to extract what seemed to me interesting, intriguing and adventurous, what corresponds to one such trip. Paul was a poor painter who barely made ends meet. In search of a simple and elementary life away from civilisation, where he could survive on fish and fruit, he arrived here in the Pacific, in the realm of peace and sun. In this primitive world, Gauguin or Koke, as the islanders called him, Hiva O’a made as his new “House of Pleasure,” known as “Maison du Plaisir”, where he had many evenings filled with music, drink and fun, spend with young women. It was not hard to notice that we have got another lover in Meermowe’s Great Adventuri. ” His most beautiful paintings are related to the bodies of young islanders, and when a girl first came to him, he would stall his hand under her clothes and exclaim, “I must paint you …” He had several women and many children, while unproven doubts also point to the hidden passion of a Polynesian seducer, towards men. Fantasy or reality, I do not know, but there is no doubt that Gauguin in this case would outperform Simon Bolivar and Pablo Escobar together. In the last years of his life, the main inspiration for many paintings was the 13-year-old wife of Tehaamana, for whose family it was a great honour to marry a white man. I have to admit that art is really strange in her creation, haven’t it! Gauguin died in the terrible torment of heart disease, tuberculosis and syphilis, like a true don juan, just as he says in his book “Before and After”, “run, run, until you run out of breath and die crazy! … Prudence … how are you infinitely boring to me! “. And lastly, I wonder if Gauguin ever managed to satisfy his restless spirit and truly find what he had always been looking for? Nothing less interesting has been at the Cultural Centre-Hangar “Jacques Brel”, located just across the street from the Gauguin Museum. In it, apart from the posters and lyrics of songs, it was exposed to “Jojo”, two-engine aircraft with which he transported the local population to Tahiti. Both artists are buried in their Polynesian paradise, Calvaire Cemetery, the last resting place of locals and former missionaries. Their tombs are located just a metre away from each other with an eternal panoramic view, in which are still under the Marquesane palm trees can see the Gauguen’s colours and hear the poetry of Brel’s.
Atuona is a really small town, consisting of only a few streets, a post office, a bank and two shops. My favourite saying is, main street and two traffic lights. During the Festival of the Arts, dances and other festive activities are performed at Tohua Pepe, in the heart of the village. In one of the side streets is a Catholic Church. With its color and simplicity reminiscent of Mexican, so we decided to enter and look at the elegant architecture of its interior. Just behind the church is the Saint Anne School, whose courtyard is adorned with a large green tree canopy. It was a little lacking not to divot into that thick shade and stay there for the rest of our lives. What a heat! We felt like we were in a pressure cooker and close to whistling. Obviously it was time to go back, but instead of returning on board, we decided to spend the last afternoon of our stay at Hiva O’a, splashing in the Hanakee Lodge pool, where we enjoyed the kindness of our hosts and once again breathed all that beauty that surrounded us. Satisfied and saddened at the same time, we returned to the ship. After dinner, we stayed for a while to sit in the cockpit, and with warm coffee we happily discussed another wonderful experience and impressions that we will bring with us. It was already dark when we turned off the lights and being tired went to sleep. The next morning was in the sign of preparations for departure. And imagine, not a single rooster sounded at dawn, maybe someday I’ll tell you why !!!!
French Polynesia began to conquer us as we conquered its islands. We left Hiva O’a with full sails, crossing over 2.5 miles of the wide Bordelais Canal, called Haʻava in Marquesan word. The course led us in the direction of the smallest island of the archipelago, Tahuata, which was literally across from us. It was the beginning of the free style cruise to Tahiti and Raiatea. The day was ideal. We sailed along the west coast of the island enjoying the view of the steep cliffs covered with coconut palms and the beauty of nature that hiding in the shadow of Mt Tumu Meae Ufa. “Sunrise” is the meaning of the name of this beautiful island, about 15 nautical miles fare from Hiva O’a, known for making fragrant oil called Mono ‘ i, which is made from coconut oil and hand-picked tiara flower buds. In less than two hours, we sailed into Vaitahu Bay, where we anchored and joined a few boats from our group. The island is a true haven of peace with beautiful beaches covered with white sand. In this dormant paradise without road, villages, cell phones and the net, the writer could complete the novel, and the romantic endlessly fantasize. Peter and I felt very fortunate to have a boat and therefore the opportunity to be right here. I couldn’t resist, I grabbed my bathing suit and swam ashore while my husband stayed on the boat to rearrange the ropes, and then he joined me. This time we did not have time to explore the island and its attractions, so we used our very short stay for maximum enjoyment of walking and playing on the beach, and a quiet anchorage, like real sailors, for cleaning dirt along the waterline of the ship.
Our exotic adventure continued a hundred miles northwest of Tahuata Island, according to one more source of rich Polynesian culture and the largest island of Marquesana, Nuku Hiva. In mythology, it represents the frame top of the “Great House of Gods.” The final point of the voyage was the capital of the archipelago, Taioha’e where, according to the program, all ships of the ARC regatta were to sail in. The trip was very enjoyable. During the night the wind weakened and slowed our progress, which did not worry us as we had enough time to reach our destination. The bay that we anchored into in the early hours of the morning are the remnants of a volcano crater whose peaks and slopes overgrown with mimosa trees and other exotic herbs just blend in with the Pacific Ocean. In a word, a great and very well protected anchorage. With an extraordinary mood, we quickly tidee the boat, jumped into a dinghy and headed towards dinghy pier, from which iron ladders were raised up the wall. It was all reminiscent of Shakespeare’s love romance, through whichever my husband, like Romeo, was to climb the rusty stairs instead of green branched ivy. In that idyllic ecstasy, he missed the most important scene, the meeting with Julia because he arrived at the dock before me. “Typical of the Romantics of the twenty-first century”, I commented and sighed, “O Romeo, Romeo”. On the wharf was dominated by the usual vibrancy that every year, not just to this island, brought by the ARC fleet. Delicious morning coffee, free internet and a wonderful environment, who could ask for more the day after sailing.
Taioha’e is a very nice and quiet town situated at the foot of the high mountains. With a distinct French ambience, it elegantly stretches along the sunny coast in the form of a crescent moon. A friendly population, diverse landscapes and tropical flowers that bloom everywhere, describes it. The city center was easy to explore on foot because everything was at your fingertips, bank, post office, shops and art centres. For this reason we wanted to leave as soon as possible to avoid the killer heat so we first went to the market, just opposite the pier, which except Sunday opens every day at six o’clock in the morning and closes around three in the afternoon. Most people in the marketplace sold a variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in their backyards. Everything was found there ranging from vanilla, ginger and mango to different flower bushes. The largest collections of craft products made of wood and stone among the islands of Marquesane are located right here on the Nuku Hivi, where pieces of sandalwood, rosewood and volcanic rock are transformed into real artwork. Polymeric fabric with a lot of floral décor for making sarongs, dresses and curtains, was also part of the colorful town offer. At every step we met groups of women in making traditional baskets and bowls from palm leaf and coconut, which, among other things, are used for serving meals. The smells of tuna with coconut milk, wild boar boiled in a Polynesian oven and other grilled dishes, not only intoxicating but also aroused vibrations in the stomach and in the full sense of the word painted the market as it really should be.
In socializing with these wonderful people, we have realized that Taioha’e is a city of interesting stories. Toward one such story, we already set off the next moment. Namely, in the Valley of the Teau, at a distance of fifteen minutes of walking from the market, is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It was erected in the sacred place of ancient Marqueans and built of wood and stones brought from the six inhabited islands of the archipelago. This fairytale structure consists of two bell towers connected by a wall that is used as part of the entrance to the cathedral, inside which there are several beautiful wooden carvings with religious themes. The morning services are held only on Sundays with harmonious music and thundering singing that can be heard all the way to the waterfront. Unfortunately, it was Friday so we were forced to leave this rare beautiful experience behind us
Walking along the coast, we were drugged by some tropical sleepiness that a pleasant breeze brought through the beautiful canopy of trees, from the sea. The waterfront and its black beaches are the perfect place to enjoy the view of the bay and the sunset. In the center is Temehea Tohua, home of the ancestor of Queen Vaekehu who was considered to be Taioha’s last ruler. By marrying another chieftain, she was able to reunite an once divided tribe. Tohua was a large rectangular platform surrounded by plateaus used for ceremonies and meetings. The place abounds with several Tiki statues full of fascinating details, big eyes and elongated heads with a mixture of small and enormous bodies. It could say they looked like aliens. Looking at such distorted statues, we wondered what the artists of that time wanted to portray?
Not far from the pier, at the top of the hill above the bay, a huge Div Tiki called Tuhiva was built. Another interesting story twelve meters high that brings together the history of Nuku Hiva. It used to be the meeting place of local tribes. In the early 19th century, in the unsuccessful conquest of the South Pacific Empire, the Americans built a small fortress, “Fort Madison,” which was taken over by the French in the mid-century and changed its name to “Fort Collett.” The place was abandoned at the end of the century and left to Tuhiva, the patron of sailors, to welcome them from distant journeys and protects in the Polynesian waters.
The Marquesas are a very proud people, proud of their lives, their culture and history. Among other things, they express their identity and belonging to these islands through a tattoo which, apart from its mythological meaning, has an aesthetic value and sex appeal. The word “tattoo” was first used by Captain James Cook and was fascinated by it. At that time, the tattoo was performed using a coed animal bone that pushed ink under the skin, and outlined different figures on the buttocks, thighs, and back with thin lines. Today, men and women paint their bodies from head to toe and I strongly believe that most of the tattooed designs are mapped from the parts of the Tiki. By returning to the pier, we have completed our tour of the city, only thing left was to land in the dingy and get on the boat. We spent the rest of the day in a very pleasant atmosphere studying the nautical map of Polynesia and the weather conditions.
The shopping we went to do on that rainy Saturday morning, was more than theatrical, and especially on our way back when we were returning to the dock with our hands full of bags and when heavy rain it simply coming down on us. In vain we tried to take shelter in a cafe full of people. It seemed like it was going to be raining forever, so we decided to go back to the pile of groceries that remained lying near the ladders. Actually, we did not care any more cause we were soaked to bare skin. The clothes on us had stuck to us like foil around sandwiches, and we looked like soggy rats. We were no longer sure, whether tears ran down our faces of laughter or drops of rain. Anyway, Peter climbed down to the dingy, while I had handed him down the bags of food with a rope. What are Romeo and Juliet in comparison with this our romance, I believe we overshadowed Shakespeare and branched ivy. Swamped with things with the loud laughter and the sound of the little motor, we defied the raindrops and slowly approached Meermowe.
The usual meeting of all participants of the regatta and ARC was scheduled that afternoon at about five o’clock in the Great Hall where we were introduced to the map and all the details regarding our further journey to Tahiti. A festive dinner with several types of Polynesian dishes and traditional dances were part of the rich organization of our hosts.
And lastly, there is nothing left for me then to leave you with this photo of the rooster as the star of this post, because they are arguably the main musical instruments of the entire archipelago. On Sunday morning at about ten o’clock we left Nuku Hiva as well as the Marquesana Gardens, and with full lungs sailed towards the Tuamatu Islands.