Saturday, 12 October 2013

Finally at home

I am pleased to be home. Now comes the time to reflect on and digest all I have seen and learnt. Despite a great sleep last night in my own bed, my head is still scrambled with too much yet to be sorted. It was great today, to walk around my house in the grey dawn - seeing all the apple and cherry blossoms, seeing the new first leaves of the persimmon, realising some of my mulching straw had been blown who knows where, and seeing the healthy sprouting of weeds everywhere. Two weeks and ... this is how nature works. And now already its two days since I left the Marquesas. Life moves on.

A successful venture

Nuku Hiva resident of 19 years, Philip Beardmore’s delivery on my request for an authentic and real experience was of a very high order. He went out of his way to make contact with people and to make connections which led to my immersion in families as they lived their daily normal lives. What I experienced and learnt from him and everyone I met was profoundly rich, sometimes personally challenging but always personally enriching. From time to time I was way out of my comfort zone, but I now know more about myself as a result, and that has to be a good thing. All my expectations and much more have been achieved and all souvenirs and gifts have been purchased. Now I am ready to come home.

After a while ‘le pain’ can be a pain.

Will be glad that French breadsticks will be a thing of the past when I get onto this flight to Auckland. All that bread is so unmanageable and barely digestible for my digestive system.

Arrival and departure times and floral necklaces

Sitting under a ceiling fan at Faaa, Tahiti’s airport, I will stay here for the next 2 hours until my check-in opens. My flight leaves at 20 after midnight. If we think Tassie is marginalised or held to ransom by airlines, Tahiti has drawn an even shorter straw. This is how it is here. Back when I arrived, I felt somewhat sad that no-one was meeting me with a floral necklace. But that sadness was lost when Joelle gave me the largest fattest most important (because of the main choice of flower used, the value of which I only learnt about later) floral garland when I arrived on the island of Tahuata. But back here in the Tahiti airport I discovered an undercover open building slightly across from the main entrance, where dozens of woman sat with mounds of garlands and seed and shell necklaces waiting to sell them. Strongly fragrant white coloured tiara and p???? (must find out how to spell that important flower) flower garlands were everywhere. So simply seeing this set up, was a pleasure. Felicity, I couldn’t help drawing a parallel between these woman and those sitting on the edge of the Ganges at Varanasi and Patna selling their rich yellow floral necklaces.

Final visit to Papeete, Tahiti

On arrival in Tahiti, stored my suitcase at the airport, grabbed a taxi and popped into Papeete. Principally in search of clip-on French Polynesia’s pearl earrings. First place, perfect set (and duty free made them even more perfect). On way to pearl market had noticed a street of fabric shops. Wanted to buy every roll with all their patterns, but settled on one to make a pareo (sarong). So much wonderful choice. Hibiscus flowers predominated whether symbolically stylised or more naturalistic. I settled instead on a more geometric find, not geometric like Marquesan tattoos but making me remember them. The landmark Cathedral was suddenly before me. Nothing to write home about architecturally. It was a useful break because I could sort out my bag and remaining francs. It also gave me physical and mental space to work out where I was and where I might go next. Outside it was simply too stimulating to think clearly. Then I found a busy street corner with a restaurant where I could buy refreshing jus de pamplemosse, and then watch the slim, elegant, urbane yet casual French local women walking away at the end of their working day. After quite a while and the walkers had thinned out, and watching cars held no interest, I wandered down to the water front, found a brasserie on the side walk. While enjoying a cold beer, the sun set majestically over the water with the rim of the reefs in the distance. All around me were elegant French men having end of day drinks. Very civilised. The street lights were on and it was time to find the food vans. Eventually made a choice and enjoyed a Mahi-Mahi with Tofu. Silken tofu slipped down interspersed with prawns and chicken pieces in a slightly chillied sauce. Was joined by a couple from Kobe who had no French at all. This was a shock. Tried to gather my thoughts and find some memories of my limited Japanese language. Thankfully the woman had sufficient English for us all to be able to communicate. Had one last look around and grabbed a taxi to return to the airport. Collected my case, brushed my teeth, washed my face and felt so much better. Water is such an amazing thing.

Manioc

Manioc was one on the foods on Yvonne’s restaurant mixed ‘Gastronomique’ plate on Wednesday. This is a yellowish root vegetable which has much the texture of softly almost mushily cooked potato. Excellent eating. My gut feeling is that this is the same as what we called Cassava when we grew it in Darwin John??? When I looked at it growing, the plant had the same spreading leaves. More research required.

Music

Last night from my hotel across the TaiOHae bay, I heard music and drums and wondered whether a cruise ship had arrived after dark and was being welcomed with a performance. I am a little sad that I never saw such a one, but as much as the Marquesans love dancing (apparently), these performances are a patchwork quilt of remembered dances linked with Hollywood patterns and with what locals think foreigners need to see. I wouldn’t want to be hanging around with the patronising smiles I have seen on other tourists. I would find that offensive. So music has been in short supply during the holiday, except for the thump of pop, reggae, rap and techno sounds imported from elsewhere – and so much of that in English. God bless America! But memories of the sensational uplifting singing during last Sunday’s Catholic church service will stay with me forever. Somewhere I did learn it was true what I thought had been the case – the service was in French and the songs/hymns sung in Marquesan.

Mixed reflections

Hoped to be sitting in a similar seat towards Tahiti as I travelled up to the Marquesas on so I would be able to see what I missed out on first up (no set seats just grab the one you want). Forgot planes take off differently according to the wind. So we took off and I had a view of the featureless sea. Then, I was delighted when the plane banked and flew over the island of Nuku Hiva, more or less finishing over TaiOHae and so I saw some of the valleys I had visited on Wednesday. It was a bitter sweet departure. I know I will never be back and so it is truly goodbye. But such a rich store of experiences will give me much pleasure for a long while. Sensational place but hard work coming from a winter climate. And hard work with too little conversational French. However I wouldn’t have done it any other way. A few nights ago I walked up to the plush resort hotel on the hill, sat sipping a (non-alcoholic) cocktail, chatting to a local, admiring the pretty boy bar girl and watching the guests. Strangely, I was given a bowl of green and black olives which did not blend with the fruit juice I was drinking. But that was enough for ‘dinner’. Anyway I looked at the guests and their well-fed tummies, and their expensive linens and sparkling diamant√© sandals and knew they could never know the Marquesas’ like I have (even though I realised I had only scratched the surface and understood almost nothing) and I felt sorry that even though they all spoke French, their isolation in such tourist enclaves prevented them from really knowing how people lived, laughed, talked and felt. Nor could they know the values of the local people. And without it at least some of that, all they could be doing was ‘seeing the sights’.

Getting to Nuku Hiva airport

The drive to the Nuku Hiva airport would have to be exposing one of the top 10 natural wonders of the world. Amazing. The variety of terrains from mountains to deserts was awesome (the desert surrounding the airport consists of rolling hills with comparatively low vegetation but it does not meet my childlike definition of a desert which ought to be rolling hills of sand – yes I know we have stony and other styles of deserts on Oz and around the world, but no way did this meet my feeling of desert). At various times the sea could be seen, from our great heights, on all sides. The driver, driving at 20-40km per hour, negotiated continuously curving road, which had more switchbacks than curves (and for the first time in 2 weeks after endless tortuous roads with steep drop-offs and lots of landslide mud and rocks everywhere, I had a functioning seat belt – yes my Ozzie conditioning has been hard to break. Law here says only belts in the front seats need to be worn and only in the towns and villages; still often they didn’t work and were draped over to save the Gendarmes the work of pulling you over and having all that paperwork for your misdemeanour of not wearing a belt). Until we reached the northern ‘desert’, there was never more than a 200m straight section of road, and through the desert one of the few straights could be as long as 400m – and this was during an over a 1 ½ hr trip from the town of TaiOHae. Fanbloodytastic. Exhilarating. I will always remember the endless wild horses and their foals standing in the middle of the road or eating on the verges, and others with their winter coats scruffily moulting off. Massive beef cows in black and white and red and white meandering similarly. Amazing panoramas. Exposed valley based tree ferns thinner than ours, and with a bulbous growth at the top of the trunk before the fronds pushed out on some. Sky blue and some white clouds. Stunning at every turn. Feel that every ‘grotty yachtie’ (phrase from a German couple of sailors) should take the trip even though they must return to sail. The last drive really has been the final wonder in these fabulous islands. Great relaxant and stimulator simultaneously. And it will give me memories to last me the next 13 plus hours of flying (albeit with breaks at Tahiti, Auckland and Melbourne where I will have a chance to walk around a little). And now my plane has arrived at Nuku Hiva, so I will be boarding soon to start the next step of my journey.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

First draft towards a childrens story - based on real experience

When Elena snapped on her French Polynesian hotel light, his huge broad back was turned away. There he stood proudly, having enjoyed the privacy of the shadows and the dark moonless night. He froze, and Elena gasped in horror. The man appeared to be a relative of adversaries that Elena first met in northern Australia. He didn't flinch. There was something different here, Elena decided. While the suit was similarly glossy, and in perfect condition, she realised his shoe size was abnormally large. His bearing was elegant and he stood firm. One distinguishing feature was his very tall legs so that he looked down from a towering height. Brave Elena faced this Polynesian giant, who remained motionless acutely aware of her presence and knowing the danger she presented. He should not have been here.  She should not have been here. Not a word was spoken.  If a man can wear a grandiose moustache, this man's flamboyant facial features were extreme. And somehow grander than ever seen before.  Very admirable.  Elena walked away and turned the day into night with a flick of a switch.  He was so gloriously handsome and she would not kill him tonight.  No. Monsieur Cocky Rich would live to tell the tale of how he, unlike some of his foreign cousins, survived.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Big beautiful day

The two Phils collected me and we started up the endless winding and zig zag roads that was typical all day wherever we went. Sometimes concrete slabs, sometimes bitumen tarmac, plus always the body and muscle stretching would be bone breaking rocky roads. But what vistas. Ooh la la. So much and I can no longer remember it all. When I get to a map, I will be able to fathom the detail of our route. Probably the most interesting and exciting location was the town/valley of Taipaivai. This was the valley which inspired Herman Melville's great novel, Typee. Climbing to the top of something like Moaeki was breathtaking. We could see two oceans on either side of the island. We could look down TaiOHae valley. We could look across towards Toovai and its acres of pine trees, and cows and landscape which reminded me of Cygnet. We could see mountain ridges in all directions,and much more.  I think I was in overload by then, and didn't take a photo, took so many today and hope they will prod my memory. Petroglyphs and extensive pre European settlements and I mean covering huge tracts of land.  Have to be seen to believed. Vegetation, albeit containing similar trees to previous islands, still seemed to be different and more exotic and richer and denser. Perhaps the extreme landscape structure was the cause for things to look so new. That is the simple story of 9hrs travel. Oh yes ... and the food at Yvonnes. Exceptional. We each had a heaped plate plus there was a centre plate to share. In the centre was poisson en cru (I will be preparing this fish dish come summer), plus more of some items on our own plates. On my plate I had some yummy deep fried breadfruit balls, some breadcrumbed dark fish, some grilled white flesh fish, some taro, and what Philip called lobster  - in my opinion was nothing like. It had a small prawn like tail sticking out from what was a good battered small crustation. Each battered piece was no more than the size of a piece of my thumb. There were other foods on the plate but I have forgotten. Young Phil photographed his plate and I should have been smarter. The place was airy and opposite the beach with the gentle waves edging in and out quietly. Other tourists arrived and I realise in 36hrs I wont be saying bonjour, bonsoir, bonnuit and merci, and much more etc again for a long time. Although I will seek out Penny Dyer when I get back to work. She recently spent a while in Paris brushing up on her french language skills and maybe she would like some conversation. This could well be my last chance to blog before I get home. Will be glad to download the photos and make some sort of sense of what I have been doing, and to wind this story up so I can move onto the next one. Think there will need to be a Polynesian party in the coming months in memory of these gardens of eden and the beautiful paradise which is the Marquesas.

Wednesday morning

Breakfast here at the hotel is predictable but fine. Half the largest pamplamoosse (sweeter variety of large grapefruit) with its sections already lifted for me. Then fresh bread sticks as much as I can eat which isnt much, and a pot of dark berry jam (doubt that is local and with many things I dont like to ask  - probably from Chernobyl or some such place). And this is the only place I can get a cup of tea daily. My room has no refreshment facilities or fridge -like Russia. The tea and this WiFi are the reasons I come to breakfast. At 8am guide Philip will drive up and collect me in our rented 4WD with young Canadian Phil, and we will drive off for the next great adventure. Should be a wealth of stories at the end of today, including more new food discoveries. By the way there is little to beat a carafe or long glass of jus de pamplamoosse. Soooo refreshing. Just watched a man load up a horse with heavy saddle bags(couldnt see a saddle just a hessian cover) and his gun, then sit himself on top, whistle for a set of dogs to join him, and they set off for the hinterland. Probably expecting to bring back pigs and/or goats. Looks like hard work. Must go get ready. Hope everyone in the rest of the world has good sleeps and a good day.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Back at my drinking hole

Only 3.30 so having a less strenuous day today and on way back to hotel already. But already an interesting day. Decided yesterday to do the touristy thing so bought up on postcards. 21 are now posted and winging their way to you. A bit like Russia I doubt they will all arrive, but please tell me when you receive yours. My host, the anthpologist cum art historian Rose, has evolved a museum of original marquesan artefacts and so this morning I visited that. Great that she has collected, stored and done the best she can to maintain the artefacts, but hells bells I wanted to offer my services this morning. But where would one start  - in a non airconditioned climate controlled environment. Rose is getting on and I asked what will happen in the future. Apparently different people will claim different objects and the collection will be dispersed. There are so few remains of the old culture, thanks to the missionaries, that the loss of such an integrated collection would be a sad day. On the museology theme, heard there was an Australian couple arrived on a bigger yacht. Ran into them. They had already heard of me (small town here where differences are notable and the town crier is always at work - not really just seems that way) and Lesley Jenkins now NSW remembers me from my museology days in Qld. We knew all the same people etc etc. They are about to sail to Samoa, then she flies home to work (whoops that 4 letter word has struck). I cannot believe that in a few days time I will back in that gloomy office with its dirty windows while here, as I sip a refreshing beer looking out over the glistening harbour, and palms, frangipani and grapefruit trees shield me from the sun, I have fresh air, breezes drying my hair, and more glorious adventures to come. What else? At the bank I met young adventurer Phil from Canada who is sailing solo and has just taken 32 days to reach here from Hawaii. Currently he is taking a breather from work as a submarine engineer, but is en route to Adelaide to try and pick up some work. No Aussie girl will let him leave - both smart and gorgeous. I have invited him along for the road trip tomorrow. Discovered an information centre so now I know where I am. Which is important now I'm onto my 2nd beer. Found the only example of street food outside a convenience store and bought a Nam (from a transexual/would be transexual - not sure - lesbians and transexuals are well accepted here but not gay guys apparently). The Nam is a local version of a Spring Roll. Quite large and contained lots of vermicelli and then various other bits. But it was tasty and I have suffered no ill effects. Lets call that the morning tea snack. For lunch I discovered a van by the side of the road selling 2 lunch options. This was a smart French man not spreading himself too thinly. I wasnt so excited about 1 option but bought the second. C'etait magnifique. Let me get the saliva slipping once again from memory. A not so small mushroom quiche which would have won Masterchef for its slighly crumbly short pastry and the good quantity of mushrooms chopped to a good size and cooked so texture still sufficiently firm enough to be mushrooms. This was accompanied by two slices of excellent moist bread with firm crust. Plus a box with 3 half eggs resting on bed of finely sliced pale green leaves - unsure what that was but very edible; a massive amount of small pieces of fresh lettuce mixed with halved cherry tomatoes and halved sliced cucumber, a cluster of green string beans, and a pile of white cooked beans ( are they haricot?). There was a container of specially prepared salad dressing. This was a class act in presentation, in freshness and equals the broccoli and poisson a la chinoise dish for the best meal on Nuku Hiva. As I started lunch sitting in the shade, my normal guide Philip found me and that helped me get through all the food. Then, because I wanted to go up to the Territorial govt offices and find the person who organises the small husiness courses, Philip insisted he come up. Independent me wanted to go alone, god knows why I have to be something independent. Without Philip I would never have found the woman. Her English was as good as my French, so we didnt communicate fluently. Here if someone wants to start a business, they must get a license and to get this a person must complete a weeklong business course. When she asked would I consider coming to live here, with certain eyes, we both laughed. What an uphill battle it would be in this extended family environment where everyone takes offence easily, to teach someone how to be a profitmaking operator  - who speaks English. Well maybe more happened today but this 3rd beer is like the sea breeze, clearing my mind.

To remove confusion - maybe

It seems my blogs may not have been coming through in chronological order, because emails and comments received are sometimes out of step with where I am and what I have been doing. So ... I am now on the island Nuku Hiva where I landed first by plane over a week ago before flying off within hours to another island Hiva Oa. This island Nuku Hiva is my last island, and I will leave it permanently this Thurs afternoon (Friday afternoon eastern Oz time). Previously I had flown from Nuku Hiva for an airport stopover on the island of Ua Huka (to be weighed), before landing on the island of Hiva Oa. The main town there was Atuona and this is where I visited Gauguin's tomb and stood outside the still functioning colonial store that Gauguin frequented. From the port of Atuona I travelled by speedboat across rough seas to the island of Tahuata. I spent 2 nights here, toured parts of the island and saw an amazing petroglyph hidden in the bush, always ate and were connected to a local family, and slept across from the beach. Then I got onto the yacht for the first time, and we sailed (or rather I was sailed) to the next island named Uo Poa. I spent 2 nights based at Ua Poa but sleeping on the boat. This island was where I met the vivacious english teacher and her drop dead gorgeous husband, and had a road trip to a couple of small villages including watching some traditional wood carving men. Next I was sailed to this last island of Nuku Hiva. I arrived in the bay/harbour/township of Tai O Hae and this is the only place I have been so far, excepting the walk up into the bush to see a pre european traditional village remnant and recreation. This trip means I have been on and seen something of the 5 out of 6 inhabited islands of the many in the Marquesas. I have seen and experienced the real and authentic. My capitaine and guide Philip clearly met his brief. Since becoming a 'tourist' here by staying in a hotel and not being immersed in French speaking people, the relative isolation has shown me how rich the earlier experiences have been. I have told Philip that I count this as a success. Tomorrow, my last adventuring day will see me on the road with Philip showing me extradinary things inland, and having a lobster lunch at the famed Yvonne's restaurant. Forgetting a few unpleasant hours, this holiday has been a great pleasure and privilege.

Monday, 7 October 2013

I deserve this refreshing Hinano beer

I left the hotel about 7.30 and its 4.45 and I still have a km to walk back there. This the oensione ehich was full when I aarived but orgnised Rose to collect me 2 days ago. Somehow I feel that by buying my first alcohol since that poisonous rum then red last Tuesday here, I am thanking the man here that got me the rest and recuperation I needed. I know he couldnt care but it is a matter of sincere gratefulness on my part.  In the early relatively cool hours in the morning Philip walked me up trails through the bush and sometimes near the remains of original walking 'highways' built pre europeans by the marquesans. Very sophisticated and I did walk in their footsteps. Have photos of original village site with lots of reconstruction and newer carved tikis. Plus one real Easter Island small head! Well worth most of the morning. I plod. P waits with patience. I am pleased he is my guide.  Back down and we sit watching everything and nothing on the harbour. We cross the road and get lunch. There are chinese people here so when P orders the Chow Mein Special I decide to break away from my fish food. Yes it was special. It was disgusting but not so bad that I couldnt devour it all. After the efforts during the  morning, I needed sustenance. The most offensive thing was the high cost. Still ... I am putting lots of things down to experience. Then P wants to take me to a western sea view point past his old joinery business. It is now into the hot part of the day (I have been hot all day anyway) and P says this walking trip will he about 1.5hrs return. I think I can do it and agree. But out in the open with sesring sun and only half along the track seeing the very large mountainous outcrops yet to be reached leave alone climbed, I baulked. Returned slowly, resting in any shade. We agreed P went on ahead and I would get back at my own pace. Checked out the cemetary (love the culture of cemetaries - think its Felicities influence all those years ago when we were at art school). Checked out the tourist market, but had to decline almost everything because its made from seeds or wood and I cant be bothered with the problems this might make through customs coming back. Found a shop with books, may go back. Terribly in love with tattoos here, so if I dont get one tomorrow, maybe I will buy a book about them. Great day. Well my beer is empty. Better hit the road.

Dinner at Marie and Pocome's house

Back from the drive, Philip and I had no time to return to the boat so cleaned as best we could with beach taps in the dark. English teacher, 39 yr old Maria, picked us up and in no time we were in her very cool and spacious house. She has a very good friend who lives in Sandy Bay. She will be visiting Tasmania at the end of 2015. I will be able to repay their generous hospitality. Maria was born in France and her English was learned in Ireland so her accent is a delight. Her Marquesan husband of five years is the most strikingly handsome Marquesan I have seen so far. They have two girls - one just started school and the other very young. Maria lives Ua Poa and has lived there for 14 yrs and has learnt to speak and understand the Marquesan language. The food ... hors d'oeuvres was bread stick slices with a mixture of 3 distinctly flavoured cheeses. Simple, tasty and stylish. Main course ... sashimi tuna slices, a shaped hump of rice, her own homemade garlic sauce with other now forgotten ingredients, a salad with tomato, cucumber and ???, there was more.  It was all so stylish and on beautiful white fine china plates with a black and white patterned rim. Turned out to be their wedding plates. I had a proper decaf coffee while everyone else tucked into chocolate eclairs (from the hospitality part if the Tech school just as we might Genia). Wonderful night and I look forward to keeping in touch. Of course the night finished with Philip and I paddling out to the yacht.

Friday on Ua Poa

I think an earlier blog had me visiting the Tech school and returning to the Pensione for its WiFi access - which I didnt get because noone
was there. So I lay down and rested some more. Suddenly I hear a car then Philip rushing in saying 'lets go. I have found a family to take us on a driving tour'. For the next 6 hrs after a pizza lunch at their house, we travelled many kms on the usual rough 4WD roads and saw heaps of things of interest. Some examples, the aqua blue bay with small sharks swimming around and very visible in the clear water from the cliff we stood on. The freshly opened coconut for each of us to drink the delightfully refreshing water. Try as I might there was too much for me to drink it all like the locals. Passed the airport with a very steep tarmac to slow the planes down quickly - reminded me of those internet compilations of the worlds most dangerous landing strips. With this one, there was the beach, a single lane gravel road, a 5ft fence and then the start of the tarmac. Copra drying on all sorts of surfaces. A girl in one of the two small villages we visited coming up to our car saying 'hello helen'. She had been in the class I had talked with that morning. Acacia trees overtaking the native vegetation. Quite dramatically terrible. (Remember the miner birds we are trying to keep out if tassie have overrun Hiva Oa but not the other Marquesan islands). Noel and Julienne's family all come from last village. Family long time ago installed huge christian cross on dramatic hill, to supplant earlier local pagan connections with that site. Sensational drive. Quite marvellous,

Arriving in Ua Poa

On Thursday early in the afternoon, we arrived in the bay of the main town on the island of Ua Poa. At this stage its approx 36hrs since I have eaten, and I am feeling weak and despondent. Got into the dinghy okay enough, 'but there was a better way', but my pre departure concern about this part of the journey was unfounded. Then we had to paddle ashore. One of the hardest things I have done in a long time but I knew that if I didnt keep my end up I would never get to shore. Eventually brushed onto the sandy edge. We jumped out and dragged the dinghy for what seemed like miles along the beach (well with my feeble paddling we landed not in a convenient spot) and above the high tide mark. Then padded into town until we found a shop. My first 'meal' was a box of mango cordial masquerading as juice, and a packet of potato chips. 'You have got to get some salt in you. Besides the potatoes contain Vitamin C'. I snorted. They did fill a gap, then I felt fortfied to try and persuade local people to let me have a shower at their place. And I was desperate to clean my teeth. No immediate joy, so found a bank and post office, and transferred by postal order some Francs back to Joelle and Kiki on Tahuata. Back to meet Philip enjoying another beer, and this time I was successful and got a much needed shower and general clean up. We took a walk along the waterfront and up the hill to the Pensione. I continued to enjoy fresh water while Philip sipped on something a little stronger. I remember the most marvellous breeze and view of the harbour. And I remember the most outstandingly wonderful physique in the host as he wore only a sexy pair of shorts, baring beautifully muscular slim legs, a 6 pack to die for, and a very attractive sculpted face. Obviously ex French military. Eventually we needed to leave that Adonis. We stocked up with provisions for a meal back on the boat, collected the dinghy and paddled madly (in my case) out to the yacht. Simple meal which suited me fine. Then I went back to bed as Philip settled into a night cap of a couple of rums. So, as crap as I felt on arrival, by the end of the day I was feeling more positive. And while the afternoon on shore hadnt been full of activity, everything I saw was new and therefore interesting.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Departing Tahuata

Joelle drove me down to the wharf with stop over to say goodbye to Solange, mairie of island at her govt offices, and then onto the wharf. Waves washing into concrete steps so I wondered whether I would slip off and have an unscheduled swim. By now we all knew that the outboard motor was a dead deal (Kiki said to me it was too old and will never work. Philip says to me he only needs to get it back to Nuku Hiva and he can clean it out and get it working again. I like optomistic people. Reminded me a little of Uncle Ted in that regard.) and two paddles had been gifted to us for rowing the dinghy. With all the gear and gifts we had to load onto the dinghy, I was quietly resigned to the coming circus as I would try and do my bit for rowing across the rising swell of the bay to the yacht. I couldnt imagine success. As we had driven along the esplanade, we had passed a meander of young French tourists. As it happened as we were about to get the dinghy loaded, their tourist run-about boat was motoring in to collect them. Before long Philip and I and all our gear was loaded onto this vessel with the tourists, and the dinghy was set up for a tow. Before long we were on board Wendy Windblows without any loss or slippage. I waved back to shore to all the people who had been such good hosts and guides, feeling both sorry to leave and excited for the first sailing leg. The sun was shining, the rapidly rising gullies gleaming with green health before us, the swell crashing onto the stony beach, the 4WDs going off to resume the business of the day. These were my final sights before disappearing below. 'Cup of tea before we start?' and Philip brewed real Green Tea. Seemed like a perfect way to start, Without rushing. Soon the gravelly sound of the anchor being pulled up, marked the beginning of the trip to Ua Poa. Once we motored out of the bay and as Philip was setting the first sail, I felt the first confusion in my stomach. Ros had fervently urged me to take tablets just in case of seasickness, even though in all my life on every conceivable sort of boat large and small I had never been sick. So I went down to my sleeping quarters to get my medicinal help. From then on until we reached Oa Poa, I only stuck my head out on a few occasions to see Tahuata disappearing, and then 24 hrs later to see Oa Poa appearing. Mostly I was horizontal on my bed or wedged on the galley floor. This was the trip that apparently should take about 14 hrs. It was also a trip where missing Oa Poa completely, and having extra sailing to 'find' the island was  not expected. But I believe in Philip's thorough understanding of his boat and the sea and the winds.

Protestant church

Well I have done the rounds! Walking back to the hotel, down the road to the airport, came the sounds of singing. Up the hot hill I trudged until, as I reached the entrance door, people started leaving. Using an extraordinary nice ritual.  The ministers were out first and as each parishioner passed they stood in line. Then each in turn after shaking all the precedinh hands. As I tried to get out of the way, I was linked into the lengthening now circular line with lots of puzzled bonjours. Puzzled but happy and accepting. Small church with seating onky about 50. Can see where the religious power is here on Nuku Hiva. Which reminds me. Back at Oa Poa, english teacher Marie had to get permission from the Principal for me to enter her class. We werent sure if he was joking when he said I could as long as I didnt talk about religion or politics. Phew. These petty bourgeousie are a long way from home and I wonder what that power trip was about. Maybe local politics is more delicate than I have understood.

Catholic Church

About 1km along the road back to town from my hotel, it was obvious a church was up the side road. 4WDs everywhere and women dressed up Marquesan style walking towards the building. The service had started when I entered but I found a seat. Estimate 1000 people in there. June you would have been enraptured with the congregation's singing harmonics. So fabulous, brought tears to my eyes. Everyone sings and for the most part exceptionally melodic. And predictable so that I hummed or la la la'd throughout. Extraordinary way of starting many songs with the high soprano voices then suddenly like the melodic crash of waves on the shore, the male bass and baritones would enter the song. Amazing sound. The sort which makes you feel happy to be alive. Service in French not Marquesan. Would be just another way France would show its domination. Was last to leave after looking at the wood carved stories on the walls. And finally the soft paw of the priest passed through my hand in farewell. Continued to walk towards town looking for the oppositions Protestant church. Instead found the only shop open for the day. Bought tinned sardines from Morocco, and tinned vegetables where they have pull tops so I can get into them. Otherwise there won't be much food around. Rose will cook specially for me if I really want it but I will let her be - only 2 others staying there. French Poly closes for Sunday. Every Sunday. Rather like our Good Friday. Right now I am sitting under a tree staring out into the large bay with with its bobbing boats, and with cool breezes swirling around. Feeling better in spirit by the moment.

Thanks for...

So grateful for all your emails, and comments (which I cannot publish for some technological reason at this stage). Having baguette breakfast (regrettably couldnt avoid bread this morning). But now know church starts in 20 mins at other end of town so cant blog. Later. Also now know in celebration of young birthday near hotel will be dancing at noon. Wont miss that either. Name of hotel is Rose Corser's He'e Tai Inn, and perfect choice for me. Probably upmarket price but not pretentious.

Wed morning leaving Tahuata

The usual early wake, repack, and Joelle is outside waiting to drive us back to her house. Breakfast of fresh baked that morning long bread sticks, the largest ever avocados I have seen, more of her brilliant confiture (a blend of guava, lemon peel, vanilla bean grown in the Marquesas, and I have forgotten what else), small sweet bananas of course, and Nescafe coffee. Other foods on the table included pot of peanut butter branded Skippy. This is typical, comfortable, talkative, and relaxed for everyone except Joelle who is trying to get eldest son (named east wind in Marquesan possibly aged about 8yrs) to eat his breakfast and get ready for school. Just like Mums all over the world. Eventually she and I take him to school. Back at the house another man has arrived to help Philip fix the outboard motor so we can get to the yacht in the dinghy. Joelle takes me up into the back of their lush property where we pick limes from the mother of all such bearing trees, smallish tree but loaded, and spiky. She has developed a drop pocket gadget at the end of a pole that you can insert into the vegetation and pull off each lime without being attacked by the tree. We filled a bag that turned out to be part of their farewell gift for us. Next we went up into another part of the garden where she was growing cucumbers, and endless bushes of a type of basil. Here she cut off the purple flowering heads. Down at the house I then had a demonstration and actually made my own parting floral necklace interspersing the basil flowers with long sections of complex creamy white/yellow flowers. Felt immensely privileged. She packed a box with avocados, grapefruit with a new pot of guava chutney. We packed many cars. Farewells were made to host Kiki and his 64 year old friend they wanted to marry me to (who is rich and has lots of pigs) - cant believe I almost went to write that here in my pigeon French rather than in English. Have had to speak so much French that sometimes I respond to English speakers in French. Of course my ability is dreadful, but I can be understood and can find ways to understand people who have no English. So parting from that wonderful and generous family was a bitter sweet moment. And I was the first tourist they had really met in this sort of way. I am immensely grateful for Philip talking his way into this. I know it has been a good and new experience for him as well. He hadn't known the people until the morning before he met me, so a great achievement all round.

What a difference a night makes

Still swaying but not nauseous. To bed about 7.30 and awake with the cock crows endlessly plural at 5, but feel great. Just squeezed a fresh Tahuata lime into a glass of water and its exhilarating. Door open with day's warmth beginning to enter and sun is up.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Poisson a la Chinoise

Fresh, flavoursome, wonderful. My kind of food. Raw fish mouth sized pieces mixed through with a little chopped garlic and extensive juliennes of fresh ginger, strips of red and green capsicum with a sweet lemon/lime juice slightly sweetened. Eaten cold. Partly supported by green lettuce cup. Difficult to imagine a better meal. Washed away driveway to negotiate in the dark back to my room but have trusty mini torch - so I can see where I fall if that's to be. Still swaying from the boat. Hope wont take too many days to pass. Philip and I are having a non contact day tomorrow. It will be Sunday and I want to see if Marquesan women are into elaborate hats at church like their Tahitian counterparts. And maybe over breakfast I can fill in some of the blanks in the blog.

Food

Part cooked hot broccoli with chopped garlic has never tasted so good. Now about to tackle Poisson a la Chinoise.

Arrived at Tai O Tae capital of Nuku Hiva island

Maybe also capital of all Marquesas. Head like scrambled egg. Cant grasp anything. Except the knowledge I am off the boat permanently and in a hotel run by, according to Philip, mad Rose. But she is american and therefore I dont have to think in French when I am communicating so she can be as and as she likes and I will love it. And she was an art historian before coming here over 30 yrs ago so guess we can get onto a similar wave length. Now she supports local arts and culture. I was immensely grateful when she came and collected from a hotel that had no rooms, and others were booked out. Have no idea of what the cost will be and frankly don't care.  But I am washed and clean, and after a good nights sleep should be able to write the revealing blogs covering the past days.

Ua Poa

Ua Poa main town is wealthier than at Tahuata and probably on a par with some of Atuona on Hiva Oa. Firmer more solid and larger houses. Better more beautifully floral gardens. More shops - in unexpected spots in different streets. This morning went back to the place I showered yesterday and felt cleaner for it. As I sit here alone in the Pensione (no-one here so can’t get WiFi code, and still can’t buy a sim card on this island), I feel the effects of the boat as I sit here swaying and nauseous with it (although that might be the effect of the salad roll I bought for breakfast with weirdly pink sliced pretend meat). Also I don't think all the bread is agreeing with me. Hmmm maybe I will have to get off and stay off it once on Nuku Hiva. Tech school teacher Marie was exuberant about this place but I haven’t seen enough and haven’t been on my own enough to get my own take on it. Brilliant high peak views from harbour and this Pensione on the hill. I know these blogs are lacking some joie de vivre, but then so am I. Yesterday decided not to take a day tour here, when I realised it would be endless 4WD miles over very rocky roads to see only another village similar to the outlying villages on Tahuata, and similarly with the petroglyphs(this was not really how I felt so much as my real problem being that I have not yet recovered from sea sickness, is influencing all my judgements). The tiki face petroglyphs on Tahuata, up to which Joelle had with others built a walking track, will be hard to be beaten. Even guide Philip Beardmore said they were indicative of a different development of image than those on his favourite place Nuku Hiva.

Tech school

Has two english teachers and I was introduced to English speaking ex France teacher Marie. I was, after gaining Principal's approval, allowed to meet her class. Perhaps 15 year olds and we all spoke in English. My god they could say Tasmania so well so quickly but there was no way I could pronounce many of their numerous syllablled surnames. We all laughed and I begged their pardon a great deal. Met the teacher for Construction so have a feel that it , might in some way have similarities with our Tafe although perhaps not many. Marie has invited me and unmet Philip to dinner at her house tonight.

Shall I go crazy?

After I ate something yesterday, and walked a little, found a place that could give me a shower, I came better. By the time we rowed(!!!) back to boat, I was fine. Ate tea and slept fine. We won’t leave Ua Poa until tomorrow and that depends on which way the wind blows. Philip is very good at finding out things and making connections and he is trying hard to please. Now I am about to visit the local Tech school - without Philip. Phew. Its all so stimulating. Almost too much to digest. Dont think the school is like our Tafe, but will see. Then on to the Pensione on the hill with WiFi to send and receive.

From the up to the down

Or another way of saying this is things aren't always plain sailing. Some is comedy of errors and by the time I get home I will have forgotten. I was seasick from almost the first until we got here at Ua Poa and laid horizontal almost entire way. Should have taken 12-14 hours and took over 24. The boat on autopilot with Philip checking about every hour, steered itself a long way from here. Am really weak but at post office trying to send money back to Tahuata because they didnt take dollars. But sun and satellite have lined up so postal order can not be sent. I am a long way from anywhere and right now would like to be at home. Of course once I can keep some food down, I will think more positively. Never in my life have I been seasick so it is a sickening surprise and setback. But of course only temporary.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Second day in Oa Poa

In a local house with Joel and Julienne mother and Julienne daughter using strange keyboard neither French or English arrangement; many blogs on tablet when I can get to a WiFi to send them; cannot access my gmail; just had pizza lunch; when in Rome do as Romans do; apparently off on driving tour this afternoon; who knows what will see;

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Floral garlands

On my first night here on the island of Tahuata, Joelle had made me the biggest thickest floral necklace as a welcome. C'est tres magnifique! This morning she gave me a flower for behind my ear, and showed me a bag of flowers that she is going to make up into a new necklace for me as we leave later this morning. It is moments like this that the words 'I feel truly blessed' come to mind. I guess that works in this large town of say 500 people where the size of the church exceeds the size of any house by huge amounts. Well this town is the capital of this island.

Sensory overload

People here want to marry me off to a Marquesan. I laugh with everybody. Many have trouble even speaking French, and speak their own language. My French is a little better in terms of making myself understood. But I use one noun, or one adjective or a verb at a time. Nothing grammatical, except occasionally. Give me more of this immersion and I would develop a fluency. Generally I am so tired with the concentration that is required. Then there is the fatigue from the millions of details of observation. Not to mention containing a 2 year old on my lap and there around, as his mother drives expertly over the very rocky 4WD roads and he wants to drive. You know how I love children. Not. But I smile and laugh, and the world spins - or it my head this morning. Swig of bootleg liquor yesterday as we drove. Too many brown rums finished with a poisonous red wine last night. Did I say it impaired my judgement? After dark, and after dinner last night, I decided to go for a swim. The sand and gravel dragged at my bathers and the current wanted to sweep me off to New Zealand - and I was only knee deep in water holding onto a rock as it tried to take me away.  At that stage I had sense enough to get out. Town lights had mostly been turned off in those watery moments, so getting back through the large smooth pebbles to the bank took a while. I left a ton of sand in the shower. I know someone will write to tell me to be careful.  Yes. Yes. Yes. This is truly an amazing adventure. And I will be glad to sail today, so I can eat less, and not eat the foods that really are  not so good for me.

Yesterday was Tuesday

After great first night dinner and wave and cockcrow sleeping deprivation, last night and still on Tahuata, slept like a baby and didnt hear waves or cocks. In short yesterday a rocky 4 hr return 4WD trip to a coastal northern village, sighting kapok trees and the veritable garden of Eden along the way. Home made fruit beer strong with alcohol not altogether drinkable, so only had one swig. Stopped by at someone's house for the township shop for icecreams  Taro. Visited friends of Marqisan driver and talked about their honey business in need of all equipment (I to send contact details of our Tassie french honey producer), and how govt spraying pesticide and killing bees. Back into main town and museum visit. Back 'home' for sumptuous local lunch. Off to look at petroglyphs, and original stone platforms via southern 4WD road in afternoon. Dinner. Simply brilliant day. Today we sail for Ua Poa.

Dinner and local friends

On shore Philip and I were driven up to the house of Joelle and Kiki, their 2 children, 2 dogs and two stocky puppies. Brilliant dinner of local fish and goat. Sensational. Joelle made a special bed for me upstairs in nearby chalet at waters edge, and Philip slept downstairs. The crashing of the waves penetrated my ear plugs and so I almost feel a little seasick this morning. This is all simply the best experience.

Les magasins and speeding

Off we drove into Atuona to find a shop for food, and scoured the shelves for food stuffs. Then onto a second shop for a couple of bottles Tahitian rum. Back in the car, down to the water, load everything onto shallow yellow speedboat. (Its morning as I write and how the cocks crow). Eventually after much toing and froing we were slamming on the waves. What had looked fairly calm from on shore were seemingly mountainous waves. It took us an hour or so to travel past Hiva Oa and across and onto Taota (however that is spelled). I was deliciously wet from the experience and severely salted and wind blasted. But it was exhilarating. And I realise the skill of one of the Marquesans was second to none to negotiate those seas in our craft. It truly was a test. No hint of seasickness.

Gauguin's tomb

Marquesan Philip and Nickola drove the winding roads from the airport with my slightly deaf in one ear Philip in back seat with me explaining the coming end of the daylight as urgent reason to get out on the water. But first the cemetery which we did in  a rush. Atuona quite largely populated because of French military base. Have photos of Gauguin's rough granite rock grave. Someone has left a paintbrush along with frangipani flowers. Perched on top of a hill in a big terraced cemetary, Gauguin has a great final view across the hills, part of town and the sea.

Arrived in Marquisis

After much delay we flew out of Nuku Hiva and towards Hiva Oa, but landed for a 'technical' at Ua Huka. The estimated cinq minutes of course was 3/4 hour, during which time we all had to be weighed (damn that chocolate and banana crepe from Tahiti) so it could be determined how many more people could travel with us and how much more baggage could be added on. Eventually the Twin Otter lifted off and I wondered if my unweighed heavy backpack might bring us undone (or down). Then on we flew to the destination island. Eventually we wound through valleys and as we seemed to be skimming tree tops there was the landing strip. In such sensory overload that cannot remember the airport, but do remember seeing Philip wave to me. I waved back puzzling as to how he picked me. Hmm, I was the only western woman to get off (Belgian woman was still to come).  It was then busy with explanations how he couldnt sail to get me because of the extreme wind. He introduced me to another Philip and Nickola who were going to take us to another island Tahoata, on their speed boat. Having an amaxingly fabulous time. More in next blog.

Remembering - Gauguin's women in the shade

Yesterday yielded another delight. My theory holds up. When the Tahitians sit under a tree, the colours of their skin and of their clothes greys somewhat. It is difficult use the words of art curators who choose brilliant, rich, glowing, etc. It is patently not true. Thanks to my visit to the rooms of Gauguin paintings in the Hermitage and now Tahiti, I have seen a new way of understanding Paul Gauguin's Tahitian paintings, and probably his Marquesan paintings. More research required. Perhaps a learned paper or article should be written, if I can be bothered.

Nuku Hiva airport

Small. No signage. Well designed for cooling cross breezes. Unhappy Belgian because everything is wait, wait, wait and it is soooo expensive for us at 1000 euros a day. We can afford so little time here because of the cost, yet we must wait and wait. Aparently road from capital is tortuous and takes almost 2 hours to get to the airport by 4WD. Must figure that in for my flight out of the Marquisis. Loved the trip up north. Dozed. Watched the clouds with their territory marking shadows on the white topped sea. Saw other French Poly islands and endless coral reefs on a massive scale. Regrettably on wrongvside of plane as departed Tahiti and arrived at Nuku Hiva so saw little land. Nevertheless I can say it is very flat and almost treeless at this end of the island and perched atop a plateaued cliff something like Table Cape at Wynyard. Aircraft magazine explained they were not allowed to sell all seats to keep weight down - because the air strips are not long enough to land with extra weight. So we all had two seats and I guess this explains the high cost of the flight. And we used the entire length of the runway so I am glad the pilot did his job properly. Waiting for my delayed next plane to Hiva Oa. This will be a smaller plane and again, cant have every seat sold. All of this reminds me of a landing I did in central New Guinea where the pilot had to land on a short uphill strip that slowed the plane down naturally. Take off was downhill and suddenly you were off the cliff hoping the plane knew it was time to fly,

Yesterdays memories

Such memories are already fast fading. There were blowholes coming through the edge of the road, waterfalls full with recent rain throwing cooling spray my way, grotto with kids and their boom boxes, gardens full of tropical plants some previously seen and unseen, and miles and miles of changing coastline and mountainous hinterland. I saw the soaring peaks of Tahiti's highest mountain, and I saw the Diadem which is in the photograph at the top right of my blog under the email box. I learnt that most people go to church on Sunday, and the ladies compete with the largest and most outstanding hats -  saw some through the open doors of churches as we passed by. Meanwhile the Tahitian equivalent of a Hungi is cooking a pig, bananas and taro etc beneath the ground, so it is ready after church for the big eating session. I learnt the Tahitian language is being taught in schools again as part of reclaiming what was lost during the time of the missionaries. The native language in the Marquisis is very different and not understandable hy Tahitians. I saw staring dogs, a comfortable cat, a red rumped bird, and metal shields on the coconut palms to stop the rats running up the trunks for a tasty meal of the young nuts. I was hypnotised by the endless sparkle on the sea, and alert to the living conditions of the locals. Reminded me of how Mission Beach and Port Douglas used to look before development. And finally we had lunch near Mataeia the second place where Gauguin lived, and passed through Punnaieaa the first place where he lived. I looked up at the internal mountainous view that he would have had, and I looked to sea and saw Tahiti Iti and the line of breakers over the line of coral reef that he would have seen. I am satisfied that I have 'walked' as closely as I could do, in Gauguins footsteps.

Technical difficulties

My plane is now delayed an hour or two but I dont know the extent of the technical difficulties. I have been assured my connecting flight wont leave until this one arrives at my first stop. Regrettably they wont let me back out into the main concourse. Could have hunted for sim cards now all shops are open. Lots of honeymooning american sweet young things including one wearing an outrageous body hugging T shirt with the words Just married rhinestoned across the front. I reckon she imagines noone will recognise her and she can get some photo opportunities to show the giver back home that she wore it.

Fockers

A small row of Focker Friendships (is that they were really called or is this early morning sleep deprivation deluding me?) is sitting on the tarmac. Regardless, they take me back to growing up in Burnie, and then being grown in Armidale NSW.  So guess there are quite a number travelling to the Marquise. Sitting under a ceiling fan as the dawn moves apace. Feeling puzzled and trying not to feel dismayed. My cash passport card has been rejected by two ATMs. Could be a lean holiday in a place where cash is king. Nevertheless, feeling great frisson of excitement about what the future holds.