Heiva, the month-long
Tahitian festival was taking place while we were there and we were taken
to the Fire Walking Ceremony by Roti Aubry, an old friend, and
her sister Françoise Aubry-Teriierooierai, one of whose
many cousins was the high priest. This entitled us to flower leis and
the best seats close to the Minister of Culture. It was pouring with rain
when we arrived, but this stopped after an invocation from the high
priest. Before the ceremony started we watched
After prayers and blessings
for the fruitfulness of the Tahitian air, seas, water and
earth, the priests walked the hot stones followed by the public. We were
told that we would be purified for a year after this experience.
Here I am, triumphant after
my 'stone walk' with Françoise on my left and Roti below her.
... but his purity was not
long-lived. We arrived back at the marina starving where MacDonald's was
the only eating place left open. Anders ate two Royale hamburgers with
cheese, a fruit juice, a milk shake and chips...
Roti and Françoise welcomed
us into their extended Tahitian family. There is a road full of 'Aubry'
houses, Papi (the grandfather seen first on the right below), his six
daughters and husbands, their children, some of whom are married with
their own small children... There was always someone who could babysit,
and now he is superbly looked after by his entire family.
We, more prosaically, had
to sort out our fridge/freezer and generator problems and hope that our
food had not defrosted in the freezer of our kind ex-gendarme friends,
Jean Jacques and Jenni whom we met in Raivavai four years ago and who
have now retired in Tahiti.
The dances are beautifully
choreographed and feature solo dancers and a full corps de ballet with
their own orchestra of players and singers. In all, about 120
people take part in each group.
Luckily our new fridge
compressor had arrived from New Zealand and had been
successfully installed literally two days before our
friends, Colyn and Les arrived to join us for ten days from Auckland.
We sailed straight over to Moorea where we anchored in Cook's Bay.
We stopped for lunch at one
of those little roulottes, small wayside caravan eating places for which
Tahiti and Moorea are famous. We are eating baguettes stuffed
with interesting marinated chicken pieces wrapped in salad, not easy,
I took mine apart in the end and ate the bits with my fingers.
We did an over-nighter
passage from Moorea up to Huahine, we have done this trip twice already
and each time we have had disturbed seas and unpleasant conditions.
For Colyn and Les it was their first night watch, which they did together
and they loved it. It was heiva time in Fare, the main town of Huahine,
and Chris is trying out the fruit growers yokes to test his
ability to run the race...
The Polynesians also make
attractive fibre bags and baskets from the different plants
growing on their islands.
Four years ago we had
donated a British flag to Leo who has an amazing collection hanging from
his restaurant roof. Here is our flag next to the royal Danish flag, which
Anders thought was most appropriate! This particular flag was left on
Carelbi when Chris bought her, we are not members of that particular club
and have never flown it, indeed do not know which club it represents
in the UK, so if anyone can tell us, you know where to send the
One small Taha'anian who
had heard it all before, daughter of the guitarist in the yellow dress,
sleeping on the terrace outside the restaurant.
Colyn was arrayed in a pareu by one of the dancing girls and is
trying to get her hips moving correctly... Mostly the dancing is done to
drumming music and has a most infectious rhythm.
We took Colyn and Les over to Raitea to catch their planes back to
Tahiti and New Zealand, it was too short a holiday with them. Chris
and I said a sad goodbye to Taha'a in the cool, pink dawn, not sure
that we would ever see her again
The next day Chris and I
decided to walk and hitch around the perimeter of the island. Anders
decided to jog the eight kilometres involved and we set off in different
directions. Chris and I probably managed to walk a maximum of two
kilometres in the blazing heat of early morning. We then met this splendid
gentleman, a local gendarme, with his pick-up and tannoy system
driving around telling all Maupitians that a New Zealand dance team were
coming to perform shortly. We jumped on the back of his truck and had the
best free tourist trip, meeting Anders jogging scarlet-faced halfway
around and arriving back at the same time!
I think we grow these
things in Europe in pots as house plants, here they flourish like
On the way from Anse Amyot
to Tahiti we decided to fish. Bill put up a good fight for a fat tuna and
Anders, together with Chris, gaffed a beautiful mahi mahi aboard. The mahi
mahi is the prince of eating fishes with lovely firm flesh and is good as
sashimi, cooked in an Indonesian curry, fried in butter with a little
Tahitian dancers, it was
very dark and difficult to photograph, but you can just see the stones
which had been cooking for 24 hours on top of smouldering fires behind the
I admit to having
been scared, but after Anders had crossed and promised to hold my
hand I felt that I could not look myself in the face again if I did not
'walk the stones' when given the opportunity; it would be one of
those deathbed regrets. They felt hot but not
burning to my feet and I felt slightly light-headed and
very peaceful as I walked across them, there was no compulsion to hurry.
If you look carefully, you can see the flames still flickering among the
stones. I do not pretend to understand how this is possible.
Anders looking peaceful and
purified after his double walk...
Tahiti has a wonderful
fruit and vegetable market every morning, on the floor above which you can
buy pareu and crafts from all over French Polynesia, in particular
costume jewellery made from oyster shells imaginatively mixed with the
lovely shells that one finds in this part of the world.
Anders was whisked away by
a couple of the many cousins and we hardly saw him for a week or more as
he was shown Tahiti by night and driven around the island by day, once
they had all woken up.
One of the highlights of heiva for me is the dance and song
competition. The full choir sings 'Himene' - songs and chants
of Tahitian legends, interspersed with soloists singing 'Ute', a
Tahitian version of our 19th century vaudeville acts and which have the
audience rocking with laughter. If only we could have
Below shows the finale of a legend about an ogress who tries to
murder and eat her own daughter, but who is conquered by the young
would-be lover of her daughter, who then has to work quite hard to win her
heart; she does not give it quickly. All the costumes are home-made from
local shells, materials, palm leaves and other natural fibres. They are
quite stunningly beautiful.
The next day we hired scooters and set off around the island. there
is one road around the perimeter of the island, as in most of the Pacific
islands but Moorea does have one hilly climb, up to the 'Belvedere'
where we had a stunning view of the mountains and both Cook and Opunohu
In Polynesian islands everyone wears flowers tucked behind their
ears. The convention is that if your heart is taken, you wear the flower
behind your left ear, a flower behind the right ear signifies that you are
free and looking!
We stopped off at the Tiki Village, which had a
little theatre overlooking the lagoon and a pearl lodge. A young
Tahitian was practising flame dancing in the arena, but without the
We found local crafts in a small thatched hut and looked for present
to bring back to Europe on the tables of lovely necklaces made from
the local shells and mother of pearl.
We really wanted to spend most of our time in Taha'a so we left the
little village of Fare on Huahine at lunchtime and headed over to
the Toahotu pass where we managed to get into Haamene Bay just
in time to pick up a buoy at Leo's Hibiscus hotel. Leo buys, or is
given, turtles from the fishermen who inadvertently catch them
in their nets. If they have been hurt or are too small they
are kept in his pens until able to survive better in the wild,
when they are released.
We were really lucky that the Tuesday night we turned up at Leo's
was the weekly dance night at the restaurant and in addition to an
excellent buffet we were treated to some splendid ukulele, guitar and
polyharmonic singing from the group below. The women have amazingly
strong, almost harsh, voices and start off a song, with the men
joining in afterwards with the harmonies.
We were all encouraged to try to dance Polynesian fashion which is
incredibly difficult for European hips, we just don't gyrate the same way
at all; above all we're not used to keeping the tops of our bodies totally
still. Les here is trying to do the male dance which is based on an
odd sort of scissoring movement with the legs and is particularly hard
work on the upper thighs and knees!
Together with Anders, we headed off to Maupiti, a new experience for
all of us as the pass in through the reefs there is very narrow and tricky
and the weather had not been propitious in previous years. This is
the little church where we spent a wonderful hour listening to the
Maupitians singing hymns the Sunday morning after we arrived.
We can never stop marvelling at the blues in Pacific waters, this is
a little beach inside the lagoon in the north of Maupiti. Our friendly
talking guide took us everywhere, up and down the little side roads, over
the mountains in the middle and right round the perimeter.
Some of the lush vegetation and a glimpse of the bay where we were
anchored just around the corner of the headland.
Thank you all for looking at our travels in the Society Islands. I've
tried to give a flavour of the different islands and our activities and
hope that you've enjoyed sharing them.