Carelbi in Isles des Societes

Thu 10 Aug 2006 04:24
                            CARELBI IN THE SOCIETY ISLANDS




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 information.


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 weeds!






















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 tarragon...



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 dancers.


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 understood...
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 bays simultaneously.
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 flaming sticks...
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.