Dear Family and Friends,
13th May 2015
Can you have too much of anchoring in beautiful bays, with dramatic hillsides and mountains, tropical vegetation, lovely houses carved into the slopes and a relaxed air, no I dont think so!
We arrived in Taiohae bay at 7am yesterday morning having shadowed Sofia (with extensively damaged rigging) from Atuona to here, to make sure that if anything happened help was at close quarters. Happily we all made it safely, their stay to await parts arriving from England, ours much shorter as we have flights booked from Tahiti.
Today, my birthday, we awoke to the sound of traditional drums and haka calls. Had Polynesia declared independence, were missionaries back on the menu, had they advance notice and prepared a birthday salute, none of the above! But they were certainly doing their warrior dancing, perhaps they practice like Morris men although the dance is all aggression and not a hanky in sight. Our guides tell us that they celebrate Tiurai around 14th July with traditional song and dance competitions.
And who could wish for a more special day, family excepted, than to be here in the Marquesas. A lazy wander into town confirmed local services of tourist office, bank post office, gendarmerie, shops and bakery. It boasts a Cathedral de Notre Dame which is hidden away, an archelogical site on the water front, home to the last chief of this area, a monument to the author Hermon Melville, who sets his novel Typee, here following an enforced stay at the village of Taipvie in 1843. Apparently it was a bestseller back in the 19th C, capturing the life of the islanders at that time. We spent some time at Rose’s ethnic museum which was interesting, lady who has collected and preserved significant artefacts long before any such notion reached here but the gem of the museum is Rose herself. An American with a wonderful wealth of knowledge and a passion for the Marquesas, she has lived and run a hotel here for many years.
It was here that we found out how Tapa cloth is made. They use the inner bark from the breadfruit, (inferior), Mulberry (best) or Banyan Trees, which is soaked in water, beaten with a thick wooden batten, soaked again, beaten until it is a fine flexible sheet. Formerly it was used for clothing, but when it rained the Marquesans stripped off, guess it didn’t do well in the rain. The missionaries persuaded them to wear cloth clothes as it was unseemly to go naked so the art has all but died out, save in Fatu Hiva. You do find tapa cloth with Marquesan art in other islands but the best traditional patterns and images we have seen was definitely the old man we purchased from in Omoa.
You can be really spoilt for handicrafts here, wood, stone and bone carvings, hand dyed cloth, seed jewellery, just make sure you have an elastic wallet.
Tonight we are going ashore, beaching on the surf so evening dress will need some careful thought, for a meal in Rose’s restaurant. Looking forward to that, the return trip in the dark after some wine should be even more interesting!
And tomorrow a tour and the following day a horseride to Anaho bay, (this is a girls day out, Alan prefers his transport with a throttle and gears). Should be great fun.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan