A Hike

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 13 Mar 2011 04:05

At anchor, Baie D'Hakahetau, Ua Pou
Wind: North east, F3 Gentle breeze
Weather: Mostly sunny, warm

This morning I did a few odd jobs on board, the main one being relocating the head unit for the Walker log. It has been getting too much water in it with its previous location on the transom so I found a suitable U-bracket and have mounted it bit higher on the pushpit rail. As I was finishing up my neighbours, a couple, from the big ugly Lagoon came over and said hello. “A beautiful boat you have,” the man says. “Thank you,” I reply, “ and you have, er … a big Lagoon.” From the looks on their faces I do not think I will be getting any invites for a social visit soon. They asked me whether I had heard anything about more tsunamis, to which I responded no and they continued on their way in to shore.

After clearing up and lunch, some fusion cuisine, Vegemite a baguette, I rowed ashore for a hike to have a closer look at those pinnacles. On the way I found another interesting cultural site with many stone foundations alongside a slow running creek. The small site was well sign posted explaining the functions of the various areas. Several areas were communal living spaces, a site closer to the river was an irrigation area where a variety of crops used to be farmed. The river flows more slowly now because it has been dammed higher up. I was surprised to learn that the site was occupied and used in near traditional ways until the '80s but even so the sign said that the purposes of the various building could no longer be accurately determined. How quickly things get lost. I could not help but wonder about the wisdom of these people losing their self sufficient life style to now being dependent on exactly what I am not sure. There is nothing obvious being produced here, two small shops, two churches, one Catholic and one protestant, a few houses and that is about it. In our modern economic system a group of people this small would not constitute a viable unit of production. I have noted in my travels around the Marquesas that in a couple of places that used to support significant sized villages now nobody lives, or maybe just a family or two, which certainly does not constitute a community. I am not trying to make a judgement on this by the way, just an observation. I cannot but feel a little wistful that an interesting culture has vanished, and I doubt whether it was something anyone chose, it is just social evolution at work, as Schmookler would put it. After this contemplation and also noting a coconut palm that had fallen over, I studied its small root ball, hmm, more data towards answering my questions about the variety of coconut palms that abound, I continued on my way.

Another sign board had shown a trail towards the pinnacles, also describing their origins. Apparently the pinnacles are the result of a two part volcanic process. The first volcano creates the usual huge gone, like Hawaii, which is the island. This happened about four million years ago. Then later, about 2.4 million years ago, secondary volcanic activity caused magma to slowly push up through cracks in the old volcanic structures. This magma being somewhat cooler and denser than the original volcanic flows had less gas in it and consequently was much harder then the surrounding older volcanic residue, which continued to erode away leaving these impressive fingers of stone pointing to the heavens. Does this all sound reasonable Mark? (my geography teacher brother.) I wonder what the traditional Polynesians had to say about their origins? The signs mentioned nothing of this, nonetheless I was grateful for the information that was available, and in three language, French, Polynesian, and English. Thank you to who ever is responsible.

I continued my hike for an hour climbing a dirt road at not too steep an incline, good to get the heart rate up to a nice steady beat without overdoing it. I never did make it to the pinnacles, the roadway came to a stop at a gate to a private residence. I wasn't sure at first what it was and went through the gate thinking maybe the road continued past it. Many pot plants, a small shallow empty swimming pool, hens with chickens chasing and cheeping, a goat and kid, a small house, I wondered gingerly looking for my path not wishing to trespass on someone's privacy, when a hoy attracted my attention. An elderly man with a grey beard hailed me over to what was obviously a kitchen. Inside was the gentleman's partner and my neighbours from the Lagoon and a beautiful old Collie dog, looking tired but happy as old dogs do. I was immediately offered some strong spirits which I was encouraged to skol, it turned out to be schnapps. Everyone laughed as I recovered my breath. I was invited to sit down while conversation continued and was offered some home made egg liquor. Once again I am the mono-lingual dumfkin, and it took me a few minute to work out that everyone is talking German. So it turns out my hosts and my neighbours are German. I try to obtain information about continuing my trek but after the schnapps and egg nog it becomes clear to me that perhaps I have gone as far as I am going today. I sit patiently for a while but seeing as I am once again the odd one out listening to a conversation I have no idea about (I really am going to have to learn at least one other language to basic conversational level before I die – I hate being this dumb) after half an hour I decide it is time to continue on my way. I give up my quest to get any closer to the pinnacles for today, say merci and au revoir to my unexpected hosts and trek back to Sylph.

All is well.