Here we are 3000, miles from mainland Mexico and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most everyone who cruises on a boat has made the comment of why they voyage to other countries to experience the culture of different people and lands. Well, I know I have. There is a difference though between saying it and doing it. I have many fond memories of being invited into the homes of many Mexican friends throughout my travels in Mexico. Their family run businesses and restaurants all have become memorable and their friendships have provided hours of cultural experiences.
Yes, our goal on Dazzler is to immerse ourselves into the culture of the places we travel, the islands we visit and try in our short time period of a 90 day visa to meet the locals.
We are similar to the other boaters in that sense of having a desire to catch up with a few emails upon our arrival. As we look around the cafe that has free internet, we see the masses huddled around there electronic devices trying to squeeze out some sort of internet connection. Well, according to Kevin at Yacht Services in Nuka Hiva, the island internet is provided by satellite only. In other words everyone on the island is trying to use the Internet portal at the same time and the result is like trying to squeeze a 25 pound turkey into a 5 pound oven. As you can guess cutting the turkey into five equal parts and cooking them one piece at a time is going to take a while.
The islands offer many different activities if you have a reasonable budget and an adventurous heart. Hikes to waterfalls, island tours or rental car road trips open up many adventures.
One of the things that Jilly and I have observed is that many of the yacht traveling crowds are sitting around with their noses buried in their electronic devices at those earlier mentioned WiFi spots. Buried to the point that they seem to be oblivious to things happening around them. And in some cases missing the culture happening all around them. We attempt to keep a watchful eye out for situational awareness. Constantly scanning what is happening around us for two reasons. The first is for our safety and the second is for cultural opportunities.
Just a few days ago was one of these days. We needed to go ashore to take the rental car keys back to the office. As it turned out Kevin, at Yacht Services, had called us on the radio and asked if we could return the car keys on Monday. Well, you know me, flexibility is my middle name. They call me Gumby Dammit. Ha ha ha. So, we decided to go into the snack shack at the petite quay (dingy dock) to send a few emails. While there, we saw the same group of boaters huddled around their electronic devices with their noses about two inches away as they stared into the screens waiting for the spinning wheel of death to stop turning and provide a message to the user of, “Message Sent!”
While at the snack shack, we noticed what looked like a family BBQ. They were cooking up fish and breadfruit on a grill made from a barrel that was cut in half and had wrought iron legs welded onto the bottom. One of the family members was walking toward his vehicle with one of the boaters and he asked me if I wanted a ride to buy some beer. It was Sunday and only one store was opened till noon. The snack shack didn’t sell beer, so I said, “Why Not!”
The man’s name was Henry and as it would happen he is the owner of the little restaurant. More about Henry later. He drove us to a little store that sold a few items including beer. For those of you wanting to know what beer costs in the Marquesas, Well it is $22.50 per six pack of 16 ounce cans of Hinano beer. Good thing the alcohol content is 5% by volume. Needless to say, everything on the island with few exceptions is brought here by boat or plane. I offered to provide Henry with a few dollars for fuel and he refused. On the way back to the restaurant, Henry asked that we don’t leave more than one beer in the open on the table at a time. I’m guessing it’s not in accordance with his restaurant license.
Once back at the restaurant I grabbed a couple of glasses from the counter and poured the beer into the glasses. While enjoying the first sips of Hinano beer, an older local man named Paul, a friend of Henry’s family, took a guitar from his vehicle and started playing and singing. He was facing away from the crowded restaurant and his collection of traditional island songs was amazing. Jilly and I sat listening and sipping our beer, until Henry asked me if I play. I told him that I played an Ukulele. Paul heard that, put down his guitar and returned with a 10 string Marquesan Ukulele and handed it to me. That was all it took. The next thing I knew, I was strumming his Ukulele as he played his guitar and we were jammin’. Gemma a Spanish woman from another boat soon joined us Paul handed her his guitar and went to his vehicle and returned with another 10 string Ukulele. She had an incredible voice. We were now a trio jamming together. What an experience. After several songs, Paul excused himself to go eat with Henry and his family. I took a short break also.
After many of Henry’s family and other friends had finished eating, several of the men including Paul returned to the instruments and started playing again. The local island music was incredible. I went back out to Dazzler to get my Ukulele and was once again invited to participate with them. We jammed for a few hours playing their traditional songs. We accompanied the music with broken communication and laughter. Music is truly it’s own language that spans the globe, cultures, languages and can be done without conventional speaking.
This day was one of my best experiences in the Marquesas hands down. Oh, and while all this was happening, many of those sitting at the tables had their heads buried in their electronic devices and completely missed what was happening around them.
Back to Henry, We are not sure, but it would seam as if Henry may be one of the island elders or at the very least one of the leaders. This we only guess from how the family members and community members interact with him. Many mornings around 0700 hours, many of the locals arrive at the Snack Shack and drink a morning beverage while speaking with each other in what sounds like old Marquesas dialect. They stay about an hour and then depart for their daily business.
Until next time, keep your head and eyes up. Who knows what opportunities may present themselves to you?
Dan and Jilly