Tag: Cruising

Fatu Hiva Locals

As we arrive at the quay to make our hike to the waterfall here in Fatu Hiva we are greeted by a local woman, named Riva. She speaks fairly decent English and we seem to be able to communicate rather well. She walks up the road with us asking if we want any fruit and she also lets us know she can make us dinner. Down here it’s common for the locals to make dinner for cruisers, of course they do it for a price. It’s their way of making a little money and sharing some of their local culture. We tell her we will think about it. We do ask her about finding a tiki carver. We are interested in purchasing some tikis as we’ve heard they have some of the finest carvers in French Polynesia here on the island.
Riva leads us down the main road to the home of a man named Leona. I believe she tells us he is her uncle. His son escorts us into the covered carport where the tikis are carved. There is a fishing boat on a trailer in there as well. On a small table there are all sorts of tikis. Some are large, some small and some are not even finished yet. We look through them admiring the fine detail work that he puts into them. There is one that catches our eye that has the most beautiful wood grain to it. This one isn’t finished yet but Leona tells us if we want to buy it he will finish it while we were on our walk. “Really? You can do that in just a couple of hours?” we ask. “Oui, Oui.” He says with a giant smile. We pick out two others that we want and tell them we’ll return after our hike.
If you read the previous story you know about the hike to the waterfall. If not, you can read about it on the article posted June 13th. It was quite a hike.
After our long hike we return to the village and stop by Leona’s home. He and his son greet us and show us the completed tiki. Oh my, it’s so lovely. What fine work this man does. In broken English he invites us back into his home and introduces us to his wife, Florida. I’ll always remember her as that’s where I’m from. We walk into an open-air room where they literally have hundreds of tikis all wrapped up. His son explains that they will be sent to Tahiti and other islands to sell. Glad we got ours here at the source. They will be much more expensive in Tahiti. We paid 4000 CFP, which is about $40 USD for all three. In Hiva Oa I saw them and they wanted 4000 CFP for just one and they came from this very village and likely this carver.
Talk about simple living. As we wait for Florida to wrap our tikis I scan the home. There isn’t a single door or window, simply openings. No screens to keep the critters out either. In the next room I see a mattress, a pretty thin one, lying on the floor. In the adjoining room I see a small table and a couple of hard wooden chairs. As with most island homes here the kitchen is outside. I guess that helps to keep the critters outside instead of inside. Their walls and floor are bare concrete and there isn’t a knick knack lying about nor is there a picture to be found on any wall. The only things hanging on any wall were two Marquesan, eight-string ukuleles in the “tiki wrapping” room. Dan asks Leona if he can hold an ukulele and he nods in approval. Dan has never played an eight-string ukulele and he’s thought of purchasing one while we are here. He strums it a bit and hangs it back on the wall. It’s out of tune and not really what he wants. After ten minutes or so we are ready to leave. I ask Leona if we can get a photo with him and his son. He agrees so we step back out to the carport and I take a couple of shots. Interestingly in two of the three shots he and his son look off to the side. I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with their culture. Hmmm…. Tikis in hand we head back to the boat to rest up from our hike.
The following day we head to the village to seek out a bone carver. Here they carve all sorts of cool things from the bones of hogs and fish. They carve these absolutely beautiful swords using the bill of marlin. I’m specifically looking for some earrings carved from bone. At the quay we see Riva again and she leads us to her home where Poi, her husband, is a carver. Her home is directly across the street from Leona & Florida’s home. We walk up to the modest, open-air dwelling and onto a large, covered porch. The porch has a long picnic table set with a tropical print tablecloth. To the right, up two steps is another open-air porch that has two rooms at the back of it. These are their bedrooms. Once again, no doors or windows, only openings. They do have this beautiful carved wood opening along the railing though. No doubt that Poi carved it.
Riva gets a big piece of material and lays it on the table. Then she begins to lay out the carved pieces they have to sell. His work is beautiful and exquisitely detailed. It’s hard to imagine the time it takes to create even one of these works of art. Unfortunately they do not have earrings that are like what I’m looking for so we kindly explain we will look elsewhere. Riva does get us to agree to come back for dinner later. She even gives us a handwritten “ticket”. I can’t begin to tell you what it says or means but we know we have to be back at 1730 for dinner.
As we leave their home the skies open up and the rain begins to fall. We are basically stranded here with no umbrella. Fortunately I have my trusty Columbia rain jacket that folds into a pocket in my backpack. As we stand under a tree waiting out the rain Dan has a thought, “Did I close the forward hatch?” Oh no….this could be very bad as that hatch is over our bunk. Off we go in the now drizzling rain. He jumps in the dink and heads to the boat while I stand with a local, his son and a cruiser beside a bench that is covered here at the quay. I strike up a conversation with the cruiser. He’s a young man, maybe all of 25 years old. He came over as crew on a boat from Panama and likes Fatu Hiva so much he’s decided to rent a place and stay for a few months. When he’s ready to leave he’ll find another boat and crew to the next place. Wow! What a life! Oh to be that young and be traveling the world like this; I truly envy him. He seems to be a smart young guy and I enjoy talking with him but soon Dan returns and we must head to find the bone carver.
Just up the road from the quay is a sign pointing to the left that says, “Bone Carvings”. That looks promising so we decide to follow it and see what we can find. We see another sign on a house on the left just a short way down the road. Dan walks up but no one appears to be there. A lady up the road sees us and walks back to help us. Soon she is calling out for the bone carver. He is across the street and comes over to greet us. He speaks about as much English as we do Marquesan. This will be interesting. He guides us to a table under a roofed carport that is literally packed with stuff. And, in the midst of all this stuff that to most would appear to be junk is a late model Toyota truck in excellent condition. The Marquesan people put a very high value on their cars. They may have virtually nothing else by many of them have very nice vehicles.
His girlfriend or wife comes out and begins to lay out a piece of cloth to display their goods. Once again we see beautiful, detailed bone carvings. They have earrings, necklaces, swords, tikis and more. Still, I do not find earrings like I’m looking for but we do find two necklaces that I love. One is a tiki and the other a whale tale. Dan negotiates a deal and we buy them. While we are waiting for the carver (I never understood his name), his lady goes out into their yard and picks a bunch of fruit. She brings us a bag with pamplemousse, limes, oranges and more. It’s a gift for us for buying their carvings. We are humbled by their kindness.
We spend the rest of the afternoon on Dazzler in our hammocks just enjoying the beautiful bay and amazing views. Soon it’s time to head to Riva & Poi’s for dinner. We have no idea what to expect but we know it will be an adventure.
We get to shore and head over. She told us between 1730 & 1800 and of course Dan will make sure we are there exactly at 1730. On the way there we pass this covered shrine area where the villagers have gathered for a religious service. They are singing in Marquesan and it’s lovely. We stop briefly to enjoy the music but we can’t stay because Dan is watching the time and doesn’t want to be late. We reach Riva’s home and are the first to arrive, of course. Riva greets us at the rock steps leading up to the covered porch. We take off our shoes, as is custom, and walk inside. She tells us to have a seat at the picnic table. Then she comes over with some small, mismatched glasses and asks what we would like to drink. She has this bottle of what they say is like lemonade. It’s made from this fruit here. I’m not certain but I think it’s called Cortiso. It’s a bizarre fruit when you open it. It has these black seeds that are covered by a white, jelly like substance. The taste is very nice but it looks a little strange. Anyway, they put it in water and it’s a pretty nice tasting drink.
While we wait for the other cruisers she’s invited to arrive she gives us a tour of their backyard. It’s not really a yard as much as it is a garden like environment of dirt paths snaking their way around the fruit trees to a shed where Poi works making his carvings. Throughout there are tikis and shells and other ornamental things that add interest. There are flowering trees and plants providing dashes of color. It’s really quite lovely. It’s very interesting to see how these people live. They are definitely one with nature here. I’m not certain I could live quite as simply as they do but I do truly appreciate the fact that they do it and with a smile!
Before long another couple arrives. They are French but speak very good English. The man seems to be a bit more friendly than his wife so we make some small talk. Soon six other men arrive. All are French but one man in particular has lived in Miami and New York for years so they seat him at the end of the table with us. He has a slight French accent and his English is perfect. We have a very enjoyable time speaking with him throughout the evening.
Riva has a small card table that she sets the food on and everyone serves themselves. She has poisson cru (fish in coconut milk), goat, grilled chicken, small whole fish, a salad, breadfruit made two ways and more. Breadfruit is interesting. They serve it mashed, which has the color and consistency of mashed potatoes but they don’t put anything on it. I suppose with some butter and salt it could be pretty good. They also fry it like French fries, which would be really good with salt and ketchup but alas, they serve it with nothing so it’s pretty bland. As I come up to get a piece of goat there are no serving utensils. Riva tells me it is fine to use my hands. Okay, then, when in Rome. I reach in and grab a piece. And, I take a bit of everything except the whole fish…I’m okay with trying new things but I draw the line at eating anything that is looking up at me!
There are only two knives on the table for ten of us. The French lady has already taken control of the knife at our end of the table, so I pick up my goat and tear it into pieces. She looks at me like I’m some heathen and shoves the knife in my direction. Hey, Riva said using your hands is how they do it, so don’t look at me like that lady. Like I want to use a knife that you’ve been using on your food anyway. “No thank you.” I say calmly. She turns to the other end of the table and never acknowledges me again. Whatever, I’m here doing it like the Marquesan people and I’m definitely not here to impress you.
You’d think these French people haven’t eaten in weeks. They all, and I mean, all, go back three times for more food. Even the woman is scarfing down food like she won’t get another meal for a week. I am utterly shocked at how much food these people can put away. It reminds me of people at those all you can eat buffets back in the states. You know, eat every possible thing just because you can.
After dinner Riva brings out two platters with mango, heart of coconut and orange slices. The mango and orange slices are beautifully presented over the bed of coconut. If you’ve never had heart of coconut, it’s very interesting. It’s sweet and spongy, not like the flakes you typically think of when thinking of coconut. We all eat up the fruit and the French lady instructs Riva to give her all of the leftover coconut heart. Really? I mean I realize we’re paying for this meal but she never asks if anyone else would like to have it, she just assumes it is hers. This is part of the reason I’ve become so disenchanted with the French from Europe. The ones we’ve met here seem to have this “It’s all mine and I’m entitled to it” attitude. Oh well, if we want more coconut, we’ll actually buy a couple.
Our dinner there was interesting. The food, well, it was okay. I did learn that I truly love goat. Who would have thought that? I think the food would have been better if it was hot but it seems it was all made ahead of time and so it was lukewarm at best. I did LOVE the dressing she made for the salad. It is made of puréed mango, lime juice, vinegar, oil and Dijon mustard. It’s DELICIOUS! I’ve found that this is the dressing they use everywhere here in the Marquesas. I’m in love!
I will say I’m glad we went to this dinner. It was an experience and one we will not forget.
Tomorrow we are off to Tahuata again as we head north. From there we will spend some time on the northern side of Hiva Oa before heading off to Nuka Hiva. There’s still so much to see before we make our way to the Tuomotus. Lots of fun times ahead.
Until next time,


The Fatu Hiva Waterfall

Fatu Hiva Waterfall & Grotto
Dan and I aren’t the type of people to let a little setback keep us down so we woke up this morning with a renewed vigor and dedication to make it to the ever elusive waterfall here in Fatu Hiva. Of course this time we have made certain to get a little better directions. Ernie of SV Patience was happy to provide a bit more information to us so we’re pretty sure we’ll make it this time. If not, we just won’t see it. I’m sure we can find some photos online if we ever get internet again. LOL
With a blister the size of a half dollar on my left heel I’m not going to be wearing my trusty hiking boots. Nope, I’m relegated to my tennis shoes. They are great shoes, Sketchers, in fact, but they don’t have any ankle support. Ahhh, it will be fine. How hard can this hike be anyway?
We hop in the dink and head to shore. I’m not going to lie, we are both a little sore from our mountain hike yesterday. I mean, after all, we aren’t kids anymore and four hours of serious hiking took its toll on our bodies. Neither of us has that spring in our step today that we had yesterday but we are bound and determined to get there.
As we head down the road we get to the place where we took the wrong path yesterday and it hits me…we are going UP, UP, UP! There is a sharp, switchback in the road to the right that goes at a very steep angle upward and this is where we are headed. My thighs and calves are already burning and I’m thinking to myself that we must be gluttons for punishment. I mean honestly how great can this waterfall really be? I’ve seen lots of waterfalls in my life. What makes this one that I have to see? Oh yeah, I’m whining but I’m still trekking. We get to a halfway point in the steep ascent and take a water break. It’s hot today! The sun is out and there’s not a cloud in the sky right now so we are baking. Dan won’t let us stop for long though. He keeps telling me it will be worse if we do so we keep walking up the hill from hell.
At the top of the hill we come to a fork in the road and there’s a local man walking a large horned cow from one tree to another. You know, they use them to maintain the grounds and apparently it’s time for him to mow the other side of the road. Yes, this is the cow we were supposed to see yesterday. We also see some people walking down from the path to the left. Dan knows one of the men from cruising in Mexico. We stop and chat for a bit and he tells us where to find the trailhead and also says the waterfall is just a “click or so” up the path. GREAT! We are almost there. I can’t wait to cool my aching feet in the cold water.
We continue on up the path and pass a small home. There is one man there working. In the yard are a bunch of banana trees and it appears he is harvesting them to sell. There are a couple of dogs running around with a lot of bark but one move toward them and they are gone. Not far past his home we finally see the trailhead. It is marked with carins. Carins are small groupings of stones that are arranged and used to mark trailheads.
I’m finally starting to get excited as we exit the main path onto this narrow trail. Of course, it’s going up but at least I know we are “just a click or so” away.
As we traverse this new path I realize this is not going to be an easy trek at all. It’s narrow and pretty steep in places. There are rocks covered by forest floor leaves that are wet and slippery. There is some wonderful shade from the trees and it’s pretty cool compared to they hike up to this point but it’s a bit treacherous. This is when I should have my hiking boots. I need the ankle support today.
So, this guy we ran into that said this is “just a click or so away” clearly has no concept of distance. He’s the guy that says it’s a block or two away only for you to find out it three towns over. Yes, I have a few choice words for him if I ever see him again!
The forest does have a magical beauty about it and the strong, pungent scent of decaying foliage envelopes us. We can see the river down to the right about thirty feet below the trail. At one point, however, I’m so exhausted I can barely lift my legs to step up to the next level of rocks. Talk about feeling the burn…Oh yeah I’m feeling it. Just about the time I’ve had all I can take Dan hollers back to me to tell me we’re there. Thank you Lord!
Now if you count yesterday’s hike I’ve hiked close to six hours to get to this mystical waterfall and grotto and honestly I’m expecting something so spectacular that it will take my breath away. Well, you know how it felt when you were a kid and you wanted that one special toy from Santa and you open your last present expecting it to be inside only to find a ducky sweater knitted by your Aunt Thelma? Yep, that’s how I’m feeling right now.
Don’t get me wrong, it fine and it’s pretty, I guess, but it’s certainly nothing I’d have hiked six hours to had I known what I was going to see. In fairness, there hasn’t been much rain in the past few days so that accounts for the fact that there’s not much water running down the face of the rock. The grotto itself is okay. The water isn’t very clear and I certainly don’t see myself jumping in for a swim. You know they do have fresh water eels in this part of the world so I’m not going for a swim if I can’t see what’s coming up around me even though I know some who did swim here.
We do stop, take off our shoes and cool our tootsies in the ice cold water. AHHHH! That feels amazing! I could sit here all day but of course there’s the matter of that two hour hike out of here so we hang out for twenty minutes or so and then head back. By this time my legs are like jello and I’m feeling pretty weak and unstable. Dan promises not to get far ahead and help me through the more steep and narrow parts. He tells me to step exactly where he does and I do. We aren’t ten steps away from the falls when I put my right foot down on this large rock in the path and it collapses under me. Suddenly I’m sunk down to my knee. I smack my right elbow against the rock wall beside me. “Son of a biscuit eater” I yell. Dan looks back to see me half in and half out of this hole. He steps back and helps me out and all I can think is “Thank you God that I didn’t break something”. Yep, this is going to leave a few marks but I’m still able to walk so on we go.
I kid you not we haven’t gone another thirty steps when I step on a rock…exactly where Dan had just stepped, and I go sliding down on my butt into the dirt and mud. Well now, this is getting more fun by the minute. NOT! By this time I’m tired, I’m frustrated and I’m questioning whether or not I’m going to make it out of this jungle alive.
Somewhere along the trail Dan stops to wait on me and he looks down at the river. “Come here. You’ve got to see this.” he calls back to me. I muster up a bit of speed and he starts pointing into the river. “Look at it. It’s an eel” he says. What? An eel, really? Sure enough there is a freshwater eel making its way upstream. It’s about three to four feet long and maybe four or five inches tall! It’s snaking its way around the rocks in pretty shallow water. Only Mr. Observant would see an eel in a stream thirty feet down in the middle of a jungle. I’m just glad I didn’t jump in that grotto!
We keep moving even though we are both exhausted. I keep telling Dan I’m not sure I can make it but he won’t let me give up. He keeps telling me jokes and prodding me along and before I know it we’ve exited the main trail and are on stable ground again. Of course now that we are out of the forest we are back in full sun and it’s even hotter than before. The only good thing is that it’s all downhill from here baby and soon we’ll be back on Dazzler enjoying an ice cold Pacifico. Dan keeps reminding me of that. He’s using it like a stick and carrot to keep me moving. I think he’s afraid I’m going to just sit down and quit but I’m a pretty tough ol’ broad so I keep moving.
Back on the boat we put up our hammocks again and relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. It really is a spectacular island and I’m glad I’ve been able to see so much of it but I’ll tell you this right now….I’m done hiking for a few days! This old body needs some well earned rest and this hammock is where I’m going to find it.
Until next time,
Note: If you aren’t somewhat athletic and able to negotiate tough, rocky trails then I’d recommend that you forgo this hike. And, if you want to make this hike and not make the mistake we did on the first day, check back in a couple of days as I’m putting together a “visual map” to guide you there.