Taipivai

Mateo offered to take us to the shop where our friend Toma, or Tom as he is usually called in Hawaii, just finished fixing yet another car of his extended in law family. We had just met Mateo on the beach after landing there with Alunita. He had been part of Hokulea’s crew on the return trip of her second voyage tracing the origin of the Hawaiian people. To me that makes him a celebrity! Reading anything I could get my hands on about the Hawaiian resurgence of traditional wayfaring and canoe building had a big part in my decision to use the traditional Polynesian crab claw rig on Aluna. Now Toma thinks he can finally do some work at his place up the valley. He’s scheduled to fly back to Hawaii in a couple days and still needs to finish mending the fence on the lot of coconut forest his wife had inherited from her family here on the island, so that the pigs won’t destroy all the plants they had carefully planted after the backhoe had nicely terraced the terrain just two weeks ago. Toma had been of great help solving some of the most crucial pieces of the problems we ran into with our two recent female guests on Aluna. He appeared out of nowhere one of the first evenings here. He had been alerted from back home that Malinda was having troubles with officialdom because of not having her passport with her. In spite of visiting Luis and Davina on the party boat at the time he managed to track us down. Later he helped dispatch Davina on her way to Papeete on the supply boat Aranui, which is not supposed to take on foreigners as deck passengers. For all this and also for the abundant stream of fresh fruits and veggies he made come our way since our arrival we felt it appropriate to offer some help with his chores. We were ready to get our hands dirty digging holes for fence posts. But this is island life here and all these good and orderly intentions do easily get diverted by the noblest spurs of the moment. “Have you guys visited the tikis yet?”, Toma asks. We haven’t had the chance to see those tikis, which are stone statues in human form build by the ancient people here, and so he turns up a side road, switches his truck to four wheel drive and we’re bumping over some pretty sizable rocks up to a small plateau, where we park, lock the car and set off on foot up the hill on a nicely tended footpath. Through a thicket under tall coconut trees we make our way up the mountainside on a switchback trail and eventually come to a clearing with three sizable platforms of nicely arranged stonework. Integrated in the walls of those are a series of human statues, small stooping little men and women. All of them are deeply weathered, so the smaller details have been lost in time. The top platform overlooks not only the other ones below, but also must have been a vantage point from where the ancient priests could overlook the valley down to the bay and up its three different branches. Today the coconut forest, which was all planted maybe a generation back, covers most of that up. That top platform also contains a pit and Samu, Toma’s worker and teacher of all things local, explains that his ancestors used it to store fermented breadfruit puree to feed the population during periods of prolonged draughts. This storage method is of anthropological fame because in other places of the Marquesas contemporary scientists found samples of this concoction that were still consumable, after having been stored for a couple hundred years! Feeling the onset of our very own version of a serious draught on our taste buds, Samu and Toma had already set their eyes on the giant mango tree just at the foot of the lowest platform. It’s the season for those tasty marvels of the tropics and there’s a unimaginable variety of different types growing everywhere. Long sticks are never far away from those trees out in the woods here and with a little whack of it the first yellow fruits come falling down. Of course they have to be thoroughly tested, so they are sliced along the pit into three pieces and peeled. Each one of us gets a piece and the discussion turns to the tartness, stringiness, wildness and sweetness and other flavor components of this particular mango variety. The general consensus though is that it is worth the effort of further collection. Our T-shirts serve as bags to bring a good dozen of them down the hill back to the truck. After that there are no more excuses. Jamming the crow bar into the dirt, digging dirt out of holes by hand, dumping the posts into the holes, packing earth around them, pounding it until the poles stand stiff, it’s all pure fun, when just looking around you there’s the other side of the valley raising up behind the palm trees, golden green, lit by the now setting sun. Never mind the swarms of mosquitoes lining up to suck the blood on our calves and ankles. Never mind the nonos, yeah that’s right, this is nono country. Little black blood sucking flies, their bites itch just as much as mosquito bites, only they keep itching for almost a week; and don’t you dare scratch them too much, or they start oozing some strange liquid and you can end up with a serious infection. Taipivai is notorious for having the densest population of nonos on Nuku Hiva. Mateo had told us earlier the story of the Frenchman who came to Taipivai with the promise to rid it of the nonos once and for good. He said he would have them all vanish in a month. I’m not sure what exactly he did, but after a month there were more nonos than ever before and the one who vanished was the Frenchman. Toma gives us a ride back to the beach and once again our little vaka (Marquesan for canoe) Alunita is filled with mangoes, coconuts, soursaps and bananas when we paddle her through the darkness towards the mother ship. Do we have enough life left in our veins to prepare a hearty diner or are we headed straight for our bunks?

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One Response to “Taipivai”

  1. Paz Says:

    Wonderful adventures! Besos y gracias por compartir…los quiero mucho!

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