Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fatu Hiva - Arriving at the mystical islands of the Tiki Gods

Land Ahoy!! After 19 days at sea since leaving the Galapagos, we have reached land, tiny specks dotted in the middle of The Pacific- one degree out and we would have missed them completely!

Yes we have arrived in Fatu Hiva and of course we couldn't resist stopping! We spotted her from 30 miles away.  A towering  dramatically steep island lush with vegetation even on the steep cliffs.

 As we approached she loomed over us, and we could smell her fragrant flora enticing us to make landfall! As you saw, we sailed round on the leeward side and anchored in a small bay lining up rock pinnacles as our transit.

The landscape is breathtaking, huge rock formations which resemble large faces of the Tiki Gods ascend into the mist above. There are coconut palms, banana trees, foliage covering every possible aspect of the mountains and unbelievably I can see little goats teetering along tiny narrow tracks in the cliffs! 

This beauty is like nothing I've ever seen before, I feel like I'm in some sort of mystical fairy land. 

We ventured ashore where they are constructing a small breakwater for the fishing boats to be safe from the thrashing seas, which now appear to be quite calm but later on in the year the wind and swell hit this tiny fishing village hard.  

The village is sweet, dotted with small corrugated roofed houses painted bright colours. The villagers are very welcoming and greet us in French and I find I'm more in my element here. Every household was offering to sell us fruit which we wish we could buy but didn't  have any local currency. They said that doesn't matter, we can come back with something to exchange that they might like. One lady wanted shoes. Another man some rivets for his boat. Some young men asked for alcohol in return for bananas or any fruit from his garden.  So tomorrow we are going back with a sackful of things that might be of interest to them. I might take some clothes I haven't needed and I think we've got some fish hooks and bits and bobs they could find use for. 

It took us a while to walk through the colourful village as we were chatting to everyone. They told us about a waterfall we must visit about an hours walk into the jungle so we went exploring! 

On the way we saw some men tending to their beehives and they motioned for us to come and have a look. We timidly went over as there was a thick swarm of bees but we weren't stung once. They were extracting the honey comb and each gave us a decent slab to eat. It's the tastiest honey I think I've ever tried from the mango flower of the surrounding trees and slightly smoky from them smoking the bees out  (but the bees were surprisingly not angry at all) They very generously  gave us a huge slab to take away. 

 I was poorly shod for such an adventure into the jungle, only in my flip flops. As we got further in following the river upstream, the pathway became so muddy and slippy that I went barefoot. This was much easier and actually a very lovely feeling being more at one with nature..In fact it was the best massage for my feet.  We walked passed hibiscus trees, birds of paradise, orange groves, breadfruit trees, grapefruit trees, coconut palms, mango and papaya trees.  A wonderfully natural cultivation of the land.

It was a beautiful walk up into the mountain and we knew we were getting close as we could hear the cascade approach. We had to climb under a few big boulders to get there and we arrived very muddy but wow it was worth it! What an incredible waterfall!

There was a pool at the bottom of the falls which we all jumped into and it was so deliciously cool. It was hard to swim towards it to be immersed in its power but I managed to get under it and feel it crashing over me radiating energy through me which I can still feel the effects of now, still buzzing! 

The walk back down was a muddy one too but at least we were able to wash off again when we reached the river further down. Papa and I were stopped on the way down by a lady selling big bottles of honey, I guess it was her sons we tried the honeycomb off before. She invited us inside her house and showed us the rows of bottles. They were wine bottles filled to the brim with honey! We told her we must come back with some money tomorrow  and she was very grateful and gave us 4 huge pomplemousse (grapefruits) as a gift to take away. We must find someone willing to exchange some euros with us and go back tomorrow. That honey is out of this world! 

We arrived back for a stunning sunset over the bay with the giant faces in the rocks lit up with gold.  There are the lovely tropic birds with the fabulous tails flying around and swooping down to the water. Dora's coming out tomorrow first thing, I can't wait to explore around the edge of the bay, there looks like there are some secret little coves and even more waterfalls cascading into the sea. 

I'm sitting up at the bow now and the full moon is so bright. Actually it's half hidden behind a cloud now but as it becomes uncovered it lights up the peaks of the mountains and pinnacles that surround this.bay.  I'm watching the reflections in the ripples of the water and I can hear occasional splashes of life in the water. I wander what is below... large fish... very large fish? 

We were invited the next evening to dinner made by a local lady Katerina who cooked for occasional sailors that came into the bay.

And wow, that was some meal! I think we returned back in the dingy a little lower in the water than our trip ashore (full tiki bellies!) No goat on the menu but an array of lovely dishes: tuna ceviche in coconut milk and limes, papaya salad, hot coconut chicken, rice, roasted spiced plantain, cooked bananas and grapefruit 

A beautiful feast laid on by a lovely Fatu Hivan family. We sat down to eat with Katerina and her husband Serge, their daughter/granddaughter? Hanavave and then we met their older son who had just come back from la chasse, hunting Sanglier(wild boar) up in the mountains with his two dogs. 

The husband showed us all the sanglier tusks hanging up from their hunts. They make them into sacred necklaces.  Serge also carved beautiful tikis but he's going to take them in a boat to Tahiti where he'll sell them in the artisan market during the festival. Such skilled workmanship and beautiful carvings.   We gave some euros for our meal but it was a shame we didn't have any more to buy a tiki.  We had already bought a beautiful carving of a manta ray made out of rosewood from another villager who also gave us grapefruit and limes.

It was such a pleasant evening and it was so nice to be able to converse with them at ease, they were so wonderfully welcoming and we had a good laugh!  

This morning the weather was beautiful whilst I was exploring with Dora but the afternoon changed to heavy rainstorms which we had to seek cover under a corrugated roofed eve of a building. The winds came howling through the valley out to sea and we were worried for a while that Tin Tin might not hold her ground. 

I'm going to be sad to leave this island, in only 2 days of being here I've really fallen in love with it and it's people!

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