Letter from Marquesas pt 4

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Daniel, our host, with his son

18/7/82  We were greeted by two natives who paddled out in their pirogue, a canoe with a stabilising bar attached to one side.  They had come to welcome us and to see what we had to trade with them – western goods such as T-shirts, cassette tapes, jewellery, perfume, women’s clothes, and bullets are worth far more than money to them.  They are cut off from big towns and have no place to buy goods except from the supply boats which only bring basic foods.  So we have been more than adequately supplied with all kinds of tropical fruit – so much that we can’t possibly eat it all before it starts going bad.  When we go into the village, the girls crowd around to see what we have to trade, and they go into their back garden jungle, climb a tree for a basket of oranges or chop down a stalk of bananas to exchange for a halter-neck top or a pair of cheap ear-rings.  We traded some clothes for a couple of bark paintings and a wrap-around dress.

We became quite friendly with a family – I think it is a sort of custom that a certain family takes care of (almost adopts) you while you’re there.  The family took us down to the next village in their pirogue (it had an outboard motor, not paddles) which was quite a unique experience.  They said their prayers each time the boat was launched into the water, although we only travelled about 3 miles along the coast.  Then we went back to their house for a meal and slept the night there.  Unfortunately, Chris became ill during the night with a badly upset stomach – apparently it is a malady that only the visiting men seem to suffer from.  But he seems to be recovered now, so let’s hope he’s got over it.  While we were in the village I tried some goat meat and also some octopus, the former was delicious (we are trying to get some to put in the freezer), being tender and very tasty, but the latter I found revolting as it was tough and rubbery, and it had little flavour.  Chris declined to try both of these things as his stomach still felt weak at the time.

And Justine, his wife

Today we are on our way to the main port of the Marquesas islands, called Hiva Oa.  We haven’t checked into customs yet as last week was given over to Bastille Day festivities and we stayed on the small island where there aren’t any officials to check up on us.  We think that we are going to have a nasty shock when we check in because we have to deposit money with the authorities so that they can be sure of getting rid of us when they want to.  Unfortunately, a large amount of people have passed through the islands, freeloading and without the money to return home and so now the officials won’t allow anybody to set foot on the islands until they hand over money as a guarantee.  We are just praying that we have enough to cover it (the air fare back to England is about £750 each, which we haven’t got, but if we can persuade them that we are going on to Australia, air-fare £350 each, we have enough, more or less.)    We would get the money back when we leave, but it is just for the time that we stay in French Polynesia that they hold the money.  Well, we’ll have to see.

You’ll never believe it, but do you know I put the American flag upside down when we were sailing into Fatu Hiva, the island we have just left.  I just hoisted it and left it without looking at it at all.  How embarrassing – Chris did laugh.  Well, see you soon.

Val’s version of the same incident – our arrival in Fatu Hiva – but also of our visit to Daniel and Justine, the trip to the other village. We are still concerned about money, and the cost of our bond to ensure we would leave again… well, somewhat superseded by events. But I shall say no more.

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