Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Archeological Expedition

It's been rainy the last few days – it is rainy season here after all. The water tanks like it, but it is turning the water in this bay pretty muddy from all the runoff in the surrounding hills.

After a sunny Monday morning, we decided to take a trek to see some ancient tikis in the hills. Tikis are stone carvings used as items of worship as well as for protection. We got a description of where to go to find them from our friends aboard Chapter 2. The description included things like "Go past the market and take your first right and cross the river" Well, we never found the market and ended up taking a right and crossing the river which was flowing pretty well because of all the rain. The description also included: "Take a right on a narrow path right after you pass the parked bus and the pile of cut bamboo and you walk up a path and through the backyard of a house." Well we walked and walked and walked – back and forth through the town looking for the bus and pile of bamboo. We never did find either "landmark." We asked a few people and got pointed in various directions. One woman was funny and used all kind of sign language to tell us to look for a green house and take a right there and made it clear it was quite far. We asked another two guys who called us into their yard to chat (and offered us free bananas). At this point, they told us we had gone past the path and pointed us back in the direction we had just come. So we started to walk back. Then finally, a pickup (all the vehicles here are pick-ups) stopped and the two nice women inside gave us a ride right to the start of the path (which we had walked by). We always have fun trying to communicate – still speaking Spanish instead of French.

We started up the path which was quite muddy and slippery. But it was a path that was nicely built at one point and fairly maintained. It had several switchbacks as we gained altitude slipping and sliding up the hill. Finally, near the ridge was an open area where there were these built up squares of rock with the tikis. They were old and quite worn but incredible. Certainly not the size of Easter Islands statues – but very cool nonetheless.

The trip down was more challenging in the muck but we made it swatting at the bugs that were now finding us tasty. Michael startled a pig on the way down. We are not sure who jumped faster, the pig when it saw Michael, or Michael, when the pig jumped up and scurried off through the brush. Barbara was of course, thinking bacon! The area is very hilly and we walked past hundreds of coconut palm trees – very tall – and obviously being cultivated. Lots of drying sheds for the copra were in the town so this is a business here. The trees had metal rings around the trunks to keep the rats out of the trees. Also, along our walk we saw lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and roosters running across the street.

In town, there was a boule match going on with several narrow "courts" in what looked like a parking area. The players were quite good as we stopped and watched them play. We also saw a group of men and women practicing a dance and drumming. There was also a very large and well maintained garden as we headed back to where we left the dinghy. It was a huge field well cultivated with rows and rows of various vegetables in various states of growth. Yum.

The fruit trees are everywhere here. The most delicious "pamplemousse" (grapefruit) we've ever eaten and huge fruit. Breadfruit trees are everywhere as are bananas, limes, papayas and noni fruit. The mangoes are just about ripe and plentiful. But every tree is owned by someone – and unfortunately we haven't seen much fruit available in the local markets. We'll get our courage up and go knock on a door and ask if we can buy some at some point – but first we have to figure out how to say that all in French. We are learning how to say a few things in "Marquesan" as well – which is the language most of the Polynesians use amongst themselves. "Ka-ho-ah" is hello.

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