It’s stormy around here.

Before anything the response to the quiz from two days ago, those two lovely packages are dried banana.


 

It’s been raining heavily since mid-day yesterday, not for 5 minutes like we have been used to but for hours on end with some nice flash of lighting.

This brings us to the darker side of Hanavave, the side that has been polluted by the many foreign boats who have been trading for a century those islands. First we know by reading books, that these killed the locals and took over the island in some king names, brought in a set value to civilize the “savages”. With the result to decimating a very independent and sustainable society, that had populated those valleys for millennium. Then our birth country, decided to make it the place for nuclear testing, which didn’t help in bringing another set of major problems and bad habits. At this point everything is blamed on the radioactive fallout even the recent epidemic of chikugunia or Ebola. We are not making it up, we were told straight face, while waiting for the doctor.

Sadly and admittedly for the last 20 years, this contamination comes from us cruisers. With our epic quest of voyaging and sharing, we have polluted two sets of generation while giving some bad examples that badly influence their life. You see Hanavave is in a peculiar position where traditionally, it is the first bay most boats arriving from South America or Panama reach after their long crossing. This sure is great for Hanavave one may think, alas no… Because as the sailors reach land their needs on fresh fruits or vegetables is quite high and so is their stock of so called “goodies”; and with little or no knowledge of the needs and social benchmark on the island, we made some major faux-pas. Our desperate need and joy in seeing all these fresh goods from the land and the warm smile coming from the local has made us too fast in our choice of trading, rendering the experience a disaster. Please stay with us as we try to give you a better image.

Traditionally, the Marquises have had a surplus of fruits and have given them freely to the passing boats. Though with the education we have received in our modern society and different way of life, we started to give back the wrong things and perhaps for the wrong reasons though this is another topic. Truly the issue arises when some boats start to give the cheap alcohol freely and carelessly, it is rather scary when the name of the Panamanian rum is the first thing coming out on some people lips. Then came the innocent sweets/candies for the kids, the children were not used to the processed sugar before, trust me they are hooked by now and have the diabetes and obesity signs starting to show for. This is condemned by the teacher and older generation knowing better, but the younger ones will try in March again when the influx of North American boats will start appearing on the horizon, and will ask a dollar for an orange. You see the bonbons, we give are not the best, the shop has the ones they like by now. Also the housing may look simple and even to the untrained eye third world looking, with the kitchen outside and no furniture, but know that it is all done for tax purposes and to preserve some right for a MTR (maison a tarif reduit/subsidize housing). Open your eyes as you start walking down the alley and you will see the 50K pickup truck, the latest tablet computer hooked to the internet in the hands of the young ones, the latest TV with satellite connection, multiple cell phones and listen to where the music comes from on the beach it is a Bose system that every teenager seems to own, all these are often present in a majority of household.

On our side we are fortunate to speak the language and to have the time. Time to sit and talk for hours long to understand and learn from them; and at this point we have been the one and only boat for the last two weeks in the bay hence we have the time to get to know the people; slowly the veil of the secrets in the village is coming up revealing another side of it all. Surprisingly at first, their eyes opened up wildly when they heard that we were a Canadian boat, you see the season is coming up soon, in their mind they thought: “they are back!” only to be disappointed when we explained that we had been here for 2 months and originally from France.

Now we know who the hustler is, who the “beggar” is, but when you have only three days and no sense of the dynamic, disasters strike on both side. In the past and while reading other fellow cruisers’ blog we read how much they disliked their stay French Polynesia, or how much they missed Mexico; well truthfully we understand why now. We are being asked constantly for things just because another cruiser gave it to them, almost literally. When you realize you have been taken badly, like exchanging two grapefruits for a liter of cheap boxed wine; you thought at the time it was a deal and realized later that you could have gotten the tree and the land because they don’t eat them meanwhile the same wine cost not just $4 but $17 to be replaced here.

Let us reassure you fortunately it is not the same on every island, it has been confirmed to us by veteran cruisers but it is worse out here than anywhere else for various reason, we will not develop.

With all this said and done we have now elaborated a set of tactics to diffuse the problem, we are officially a dry boat who doesn’t drink; we are diabetic and don’t eat sugar that would be good for my sweet tooth addiction if true, we don’t hunt well actually… we are vegetarians. But mainly, we steer away from people who even before saying hello or talking to you, ask you: “do you want fruits?” We learned that as a sign of trouble. We will also only agree to receive fruits, after checking if they have too much and would prefer some with no commercial value. Plus if somebody is very generous, we bring them back what we have prepared with what they gave to us, or we entertain them on the boat. Fortunately fermented fruit juice also known as Marquesan beer takes about three months to ferment, so syrup, jam or compote it is.

 

By the way do you have a swim suit for us? Some lettuce? Chocolate barssss? Coffee?


Benjamin decided he needed to walk and push along the road we took a few days back.


 

 


 

Ordinary day in Hanavave

With all the buckets of water pouring down on us, it is the perfect weather for a nice cup of hot cocoa around the fireplace! One of those days when you could stay under the blanket all cozied up and read book, but none of that on the Letitgo crew “No, SireY”! We had an engagement so we braved the weather and got out. First thing on the agenda was to repair Desiree’s sewing machine, we worked hard and couldn’t get it to perform 100%.

Now, how would you like to have your doctor appointment posted on the municipal board where everyone walks by? Talk about privacy! Ok the details are blacked out but we can still tell you who is going for a pregnancy test and the other for a mammogram. And no worries, there are even two official signatures and stamps, it’s all good right! Better than Facebook for all to know.

On our way back we took refuge in the church compound, look at all this beautiful green grass!

It must come from the new sprinkle system…

Finally, after all those years we came to a country where we have some hope to capture water. A piece of spare sunbrella can go a long a way, 6 grommets, 2 meters of tubing and a plastic thru hull is now delivering directly into the tanks pure water at a rather good rate. The yellow tank is for me to get an estimate of amount, no spreadsheet yet but wait that could be interesting, density of rain duration…………

 

And today was the day when we went to pick up our “rape a coco”

We are now truly integrated to the culture; we can now make our own coco milk. And if you ask any of the locals all recipes taste better with it, if you ask them they will say “and just add some lait de coco!”

PPN PCG or what it costs to eat.

Busy week-end onboard Letitgo, we were buzzing like little bees… For those interested Yes it was Sunday and No we didn’t make it to church this time… You see, we were entertaining and cooking and baking to have our guests try different things; in other words we were having fun and were back to our roots. On a side note: We don’t know if it’s a coincidence but a lot of men on the island seem also strangely busy to cook on that day too hence missing out on Mass. We were fortunate to spend our time with some of the locals we enjoy, and learning once again so much on “How to prepare a pig trap, how the political process goes, and what the customers look at when they buy sculptures, try to understand their family tree!” (Somehow they are all related, and it can be a true imbroglio to figure out). We listened to some amazing life stories and sometimes watch their faces with amazement when they see or hear something different that baffles them.

 


A beautiful gift from Blandine and Marc, what are those?

First person who has the right answer will win a pamplemousse.

All this bring us to the food topic and what we can find at what cost. We asked a number of our friends before leaving, what was the real cost of eating in French Polynesia, though we never got a precise answer and we understand why now. So after lots of talking and research we will give you an overview of the situation. There are 4 categories of products in FP, PPN products which are of first necessity, PGC product with a fix % margin, Product with a top off % margin and finally the free market one. The first two represent 30% of the food product.

The PPN and PGC are under the directive Number 171 of the 7 February 1992, the list of the PPN reviewed regularly contain butter milk pasta rice oil chicken corned beef and a lot more. They are display with a red price tag on them, compare to a white one for the rest. Those do not overstock, in zone 2 the most expensive a kilo of sugar is 135 XPF, butter 250 g president salted 332 XPF, kilo of flour 142 XPF, rice 100 XPF, kilo of leg of lamb 890 XPF, finally the baguette 64 XPF in zone 2, 54XPF in zone 1 to give you an idea cheaper than in France their pride and joy! You get the drift you are not going to starve to death yet or have to re-mortgage the boat.

The PGC and third categories are a lot more obscure and provide some more “luxury” products like meat at a reasonable cost. The rest good luck you will need to bring a bucket of cash to buy CHOCOLAT, coffee liquor and any out of the way product. A bottle of wine 1500XPF for a plunk, 2800XPF for something drinkable or a carton of 2 liter plunk, bottle of liquor 5000-8000 XPF, can of beer 281XPF, case of 12 660ml beer 4000-5500 XPF, bottle of coke 1.5 liter 600XPF, 250 gr coffee 850XPF. Those are example of free market product in the most remote island, it is cheaper in Tahiti.

The fresh product is the shocker after the delight of the Americas, a kilo of tomatoes is 500 KPF two small green salads 300XPF in Tahiti/Tuamotus fruits and vegetables are extremely expensive. As for fish, an entire tuna is 400-500XPF for a kilo not bad. If you are off season your trading skill and adaptation will bring you fruits/fish cheaply or free, in the high yacht season (March-July) at a reasonable cost in the Marquises. Thankfully though Marquisans are extremely welcoming and generous with what land brings them, so more often than never you will be offered lemons, pamplemousses, bananas, etc… etc…

We reviewed the document called “comparaison du panier de la menagere” and can confirm that in Tahiti the Carrefour is one of the cheapest. If you wish to provision in bulk some cash and carry type of stores are also available and offer the best deal. And actually after talking with our local friends, some of them do a major provisioning once in Papeete every 6months and get it shipped by the Aranui on their trip back from the artisan festival.

Liter of regular or diesel without de-taxes 158-168 XPF, you save 30% once you get the paperwork on diesel only.

The beauty around here is that you will find lots of different products, in need of render duck fat or some Chinese sauce for your next dish not a problem. The main suppliers are New Zealand/Australia and France so products of quality are not a problem to get by. Our advice for the cruisers planning on crossing: if you have the regular 3 months visa just stock up well but don’t over kill it for the basic (flour etc…), if you have the extended visa or European passport buy a lot of the luxury items only, and then re-stock in Tahiti for another round of island hopping.

For trading, we have been asked every day for: Liquor (this is a conscience call), Rifle and Arm munitions for hunting 22 and 12 seem to be the favorite (now add legality), never for Tabaco as they smoke a local brand with more nicotine/tar in it than asphalt.

In the more respectable trading items: Perfume/nail polish/lip stick are a favorite, needles for sewing machine, flip-flops, pencil/crayon, reading glasses, torch light/head light, batteries, diving masks, used sailboat rope.

Hope this clarify some of the questions we have been answering by e-mail and for the economist a way to understand why the economy may not do all that well with all the regulations

Walk in the park.

Around the bend, before the cement road then walk the dirt road, you pass the bridge and turn again you know? Those are about the sets of direction we got in a week here to get to the cascade. One advice was true if you see the virgin Marie you gone too far. For anybody following us and in need of direction, here we go. Get out of the village via the cement road, one bridge after town, one sharp right turn at the third bend go straight in the dirt road after 200 m you should see a shack on the right. From then on follow the path cross the river and when you arrive at the end you will see small stones piled up “Inuk shuck” like they should direct you to the sight. You will not hear and barely see it until you are right there. One hour walk rather easy after you have climbed out of town, we also decided to continue and went all the way to the point of view, worth it if you feel like it.



Hanavave: The valley of the end of the world.


They are everywhere if you keep a sharp look out.


A cool and refreshing swim after the walk in a stunning surrounding



This is our wonderful companion for this walk, Simon’s youngest daughter Mehiana.

She discovered the cascade as we did and was “Fiu” by the time we came back.

Simon the stone Sculptor

On Fatu hiva, the other tradition apart tapa and wood sculpture is stone carving. Simon is simply a master at it and displays a great personality; we really enjoy getting to know him. He has been recognized nationally and has some very large item on display on many islands. At the moment as every artist around here, he is getting ready for the Tahiti exhibition. The semi-annual trade show takes place in May/November and is the gateway to outside customers and a lifeline for them all. He is camera shy for the moment, so only his prep work and semi-finish Tiki will be shown today.

So far he used a diamond blade, a total of two days worth of work gets him to this stage, it needs one more day for polishing and finishing touches then it is a done deal, years of experience help… Simon also studied and worked as a 3D imaging and industrial drawing which is one of his strong points, as no one can do his work around here.

But one thing we noticed is that they all tend to have two or three models and then they just reproduce them forever. When asked they simply answer “everything I produce sells, so what do you want me to do?’

Only the true artist has flair and imagination, you just have to find them in their shed in the back of house lost in the middle of them all. Good luck!



In the Marquesas you do not keep your window openned even on a sunny day, the weather can turn sour in a matter of minutes. We don’t want to show you the picture perfect postcard at all time.

But as a good cruiser, this is when you take the long shower.


Paternity and Motherhood a different way.

The traditions and values are so different in various societies, that it takes time to comprehend them, talk to people, ask question and this story today is one of them.

In the Marquises, it is accepted and expected to have your first born male to be given to their grandparents and have them to raise the little one. The heir gets adopted for the following reason, he will eventually be the one to take care of his elderly when all their children are gone and for the family it is the best way to keep the land in the family with the same last name. On the same register, I have been told a few times that with my two kids I am lazy… (smirks on Valerie’s face! Laurent smiling we should start working at it again, shall we! Non edited by Valerie when she read it I will be in trouble)

And here in Fatu Hiva, while chatting with our friends we discovered that one of them clearly told her daughters once they had a boyfriend/husband/partner that it was time for them to leave home, and move in with the in law’s family; while her sons stay with her and bring in the daughter in law. Again the main reason being to keep land under the same family, meanwhile the sons can work the land with their fathers and learn the trades.

We had sailor’s friends who had already explained it to us, but we thought it must have been like this in the past and not applicable anymore, although we are under the impression that the practice has diminished a bit though not in more remote valleys. Truly what blows my mind (Valerie) is the fact that a young Mum is separated from her newborn quickly, how painful this must be… When I asked the family we befriended, the lady acknowledged finding it hard at the time, though she has no problem reciprocating it to her own son, when the baby will be born. Learning this truly opened our eyes to a different culture, and way of thinking, another way of living life which is the epitome of our travels.

While Valerie listens to this fascinating way of life, I took the time to repair two racing pirogues. Enabling the youth to exercise is better than them drinking and smoking all day long. Let’s hope that fiberglass work hold with all this humidity.



Now, next time you are gifted a Bread fruit by a neighbour don’t be afraid you will know what to do. It needs to be slightly yellow and firm, first cut the hard skin. Then cut in four, remove the spongy core, and then part in cubes. You will need to stabilize it or it will go bad quickly for such purpose get the pressure cooker out and steam it for 5 minutes at your first setting. From them on refrigerate, you can utilize it for mash with coconut milk or fries a delight.


 

 

Sweet life Sunday

By now, you all know our Sunday routine: early wake up call, followed by a quick breakfast and church service of course. Well, well let us reassure you South America hasn’t converted us to be Catholic (or any religion for that matter), but around here if you wish to see the true color of the valley, you need to wake up early on the day of the lord to be on time for church.

And this time around, in Hanavave, we felt transported 60 years back, not that we know but our grandparents told us. The youth doesn’t enter the service well passed the sermon and the atmosphere even if the singing was very nice was rather austere and in general a lot more conservative. To the point that we couldn’t bring ourselves to take pictures even if the vahines wore beautiful dresses and flower crowns. The older ladies wear the more traditional head bun on this island with the “bouquet d’amour”, composed of 17 different plants and flowers forming a more horizontal stuffing for the bun. One of the main ingredients is the vetiver, a delightful odorant root.

We were lucky to be invited for lunch in a family; we tasted some fantastic poisson cru au lait de coco and grilled chicken with a yellow manioc. Again we learned so much and got to understand even more the politic of a small island. The “independentist” vision is rather special to say the least and we believe the failure of the local politician bringing up the standard of living has been blamed on France, when in fact it sits squarely on the territory, which has near complete management of its affair. The man in charge of French Polynesia is the most corrupted politic figure in France; it will be a few more years before his system stops to operate.

Remember this is flat in reality all around us.

Photo shoot of the local production, for future exhibition.

And in two photos, the summary of the sweet life we are getting to know quite well. Valerie with Ylang-Ylang in her hair and a V1 training on this spectacular Sunday.

 

Letitgo turns into a repair shop, Chui Fiu…..

If there is one expression you need to master and understand in French Polynesia it is “Je suis Fiu!” Also known in the Marquesas as”Je suis Pao Pao” but the “Fiu” one seems to have gain use on all the islands around here. So next time a local tells you, “Ch’ui fiu” this means he is super mega done, so dead tired after doing something really exhausting, he can hardly move anymore or do anything else that now as a matter of fact the world stops and it’s time for a siesta type of deal in other words it is “No More!” Funny enough, this syndrome seems to be coming back on a rather recurrent basis with certain people and used by the youngest generation profusely especially when the “pakalolo” (weeds) comes into play. But truly it’s deeper than that, in Mexico we have “A Manana” here “Fiu” no need to say “no” or “lose face”. We feel that this expression helps getting out of a situation you do not wish to get in and not offend the other, truly the islands are so small that harmony needs to be preserved if you do not wish to live far in the “brousse” (wood) all on your own.

Jean Rene, le Ninja!

Traditional tools are starting to come back in fashion and everybody is starting to prepare for the festival in December. Above Jean-Rene a cute little 5 year old “ninja” is displaying a beautiful very old Kava drinking vessel (google it please), his father has been commissioned to make copies of it, the ancestral way.

Wait? Is this Benjamin helping with tools?

In Fatu Hiva, you are really remote; the boat costs $1000 from one to ten people to return to Hiva Oa. Add to this a lot of sculptors with tools and very little means for repair and you have a small combo of “please do you think you can help” Luckily on a sailboat we normally have everything one may need for repair, so they are not shy to ask for help and truthfully we are so happy to contribute you have no idea. Like the photo above and below we repaired two drills already and helped put back together a hand carving tools; while Valerie is also solicited for sewing or fixing sewing machine. Dry bananas and a mega “supersize me” pamplemousse were part of a thank you as we were ready to go home. Chui Fui may apply on my part…

Marc and his love for tools

Those ones rarely break, but demand knowledge and dedication to be used. Marc takes an amazing care of his.

Et voila le p’tit dernier de Sika!

The last of Sika’s puppies, Makita giving a military salute (But of course!) in honor of Johnny and Cecile.

3 kilo very sweet pamplemousse (grapefruit) no need for a confit cherry on the top.

Our first step on Fatu Hiva

The anchoring saga continues onboard Letitgo which is perhaps a little over cautious on our part, but truly we have had some strong gusts lately and rain; and we simply felt it was not optimum even if we had not moved one inch. Plus we learned that when we have a hunch it’s not the time to be lazy, so we decided to re-anchor after scoping out the underwater terrain in detail marking the spot with a buoy. This time we are in the sand, dug in with double anchor in tandem, we feel a lot better and can sleep on our two ears. Sorry if we really can’t give any more precise recommendations beyond diving once you are here, but the area level with the breakwater to your left and the football field in front of you seem to be the best. So with that said, Good luck!!!

As always when you are in that kind of situation something else happens, and this time it was our windlass, the joy of living on a boat! The engine/relay decided to play a trick on us and now stays stuck on the upper mode, meaning that we can only control it with the breaker “on” or “off” switch, great fun… It is not the nice and smooth technique we have mastered over the last 3 years; especially when you have to shout ON/OFF from the bow to the person in the aft bedroom, in other words next time you cross us anchoring don’t be alarmed it’s normal!

We had been asked to say hello to a few people which is rather normal and especially to some puppies. Alors pour vous, et en Francais en plus : Cecile and Johnny nous vous presentons les petits de Sika! Voici donc Roosevelt, Sika et un autre sans nom. Benjamin had the best time ever and kept busy, we will just say that we have been able to resist taking one back to Letitgo… The temptation was big!


The “artists” are everywhere around the valley all working hard as a matter of fact you can hear the tools running all day whenever you walk by; the wives are not shy to drag you in: “Venez, venez, entrez!”. Funny enough, like any other trades they have developed different business models with some at higher level of talents than others. On Fatu Hiva, the speciality is the Tapa (tree bark flattened out many times to turn into a paper thin sheet) and wood/stone carving. We were lucky to meet Desiree a master craftswoman who mostly works on Tapa, she has developed various natural techniques and creates her own color with natural pigments from grains/seed to dye and texture this tree bark. With this method, she is able to achieve some amazing results, and her creativity is limitless. Below is a sample of the final product, she had in stock.


Tapa is used traditionally as a canvas, or natural costumes, below is a crown.



Jacques her husband makes some great pieces but at the moment he is doing mass production “China style”. Meaning he has an order of 60 tikis, no creativity just three types with a deadline for big shop in Tahiti.


The magic Huilerie bag that keeps all these communities alive. This particular one is for the 50 kg (if well packed used to be up to 80kg) now they are smaller and limited to 25kg, for the “girlies” apparently when you listen to the true Men.

Truly it is a good thing in our opinion, when you see the state of the older men’s health if you see them at all…

Fatu Hiva Hanavave Or la Baie des verges

We escaped discreetly as planned yesterday morning at sunrise for the 45 nm trip on our way to Antarctica. Well that is if we were to continue a few more miles with that heading, but no worry the weather here is perfect for us and we are not going any further South at least for a while… The wind cooperated and with one tack we made it to Fatu Hiva under sail only, when not in the lee of an island.

The anchoring gave us a bit of trouble or more exactly the 40 knots of gusts did. Let’s say the night was short and unnerving, and as we say : It was a “folle nuit d’amour!” (A crazy night of love!) where we almost kiss the rocks, in short we re-anchored this morning as soon as the sun rose and this time with the setup of a second anchor in tandem. Aah! The beautiful ballet of anchoring, let’s cross our finger this will do the trick.


As you can see we had an escort from the tourism office up to the entrance of the bay. Raise your eyes up one centimeter if you didn’t.



One of the most magnificent and mythic anchorage of the South Pacific, Welcome to Hanavave, or La baie des vierges pour les cathos.