Friday, December 10

The Aranui Experience – Puamau on Hiva Oa

Things have been hectic on Raro for the past few months what with Maeva Nui, the Pacific arts meeting, body building, week of running, international sevens, vaka eiva, turama and Gospel Day but at last I’ve got a chance to get back to my Marquesas videos.
There are six inhabited islands in the Marquesas group of French Polynesia, and the Aranui 3 takes cargo and passengers to them about sixteen times a year. It’s a fabulous trip and the Marquesas Islands are fascinating. The only downside is that you spend such a short time on shore – just while the cargo from Tahiti is being unloaded and agricultural produce like noni juice and copra loaded.
This video is of our first stop on Hiva Oa – we actually went to three different places on this island, the second largest of the Marquesas.
We took the whaleboats to Puamau, on the north shore of Hiva Oa, but we didn’t see the village – jeeps were organised to take us to Meae Iipona, one of the main archaeological sites on the island.
Iipona has five stone statues and ten stone heads amongst the terraces and boulders. The statues include one of Takaii, a warrior chief. It’s almost 2.5 metres tall – the largest in Polynesia apart from the Easter Island moai. One tiki is horizontal. I’ve seen it called the ‘butterfly princess’ and it was once thought to represent a woman giving birth. That seems to be because it was upside down when it was excavated. It’s now in its correct orientation and no longer goes by that name. It’s a very unusual carving though, and in much better condition than any of the others.
There are a lot of similarities between the Cook Islands and the Marquesas, including the language – CI Maori speakers and Marquesans can understand each other. However in the Cooks there isn’t much in the way of old stone carvings.
Nowadays Mike Tavioni carves both stone and wood; in fact he’s responsible for the stone statues at Punanga Nui marketplace and at the national auditorium. But I don’t know of any old ones.
We do have marae with stone platforms and they often have standing stones a few feet tall but no carved tiki.
Most people walked back down to Puamau to get back on board the Aranui.
Then we sailed part way round the island to the tiny settlement of Hanamenu for a picnic lunch.