Hunting for Tikis in French Polynesia

We are heading out tomorrow to do a mini road trip to explore some of the island visit the black volcanic sand beach and to find some of the mysterious stone Tiki's hiding in the jungle, we'll keep you posted...

May 11, 2009. Hiva Oa, Marquesas

Neville Hockley writes: Catherine and I have just returned to the boat after spending an adventurous weekend exploring the isolated archeological sites along the remote northern coastline of Hiva Oa.

Carving its way through the heavy blanket of rain forest that covers the island, the single road that connects the south coast to the north, at times, was little more than a rocky, narrow, dirt track. As the road wound its way over the craggy 3,000 foot crest that forms the spine of Hiva Oa, and dropped down into the lush valleys below, Catherine and I would burst into song, chanting the Indiana Jones sound track as our little Suzuki 4x4 trundled along, struggling to negotiate the particularly rough patches of road. A smiling local, concerned for our well being, asked if we knew where we were going, probably unaccustomed to seeing tourists off the "main road."

We meandered our way around the edge of cliffs, at times with only a few feet separating our tires from a vertical drop to the ocean below, winding up and down between the valleys and bays that dot the coastline. For two days we searched for Polynesian Tikis -- stone statues carved by Polynesians hundreds of years ago to honor gods, chiefs, warriors and priests. So remote are the Marquesas, many of the Tiki sites are unmarked and rarely visited by tourists. Vague maps show locations in tour books, but many are wrong, indicating roads that don't exist and not even attempting to describe the exact locations of the Tikis. With no paths, signs or maps to guide us to some of the more remote sites, we asked friendly locals for directions, who, sweeping their arms vaguely across hills blanketed in every shade of green imaginable, would explain that the Tikis were just, "over there."

For hours we wandered through valleys and over hills, sliding down embankments covered in marble-size volcanic stones. We waded through bushes and clambered over rock piles. We visited numerous Tiki sites and even found the elusive Tiki Moe One, buried deep in the hills within Hanapaaoa Bay.

We ate lunch on volcanic boulders lining the beach in the deserted Hanapaaoa Bay, dining on sweet bananas plucked from the bunch and stuffed inside crispy fresh French baguettes. We filled bottles with water pumped right from the stream that trickled down to the ocean through the valley, adding the juice of sour oranges we found on the drive down, making fresh lemonade. We met a colorful Polynesian local in Puamau who bought us ice cream, invited us to his house, and gave me a special stone he had found in his village. Explaining his love for Hiva Oa and wanting me to take a little of his island with us on our travels, "we are brothers now" he said, "peace and love."

We stopped at a local farm at the bottom of a little valley just dripping with ripe fruit - bananas, mangoes, oranges, pamplemousse (giant, bowling ball size grapefruits). The owner, Mr. O'Conner, armed with a 15-foot pole with a net on the end, personally selected the largest, heaviest, sweetest pamplemousse from the tops of his trees. It was a weekend we will not soon forget.

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