The Winding Road to Hanapaaoa
After seeing the Giant Pig’s footprint, we drove on a narrow paved lane that climbed the hillside alongside the valley of Hanapaaoa. Copra sheds and small homes with flowering gardens lined the twisting route, leading to views of the valley through breadfruit and coconut trees. Mu pulled over at the end of the road and asked a fellow with a machete:
“Rodrig, ça va? Is the Tiki access clean, can we walk up to see it?”
“Muuu!” Rodrig greeted him with enthusiasm. “Yes, the bushes have been cut, I will take you there.”
Rodrig led us up the path, looking like a happy Greek gladiator, with his white flowing outfit, leather belt, and criss-crossed sandals. He took his time walking up the steep slope, pointing out the downhill area where all the coconuts roll towards. “So that I don’t have to come up the hill to fetch them,” he beamed.
An Ancient Banyon Tree Burial Site
A decrepit stone wall terraced the hillside in the next switchback. It was evidence of a Marae, an ancient religious site. “Check it out! Petroglyphs,” said Chris, huffing like the rest of us.
Two figures with outstretched arms were carved into the rough rock. Behind them, a banyan tree guarded the pass into a thin ridgeline. Rodrig moved a few stones next to the spiderweb-like roots of the banyan tree, and signaled us over to see. A pile of old human bones lay in a heap.
“The ancient made their cemeteries under the banyan trees. Their roots are the connection to the spirit world. Almost every banyan tree has a pile of buried bones, if you know where to look,” Rodrig explained.
We stood pondering this fact, considering all the banyan trees we had walked past, and unbeknownst to us, all the human bones that were hidden deep within their roots.
Capt. K, Pierre & the “Tiki Pêcheur”
A clearing with rocks running parallel drew us further upslope. There it was! A stoic rock figure, powerful in stance and expression, stood gazing at us, or past us.
“Le Tiki Pêcheur,” introduced Rodrig, which means ‘The Fishing Tiki’, so named for his power to assist or obstruct the efforts of fishermen.
Rodrig added: “But some people call him the ‘Crowned Tiki’ because he’s the only Tiki we know of with a crown.”
He wasn’t very large, but he was formidable. The tiki had giant eyes, pursed lips, and stood with hands bracing his hips – like a martial artist drawing energy into his stomach. Like a tiger surveying his domain, frozen in time and space, the Tiki stood overlooking the valley.
Polynesians describe power in terms of ‘mana’. Ancient kings commissioned the Tiki statues in attempts to have access to increasing amounts of mana. In its wild, raw environment, the Tiki Pêcheur still pulses today, alive with mana.
Rodrig & a Goat Hunt Trophy
Local copra farmer Rodrig holds the skull of an impressive old goat he shot while hunting. Hunting for food- including wild boar, goat, sheep and chicken- is a weekly ritual for many Marquesans.
Mu and the Road to Hanapaaoa
And finally, here’s a panorama of our fearless Marquesan leader Mu overlooking a beautiful bay on the road to Hanapaaoa.