Rank One Travels
Wearing chaplet necklaces fabricated of animal tusks, commonly tattooed Marquesan men angrily balance assuming the “Pig Dance” alongside a anointed banyan timberline area cannibals active skulls of ritualistically eaten victims. At addition angelic archeological site, I apply on an age-old 8-foot-tall red bedrock tiki, allegedly a once-mighty warrior chief, now abiding amid jungly attic palms. Nearby, bean burst active represent sacrificed humans.
You bet I feel the “mana” airy power. Partly because, as I dive into a arresting culture, my Aranui 5 passenger-freighter unloads crates of arctic chicken, delicate milk, abode windows, accurate and added aliment to these extensive Marquesas Islands at an bend of the apple in French Polynesia. To get here, I catholic 1,000 abyssal afar from Tahiti aboard the Aranui, a buoy that twice-monthly brings aliment to the Marquesas, which acquire no added way to access them. In fact, a above highlight of the 11-night sailing is watching the Aranui’s burden — aggregate from alive horses to a Toyota barter to chestnut potatoes — delivered to beholden association of all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas’ 12-island agitable chain.
Dramatically attractive with mist-swathed asperous peaks, abysmal emerald valleys, tikis abounding and bare visitors, the Marquesas are clashing the accepted touristed areas of French Polynesia such as Bora Bora. Marquesans acquire their own language, their own appearance of Polynesian tattoos, their own august dances, alike their own time area (idyllically called Marquesas Islands Time) and are accepted for aberrant artwork, including intricate copse and cartilage carvings and black-ink “tapa” sketches on timberline bark. We acquaintance it all. Plus I pet a rat-detecting dog who is rescuing endangered Marquesan birds, backpack to the grave of syphilis-plagued French painter Paul Gauguin, and see area “Moby Dick” columnist Herman Melville jumped ship.
For Aranui passengers, there’s a claimed do-good aspect to voyages. Your cruise amount — cabins ambit from dormitory-style apartment to affluence suites with clandestine balconies — subsidizes the carriage of burden to the Marquesas from the Aranui’s home anchorage in Papeete, Tahiti (rates alpha at $3,572 per person). The family-owned Aranui additionally brings educational supplies, including books and computers, to island schools for free. And the aggregation is abundantly Polynesian, abounding from the Marquesas. (It’s additionally accessible to ability your starting point; I took an Air Tahiti Nui absolute 8-hour flight from LAX to Papeete.) During my contempo July cruise, the address was half-full with 127 guests of 14 nationalities, alone a scattering from America and best from France.
We’re greeted by a bare-chested built-in alarming a conch carapace at our aboriginal Marquesas island, Nuku Hiva, the better and best busy with about 3,000 residents. (About 9,000 bodies absolute alive in the Marquesas, which has a accumulated 405 aboveboard miles.) Just like at added islands, affable locals access in their own arenaceous 4X4 Toyota pickups to bear us around. I agitate on a bank in an accessible barter bed as we ascend asperous berserk blooming mountains, accomplished bottomward waterfalls, behemothic hibiscus, agriculture horses and a pig arch the road.
Our destination is Tohua Kamuihei, a mystical archeological armpit that housed long-gone temples and platforms for religious ceremonies. This is aback I watch costumed war-like dancers do alarming agitated motions while gruffly shouting “Ho! Ho! Hey!” My adviser Frank Macken acknowledges, “It looks like they appetite to annihilate you.” But, he notes, Marquesans were consistently at war with adjoining tribes and acted “extremely belligerent” to alarm off enemies. The dancers accomplish in advanced of a centuries-old admired banyan tree, area captured combatants were kept in a bastille pit afore their necks were burst after spilling claret because red is sacred. “They were afraid in the banyan timberline until they addle abroad and their backbone anesthetized into the tree,” Macken says. Added bodies were sacrificed in rituals allurement for advice from the gods; their hearts, accuracy and lungs were devoured (again, for the mana) and their skulls active at the banyan tree.
Before autograph books, Melville bare his behemothic address in 1842 in Nuku Hiva and afraid that the association that took him in were cannibals. And conceivably fittingly, the bloodthirsty CBS absoluteness appearance “Survivor” filmed its 2002 division in Nuku Hiva.
It seems a lot of Marquesans I accommodated on this cruise acquire busy tattoos — such as squiggles, geometric shapes, adorning borders, Marquesan crosses, manta application and tikis — all carefully cogent to them and a airy amount of the ability for 2,000 years. There is alike a citizen Marquesan boom artisan onboard the Aranui, which may be the alone cruise address in the apple indelibly carving cartage with Polynesian mementos.
Historically the anatomy art has represented the wearer’s status, rank, achievements and protection. Chiefs could acquire characteristic facial spirals; adolescent women had their easily tattooed aboriginal to absolve them for advancing food. Catholic missionaries on the islands banned the convenance in the aboriginal 19th aeon afore French admiral banned it in 1884. The Marquesans, however, accurate the patterns and eventually active the affluent tradition.
“This is the adventure of my activity and my family,” explains Cyril Tehautetua, a 50-year-old aborigine tattooed close to ankles. “It says aback I was blessed or not happy, every adventure aback I was young, aback I met my wife, aback I had my two sons.”
He’s one of the cartilage carvers on Tahuata affairs abundant tiki-motif adornment and ornaments sculpted from cow and swordfish skeletons. After the Aranui anchors off this 23-square-mile island, cartage ride barges to shore, as we acquire at added stops. Meanwhile, the Aranui aggregation swings the bow’s two chicken cranes to unload endless of lumber, drums of gasoline and boxes of aliment into copse flat-bottomed boats that will again cantankerous the bay with supplies. It’s absolutely an operation.
Some of Tahuata’s 670 citizenry delay with trucks for the goods, which accommodate Tahitian Hinano beer, white rice, peanut butter, onions and carrots. To advice the Marquesas economy, the Aranui additionally takes aback articles to Tahiti, commonly sacks of copra attic meat, limes, lemons and grapefruit. In Tahuata, a bloodied butchered dupe in a fly-covered bag is actuality beatific by a bounded to a about in Tahiti.
The Aranui has been a passenger-freight barge for 38 years, except during COVID lockdowns aback alone burden was aboard.
“We had to accumulate activity because we accompany aggregate for accustomed activity on the islands,” the Aranui’s personable captain, Arnaud Pichard, tells me in the accessible bridge. He additionally reveals that this atramentous we’ll acquire to bifold aback to Nuku Hiva, area our address three canicule ago alone off a helicopter repaired in Tahiti and acclimated for medical evacuations. Nuku Hiva berth workers had afield banned to acquire a carton that, it angry out, was a helicopter part. By sailing all night, we accumulate on schedule.
Depending on the island, we analyze babyish museums, backpack in paradise, cafeteria at bright restaurants, buy handicrafts, blink into churches and appear cultural gatherings. On Ua Huka, pareo-clad welcomers array us with berry necklaces afore Aranui’s burden is advised by a active terrier in a “Best Buddy” neon blooming halter. The parrot-saving dog searches for atramentous rats that casualty on Marquesan azure lorikeets, wiped out from the islands except this one.
On Fatu Hiva, a aborigine pounds breadfruit timberline case into tapa bolt and weaves accepted floral headdresses from pandanus leaves and plumeria. I bang about a fraying soccer brawl with a 9-year-old Marquesan boy who keeps giggling, “More!”
In a Catholic cemetery in Hiva Oa, we associate at the grave of Gauguin, the arguable post-Impressionist artisan who acclimatized actuality to acrylic Polynesian scenes. But the absolute allurement of this island is Te I’ipona, an archeological armpit with an awesome accumulating of age-old tikis.
Tikis are half-human, half-god icons, who action aegis and usually represent ancestors. Their eyes and active are big because of their knowledge. Macken, my guide, credibility to an 8-foot-tall acerbic figure, the better tiki in French Polynesia. “He’s the best acclaimed chief. He’s fabricated of red agitable bean because red is a angelic color. His name is Takaii which agency red and anger. He apparently had a atmosphere too.”
A addictive blah tiki, Taua Pepe, portrays a decumbent grimacing woman giving bearing to a stillborn baby, according to Macken. Marquesan alert mothers appointment the bronze because, oddly, it’s acceptable luck. They additionally boom the Marquesan cantankerous abreast their ear to anticipate angry alcohol from entering their abundant bodies.
As for the decapitated tiki heads, Macken explains they account sacrificed victims “so their backbone doesn’t about-face adjoin you.”
Back on the ship, I blanket myself in a blithe pareo sarong, constrict a gardenia in my beard and clumsily try to apprentice the allegorical hip-rolling Marquesan “Bird Dance” on the basin deck. But wait, is that an ocean cool beneath my feet? Or a abnormal pull? Ask my anew bought copse tiki, actively continuing bouncer in my cabin.
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