Shortly after arriving in Puamau we saw a few locals in what looked to be the most promising surf break since Barra de Navidad in Mexico. The stern hook had barely hit the sand before Brady had his board down and was paddling towards the break.
About 2 hours later Brady returned with a big grin. Not only was the wave rideable but he’d connected with the guys in the line up. One of them invited Brady to his house in the small village to hang out, and said he was welcome to stay the night. With a little trepidation Brady asked what we thought. We said “Go for it!” how often do you get invited into a Marquesan home to spend the evening? Brady hurriedly threw a few things into a waterproof pack, jumped back on his board, and paddled towards the two figures on the beach whistling and waving.
Early the next morning Brady checked in on the VHF, saying he had a blast and was stuffed from a huge breakfast. He also said his new friend Frederick was the nephew of Joaquim that we met a few days ago in Hanamenu. Small island right? He mentioned that Frederick’s family owned a few horses and wanted to show us some Tiki’s that afternoon. Just outside the village of Iipona is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in French Polynesia, including the Takaii Tiki.
We jumped at the chance to be escorted by Frederick and soon found ourselves working our way up the winding road into the hills surrounding Iipona with only an empty sack for a saddle. Along the way Frederick stopped to show us his favorite fruit trees, using a mixture of French and hand gestures to explain everything. He gave us a break down of the Marquesan names as well which was very cool. Every once in a while we’d make a mistake, eating something that was supposed to be used as a spice or oil, or fumbling to get through a tough skin without a knife. We were a great source of amusement for him and he wasn’t embarrassed to let us know.
At the site Frederick used the international hand-slashing-throat sign and pointed to a unique stone platform slightly raised above the rest. We sat in silence and contemplated what the ancient ceremonies must have been like, complete with human sacrifice.
The site was huge and Tiki filled terraces spread up the hill. There were numerous Tiki’s of various shapes and sizes with Takaii looming over all others. At over 8 feet tall the Takaii Tiki is reported to be the largest outside of Easter Island.
The outlines of Pei-Pei’s (stone platform for huts) were clearly visible with the size denominating the position and importance of the long gone residents.
While sitting on the earth absorbing the experience Frederick grabbed a sharpie from our pack and began to free hand draw Marquesan art on Brady’s arm and shoulder. As he drew he did his best to explain the significance of each symbol. The first he drew (square with repeating pattern) represents the Marquesas while the female Tiki to the bottom and left represents protection.
After returning from the site Frederick took us back to his home and filled us with fruit from his yard, including a melon resembling a watermelon but much sweeter and smaller. He filled a backpack with chicken, breadfruit, and baguette.
Waving us on we continued to the beach by the surf break. Arriving at the beach Frederick began to collect tinder, wood, and palm fronds. In no time he had a nice size fire going. As the embers began to glow red he placed the entire breadfruit into the fire on end, occasionally turning it from side to side with giant tongs he created from a stick split down the middle.
While the breadfruit cooked Frederick built a grill from palm fronds and began to slowly cook the chicken, dousing it with cups of salt water directly from the ocean and a special sauce he had concealed in his bag that we think was soy and noni. Frederick took the breadfruit from the fire after about an hour and using a bunch of leaves as a sort of oven glove held the fruit against a tree while using a sharpened stick to remove the skin.
We used leaves as plates and sat on the beach enjoying the simple yet amazingly delicious meal. This was our first experience with breadfruit and it was incredible. The taste could be described as a cross between potatoes and bread, with a slight smoky flavor from the fire. We were instantly hooked! The chicken was some of the most tender and flavorful we’ve ever had.
We ended the day with an afternoon surfing session before inviting Frederick back to our boat. He had a DVD player but no movies. His eyes lit up as we showed him titles from our collection. He selected a few, including one of our favorites “Fight Club”. We began copying discs while Frederick entertained us on Erin’s guitar in the cockpit of Delos. In addition to being a skilled wood carver and artist he also knew his way around the guitar really well. We were surprised to learn he was only 17 years old. He had his own house, job at the local church as a wood carver, and obviously focused a lot of time and attention on his art and music. With food and shelter so easy to come by on these islands, and very little material goods that require money, you are free to spend your time as you wish.
A hand carved wooden knife Frederick exchanged for one of Brady’s old hats