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June 2002

The people who settled these magnificent islands are of Polynesian descent but now part of France so they speak both Marquesan and French.  They are shy folks but  when engaged are very friendly and generous. They are famous for their fine wood and  bone carvings and many cruisers traded t shirts, perfume, fish hooks and spare lines for these fine craft items.  In the few stores we saw we found  vegetables but no fruit at all.  For awhile this was a mystery to us as every hillside was covered with bananas, coconuts, mangoes, papayas, pampelmouse, limes and more.  Finally it dawned on us that the reason there was no fruit in the stores is because everyone has more fruit than they can eat within easy reach of the backyard hammock, so no one would consider buying it. 

When we went on hikes around the islands we found it unnecessary to bring lunch.  Usually we would take a wonderful fresh baguette and carry a machete to cut down coconuts to eat and drink.  Then we would gather mangoes and bananas for lunch.   Most hikes we returned to the boat with as much fresh fruit as we could carry.  In front of one home we stopped to examine a soccer ball sized green fruit we could not identify.  Moments later the lady of the house rushed out and pulled 6 of them off the tree and told us they were pampelmouse as she filled our backpacks.  These are wonderful huge citrus fruit that are like a very large grapefruit but instead of being tart are quite sweet.  When we asked another woman where we could buy mangoes she said she would see us on the dock in an hour.  We thought that she would then direct us to a store but in a bit she drove up with 20 mangoes from her yard and each was the size of a softball.   She would take no money for them as she said they would just go to waste anyway.  Even in the grocery stores after buying some vegetables the folks would often hand Dee a half a dozen bananas or a bag of limes. 

In Fatu Hiva all the cruisers were invited to attend the local church with the Marquesans to celebrate a religious holiday.  They asked us to bring our boat flags to carry in the procession between the church and the seaside meadow where they were to conduct a part of the ceremony.  The scene of the tiny white church nestled beneath the towering  black volcanic rocks was very dramatic.  Inside the church nearly all the women and many of the men had flowers and herbs in their hair so the air we were breathing was perfumed with gardenias and local herbs. The flowers, colorful dresses and wonderful clear voices accompanied by a guitar and ukulele gave the whole scene a festive air.  In the procession outside were flags from the US, Germany, Norway, England, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada and Belgium.  The locals speak Marquesan and French so afterwards we all enjoyed trying to communicate in half a dozen languages. 

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