A week ago (May 11) Kim, Mark and I went for a walk to the historic town of Vaitahou. As we had to dinghy to the next inlet over, we had a ten-minute ride to shore. The landing spot was behind a small breakwater where there was a ramp and a place to tie up. As we neared the ramp a man standing on the edge shouted, “Attention, ca glisse!” (Be careful, it’s slippery). We nodded and Mark said “Merci,” but when we stepped out of the dinghy we realized how true the words were. Mark almost fell on his face, and Kim had hold onto the edge, completely abandoning Mark and me, who had to push up the dinghy. After a minute or two of struggling we wheeled the dinghy next to the outrigger canoes and put our shoes on.
Mark, Kim, and I started following a road that gave us a view of the ocean. Seeing a chance for school, Kim immediately started a French lesson. Ten minutes of gorgeous scenery later, we came to a dead end. After turning around and reaching the village where we had started, it promptly started to rain. Kim and I followed Mark to a building with a covered, concrete porch. We took shelter there and got directions to Vaitahou. We left and started walking up a different, steeper road. We were passing lots of tall trees, most of them coconut, but some were banana and banyan. It was raining for most of the trip, so we were utterly soaked, and the streams we crossed were raging. Wild Marquesan horses grazed on the side of the road. Around half way through the walk, we came upon a group of cows and bulls. The road at this point was only 10 feet wide, and one of the bulls was giving us the evil eye. Timidly, we skirted around it and even walked in water to get farther away. Thankfully all the bull did was turn its head around.
After three hours of stressful ascending and descending, we walked into Vaitahou, our legs almost collapsing. It was starting to rain yet again, so we hurried under the roof of a beautiful, open church. It had a 20-foot-wide porch surrounding the front half of the building. At each of the six corners there were arches made out of small stones supporting the ceiling. Around the pews there was a four-foot-tall wall, leaving the top twenty feet open. On the doors there were beautiful carvings, both Christian and Marquesan motifs. As soon as the rain stopped, we left and went to see the memorial of Iotete, a leader of the Marquesan people who we had read about in the church. Near the memorial there was a woman waiting for the rain to pass. We struck up a conversation and asked her about getting a ride back to the other village. We were just leaving when she was able to flag down a car for us. We sprinted to get ice-cream which we then offered to the driver.
On the drive back we talked a little and expressed our interest in how copra, dried coconut meat, was produced. Our driver actually stopped the car repeatedly to get coconuts so he could demonstrate the process. When we arrived at his house, right next to the ramp, he got an ax and two metal scrapers. He split the coconut open with his ax and the used the scraper to peel the meat out. He then gave it to us to eat. The meet tasted bland and oily. It had a crunchy texture, sort of like an apple. We also bought a bottle of handmade, all natural bug repellent, pressed from the nut of a local tree. We left and went back to our dinghy where some young children helped us put it in the water, slipping and sliding all the way. Devon.
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Copra is the fiber/kernel; the meat is called dried coconut (or thenga) – the terms come from Malayalam, and we used to do t home that everday (all 3 meals needed coconut!) Do they call it copra in French too, I didn’t know!