Ua Huka is the smallest and driest of the Islands. Its population of 624 is scattered between 3 villages; Vaipaee, Hokatu, and Hane. These villages are located on the south side of the island. Here there are valleys with streams so trees and crops can grow. On the rest of the island , there are tall cliffs and volcanic mountains where only small bushes and grasses can survive the dry north winds.
The last Mayor of the villages was a forward thinker and had a concrete road installed to link the villages and the port. This has made a huge difference to the lives of the population. Also the Mayor wanted his people to look at alternatives to the coconuts, mangoes,breadfruit and taro plants traditionally grown. He set up a Botanical garden with fruits from many countries to explore the varieties that could be grown. Unfortunately his ideas and legacy have not been supported by the new mayor. Our visit showed beautiful trees coming into fruit that only their planter is caring for. We enjoyed the green skinned mandarins.
Following the gardens, we visited a museum set up by one of the local people . This displays reproductions and original tools and materials used by the Marquis people. In his carvings are reflected not only his skills , but also those of his ancestors. Ua Huka is known for its wonderful wood carving.
Now be grateful that you are not related to a chief. When they or their family died, they were beheaded, their head wrapped in 30 metres or tapa and stored in a container. Their body was then rubbed with coconut oil everyday until it mummified. Sometimes the water pushed out from the dead body was collected and drunk to ensure the ancestors “manna” or spirit was continued. The body was stored in a hollowed half tree in a cave. Thankfully this is not done now. If you are an ordinary person, you just get buried in the ground.
Pteroglyphs are drawings or carvings made by people to honour their beliefs, tell stories or show the people’s life styles. They are common in societies that used oral and not written language to teach. Here in the Marquis they were used . To preserve them, latex molds have been made of the rocks and then casts made from these. A collection of these was displayed on the island.
Tomorrow back at sea as we leave the Islands for Tahiti.