Mami Faatiarau is 79 years old. She lives in an isolated valley in the Marquesas Islands. Only a walking path connects this valley to the main village, but she doesnât want to move to the more populated valley like the rest of her family. She and Maoni, her disabled adoptive son prefer to stay in the peace and tranquility of the valley, living off what nature provides.
Raiarii and I met them while scoping out a little right that breaks along the eastern point of her bay. Weâd been sent over to deliver a message to another grandmother who occasionally lives in the same valley. That day, we swam ashore and came upon the two old ladies and a younger woman, hauling a wild pig back towards the house that theyâd just killed!! I was blazed in astonishment at the sight of these three women and their âkillââ¦We delivered the message, they loaded us up with avocados and grapefruit, and we were on our way. But I felt weâd have to go back and spend a little more time there…
On our next visit a week or so later, she and Maoni were out gathering shellfish on the rocks at low tide in the company of a big-eared puppy and a baby goat on a leash. This was quite the foursome to behold! Weâd caught a small tuna on the way there, so we paddled in through the shorebreak to offer them the fish.
Extremely grateful, she smiled and kissed us, and insisted we all eat together. Â So after we rode a few waves, Maoni led us back into the valley through rows of swaying palms. Raiarii carried the fish and a few gifts weâd brought, while I walked the baby goat!Â They explained that they had found him abandoned in the hills on a recent walk back from the neighboring valley. The house was simple, pink, clean, and home to a large pack of hunting dogs and captured wild pigs they were raising to eat. How this duo managed to nourish not only themselves, but all these animals everyday without buying things from a storeâ¦ All I can say is that I found two new heroes that day!
Raiarii fried the fish, I cleaned the shellfish and squeezed lime juice over them, and Mami Faatiarau prepared some tarua root and traditional âpopoiâ, made from fermented breadfruit. Maoni never stopped smiling and it was certain they were both happy to have company. Neither of them spoke much French, so it was difficult for me to communicate. Thankfully, Raiarii speaks fluent Tahitian and Mami speaks both Marquesan and Tahitian, so he was able to translate for me. After lunch we helped around the house as much as they’d allow, hoping the two of them could rest a bit that afternoon with some of the chores finishedâ¦
Then we all wandered back to the beach, and sat in the shade of the palms watching the wild horses drink from the creek. When it was time to say goodbye, Mami told us they were coming over to the valley where Swell was anchored in a few days. We offered to pick them up with the dinghy, but she refused explaining that she never learned to swim, so she was terrified of the sea, and preferred the 4-mile walk at 79 years old! Go Mami Faatiarau!!