Day Trip to Takai’i

Hairy hair pin turn…watch out for goats!

After making fast friends with Heifara & Siki, Blight & Isrin in a valley near Mami Faatiarau’s, Raiarii and I gladly accepted an invitation on an island tour. Well-versed in Marquesan culture, Blight brought the island to life recounting the history and legends that made each place special.

First he brought us to a valley in the south, to visit the stone ruins of an ancient Marquesan ‘Tohua’—stone platforms upon which homes were built and festivities conducted. Blight showed us where the royalty sat, offerings were set, the compost pile, and where the religious ceremonies and sacrifices were made on the sacred ‘Me’ae’ grounds. There was even a scary looking stone prison hole! Original tiki sculptures that have never been moved, and the elaborate rock foundations cloak these sites in almost tangible wonder.

Isrin, bravely checking out the prison ‘hole’. A large rock was rolled on top of this hole to detain a prisoner likely before being sacrificed.

Isrin and the ancient stone tiki at Taaoa.

Next we drove out to the north side of the island, to see where Blight and his seven brothers and sisters grew up in a valley of their own! His father would go off hunting pig or goat for days in the mountains while his mother split copra, fished, or gathered food from the surrounding hills or shore. Every now and then she’d whistle, and the kids would whistle back, letting her know that all was well. Blight recalled walking to his grandmother’s house in the neighboring valley at five years old to fetch a bag of sugar—a steep hike in and out, 5 miles or so, up and over the mountain and back. While his family lives in the main village now for work, Blight’s mother dreams of the day she will retire and return to her peaceful life in the valley, close to nature.

Blight, pointing to the isolated valley where he was raised.

Legend holds the most beautiful girl of the village was once sacrificed from this rock to appease a huge shark that was harrassing the fishermen.

Next we stopped at an infamous stone—perfectly flat on top and adjacent to what appeared to be a 300-400 foot drop into the sea. Marquesan legend holds that at one time, a huge shark was harassing the fisherman of the valley. In order to appease him so that the fisherman could go fishing, the most beautiful girl was sacrificed off this rock into the sea…

“What price beauty,” I sighed, then struggled to get my breath again as I peered over the ledge.

“You can imagine the drop as apparently she had enough time to scream three full times before she hit the water.” Blight said. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The shark never bothered them again after that…”

The breath-stealing drop off…

The marvelous Takai’i

As we climbed back in the truck, I tingled with gratitude that no one was being sacrificed today, and we were off to visit the legendary Me’ae site of Takai’i, the tallest tiki in Marquesas, and the horizontal ‘Priestess tiki’,  both of which were the fascination of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl on their ‘Back to Nature’ adventure to Marquesas in 1939. These tikis so closely resembled some of those he’d seen in South America, he postulated that contrary to most theories, Polynesians originally came from the Americas rather than Asia (the inspiration for his ‘Kon Tiki’ voyage a few years later). Takai’i and his companion tikis guarded the valley with indisputable pride, alluding to a time when humans, nature, and spirit were inextricably connected.

On the way home we visited Blight’s grandfather on his banana plantation in the mountains, where he dries bananas in drying racks warmed by a fire, makes delicious banana vinegar, and tends honey bees. His great grandfather arrived to Marquesas on a ship in the early 1900s. He and his brother decided they’d found paradise, deserted the ship and now account for the large and renowned O’Connor family of Hiva Oa.

Thank you Blight, Isrin, Heifara, and Siki for this unforgettable day!

Grandpa O’Connor hard at work weghing his dried bananas.

The famous ‘priestess’ tiki at Paumau. 

If you find yourself in the Marquesas, Blight O’Connor offers customized tours for visitors to the island of Hiva Oa. Along with speaking perfect English, French and Marquesan, Blight is highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable of local culture, history, dance, customs, and sights of interest…he’ll hike with you up the highest mountain, whiz you around in their open backed Land Rover, or teach you to weave a hats out of palm fronds!!

He can be contacted at marquesasculturalriders@gmail.comor local phone (+689) 342501.