National Geographic : 1950 Jan
Shores and Sails in the South Seas "I almost shook hands with myself on that turn," I laughed to the skipper as we rounded a sharp switchback. Near the summit vegetation thinned. Small trees and bushes gave way to grassy slopes. Soon we were out in the open and on top. Over the crest we trotted and looked out upon a great expanse of gently rolling, green grazing land. "This is the route your Melville took in his escape from the whaler," the skipper informed me. Waterfalls of Typee Valley Typee Valley forks at the head. In the left branch we could see two cascading water falls, perhaps 500 feet high. The right branch was green. At the very head I could see the trail leading over the next range of moun tains, across the island to Hatiheu Bay on the north side. Likely it was similar to the route we had just followed, worn two feet deep by centuries of use. "Now you've had a worm's-eye view and a bird's-eye view of Typee," the skipper said. "You've seen it from its floor, and you've seen it from its roof." "Can't we stay here awhile?" I wondered. But we couldn't, and back we headed. We met a native and his family on their way to Typee. The man rode a handsome horse; behind trailed his wife, all five children, four dogs, and a cat. In the Marquesas a horse is a valuable asset. The open sea confronts you at every turn, and a visit into the next valley requires a ride over several mountain ranges. On a few of the islands, where the mountains do not drop so abruptly into the sea, the trails wind along the coast. A small throng had gathered at Taiohae when we arrived late in the afternoon. They were examining a 25-foot native sailing craft just in from the island of Ua Pu, 30 miles distant. A heavy sea had been running, and this flimsy craft, with four occupants, had made the voyage in six hours, bailing all the way. The purpose of their journey was to obtain two liters of red wine from Bob McKittrick, a Scottish storekeeper who has lived in Taio hae 38 years. Wine is rationed to the natives in these islands; otherwise, there would be no work and all play. Bob's new Servel kerosene refrigerator, which arrived with our schooner, was already paying handsome dividends. The kids were buying ice cubes from Bob for a franc. Bob gave me four ice cubes, no charge, in appreciation of suggestions I had given him on the operation of the new refrig erator. I had used the same kind in the Tropics in Central America and Africa, but had never realized a franc apiece on ice cubes! At the mission house in Taiohae I picked up a 1919 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE and browsed through it. Outside, flamboyant trees were in full bloom-another picture for my mind's "cam era!" By late afternoon my attention had been distracted by the sand flies. Nuku Hiva is full of these pests, which raise red welts simi lar to mosquito bites on vulnerable white skin. They itch-and citronella doesn't help! Moving along the coast from Taiohae, we entered Taioa Bay under the shadow of ma jestic mountains which towered more than 1,600 feet beside and above us. The right fork of the bay was a favorite spot of whalers to beach their ships and repair hulls. Charles Conlon, the supercargo, and I hiked up the valley to see a waterfall. We met Marquesans typical of earlier generations tall, muscular men, stocky women. Before one grass hut women were grinding breadfruit, which they would allow to ferment for poipoi. In early days a hole was dug in the center of the houses for storage of poipoi. The women were wearing garments of tapa cloth, pounded from the bark of the bread fruit tree. Banyan, paper mulberry, and other barks also may be used for clothing. When the cloth pareu was introduced into Polynesia, it quickly replaced tapa cloth, which does not wear well and disintegrates in water. 2,000-Foot Shower Bath We found our waterfall at the head of the valley and somewhat to the left. From where we stood, it must have fallen a thousand feet. All of it was not visible, and estimates have it that this cascade is over 2,000 feet in height. At the base of the falls is a stream. In this warm climate a mountain stream is always an invitation to bathe. This is the first time I have ever had a 2,000-foot shower bath at my disposal! A silver ribbon of water splashing down outcroppings of a half-hidden mountain on a pebble of an island in the South Pacific this is another of the pictures exposed in my mental camera. "Pheasants?" I asked the supercargo quizzi cally as we retraced our footsteps. "Ha, ha," he laughed. "Wild chickens!" But they did look like pheasants. They had brilliant plumage and a sheen to their feathers. They would run through the under brush and take wing just as a pheasant does.