Here's my postcard from Ua Huka. My first impression was of an island of fire or alternatively it was like landing on Mars. The rock is dark red and the plants and trees hang on to it perilously. Fantastic waves and spray. There are a few wild ponies who come down to the coast overnight to feed.
Inland, there are rich forests and some Polynesian sites. The one I was directed to is apparently one of the oldest in the Marquises. Alone at the end of the day, it was quiet and had the forest had a magic about it.
The island has a strong tradition of woodcraft and a photo-shoot had been organised for an in-flight magazine, which I was able to look in on. I've also bought a couple of pieces.
That was rocky and barren from the start, pretty much felt like we had landed on Mars and more or less looked it. That's where the guide books are a complete trap, they don't offer an opinion. The beauty that is there is the desolation the harshly weathered but barely covered dark volcanic rock that has erupted up out of the deeps of the ocean. Trees, plants a few birds and a few wild horses clinging precariously to its crumbling soil. I felt quite guilty about eating the half lobster that was presented at table the first night, it had been tricked out of its rocky hiding place by a fisherman's light, Magnificent but tricked.
Two other visitors were doing a piece for the Air Tahiti in-flight magazine. I guess they want to promote the destination: the flight in a 19 seat plane that was a bit bumpy in the strong winds. They had arranged a photo shoot at the village "artisanale", wood craft sales place, which was a complete bonus for me. I was able to both be in on some of the set ups for the magazine pictures but more interestingly, have some time with one of the youngish men there and to take some different pictures.
There's clearly been firstly a move to move away from the cannibalism origins of he Marquises but more recently there seems to be a resurgence of the pre-Christianity religions. The sites are maintained and I've seen bunches of feathers dangling from car driving mirrors. On the other islands, there are a number of Polynesian arts festivals, plus the tattoo festival that I didn't see about until too late. The tattoos being one of the places where the line of information is least interrupted to the pre-Christian culture, both the graphics and the practice. Becoming an adult here is now more complex: driving, mobile, pirogue racing all feature as well as tattoo. on the male side.
But at the end of the day I am here as a tourist and that means a choice between going places in a uncomfortable ad hoc group or going it alone. The best bit on Ua Huka was after the 4WD excursion up copra farm trails though the forest up to the transmitter (that was fine but one star and I'm looking for three star things).
I got directions on to a site in Hane, the neighbouring village. I was happy to walk but soon got offered a lift in the back of someone else's pickup, which gave me more time. Two previous tourists seems to have been unable to find the place, but I followed the logic of the forest geography and went there direct and pretty much following the drections I had been given. Maybe Lucien helped me in the back there. Quiet contemplative place with a family of small stone tiki figures. It was a go up the mountain place so maybe meditataion or maybe initiation. Not the big gatherings with sacrifices or celebrations. Anyhow, I found it, enjoyed "reading" the site and came back down from the mountain refreshed.
So Ua Huka was very much an experience of harsh life in Polynesia in the twenty first centrury. I was glad to leave but also I left behind something there, a return to the world with everyone else.