Boeuf Savage, Manta Rays and Vanilla Beans
05 July 2018
Boeuf Savage, Manta Rays and Vanilla Beans
That sums up our day in Bay Hooumi, Nuku Hiva. Well not just that but Robben Ford is singing a kicking blues song, “Buy You a Chevrolet.” Why not a Mustang?
A few weeks ago we met “Debonair” a beautiful ketch from San Francisco sailed by Jason, Caitlin and their children, Arlo. 14 and Ulma, 11. We hung out with them in Hakahau where we enjoyed the outrigger canoe club training center. Debonair is a beautiful wooden ketch, a sister ship to the boat Caitlin and her family cruised on when she was a little girl. Look up their blog: www.ayearandaday.net
While Caitlin is a vegetarian, they told us about their encounter with Christian in Hooumi and his hunting exploits. Christian picked them up as they were hiking and later conversations led to the fact that he is an avid hunter.
Boeuf savage means wild beef. Christian and many on Nuku Hiva are hunters. These islands had hundreds of thousands of residents before the Spanish and French brought first world plagues ashore. Now there are only about 4,000 residents on Nuku Hiva and plenty of animals. Cattle have become wild for the taking, as well as wild boars and goats. Hunters have Pit Bull mix dogs to help them hunt.
We tracked Christian to his house and we were told he would return around 5 pm. Lisa and I dinghied out to Uproar from their beautiful beach and returned around 5. We found him easily. There are only about five houses here. He immediately took us to his house and brought us a big stalk of bananas. From his freezer he produced two huge hunks of boeuf savage. One was a filet and one a rump. He made it clear that it was a gift but I insisted that he take the 1,000 PF ($10) I had in my pocket. Not bad for 15 pounds of beef.
At the beach he introduced us to his wife and 1 year old daughter. Also his pack of five hunting dogs including an adorable puppy. He showed us tusk scars wild boar had inflicted on his prize hunting dogs. They were beautiful and well behaved animals.
Lisa and I packed the meat into Uproar's commodious freezer and spent the evening with Robert, French cruiser showing us his favorite spots in French Polynesia on our charts and sharing numerous bottles of wine and Wahoo for dinner.
The next morning we dinghied a few miles to Taipivai, the village that inspired Melville's Typee, a somewhat embellished account of his escape here from a tyrannical whaling boat skipper mid 1800's.
We hiked through the village to a sign we had previously seen about a vanilla bean farm. It was a steep path to the farm and we were met by a delightful lady and her five year-old daughter. She showed us a small patch of vanilla beans growing but they had a much larger patch up in the mountains. Who has ever seen the culture of these ubiquitous beans? Now we have.
Vanilla are actual an orchid plant. They first plant trees that support the vines and provide shade. Coconut husks provide mulch, orchids don't need soil. The vines grow up into the trees, about five feet tall, back down to the ground and weave about five times between ground and trees. Flowers need to be hand fertilized as the bees who do this work on Madagascar are not available in Nuku Hiva. She showed us how a sliver of bamboo can open up the pollen sack and “marry” it to the rest of the flower. If this is not done, no vanilla bean!
Well, we bought a few dried beans and enjoyed the lovely site, above the fertile valley. Next we hiked to an archaeological site of a ceremonial grounds. We had seen others but this was an un-restored site, high up in the mountain. That will get your heart pumping! Someone had groomed the weeds around the Pae Pae, stone platformsand Tikis. Everywhere in Marquesas the grounds are manicured. We even found the pit where they kept prisoners prior to human sacrifices.
Back to the dinghy and we were in for a surprise. The river we dinghied up was at low tide and quite shallow. We had to get out and drag the dinghy in the shallow spots. Unfortunately, our sandals didn't provide complete protection from the barnacles. I received a good slash on my big toe and Lisa had a cut as well. Finally we were able to motor out into the bay but the dinghy was pink with blood.
We noticed a strange disturbance in the water ahead. It didn't take long for us to recognize this as a school of Manta Rays! They were everywhere. We shut off the engine and drifted in their midst. There were dozens of them, circling and scooping up the krill they consumed. Luckily they came right up to our dinghy and we got a few photos. Nothing can compare to our delight at witnessing these gentle giants. Some were at least eight feet across! We drifted breathlessly and watched them circle around us. This was a new and impressive encounter with our fellow sea creatures.
Back on Uproar we returned to domestic cruising live. We fired up the engine and watermaker, a basic need. Reggae music on the sound system fulfilled another basic need. Boeuf savage was partially thawed and cut into eight chunks for vacuum packing except for one chunk that went into the Le Creuset pot for dinner. Carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, red wine, thyme and bay leaves accompanied it.
We are the only boat in this bay. I showered off the stern with little concern for protocol. Wine, stars, blues music and finally an aromatic boeuf bourgogne completed our evening. This writing is complete, time for bed.