Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mountain Expedition

Mark and I are still not able to receive or send emails through our trustworthy sat phone; the one way of communication and weather information we need and hoped to rely on. There is a problem with the mail service we use and nobody can figure out what went wrong. So, we still feel cut-off from the world, being on an island without internet facilities. We hope to respond to everybody when we get to the island of Hiva Oa, the latest, where internet is available. Not sure when that will be. Fatu Hiva is still amazing and we are not ready to leave yet. To be honest, I don't even know whether these blogs are getting posted, but I'll write them anyway. :)

We were very lucky with the weather on Monday, when we planned to join a crew into the mountains, where they would clean up a trail. On Sunday, it rained all day, making us question the expedition or the state of the trail the following day. On Tuesday, after a rainy night, it kept raining throughout the day, turning Hanavave Bay into a massive brown mud puddle.The highlight of that day was a morning show performed by a big pod of dolphins. They jumped, turned and flipped at the mouth of the bay for hours, feeding and frolicking. When we finally joined them in our dinghy, they played with it and jumped alongside. Too bad the water was so dirty or we would have been able to snorkel or swim with them.

On Monday morning, it stayed dry. Mark and I were picked up at the "Mairie" (town hall) of Hanavave by a truck full of old people. Were these the guys responsible for widening the trail in the mountains? No, they were just getting a ride to Omoa, the other town on the island. Where did we want to be dropped off? Well. How about the trail head where Lionel and his friends would start their work? The driver didn't seem to know anything about our arrangement, but luckily he did know which trail I meant. There really is only one trail into the mountains, which ends in Ouia, an ancient village of thousands of people hundreds of years ago, but empty and abandoned now. Together with a local guy, hiding in the bed of the truck, we were deposited
halfway between Hanavave and Omoa, at the highest point of the bumpy road, which had been extremely steep the whole way. In the chilly mountain air, we waited for Lionel, our French friend we met a few days earlier in Omoa.

After twenty minutes or so, he showed up with three big guys and a truck load of equipment. They unloaded the four weed whackers, extra cans of fuel, cooking utensils, food, cooler, propane, stove, and personal belongings, and arranged everything on the covered picnic benches along the road, one of which they wrapped into a tarp. They would spend the night here. Then, we all set out on the overgrown trail, at a fast pace, following Lionel, the aged leader of the gang. The path was hard to see at times and so narrow and muddy that it was a bit scary. We tried hard not to slip and fall into the depths, off the rocky, steep slopes.

Every 25 minutes, a man stayed behind with his gear to clear the trail towards the beginning. We followed our host until the "col", the highest point on the trail, where the last man started work. The same group would do the second half of the path, the steep decent to Ouia Bay, a few weeks later. Mark and I also turned around, getting freaked out by the steep, muddy, overgrown and narrow continuation of the trail. Our old sandals with no traction were not up for the job, and we had both already slipped a fewtimes. The hike back was at our own pace and very enjoyable, apart from the narrow stretches and one short fall off the side of the bushy mountain, a good scare. We took in the amazing scenery and magnificent views, the different kinds of trees and ferns, the strands of bamboo, and many colorful flowers, the songs of the birds, the sight of green parakeets, the quiet of the mountains. We took our time getting back to the main road, following short lengths of neatly cleared path at intervals, handing a homemade peanut butter cookie to every member of the work force we passed and thanking them for their efforts.

Once back at the road, the next part of our walk started. We followed the rickety dirt road all the way down, first to where the rutted and rocky part turned into pavement, then to Hanavave village, all the while enjoying the views, taking lots of pictures and cursing the steepness of the track, holding ourselves back, making our knees suffer. One car drove by. We watched the sailboats deep down in the protected bay. We passed the little Maria statue, where our driver had stopped and everybody in the car had said a long prayer. We saw the waterfall dropping off a steep cliff in the distance. We cut off a rack of bananas and carried it for miles and we finally found a mango tree with (unripe) fruit. We walked and walked for hours in the sun and finally arrived on Irie, exhausted, covered in mud and happy to be home, and to have been part of this interesting "expedition"!

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