October 16, 2015
Arriving in the Marquesas in late June, everything was different compared to other places we’d visited so far. I had no idea what the local people were saying. I still had the Spanish language in my head from being in Mexico and the Galapagos. I came here with no clue how to speak their languages, French and Marquesan (similar to Hawaiian), and I found out during our first couple weeks that Trent and I would be attending the local school for a year. Since I am an American with blue eyes, blond hair, whitish skin, and to top it off I rode a fold-up bike trailing a cart that made a great deal of noise, my first month before school started, was awkward. It was basically like having a sign over my head saying: “I’m here, I’m here, look at me, I’m here!” Everyone stared at me when I walked down the street.
On arrival we had a few Marquesan friends, so it wasn’t exactly that bad. Some of the activities that our friends take part in are very cool. One weekend before school we took a sail trip with another boat called Manatai (Guy, Marian, and Taeva (9 yrs.)) and the Falchetto family: Sebastien, Raymonde, Moana (22), Pahu (17), and cousin Teiki Poi (14). We all sailed to an island called Eiao, which is seldom visited by anybody, including Marquesans. Only a few families visit regularly and our friends were one of them. They even had a shed up at the top. We went there specifically to hunt for pigs and goats. I couldn’t wait to go hunting for the first time, but in order to get to where the animals were, we had to walk up a steep mountain slope carrying tools, sleeping supplies, food, water, and hunting gear.
It was an over-night sail from Nuku Hiva to there. We left just after sunset and arrive around 10 a.m. There’s really only one bay where boats can anchor. It’s on the west side of the island. Manatai arrived before us so they were settled in first. The trip was a bit rocky but nothing worse than what we’d seen before, but different than what our Marquesan friends were use to. Being stuck on the boat with three sick Marquesans made you want to get on land even more. So with everybody anxious to get off, the unloading went fast. Finished with the arrival part Trent, Taeva and I grabbed some sticks and played sword fights on the remote brown sand beach until nightfall. We slept on our boat while our Marquesan friends slept near the beach in a fragile shack-like structure, mostly a floor with a plastic tarp roof. The next day everyone woke up very early, before sunrise, to have breakfast on the beach and start the hike at sunrise.
The path was marked with stacked up rocks like pedestals and soon enough the path ended at a lonely tree on a plateau where we all took a decently long break.
You could just see our boat down the edge of the cliff, we were so high up. Everyone arrived two or three pounds lighter with a soaking, sweaty T-shirt. At this point, we were only 1/3 the way to our destination: a hunting shack.
After break was over, we started on a new path heading south across the island with gravel-like terrain. On our walk, apart from some different colored rocks and weird scraggly looking trees, we didn’t see much. Even though the sightseeing wasn’t the best, the walk itself was interesting and a little tricky due to the fact that there were chasms everywhere.
Take one wrong step and you could slip and fall into a deep chasm, stuck until someone in the group could lift you out. An hour later we made it two-thirds of the way. We stopped at a checkpoint and admired the extraordinary view and appreciated the breeze.
There happened to be a small group of goats that we spotted at the bottom of the cliff-side. Fifteen minutes passed quickly; it was time to move on.
As we walked a few pigs appeared along the path. I joked around and scared them off by running after them brandishing my little four-inch blade, (as if that could stop anything.) Almost at the destination, we came across a large patch of dead, rotting trees, but that didn’t discourage us. We tramped through the trees until finally we saw it: a little shack 10-foot by 10-foot, and 7 feet tall. When we opened the door we found two picnic tables and a mini stovetop. All the rest was bugs and moldy, rotten wood. The last time someone had been there was over a year, maybe two.
Once everyone arrived, the guys pulled out the tables from inside the shack and placed them into the shade so we could have lunch. We had brought bread, pate, peanut butter, crackers, banana donuts, fruit, and chocolate powder for hot chocolate. But most importantly: water. We all ate our fill and drank hot chocolate since the shed had mini propane stove-stop. After lunch the people who didn’t plan to stay, that is my mom and the Manatai family, started the walk back. Sebastien sent his son and nephew to partially lead them back to the lonely tree.
Those who stayed included the Falchetto family, my father, brother and me. Towards nightfall, the first thing we did was start a fire to keep warm. We then spread a large white plastic tarp down for the ones sleeping on the ground and prepared dinner. The two picnic tables were butted up, side-by-side. Dinner included, hot chocolate with powdered milk, bread, fruit, and rice with leftover wild mutton meat from the evening before. Once dinner was finished, Sebastien told us to throw all the bones as far away as possible so that the centipedes wouldn’t be tempted to crawl on us at night. Then right before we went to bed, he told us all these wild stories about how the pigs sometimes came at night and bit people on the head. Because of the stories, everyone reset their alertness from a rate of 6 to 10.2. Despite not having a roof over our heads during our night in the wild, we happily had spoonfuls of Nutella and a ground tarp. Everyone dressed warmly. The Falchetto family slept on the ground huddled together. My dad and brother slept on tables high off the ground. The final thing said was, “there is a flashlight near the hut if anyone needs to use the bathroom.”
Seven hours later the sun came up. The first noise I heard was a most irritating electric-like buzzing above my head. It was a combination of thousands of flies, mosquitos and no-no’s hovering like helicopters overhead. For breakfast, it was the same meal: bread with a choice of peanut butter, Nutella, jam or pate, and hot chocolate or powdered cappuccino. Yum! Before we left, we prepared everything for the hunt. We collected dry wood to feed the fire and readied our GoPros. Sebastien got his 22 rifle and hunting knives ready. Raymonde stayed at the campsite and Moana was sent off to carry one large load back down the mountain and to return for more. Heading off with all our materials, knives, gun and GoPros, the first type of animal we were looking for was wild pig. In my opinion, out in the wild, pigs are the most dangerous because even after being shot, they can still run at you, tusks and all. While walking around, all of a sudden, Sebastien told us all to crouch, be quiet and make as little movement as possible. Looking carefully in the shrubs was a pig. He pulled me over, handed me the gun, and said, “La tete,” and pointed to his head. So I turned my head-mounted camera on and grabbed the gun. I aimed at the head through the small site and pulled the trigger. The bullet grazed the leg, which didn’t stop it, only scared it off.
We moved on to look for more hunting opportunities. We then found a group of sheep and started moving very slowly into position. Sebastien pulled out his gun, aimed and fired twice shooting the shoulders of two male sheep, which stunned them in place. Then he handed us the gun and we tried to put them down. We missed so, before they ran off, Sebastien took back the gun and proceeded to kill both. He has had a lot of practice!
Immediately, Sebastien ran over to one and sliced its throat and had my brother hold steady its moving back legs, which were stretched skyward. Sebastien cut the testicles and the head off the animal and then did the same to the other. Even after all that, the animals were still twitching. The next step was to slit the abdomen open, and with that came a most terrible smell. After cleaning the insides out, I took a GoPro shot to capture what the inside of an animal looks like. The big men carried the bodies over to hang off a tree to finish the cleaning protocols, which included skinning and splitting the body in half. Next, they packed the meat in bags and carried the heavy load back to the hunter’s shed, where we had just spent the night.
Soon afterward, it was time to pack up the camp site and start the journey back to the boats. Once everything was good and ready, we began hiking back, carrying twice as much down as we came up with because we were packing back the meat and they cleaned out the hunting shack of various tools, supplies, and a stovetop. Along with my backpack, I was asked to carry the stovetop, adding to my weight 15 lbs. We walked the same path down, so it wasn’t as interesting the way back. With an aching body and swollen feet, the six-hour walk that felt like forever finally came to an end. On the beach, despite my sore feet, I couldn’t help myself. I just had to run. With the sand under my feet and the fantastic smell of lunch, I felt as if I had just finished the Tour de France and I was going to win a bunch of money.
Hiking, hunting and lunch being over, it was time to sail back to Taiohae. Once finished loading everything and everyone back onto the two sailboats, we raised anchor under a setting sun and headed southeast toward Nuku Hiva.
During this trip there was a lot I learned, but most importantly it really opened my eyes in offering help, and not always complaining about it, to: “Just Do It!” It was an experience that changed me in a very big way. Our trip with the amazing Falchetto family was extremely memorable and I cannot wait to take part in more such experiences along our adventure!
by Bryce Rigney