Moorea, Oponohu Bay
It is New Years Day on the Marquesas Island of Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia and if the air gets any thicker with humidity I will vanish and turn into a sweaty cloud. While I struggle to keep the beads of perspiration from building on my forehead, the local dancers seem totally at ease in the heat. The women are beautiful and the men have tattoos that tell long stories of their bloodlines. There are only a hand full of dancers, but their energy radiates like visible heat waves through the open-air arena while the drumming reverberates up into the mountains like thunder rolling in from a distant storm.
The older and more colorfully dressed woman sit crossed legged in a half circle while the younger woman, adorned only with palm leaves, weave their way into the sacred space. Their hand gestures are as intricate as the flowers in their hair are delicate. The woman portraying young virgins sway their hips fast- fast then slow- slow to the rapidly changing beat of the drum. It is beautiful. Their actions are perfectly choreographed and their twirling hand movements are as intriguing as the foreign song they are singing. They are luring the young men.
The chief initiates a change in mood by clapping his hands on his muscular upper thighs in an offbeat rhythm, a sign for the young men to enter the scene.
“ Ai ma’ruru pa haka oi, he chikata!” the young men chant as they perform an intimidating warrior dance. Contrary to the peaceful dance routine of the women, the adolescent men jump about and flex their muscular bodies in ways that are suppler than the bend of a swaying palm tree.
Nuku Hiva dancers
The ceremony ends with a drum solo loud enough to burst the clouds and to bring down a refreshing patter of afternoon rain. I cant think of a better place where I can initiate my new resolutions and step out from under cover into the downpour, the large island rain drops not only washing away the old year, but also making me feel very alive.
We traveled for forty solid hours to get here. The jetlag after such a long trip changes your perception on both distance and time significantly. It can make you do strange things and often you end up with a warped sense of consciousness. After skipping across twelve time zones, I thought nothing of it when I found myself walking really long distances. I walked eighty odd kilometers in five days, trekking through scenes and views that often had me saying out loud “ This is a dream.” To have wandered along the footpaths of seven very different islands is very much a dream come true. Some of the islands have mountains that cast a mystical presence, soaring above the ocean, like majestic gods forged in stone. The Tuamotu Islands on the other hand are flat. They are atolls that are completely surrounded by lagoons, large enough to fool your horizontal view.
Bora Bora view from Nunue Bay
Lagoons around Raiatea
And then there is Huahine. Although it is just a tiny dot on a map it takes up many gigabytes in my mind. In no other place have I had my imagination run as wild as here. There is just something incredibly beautiful about perfect empty waves.
When I saw the first one break over the outer reef I caught myself staring with my mouth open. When the second of the set reeled over the shallow waters I fumbled and stuttered looking for my surfboard that should be under my arm already. When the third one exploded gently and spat the pressure from the hollow chamber I almost start crying. Not because its so beautiful, but because I don’t have a surfboard with me. “Bru!!!” Its in situations like these that I start berating myself out loud. “ How can you not have a board with you?” “Are you special or just stupid?” Not too long though and the usual steps of acceptance come into play and soon I am on that wave, pulling into every barrel. I surf that empty lineup not only for myself, but also for all my mates. At least I am a really good mind surfer.
Empty Huahine perfection
I can’t keep out of the water. Like a big wet blue magnet the water pulls me in and doesn’t let go for hours at end. In the shadows of the mountains of both Moorea and Bora Bora I swim with black tip reef sharks, completely zoned out on their awesomeness. I even got to swim with a squealing pig in Rangiroa. I can’t help but wonder what would happen of the two had to meet.
Moorea Black Tips
There is such a thing as the most beautiful place in the world; you just have to travel through other most beautiful places to get there. Here at the edge of the planet life has a different rhythm, the kind of rhythm I would like to get my heart to beat to. If for some reason I ever disappear there is one of two places where you would find me. The first would be in some mountain range around Cape Town. The second of course, would be in that barrel on Huahine. Good luck trying to find me.