31 May, 2006

a note

 

Hey everyone.

 

All is well here.   Just made it to Taiohae Bay (for the second time) on Nuku Hiva Island of the Marquesas.

Everything just gets better and better.  Good friends—some great sailing recently.  I had an amazing event happen in Daniel's Bay.  The biggest flood in remembered history.  It was devastating.  The village there was okay, but their trees, which are their livelihood were ravaged.  It was hard to know just how bad things were. 

But they were resilient and needed little from us.  (Nothing, actually.)  It reminded me so much of Hurricane Hugo and our pecan orchard, the flooding of the Wateree River.  Terrible stuff.

 

Everything here is marvelous, always meeting new people.  I have decided to skip the Tuomotos—they are too dangerous without an engine.  They are only atolls, so you have to enter the reefs through narrow channels often with strong currents.

Another day with another boat.

 

Please, please keep my Uncle Richard in mind.  He has been having facial surgery due to a terrible accidental shooting.  Please keep him in mind, and his family.  All seems to be going well, but it is hard for me being so out of touch.  I love them very very much.

 

 

Take care and thank you for all the concern.   



--
Jonah Manning
S/V Araby


Online Journal -www.freejonah.blogspot.com
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

128 Holliday Rd
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Emergency contact:  
Dibble Manning
phone:  001 - 803 - 787 - 4352  
email:cmann1960@aol.com>
also check addresss in "to" column

Hundred-Year's Flood

One-hundred Year’s Flood.

 

Sitting at anchor in Daniel’s Bay, Nuku Hiva, a somewhat ‘perfect’ anchorage—none but friends around—it started to rain in the early evening as Brian and I began a chess game.  The wind picked up slightly and I hadn’t really dogged down my portlights sufficiently, so I quit the game and rowed home.

The water kept on coming.  It was a down pour, sixteen hours worth.  Ever now and again someone would come on the VHF: “Did you see that landslide?” or “I can count 37 waterfalls!” 

37 waterfalls!  How?  Can you imagine?  The rain on the high bluffs above came spilling through the jungle in silver cascades down each and every ravine and wrinkle.  360 degrees of waterfalls.  The river was a torrent.

Perhaps we’ve all seen floods at some point, and this one was just the same.  The water went brown and trees and debris floated out past us.  I hoped the water would turn brackish enough to kill the algae on my hull.

 

There is a hike through a small village at the mouth of the river into Daniel’s Bay that leads to what I have heard is the third longest waterfall in the world.  Everyone had already gone up but me and I was thinking of going today. 

Paul said he’d like to go and search for artifacts that had been exposed by the flood.  So we rowed from the anchorage to the village where we’d park the dink and start our hike.  But as we rowed in we started already to notice devastation.  Cocoanut trees hung heads bowed into the fast flowing river.  The exposure of roots showed the massive erosion of the banks.  Since Paul had aleady been  here he could comment on the changes.

In the village everything except the houses had been washed away—there was nothing but mud and rock.  Whole nurseries of banana and young coconut trees had been completely washed away.

We met Daniel (hence Daniel’s Bay) in the village and he said that in his 78 years he had never known a flood like this.  At first we were shocked—the rain hadn’t seemed so fierce—but the farther we hiked the more we understood.

The village’s only road had been completely washed away in places.  There were new creeks, created by the numerous waterfalls, that had etched a fresh trail through the jungle to the river.  Great sand bars appeared seemingly at random.  At bends in the river were great barricades of coconut trees, the lifeblood of the village.

 

It needs to be noted somewhere that the scenery of the surrounding cliffs is some of the most striking visual artistry I’ve ever seen—so  tall and furrowed and deep and shadowed—impossible to convey, somewhere between Kauai and the Kali Gandaki gorge in Nepal.  Truly breathtaking landscape.  We crossed rivers and found an ancient village high in the hills, sitting quietly as it has for hundreds of years unchanged.  I’ve never taken more pictures in one day that I can remember.

The waterfall was itself spectacular as well.  It didn’t hurt that it was nearly at flood stage still.  But nothing touched me the way the destruction down below had.  I remembered Hurricane Huge and how we lost seventy per-cent of our pecan trees, how the river blew out the dikes on the Wateree and flooded the level and most of the fields past Bootsie’s Corner.

But I was young but I knew somehow that it would all be okay.  Crops could be replanted next year.  We wouldn’t starve.  And farms have insurance.  But what about this village?  They are mostly subsistence living.  What happens?  Do they have enough coconuts and papyas and breadfruit trees to get on for the next few years until new nurseries can mature?

When we talked with Daniel he never lost the smile on his face when talking about his loss.   He laughed once or twice.  I take this as both a sign of the strength of his character and a foreknowledge that “we shall perseviere….again.”

 

 

 

26 May, 2006

Nuku Hiva

Okay, I have email at last.   I posted some stuff but it isn't in order.  Check it out.  It is long and scrambled, but I tried to get most stuff down though I haven't been spending much time writing--I'm sure you understand.  It is incredible here.  Great people.....everything is green and big.
Soon, like a few days, I'm leaving for the Tuomotos which are a string of atolls between here and Tahiti.  It will be a very challenging sail, underwater reefs, strong currents and potentially odd weather.  I'll be careful.  I'm only going into a couple of them.  My engine is dead so things are more perilous that otherwise.


All is well.  How are things where you are??   I've never been so out of touch.  I have no idea what is happening in the word.  No news.  No nothing for weeks and weeks, months now I guess. 
The boat is fine.  I haven't a complaint in the world.

jonah

Reunion, Nuku Hiva

The first symptom is Death

 

 

May 15

 

 

Since last I wrote, my friends Tilikum and Herbert have arrived, still waiting on Brian.  I was excited to learn that they only left a few hours after me, which means I beat them by nearly a week—22 days to 28!  How proud I am of Araby!

It is so great to have them back.  I have walked about Atuona a bit with them, cooked them a welcome to the Marquesas meal, and had some good chats about our separate adventures.  Their trip was rather smooth compared to mine, far fewer problems, just a bit slower.

Herbert and I hiked / hitch-hiked to the old chapel I found a few days ago.  While sitting to eat my lunch (I think Herb had fallen asleep in the Chapel) a group that was having a picnic invited me over to have a plate with them.

Oh it was great.  They had raw fish, bar-b-qued lamb, this wild pineapple-looking think that tasted like mashed potatoes, bananas, coconut milk, bread—the works.  It was grand.  Luckily I saved some for Herb when he arrived.

 

This chapel and picnic area were right on the beach.  We jumped into the warm water with all the locals and body surfed and headed soccer balls.  We flirted with a few young Marquesan chicitas.  It’s funny when you don’t speak the same language—you just sort of make jokes and laugh at each other.

 

 

 

The next day, after hanging low, doing some boat work (getting my outboard running) I went ashore to have a run.  I decided on a little rutty, muddy track I knew from my hitch-hiking adventure with the Tahitians.  It was nearby and would offer some solitude and wouldn’t be straight up.

Indeed, I didn’t see a soul.  I ran and ran and then I found a side road I hadn’t seen.  It went up and out of the valley the main road was following.  It was dark and, if possible, less used.

There were less ruts and mud, but more cobwebs and shadows. Low branches and moss.  It was wonderful, but slippery.  I’d go through pure stands of banana trees, saw some papya and many other fruits I can’t identify. 

As I went the track narrowed and narrowed.  I started checking my compass just in case.  Eventually I could hardly make out the trail and started hiking in stead.  I found cairns to guide me.

 

The first treat (besides the mud to my knees) were the trees—I don’t know what they were, but they were tall and buttresses like bald cypress, but they had many more flukes and ridges and no pneumatifors. I was in Terrabythia again, but they were different.  The late afternoon light dousing all the moss and lichen in a faint glow—I was in the foothills of nowhere, hardly a trail, it was getting late.  Perfect.

And then I looked up the sloop and saw a design in the rocks.  There appeared to be an ancient wall or foundation.  I was somewhere after all, an old, old somewhere.  Was this the cause of the cairns?  Was there more?

I never found out because the sun dipped behind the ridge and I didn’t dare tarry any longer.  I found my way back down to the last cairn and linked them together as quick as I could.

 

It was wonderful ambling through dense jungle and then so unexpectedly finding ruins that could be hundreds and hundreds of years old.  And there really is little infrastructure here to find answers to any questions about them.  Most things here are word of mouth, but I don’t speak French. 

Mysteries are fun too.

 

 

Unfortunately, the real excitement (and danger) of the day came at dinnertime.  With all the strange risks I take who would suppose that my dinner would almost kill me?  I don’t exaggerate.

Only two days ago I was reading an essay about dumpster-diving and the boons and risks and ethics, ect associated with this much frowned-upon activity (of which I am a whole-hearted fan).  One issue was the understanding of risk in certain food times, one of which were canned goods.

Now I keep a lot of my cans in the bilge and from time to time water gets in and causes the cans to rust.  There is little I can do about it and I am not about to through away all of my beloved chili, baked beans, corn, enchilada sauce, clam chowder, mushroom soup (for green bean casseroles), ect.  No way.  But one must be careful, as I well knew, for holes in the cans—least you contract botulism.  

 

So last night I needed a quick meal; I had already eaten a bit with some new friends whom just arrived in port from Mexico (29 days afloat).  I mashed some tatters and got out a can, an old can of green beans to go along.  The can was rather awful but I checked it and it was fine.

As I stirred the beans I tasted one and it was fine, but felt somehow tough.  And that essay came back to mind and I couldn’t help but be a bit nervous.  I got the can out of the garbage and rechecked it.

Damnit, sure enough, plain to anyone who isn’t BLIND was a pin hole in the middle of the can.  Shit—I had just eaten a bite of a potentially botulism infested bean and I had just read that the first symptom of botulism is death.  And ain’t that just great.

What to do???  Half a bean, what to do??  Botulism, the first symptom is death.

 

I didn’t like it but the only realistic thing I could think of was to go puke it out over the toe rail.  And I had just had a nice bowl of rice.  At least I’d have something in my stomach to puke up other than the one bean.

Not fun, but the thought of dying of botulism was just too ridiculous to bare.  I even went back below, chugged some water and then vomited that up just to be sure.  What a drag.

 

I was furious.  How stupid, idiotic.  Why?  Is one damned can of beans worth it?  Why wasn’t I more careful.  I was so close, so close.  The can was already in the garbage, already past inspection—only intuition or something, that essay maybe, something took me back and saved me.

Maybe there was no botulism, but I don’t know.  That isn’t the point.  The point is that I was stupid, made an error that I can’t afford to make, an error as serious as flawed storm tactics or lax anchoring habits. 

It took me hours to relax.  I was a bit unnerved.  I watched the Big Lebowski with  Tila and \Herb and felt better.

 

Enough of that.  Ironic story I think.  I sail all the way across the Pacific to be killed by a can of green beans. 

 

 

--------------------

 

 

Note on boat—swimming—body surfing—engine fixing—Aguaja and N.C

Trip to Puamau—party with Sea Cor—hikes/run—chess—boat sale to Tilikum

Bushwack—porpusies—leaving Araby—Brian arrives—Mark had turned back—Nuka Hiva bound—big party on Araby

 

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2006

 

While spending time with Herb and Til, getting ready to leave Atuona at last, one day a note appears on Bamboo for the both of us.  It read: “Bamboo and Araby, you are invited to a party to celebrate the birthday of Martine in Paumua Bay on Friday 19th.  Aguja and Noble Cause should be arriving tomorrow and Sea Cor on Thursday.  See you then.  Sincerely, Sea Cor, Aguja, and The Noble Cause.”

This was a shocking letter on many levels: Who wrote it?  Where did it come from?  I know these people; they are my friends from La Paz, the friends I had hoped would be in Atuona when I arrived.  It had turned out that Sea Cor was in a bit of a hurry and they had all moved off—I had assumed northward—and would likely not be seen again. 

So to hear that my good friends were still around was a delightful discovery.

Where was Paumau?  It was just on the other side of the island, barely 25 miles away.  I couldn’t believe they were so close.

 

While this was taking place I noticed that there was good cause for my delay in Atuona: there was no wind, none, nothing.  I was told that the water outside the bay was glass.  Everyone had been motoring to and fro.

For me, not having an engine, this is a problem.   I have to wait out for the wind.  However. . . I could hitchhike, a nautical hitch.

 

A day later Aguja and Noble Cause cruise into the anchorage.  It was so merry to see them again after nearly two months.  Matt on Noble Cause is a single hander and has no autopilot, only a windvane; which, if there is no wind, doesn’t work.  So motoring requires him to stay at the helm for the duration.

So I thought I’d catch a ride with Matt up and around to Puamau Bay and leave my boat in Atuona.  There is never any real wind in the anchorage and it is shallow and I have a bow and stern anchor out—plenty safe.  Plus good neighbors.

It was so great to be on another boat for a change.  There was no wind, but the Noble Cause is such a great boat.  It is the smallest—by far—in our fleet: 24ft. long.  It is similar to a Bristol Channel Cutter, or a Falmouth Cutter—a great tough cruiser, and fast too.  This was Tilikum’s boat before she sold it to Matt.

 

We had a beautiful motorsail around the island and our meeting with Paul and Laura on Sea Cor was huge.  I love these guys, a Brit and an Aussi—two of the most generous, giving  people.  I had really missed them.  We drank a lot that night, and the next day too…and on and such.

Puamau was a great open bay.  We were nearly the only boats there.  The village is preferable to Atuona, very quiet and shady.  We visited an ancient site with great Tiki statues, the biggest west of Easter Island.  I was planning on hitching back from there but I was able to catch a ride with Matt once more.

 

Unfortunately, Matt’s mom is ill.  This coupled with other personal matters has persuaded Matt to head home.  So he re-sold the Noble Cause to Tilikum.  She now owns the boat for the second time.  Strange but true.

 

Arriving back to Atuona after a great sail with fine winds and sixty porpoises flanking the boat for hours uncounted, we found Brian’s boat, Thistledown, anchored soundly just outside the breakwater.  What a joy!  He was long overdue and I had worried that he had turned for the Galapagos instead.  But there he was, over a month underway, becalmed for weeks at a time.

With the arrival of Brian our only missing friend was Mark, sailing a Westsail from La Paz.  He was also long overdue.  The next day Sea Cor received an email from Mark in England saying that three days after setting out he noticed a raging tooth infection and had to turn around (he had just had two teeth removed before the trip).

He made it back safely but won’t make the trip this year.  A big loss for us.  Very sad to lose him, a good guy, very funny.  And now we’re losing Matt who is the resident comedian.  His shoes are unfillable.

 

So now the ranks of solo sailors have swelled.  There is me and Brian, now Tilikum on the Noble Cause, and Herbert will be solo again now that Tila is gone.     

 

 

 

Everything personally is fine.  I eat mostly out of my dry goods and pick up fruit and baguettes when possible.  It is great to have such great friends around to share this with.  The Marquesas are so shocking, somewhat surreal.  And I get to share them with great people.  I am so fortunate.

 

 

 

----------

 

 

Nuku Hiva

 

Finally I weigh anchor—first time in nearly three weeks.  Everyone is heading to Daniel’s Bay on Nuku Hiva.   The wind is back at last.  The anchorage is small here, and protected, so Paul is going to give me a little tow out of the harbor until I gain a bit of sea room and a steady breeze.  I am so ready for this.  I have missed moving.

 

And on Nuku Hiva there is internet, so perhaps I’ll be able to touch base with my friends and family and learn what’s been happening in the rest of civilization.

 

And so it has come to pass.  The sail was an overnight—plenty of wind.  Double reefed main.  Winds 20 – 25 knots.  I made good time, but the seas were lumpy and uncomfortable. 

I am sitting safely at anchor once again,  once again in a new place.  It is a wonderful quiet place, much like Puamau.

 

 

Hiva Oa and Hitchhiking for Yachtsmen

May 8

 

Casualties of Sea

 

 

Oh my.  I don’t know where to start or even where I am going in this.  I know I need to somehow describe my voyage, but maybe it is too close yet, because I still can’t see it or feel really what it means.

Often I think it is best to write early while the details are fresh and vital, and perhaps this is true, as a record.  But really the essence of the experience must be aged before it can be tapped.

This must be, because I have no idea whatsoever about the meaning of this passage of life, but I do have the sensation that it is a rite of some sort, some transition has been wrought, but I don’t think in the way I presumed.

 

I suspected (or hoped) for an epiphany (don’t we all).  I thought the sun would break through my veil of doubt and curiousity, would raise me to some new transcendent understanding, some esoteric power would come to me, a power to conquer self-doubt and enmity.

This has not happened.  Comically, quite the opposite.  Okay, not really the opposite, but an experience of the opposite.  I experience a wide breadth of emotion in the last month, including frustration, pity, doubt, anxiety—all the things I had naively conceive ridding myself of.

 

 

For the most part, the sailing aspect of the trip was straight forward.  I crept out of Cabo San Lucas at dawn with a breeze like a slow creeping glacier.  It was a anxious start, but as soon as I rounded the Arcos and had some sea room a westerly picked up with some gusto and Araby started to gallop southwestward over a sea of blue and white.

My god we made time!

For the first few days the wind stayed in front of us, to the west, before turning northward.  Araby flies on this point of sail, particularly off the beam.  These were our fasted days.  We logged 138 miles one day, an all-time best.  I didn’t know she could move like that.

Granted we worked for it.  It wasn’t comfortable and I pushed the rig.  We were healed over far to starboard.  Cooking was tough, but this was how it would be for weeks to come.  Nothing stayed put unless you had a hand on it.  Pots and pans were moving targets for minced onions.  Often I had to tie myself to the sink or the stove to stay in place.

But after four days the wind crept northward and astern.  When the wind comes from behind the boat it feels must softer and the boat doesn’t heel so violently, though she tends to roll side to side all the more.  But it is quieter; you don’t notice consciously, but you are aware of it all the same and relax in a fashion.

 

The first few days all I did was sleep, eat and keep a regualar watch.   As I drew away from land I slowly eased the vigilance of my watches.  I was tired and nauseous to start.  As I became more adapted I started reading and then that was all I did, maybe a dozen hours a day.  All day.

As the wind shifted north I played with the sails, trying to keep the mileage high and I succeeded well.  It was so exciting to be making good miles, knowing that I had friends in front whom I wished to gain on and Herbert and Til in the rear, maybe just hours behind, whom I wanted to beat.  I thought about it; I wanted speed.

So I played with the rig a bit, but often I was tired.  I was tired a lot and I don’t really know why.  Is it all the sitting around?   Is it the exertion of always having to hold yourself in place, like living in a rocking jungle-gym?  Is it from being regularly nauseous?   (I never fully acclimate to the sea.)  I don’t know I am tired, but whatever reason I suppose it is justified.

In the evening I would exercise a bit.  If the sea was light I’d go to the bow and stretch and breathe and do squats and push-ups and yoga.  Right at sunset was my favorite time.  Often I’d just go and stand in the shrouds and stare out at the sea.  I could stand there for over an hour sometimes.  These were my favorite moments, just standing there, rocking with the swell, dreaming, conjuring ideas and futures and sometimes reliving old times and smiling or laughing about them.  This was when I felt the most at sea.  This was the tranquility of the experience, the best of it.  I could never be bored watching the stars rise over the Pacific, slowly crawling southward toward the equator and beyond. 

Those times, standing on deck, those timeless times, are what I think I will take closest to the heart from this trip.

 

But alas.  There was also the cooking, the constant corrosion, the squalls and rain showers, the mysterious failures, the treasons—it is enough to drive a man mad!  I thought I would lose it sometimes.

The sea is such a rough, unforgiving environment; everyone knows it.  But I was pushed.  It seems everything failed.  I expect failure; you know it is part of the game of boats and the sea, but you expect that your experience and your eye will at least give you a bit of foresight into when or where.  I have spares and contingency plans, but in your heart you just want things to work.  We are a team here; let’s work together. 

But no.

The zipper failed on my jacket—I don’t have a backup zipper!  After almost an hour I fixed it with pliers.  My egg-timer alarm quite—fixed it with a screwdriver.  The clock—don’t know, I think it was battery corrosion.  Headlamp—corrosion on terminal.  Whisker pole chafed through its lashing—I saw this one coming and already had a second one in place (otherwise this would have been bad).

All this stuff is trivial, but it adds up; it is a drag on you when you’d rather be reading or doing nothing.  It felt like the world was imploding upon me.  But again these was the “small stuff.”

What really made my heart fall into my seat was when I was adjusting the windvane, without cause it started pulling hard to starboard. . . and we needed to go to port.  Why?  Looking carefully I notice that things that were supposed to be working together were moving independently.

This is terrible.  The windvane is fundamently to transoceanic cruising—and, as it were, the thing which I have nill parts for.  It wasn’t supposed to fail.  It was foolproof.  (Who is the fool?)

I hove-to to park the boat and investigated.  Sure enough, a pin that was supposedly “not removable” was moving about freely.  At least it didn’t go down the drink, I thought.  Out of several options, there was at least one that was obvious and safe—hammer it back in and see how it holds.

I did.  But from then on I had my eye on it; it was now on my list.

It was because of this pin that I noticed something much more significant.  A couple hundred miles from the Marquesas I notice that servo-pendulum, a big paddle that is in charge of the self-steering is acting like a drunk, wobbly and catawampus—just not right at all.

I cant tell you how low this took me.  I knew by looking at it that there was no simple “hammer it back in” resolution.  And so close to home.  Maybe I should ignore it.  Only two-hundred miles to go—we’ve made it twenty-four hundred thus far.  What’s two-hundred more?

I know better than to trust this logic—this is only the tiredness and frustration coming out.  I hove-to and sat and lingered on it.  I won’t go into the details; they wouldn’t make good sense.  At first I misjudged the problem, then understood it, then came up with a plan, but it wasn’t a fun plan.

I had to take off the pendulum—not fun in a swell—then drill a hole through six layers of stainless—not fun—with a cordless drill—again, not fun.  A tack weld had parted so I was going to bolt it all together then put it back on.  Putting it back would be the trickiest part.  It is very difficult to reach; normally you’d work on it from the dinghy tied astern.

And that’s not all.

Just as I was drilling out the hole with to ¼ inch the clutch jammed in the drill and it wouldn’t drop in gear.  I had to laugh.  It was  too much.  The last hole.  The drill has never failed me.  There was a storm bearing down on us—and now, now the drill dies.  So I had to put the windvane on hold, go in as the storm hit and start taking apart the drill.  Of course, two of the screws holding it together were corroded beyond recourse—so I brought out the hacksaw and cut the drill in half.

Oddly, this worked well.  I found the jammed clutch, oiled it, got it working, and put the drill back together—strangely, you’d never know that it had been sawed in the first.  I drilled the hole, placed the bolt, made some adjustments with the hacksaw and placed it back on the windvane with great effort and duress.

 

But it was done and it had to be done.  And it worked.  And this is what this trip was about.  So much failed, but one way or another I made them work.

 

Ironically, something I could not repair was something I never used.  I never used my engine, but a diesel needs to be run every week or two.  It occurred to me after three.  No big deal, right?  But it wouldn’t start.  I tried a few times.  It always starts (well….).  So I open up the valve cover.  You never expect to see anything when you do this.  There isn’t much to it—but what I saw was a sort of sacrilege, like opening the coffin of the long-dead.

The oil that was supposed to be protecting and lubing everything had become rank, a congealed mud-like blahhh.  I was baffled.  Had water gotten in??  Had the change in temperature dried it out; was it the wrong viscocity?

Only after changing the oil and probably ripping the piston from the driveshaft does it dawn on me that what must have happened was a clog in the raw-water cooling and the consequent over-heating of the engine, thus burning the oil to the sludge I know see.

I have no gauges; I didn’t know.

This is the death of the Farymann.  It will not see a repair.  It will be sent down to a watery grave somewhere.  Alas for my old friend, who was ever a great pain in the ass, but who taught me so much.

 

Now I am truly engineless, both a liberation and a danger.

 

It was not to be fixed with a hammer or a drill—I had already hot-wired it.  The overheating is not its sole malidy.  This I worked on as I approached Atuona and my first landfall in twenty-three days.  Only at seeing it did I become anxious to reach it.  I didn’t like the cooking; I didn’t like the daily storms that accosted me every day since crossing the equator.

I have been constantly wet.  But I am clean and the rain water rinses the salt out of my clothes so they will at last dry in the sun.

 

For the most part I carried a smile and was at home and happy to be doing what ever this life is.  At some point though, the constant failures  wore me low and I gripped about my boat and how I will never manage to make it self-sustaining.  I thought of other boats.  I wondered whether this lifestyle was crap—but I knew that I can’t imagine anything else.  But I had gotten low and was thinking darkly even as I was aware of it.  So I’d laugh.

 

Even dropping anchor was a debacle.  I had no less than four Frenchmen come up in their dinghies and tell me that I had to be anchored behind some line delineated on the shore, and I was not behind that line.  They kept coming and telling me—what did they think the last Frenchman had told me?

But it was very hot, and I was tired of being in the sun all day.  It would wait.  I stowed sails and  prepared the dinghy.  I didn’t need their help.  My god it was hot.  And none of my friends were there.  They had moved on to the next island south of here before clearing in to the Gendarmerie.  Celebrating is not the same when you’re alone.

And it was Sunday and Atuona is very small and very rural.  There was not a restaurant open, not a bar, not a cafĂ©, not a store—just some boys playing soccer, some locals listening to music on the beach, talking to girls.

 

The being on shore snapped me out of my nautical despair.  It was beautiful.  My problems weren’t so bad as they had seemed, not so daunting after all.  I’d start tomorrow. 

 

------

 

 

May 11

 

Since arriving to the Marquesas I’ve done some lounging, a bit ‘a boat work, a lot of waiting for Brian and Herb and Til.  But the last two days have blossomed forth two unexpected mini-adventures, both due to hitch-hiking.

 

Hitch-hiking episode 1:

 

I went for a run, it decayed into a walk, and then further decayed into a hitching sabbatical across the island (of Hiva Oa).

I set out innocently enough.  I hadn’t run in a month.  It was roughly two and I rowed to shore, donned my shoes and a pack with water and a tee-shirt and headed up hill.  The island is steep and lush, dripping with vegetation, something green for every niche and corner.  Imagine Kauai—there you go.

It is always in the nineties, rainstorms roll through almost daily (at least in my narrow experience).  So it is humid and muggy, but there is a bit of a breeze often times that is refreshing.

Fruit is everywhere; it seems to grow on every tree.  Lemons, bananas, coconuts—and tons of others that I haven’t yet identified.  Coconuts are the staple here.

 

Anyhow, the road I took wound around the southern coastline heading east.  It was steep and narrow, beautiful views the whole way, looking way down to the surf and cliffs and islands beyond.

After thirty-five minutes or so, at a point where as a runner I should turn and head on home—I was unwilling to so I started walking and figured I could walk a while and then run more, and downhill, all the way home.

I walked on and on, same ole for a few miles, in and out of the afternoon shadows.  It was like hiking through an Amazonian jungle—so thick and laden, so wet and lush and alive and green and exotic.  Venezuela is the only thing I’ve seen like it, but still not the same.

It occurred to me that the breeze on my face if I were sitting in the bed of a pickup would feel sublime, not to mention how much more I could see, and I’ve already got a good run in.

So I through my thumb out at the next Toyota to come by.  Everyone here stops for hitchers.  Marquesians are some of the most sincerely kind people.  To be in a foreign place and NOT  have the locals be after my dollars—it is such a joy.  People are nice for the sake of generousity.  People smile, wave, one guy shuck my hand as I walked by, or say, “Bonjour”.  Every woman in public wears a flower in her hair.  So delightful, so elegant.  And the Marquesians aren’t a narrow people; they are like the Samoans, a bit round, but theirs smiles are endearing and their faces charismatic.  Of course their skin is as lovely as any.

The first or second car stopped for me.  They asked me if I were going somewhere, something I couldn’t understand, I think it was a hotel or a pension or something.  I said no, that I didn’t know, or care, where I was going, that wherever they were going was fine.

They laughed and we headed out.  We went and went.  They lived way out east on the road I had followed.  We dropped through a valley then headed higher and higher.  The air cooled and the vegetation changed to pine trees.  I felt like I was on the Yellowstone plateau with all the lodgepoles.

We eventually came to a  fork in the road and the truck came to a stop.  They explained to me that they lived down in the valley yonder but there probably wouldn’t be any more cars coming that way for the night.

I thanked them and started walking back the way we’d come.  It was getting later and I was a good ways from home—a bit more than walking and running would manage.  But man did I feel great.  Finally I was getting out and seeing this new world.  This is how it is supposed to be.  It’s just sometimes I forget how.  Sometimes it’s just easier to sit around the boat and stare contentedly out at the water.

Yet always when I stick my neck out a little farther into the wind do I feel all the better for it.  Once I get going I gain momentum.  I here I was in the boonies of Hiva Oa and I was taking it all in in deep draughts.

It wasn’t long before another pickup came by and a hailed it down.  There were a bunch of girls in the back so I didn’t expect them to stop—which, of course, they did.  I looked and didn’t know where I would get in.

They were all young people—two young families I’d say.  Two guys, mid-twenties, two girls the same and three small kids.  It seemed they were coming back from the beach, guys topless, coolers, chairs, towels, boombox.

It was the driver who got out and shuffled around the boombox to make room.  “You want coke?” he said.    “Sure, ny’a pax du  quais” which is my best French attempt at “thank you.”

I used to try and refuse hospitality (especially if you think they eventually want something for their kindness).  Often I don’t like ‘taking’ from others, but I think I’ve learned that it is kinder to accept; it brings you closer; it is a sort of bond.

So I piled in, cracked my orange soda—which was damn cold—a real treat and hit the road again.  The driver spoke broken English, explained he wasn’t going straight to Atuona, but if I didn’t mind waiting for a bit, they were headed home, but maybe he could take me in a bit.

Even better I thought.  I had nowhere to be.  We rolled up a steep clay driveway to a little place on a high knoll—incredible ridgeline view over a broad northern valley.  There was an elderly lady in a green house with hundreds of potted flowers.  A man was tending three little fires, burning slash, I think.

We all unloaded and didn’t really go anywhere.  We hung out around the truck; me and the driver making jokes about music; I asked if he had a wife, kids the whole schpeal.  He introduced me, and these was his parent’s home.

“You want food?  You eat some fish?”

But of course.  He opened up the cooler and forked out shreds of meat right of the fish, which looked like it had been thrown right on a fire.  Rice came out of a big Tupperware.  Then he held up a squeeze bottle with some sort of creamy stuff in it.   Coco milk.  You like?”

“Sure”  He squeezed it on and oh man let me tell ya.  It was the flame, the love, what ever your epithet for greatness may be, this coconut milk was it.  Thick, heavy, chunks of coco-meat in the mix.

I stood there in my little heaven.  I knew it.  These are my moments, those little fleeting times where things are as they should be.  I was eating with a bunch of Marquesians, laughing, comfortable, sun going down over the valley to the north.  A fine moment to be sure.

 

We all loaded up again, in two cars this time, and headed down, down, down to Atuona.  They took me to the quay and said our partings, and they went to drink scotch.

 

 

Hitch-hiking episode 2

 

Encouraged by my success the day before, I actually sought out to do similarly once again.

I did some boat work in the morning, with some pancakes thrown in the mix and then lazed through midday.  It is too hot in the middle of the day to do anything at all, really.  So two-ish I packed a light bag, water, camera, hat, a snack, a few francs and road to the boat ramp were I pull my dink ashore.

There is a high spigot there for the washing of  outrigger canoes and the like and it is the perfect shower.  Powerful.  It is sad though; I noticed I’ve lost my tan.  Turns out it was just dirt.

From the shower to the road I’m already dry except for my britches.  I walk a quarter mile to a fork in the road.  My goal was to find a way up the mountain just above town.  It is a beautiful, symmetrical towering peak, lush and green, capped with clouds, but steep and scalloped.  The southern ridge looks incredible, but too cliffed-out to be realistic. Also I don’t know how to get to it.  So I had to find a way.

I imagined that the northern ridge was doable and lead right down to a road on the mesa / ridge above town.  This may be disappointly easy.  Whatever! This day would hopefully enlighten me one way or other.  Then maybe when Brian or Herb and Tila get here we can all go up.

 

As I walk down the road I here a car coming and through out my thumb.  I look back and notice it ain’t a pickup, but a Suzuki Samarii—a Japanese CJ.  I wouldn’t normally try to hitch with one of these, but, again, they stopped.  And again they looked a bit full, at least there was a kid in the back.  But these opened up the door and told me to climb in.

I had no idea what I was about to get in for.

They didn’t speak much English, but a little.  I said I was going into town and they showed me on a map where they were going.  It was a little spot above town.  I thought maybe this could be a clue to my mountain so I asked if I could go that way.

“Yes, sure.  Of course.”

It was a great steep, steep road.  It was hard to tell the difference between the road and driveways.  There was a cemetery up there.  We found it and looked at a few famous graves.  It turns out that the people I hitched with were tourists from Tahiti and they had rented the little Suzuki to drive around and see the island.

They said I was more than welcome to join them…..

 

This was just great, I thought.  Here I am with a funny Frenchman and his Tahitian wife and kid (who was born in Tunisia somehow) and we’re gonna drive around this island, places I could never get to by foot.

On their little tourist map were marked several archeological sites and the like and we headed back down the hill to go find some.

This was an interesting fact about the Marquesas: as there are tourists and things geared for tourists, we never saw another tourist while there, not another soul.  We stopped at an old church, very simple and quaint and traditional.  I liked it.  Then we started the off-roading.

We followed this steep muddy road up into the hills to find some ceremonial place where the ancients used to sacrifice people to the gods (and then eat them, I am told?).  I thought Michael was a bold driver, here with his family, no tools, no four-wheel drive and road tires.  And we were getting after it. 

Again the views of the coast were exquisite.

 

The last place we wanted to see was a site that had petraglyphs, but it was a long hike or horseride.  You couldn’t drive it or so said the map.  But we’d go and scope it out. 

We see the sign and turn off the road into a dirt/mud track and we were off.  Again, I looked at Michael and was impressed.  Firstly, he wasn’t a slouch of an off-road driver; and secondly, we were getting farther and farther in; it was getting knarlier and knarlier.  At times it was like driving on an ice-rink. 

It was awesome.  There were a few spots I thought we were doomed and still we went.  We drove that damned Samara across a sizable creek.  I was laughing and howling and kept a hand on the ceiling least I hit my head and crack my neck.  The kid was loving it to.

The wife was constantly saying, “faster…faster……..faster”—or, at least I think that’s what she was saying.  She didn’t want to get stuck and figured speed was for the best.

What a riot.  We eventually reached a muddy switch-back that was beyond our ability.

And we tried, by Jove.  But we failed.

It was funny because just after we turned off the faithful Suzuki we heard a cracking and a big tree collapsed across the road—not fifty yards ahead of us.

We sat there and stared quietly, then busrst out laughing.  “That is NOT normal,” I said and laughed some more.

 

We walked up a ways, around the tree, and found our path to the petroglyphs.  What a strange thing!  There was a sign—the first we’d seen—but we couldn’t find a trail, not a thing.  There was nothing there.  I’m sure there was; there was a sign, but no directions.  A bulldozer had recently made a big fiasco there—maybe it buried the petroglyphs, or at least the passage there.

Typical Marquesas.  Not only do you not see other tourists—you can’t even find the destination.  (I did find some more ruins in the jungle, but I didn’t see any petroglyphs on them.)

 

The ride back down may have been more exciting.  We hauled ass—no holds barred.  They took me to the quay and hung out for a bit and Michael smoked a cigarette.  It was a jovial parting.  The lady said, ‘you did not know we was crazy, ah??”

 

Thank God they were.  What a ruckus of a time.  We saw tons and they were a real pleasure to be around.

 

 

So I earned my dinner: rice, beans and a peanut-curry sauce.  I now I’m writing about it.  I’m still waiting on my friends.  Don’t know what’s taking them so long.  But now at least I’m living well; I’m seeing this place and meeting people and participating.  Ah this is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 May, 2006

Re: Words (kind of) from Jonah

Woo hoo!  Amazing.  I am so glad to hear.  Thank you for your message relay.  Congratulations to Jonah!  Living a dream...
 
Much love,
Anna
 
On 5/9/06, Jonah Manning <bellyofthewhale@gmail.com> wrote:
Everyone, I hope this email finds you doing well.  This isn't Jonah, it's his little brother, Charles, who by the way can kick jonah's butt in wrestling.  ha-ha.  Ok.  Seriously, Jonah asked me to send everyone an email to let yall know that he is doing well and he is safe.  I'm not certain about his current location; however, he told me he WILL be writing in his blog.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do otherwise.

Cmanning3547@yahoo.com

Best regards,
Charles a.k.a The Hod


--
Jonah Manning
S/V Araby


Online Journal -www.freejonah.blogspot.com
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

128 Holliday Rd
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Emergency contact:  
Dibble Manning
phone:  001 - 803 - 787 - 4352  
email:cmann1960@aol.com>
also check addresss in "to" column

09 May, 2006

Words (kind of) from Jonah

Everyone, I hope this email finds you doing well.  This isn't Jonah, it's his little brother, Charles, who by the way can kick jonah's butt in wrestling.  ha-ha.  Ok.  Seriously, Jonah asked me to send everyone an email to let yall know that he is doing well and he is safe.  I'm not certain about his current location; however, he told me he WILL be writing in his blog.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do otherwise.

Cmanning3547@yahoo.com

Best regards,
Charles a.k.a The Hod


--
Jonah Manning
S/V Araby


Online Journal -www.freejonah.blogspot.com
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

128 Holliday Rd
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Emergency contact:  
Dibble Manning
phone:  001 - 803 - 787 - 4352  
email:cmann1960@aol.com>
also check addresss in "to" column

Arrival

Pray for my Uncle Richard Holliday: He was accidentally shot in the
face: What a terrible; terrible thing:
He will recover:

My own trip was grand; wonderful: More to come sometime: