The next day, while George dismantled his outboard motor "for the fifth time," he quipped, Jenny and I walked back to our diving place. The tide was high, leaving our site free and clear, so when I went into the water, I found Jenny's face mask lying at the bottom of a narrow cleft.
Atuona: I've fitted a hand-crank to Jenny's sewing machine (a hand-down from her grandmother) so she can use it at anchor. It worked surprisingly well.
Valley of Taa Huku
“By Jenny's reckoning, the interior jungle was "almost like a jungle.”
The next morning, early by ship's time, mid morning by the clock, Jenny and I set out to explore the adjacent valley known as Taa Huku. We pulled ashore, carried the inflatable into the coconut grove and tied its painter to a coconut tree. By Jenny's reckoning, the interior jungle was "almost like a jungle." Nevertheless, into the jungle we went - following a large, fresh water stream. The thickets grew nearly impenetrable. Tree branches arched overhead and met in the middle so thickly that they filtered much of the daylight.
The trudging was not easy, and after 1-1/2 hours of bashing through the bushes and splashing across the shallows, I reasoned that there must be a road or trail nearby providing access to the ever-present coconut trees. They appeared to have been harvested on occasion. And sure enough, thrashing laterally away from the stream we eventually reached a rough road hacked through the jungle.
Curiosity led us onward. The farther we went, the less traveled the road, until eventually it dwindled to a footpath. Edible fruit was in abundance, including papaya, coconut, mango, banana, and even a few avocado. All were owned of course. Plump papayas hung heavily in all stages of ripeness, and the ground was littered with rotting fruit.
Rain began pelting the foliage high overhead, creating a sound that suggested we were inside a huge tent. Birds chattered and prattled constantly. Here was the perfect scene for a Tarzan movie, complete with twelve-inch centipedes creeping about the coconut trees. Gecko lizards scurried across the ground in our path. The air hung heavy with syrupy aromas of the exotic frangipani and the many other blossoms. Big weighty dollops of rain pelted us from the jungle's canopy overhead, mixed with our sweat, and rolled down our happy faces.
The trail eventually converged with the stream. After long and delicious swigs, Jenny followed me across the slippery stepping stones. Half way across she slipped in, and surrendering to her pratfall she waded the knee-deep water, grinning sheepishly.
The trail ended, presumably at the last workable coconut grove, and from there we could see that further progress into the dense vegetation was impractical. Here we discovered a vestige of some ancient civilization. What appeared to be a hand-laid stone foot-path disappearing intriguingly into the dense overgrowth. Regrettably, there was no way we could have followed it.
Back at the stream, we sat on a dry rock, and taking temporary leave of our morals we indulged in a juicy papaya, peeled and eaten South Pacific style - with the fingers. Then we retraced our steps along the trail until it became a road that eventually led back to the anchorage.
A few words about the coconut. Generalizing, it grows through four edible stages. On the shelves of American supermarkets one may find it in stage three. The outer husk removed, the shell lined inside with a tough flesh, and otherwise containing a measure of watery liquid. This is by far the least appetizing of the phases. The immature coconut, in stage one, is known as the drinking coconut. As yet it contains no white meat, but is instead full of delicious juice. Phase two, the juvenile coconut, contains a quantity of juice, but the flesh has jelled to a delicious pudding-like consistency. In order to be eaten in either of these first two stages, the coconut must be picked from high overhead. When the fruit reaches stage three it falls from the tree. Not to worry: according to Polynesian folklore, with their flippant sense of humor, should the coconut fall on the head of a person, it would do so only on a bad person. At any rate, the fallen coconut eventually sprouts and begins sending down roots from one eye and a leafy sprig upward from another. When the sprig has reached a foot in height, voilà: the coconut has reached phase four. No longer does it contain juice. Rather, it is filled with a fibrous, creamy pulp. Mixed with flour, eggs and sugar, this pulp makes excellent pancakes.
Water in the Masthead Light
Murky water inside the masthead light.
Later that afternoon, having returned aboard, I took advantage of the bay's relatively calm water and climbed aloft, to the top of the main mast, to inspect the "5-function" masthead light. After the terrible storm three weeks previously the light has stopped working. Imagine my surprise at finding this expensive, "waterproof" light contained murky water. The top of the mast stood sixty feet over the sea. Indeed, that storm had been a bad one.