Friday, January 15, 2016

French Polynesia: Huihine Cultural tour

Our most recent trip, a cruise in French Polynesia and the Cook islands, started with an 8-hour flight from LAX and arrival on the boat around 11pm. A long day, but worth it to wake up the bluest skies and water you can imagine.

The cruise stopped almost every day at a new port and our first was Huihine where we disembarked for a 4 hour cultural tour of the island. Our guide was an anthropologist who talked a mile a minute and shared so much info our heads were spinning.

Stunning! After years in the sandbox, this much blue was almost unbelievable.

This is a Marae, which they believe is an ancient church of sorts. Also a central gathering area for the community or a family. They were all over the islands and there are a few anthropologists in the area studying them to better understand their ancient religious beliefs and practices. Part of the reason it's so challenging is that when Cook and others brought Christianity (which they accepted wholeheartedly by the way - there was no forcing like South America) the native cultures gave up, and in many cases destroyed, everything associated with their old regions so there is very little record of this history.

This house in the distance is actually a local museum with some old artifacts and lots of information on the history of the islands.

We also visited a vanilla farm. The green bean looking things will eventually look like what we're used to seeing as vanilla pods. The woman who runs this place is the quality control for all the vanilla on the island. She ensures that everything sold meet strict standards. They had a little store selling vanilla and all kinds of natural remedies for everything from skin conditions to stomach issues. Cute little place.

Our final stop was to see the sacred blue eyed eels. One of our guides is in there feeding them  mackerel  . . . holy mackerel (ba dum bump). These guys are pets of a sort - they've been there for decades and are never eaten, but instead fed by the local population - it was clear they are a source of pride for the island. Sorry I couldn't snap a pic of their eyes - I wasn't really in the mood to get that close - those guys were huge!

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