Hike from Anaho Bay to Hatiheu and the Archaeological Sites – 25/5/2021

Dinghying ashore during low tide in the bay allows you to see all the things you miss during high tide like the stingrays and baby black tip reef sharks of which we saw a few.  Eventually everyone arrived onshore, and we began the trek, one local family told us it was 30 to 45 minutes to reach the bay.  It was definitely slower than that.  Alexis and Chris carried their younger two on the way up and I have to tell you it was a steep incline. 

Anaho Bay during low tide. Andrew practicing his grandparenting skills. (we are not going to be grandparents anytime soon)

Finally, reaching the top of the mountain we were afforded with fantastic views over Anaho Bay.  We stopped for a break, while some people climbed to the top of the rock on one side and Kahlil relaxed in one of the trees.  Eventually we continued downhill along a path lined with pandanus trees, purple wildflowers and the trees with the red seed beads that they make jewellery from.

Walking along the road into Hatiheu you can see the basalt needles in the background the first of which has Madonna perched on the top.  The Madonna was constructed by missionary Brother Michel Blanc in 1872.  Brother Michel Blanc had wanted to build a catholic church, but the villagers were at war with neighboring tribes at the time so there was no labour available to carve the stone blocks, so instead he came up with the idea of creating the statue of Madonna. 

It was a pretty amazing feat considering Brother Michel would have had to scale 400 meters to the top of needle as there is no pathway, many times during the 12-month period of construction, and his unique choice of resources to build it.  Michel used breadfruit to form the shape and then lime to create the statues details and to cover the creation, all of which he had to carry to the top of the rock.  He used coral branches to fashion her crown and to decorate the foot of the pedestal.

The war between the tribes ended and the church was finally constructed in 1879.

The beautiful church in this picturesque village.

After stopping at one of the small supermarkets for refreshments where Andrew learned from a local that a tour group of 70 people were coming to the local restaurant for lunch we ventured on.  It was another hike up a different hill to reach to first of the three archaeological sites, which make up the largest excavated area in Nuku Hiva.  Restoration work took place in 1998 and was led by archaeologist Pierre Otiina.

The first site we visited was Tohua de Hikokua and Sacrificial Stone.  Dating back to the 13th century, this was essentially a large ‘town square’ where the valley’s former residents (estimated in the thousands) used to gather for large ceremonies.

Our hot and tired group at the first archaeological site.

The statues at this site are probably the best we have seen of the sites we have visited in Nuku Hiva.  There are two side by side on the right-hand side that are particularly in good condition.  One is clearly of human sacrifice where the main statue is holding a smaller person with his head tilted back.  The other statue of a male with a female on either side depicts polygamy.  Intriguingly the polygamy statue has two heads sitting under each of the woman, not sure on their significance.

The two most impressive statues at the site. The first represents polygamy and the 2nd a child being sacrificed.

And a few more statues…

Towards the end of the site is a large platform which is the sacrificial stone. (Marked on the map) The site sits in the shadow of the basalt spires, perhaps the reason for its chosen location.

What a fabulous spot for the sacred/ceremonial site.

We continued uphill to see the other two sites.  On our way up we could hear the rhythmic beating of drums, Alexis and I were rather excited as we hoped that there was a special performance on at the site that we may be able to see. The closer we got the more cars were parked along the side of the road.  One of the locals told us the cruise ship was in town and that there was indeed a special performance on and that we could join.  We hurriedly, as you can with 16 people made our way to where the locals were performing in front of the largest banyan tree on the site, estimated to be 600-year-olds.

Curiously, the performance was more reminiscent of the New Zealand Haka than what we expected of a Polynesian dance.  We were very fortunate to see the show, with Covid-19 I do not imagine there will be many other opportunities.

Dancing and singing, Marquesas style.

We began our tour by visiting the restored Tohua Tahakia, one of the biggest in the Marquesas, as well as some pae pae.  There was a tiki and a carved turtle on one of the rocks.  There were a few pits around the site which presumably held breadfruit, the staple of the diet back then.  Interestingly Chris noticed that on some of the blocks had carved circular pits with a diameter of about 3 inches.  We speculated that perhaps they were used to hold some kind of candle during ceremonies.

The pae pae, a tiki and a carved turtle.

Once the tour had left, we returned to the banyan tree to take a closer look.  At the rear of the tree is a mana hole, which held sacrifices or taboo objects.  At the foot of the largest banyan is a deep pit, presumably dug to hold the remains of sacrifices or for taboo objects.

Ashe and Luca in front of the 600 year old banyan tree. The big hole at the foot of the tree was used for sacrifices, human ones and taboo items.

Some of us continued up higher in search of the petroglyphs that are found on some of the larger rocks.  We did find ones of turtles, fish and people.

Petroglyph photos are of men, a fish and a turtle.

So began our trek back, where we stopped at a different supermarket to buy what we could to throw together some lunch before we began the super long and hot trek back to the boats.  We walked about 15 km according to Makawi’s watch today.  Klein who is only 6 did a fabulous job with the hike, as did his parents carrying the two little ones for quite a bit of the trail.

Our long, hot hike back.

The exuberant teens still had energy to burn and stayed onshore, where they were joined by the local teen for another game of volleyball, I believe some of the adults later joined in too.  It was a great hike and worth the effort. 

You may wonder why we didn’t just anchor in the bay of Hatiheu and do the hike from there?  Well, we were told by other cruisers and locals that the bay is very rocky and landing the dinghy ashore can be difficult.  I think it would be possible if the weather was co-operative and we could have probably done it today. 

I have included a photo of the map we used, if you want a downloadable one that you can use offline to guide you feel free to email me.  The map is accurate.

Depending on which bay you anchor in will determine your trail. If you anchor in Anaho Bay you will do both the yellow followed by the orange trail. If you anchor in Hatiheu you would only do the orange trail.