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Rurutu, an island in the Austral Islands, was discovered at the end of the 18th century by the English explorer James Cook. Its population fell to around 2000 inhabitants following the diseases and the war it suffered. The main villages are Moerai, Avera and Hauti and their houses made of coral block are lined with beautiful Polynesian flowers. The capital of the commune, Moerai, is located on the north coast of the island opposite the only navigable pass, where the gendarmerie, schools, post office and an infirmary are located. Let's discover this little piece of heavenly land in our present time!
Rurutu in a nutshell...
Rurutu, located 572km southwest of Tahiti, is the northernmost island of the Austral archipelago which includes Rimatara, Tubuai, Raivavae and finally Rapa. Covering an area of 32km2, it used to be called Eteroa which means “big basket” but its current name now means the “rock that springs” or “gather on an equal footing”. It is special because unlike the other islands, it is bordered by cliffs and not a lagoon, with few beaches that are magnificent. It is nicknamed the troglodyte island because you can stay in the middle of its limestone caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, which are one of its main attractions. Known for its mild and pleasant climate, the volcanic island has 3 mountains: Taatio'e, Manureva and Erai. It was raised following volcanic events and houses the tomb of the French navigator Eric de Bishop, buried in the cemetery of Moerai.
Rurutu has essentials when you stay there, such as touring the island, visiting the taro field (which forms a colorful patchwork seen from the sky where taro is grown in water), exploring the caves, going admire the whales during their reproduction period between July and October, visit the craft market, go horseback riding... The island is full of even more interesting outings with a local guide who knows about it! In addition, every year at the beginning of the year the Tere festival takes place, when the inhabitants go on a tour of the island on foot or on horseback to remember ancestral legends. We're going to tell you about it a little further down... Then they close the party by organizing a stone lifting contest where the strongest carry up to 150kg. The economic production of the island revolves around hand-woven objects such as baskets, bags or hats and the cultivation of land (taro, potato, coffee, vanilla, banana). In the village of Hauti you can see the traditional lime kilns made of coral and able to supply a village with paint for more than 5 years.
The legend of Hina, the cannibal woman of Rurutu with nimble fingers
When Hina lived in a cave in the mountain near Taatio, villagers kept disappearing when they ventured alone into the mountain to cut reeds. On the other hand, they always returned safe and sound when they left together. Also those who had left alone were lost forever, and despite the search their bodies were not found... Meanwhile, Hina continued to devour her prey and the villagers began to suspect that a dangerous individual was lurking. in the mountains, far from imagining that it is ultimately a cannibal!
One evening, when a group of people were out fishing, they saw a fire in the mountain and were taken to Hina's cave. They quickly noticed that she was a wild woman from the way she dressed and the long fingernails that lined her hands. They then thought about how to capture it and the solution of the net seemed to be the most suitable. The villagers made nets with braided coconut fiber threads and purau fibers. At nightfall, thanks to a fire, they managed to lure Hina out of the cave into their nets, where she tried to defend herself without success. She tried to cut the ropes with her long nails but her hands were finally tied behind her back, when some time later her nails were completely cut to deprive her of all defense.
The villagers tried to civilize her and offered her to eat taro and fish, in vain. She didn't eat and so we waited until the next day, thinking she wasn't hungry. However she still did not eat and a wise man pointed out that it was due to her diet which consisted only of humans. She thus remained with an empty stomach, both feet in the trunk of the coconut tree (the prison of the time) until her death. The back of his cave was lined with objects woven from wild pandanus. It is by copying his creations that the women of Rurutu have now become experts in the art of weaving.