This month we're taking you on a little tour outside of Tahiti and even beyond the Society Islands. If you didn't know, French Polynesia is made up of 5 different archipelagos, each as beautiful as the next with unique climates and landscapes over an area as large as Europe! We therefore have from south to north the archipelago of the Australs, the Gambiers, the Society, the Tuamotus and finally the Marquesas, where we are going to stop over to discover its largest island: Nuku Hiva. It's back!
Meet Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva, also called Nuka Hiva or Merchant Island, is the capital of the Marquesas. The name of the volcanic island means "the crest of the cliffs" which is well understood from the view of the impressive Tapueahu canyon. It is filled with greenery, rich in local fruits and vegetables and ideal for lovers of hiking. In its center are the two sacred Paeke maraes of the Vai Tavii archaeological site dating from the 16th century, composed of imposing platforms and giant tikis which represent deities. Today the tikis both decorate and protect the hotels of the Marquesas.
There is also one of the highest and most splendid waterfalls in Polynesia: the Vaipo waterfall in the Hakaui valley, 350m high and surrounded by cliffs and reliefs. Its highest point is the 1224m high Mount Tekao and its main village Taiohae, located in an old volcanic crater which bathes in the ocean which has made it a magnificent bay. It is in the heart of this village that one can admire the main artisanal works of the island such as the wooden sculptures of tikis in particular, the famous Marquesan tattoos which recall Polynesian traditions, braided objects or even pareos. We ourselves have been touched by the beauty of Nuku Hiva and its traditions, which is why one of our ukulele models proudly bears its name. Find it on our website upaupatahiti.com or directly in store in Papeete, commercial district!
The legend of the bird dance
You cannot explore Polynesia without taking the time to listen to its legends. We therefore invite you to discover this one which takes place in Nuku Hiva and which demonstrates the love that Polynesians devote to dance as well as to life.
It takes place in the valley of Hatiheu in Nuku Hiva, when the sister of the great chief of the Taipi, Tahiatemata has just died. The tribe gathers to celebrate the funeral which lasts for three days, the time for the spirit to leave the body, leaving a final time to enjoy the pleasures of life. On the last day Tahiatemata decides to dance the hakamanu, the bird dance. She alone is capable of performing this rite filled with grace and voluptuousness, which fascinates all the inhabitants. At the last note of music, his spirit flies away towards Cape Kiukiu in Hiva Oa, the neighboring island. On this same island and at the same time, while a young man is fishing, he distinguishes on the sand the image of a magnificent woman whom the sea has just deposited. It is the spirit of Tahiatemata. Amazed, the fisherman Hi'imoana grabs her in his arms and brings her to his house. He brings her the most beautiful flowers and this is how a love is born between the two people, later giving them a son named Poena'iki.
One day, the son goes on a manhunting expedition with young warriors, but lacking in experience they are all eaten by the men of Hatiheu. Only Poena'iki is spared but he is thrown into a pit where he struggles to breathe, constantly screaming his mother's name. Meanwhile, Tahiatemata reveals her secret to her husband. She announces to him that she is a wandering soul who did not want to join the deceased, her love for life being too great. Then she teaches him the sacred dance of the bird and this is how the fisherman will find his son, practicing this unique dance in front of the great chief. This is how he proves that Tahiatemata is indeed his wife and the mother of the young boy. The evening will continue to the sounds of drums and dance steps, but we will never see the wonderful young woman again who has finally accepted her fate.