Friday, August 13, 2010

Trading in Fatu Hiva

Current Location: Hanavave (Bay of Virgins), Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia 10°27.90'S 138°40.06'W

On our way back from the waterfall yesterday, we stopped at a house where our friend Joce from s/v Lares had been attempting to repair a sewing machine and a computer for them. There we met Teko, Teko's son Tim, and a few younger kids. Among other employments, Teko makes 'tikis'--carved wooden statues of Marquesan gods. He showed us a very nice 14-inch one in solid rosewood, which he said he could sell in Tahiti for 15,000 CFP (about 160 dollars!). We eventually expressed an interest in a smaller tiki, and said we'd be back tomorrow with some trade goods.

Unfortunately, when most people come to Fatu Hiva, it is their first stop in French Polynesia, and no one has Polynesian Francs (CFP). The locals don't seem interested in taking either Euros or Dollars here. But they are used to trading with the cruisers for crafts and fruit.

The easiest trade good seems to be liquor, but we have been asked for rope, cosmetics (nail polish, lipstick, perfume), fishing gear (larger hooks and good lures), snorkel gear, T-shirts, hats, handbags and backpacks, DVD's, and 'cartouches' (bullets to hunt the wild goats and pigs).

Our first attempt at trading, the next morning, was a miserable failure. We were trading only for fruit, with some people we'd met at a small house up the mountainside. Joce had cautioned us not to offer too much. So Dave had packed up a couple of old ratty T-shirts, some fish hooks and small lures, and some old ratty line. (The guy we were trading with had said he was looking for line to tie up his pigs). And his wife was looking for a 'sac' (purse) like the one I was carrying (an oversized belly-bag). So I had emptied the one I had been using, and switched to a newer one, so we could give the one I she had seen to her.

We met them as agreed at 9am. But rather than the wheelbarrow we expected them to come with, they had a very nice new 4x4 extended cab pickup with a bunch of fruit in the back. (This truck is better than any vehicle Dave or I have ever owned!) They took one look at Dave's old ratty T-shirts and old ratty line, and I guess they got their nose out of joint. They weren't interested in trading for 'used' stuff. The wife looked at my 'sac' and pointed out a few frayed spots, and wanted the new one I had switched to.

They wouldn't even make us a counter-offer--we certainly didn't need all of the fruit they had, but a few pampelmousse (grapefruit) and some bananas would have been nice. In retrospect, maybe they were hoping for some liquor--and were angry we didn't have any to offer. (I'm not out of rum yet, but we're almost out of wine, and starting to count the ounces of rum we have left). They left unhappy, and of course we were fruitless still. But Stephanie from s/v Lares said that was very unusual--they themselves had made several trades for fruit for much less than what we offered.

However, a few minutes later, some guy walked up to Dave with a couple of sacks of oranges, and just gave them to him, with a 'Welcome to Fatu Hiva' smile.

And later, we went to Teko's and made a good trade for an 8-inch tiki and some fruit. We rooted out some nicer T-shirts, some cigarettes, some fishing stuff, and a few other things. Everyone seemed happy. We also hung out for a couple of hours helping Joce repair the sewing machine and the computer (we supplied the fuse for the computer).

Even later in the day, when we were walking down the road, a girl came running out from a house asking if we had stuff to trade. We eventually traded with her mother, a couple of T-shirts and a thing of lipstick I happened to have in my purse for a couple of papaya.

We had planned to leave today, but our tiki isn't ready yet, and the wind is up again. Maybe tomorrow.
At 8/10/2010 5:09 PM (utc) our position was 10°27.91'S 138°40.06'W

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