The Medicine man of Ua Huka
Somewhere in the Marquesas Islands
Written by Sailorman
PublishedFeb. 16, 2019, 5:21 p.m.
So, we anchored in Ua Huka in the Marquesas and headed ashore without the outboard. There was a playing field at the end of the bay, where people are playing soccer. It was the only flat space on the island.
There is a guy standing there with a dog looking at us as we row to shore, and we thought he might be the coach of the soccer team. He says in perfect english “What are you looking for?”
Being sailors we said, “a cold beer”.
He motions for us to follow him and we all start walking, without the dog, toward the buildings that make up the town. We asked him, “what about your dog?” and he responds “it’s not mine.”
“We though you were the coach of the team”
“No, I was just watching.”
He led us to a woodcarvers house and in the backyard there was a large garage door. He says something and the door opens to a large grocery store and he comes out with 3 ice cold Heinekens. I’m not implying the door was magic, there was a person inside that heard him and opened the door :-).
“I’m the island doctor, but actually I’m only a nurse, come, I’ll show you our infirmary.”
Having spent many days at sea, we agree and follow him to his infirmary. He was a very engaging young man and we quite liked him. “Want to stay and watch some videos? or maybe even stay over? You can sleep on the beds in the examination room.”,
We had to explain that “we have a cat back on the boat and must return to make sure our belongings are not shredded in anger by an unfed feline.”
“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked. “I have to do my rounds thru the small villages and you could join me if you wanted to.”
This sounded like an awesome way to see the island and get to know its people so we agreed. As we were leaving our boat in the morning, the copra boat was at the dock collecting burlap bags of copra. Copra is the dried meat of the coconut and is used to make coconut oil. The deck hands “coached” us on when to row so that we could ride the surf into shore. I’m not sure if it would have worked or if it was just a trick to play on unsuspecting gringos, but we paddled like crazy at the go sign and caught the curl. Shortly afer that we flipped the dinghy. Luckily our camera gear was in a Pelican case so no great harm was done, but we were both drenched. That is when we noticed most of the inhabitants of the island were standing on the shore laughing at us. From that day on, we were known as “surfer boy” and “surfer girl”. Luckily about 8 rather large men came over and picked up the dinghy which was now full of water and walked it ashore. We smiled sheepishly and shook the sand out of our ears and started to drip dry.
We made our way to the clinic where the doctor/nurse greeted us and insisted we shower. He gave my wife and I clean dry clothes and we went off in his car to watch him do his rounds and see the Island. On the way back to the clinic we stopped into a fenced agricultural preserve that grows every type of plant on earth. He tells us “there are only 3 like this in whole the world. The rules are you can eat anything you like, but cannot take any food out”. But, as we are leaving after seeing the preserve, he has bags of starfruit, fresh apples, mangoes etc.
“What about the rules you told us about?”
“Oh, my friend is the curator so it is OK for me to take food home”, he smiles.
The next day we want to hike into the hills and he tells us where to find stone figures and all kinds of memorabilia. When we return, we ask him about wood carvings and he tells us where to go in the next town. Our only problem is we don’t have enough local currency and there is no money changer in this little town. So he helped us find a newspaper that shows the conversion rates and he exchanged money for us out of his own pocket. We find the carvers and buy some pieces and off we return to the clinic.
After all his help, we asked him out to the boat for dinner. He accepted our invitation for the next night and we told him we would be making Curried chicken. He is excited for some foreign food. I go pick him up and we row the dinghy back to the boat in the late afternoon. We show him the boat and we are sitting in the cockpit when he says, “hear that whistle? something is wrong and I have to go back ashore”. Off we go, and at the shore we find a soccer player has gone off the edge of the field into the rocks and has a compound ankle fracture.
We get the injured player onto a stretcher and up to the clinic, give him a shot of morphine and then our friend radioed the hospital on another island who has a helicopter that can only fly, but only with visual flight rules, or VFR. We carry the player back to the playing field (remember that part about the only flat spot on the island?) where chopper comes in right over the boat and lands in the middle of the field. They loaded the injured guy aboard with 1 family member and off they went.
As we were walking back to the clinic I noticed he had a bag in his hand and I asked “What did you get?”. He shows me potatoes, carrots, celery, all kind of vegetables that can’t be grown in the soil, because the wild pigs will root it up. I asked “does the chopper have time to shop for you before all emergencies?”
“They know whenever they come by air to bring me fresh veggies. Too bad dinner didn’t work out.”
I said, “Oh no, we are still good if you want to come out for dinner”, so he grabbed his bag and off we went back to the boat. Just before getting into the dinghy, he threw his tee shirt into a bush. We had dinner and were sitting out in the cockpit afterwards. It had gotten dark and he stood up, picked up his bag, leapt overboard and we never saw him again. All we saw was a light under water and him hunting lobsters on his way to shore. No good bye, no thanks, he just disappeared.