After sailing from Papeete at midnight (the monkey was sound asleep at this point) Kongo’s ship arrived early in the morning at the island of Huahine. Huahine is about 150 miles northwest of Tahiti and part of the Society Islands.
This little island is an important part of Tahitian culture and has a rich collection of archeological sites that include ancient temples. Kongo didn’t see any of these. Instead he took off in the back of a pickup truck (they call this a 4X4 excursion) to see plant life and other interesting sites. As Kongo gives garden tours at the Getty Villa in Malibu this was interesting even if the Romans didn’t have breadfruit, ginger, or sweet bananas.
Mrs. Kongo points out the amazing breadfruit plant. You basically put this in the oven for a couple of hours and slice it up afterward. It is supposed to taste like bread. When the first Europeans arrived in these islands this was seen as a miracle plant.
As a monkey, Kongo particularly went for the banana plants which pretty much grow like weeds everywhere. The plants only produce one bunch of fruit but quickly regenerate. This variety was amazingly sweet and you couldn’t eat just one. Interestingly, bananas grow pointing upward as in this picture. Plantains, a close relative, grow pointing down.
The bloom of a ginger plant. The ginger root is used extensively in cooking and medicinal applications. It’s also a key ingredient of ginger ale (hence the name).
Kongo can’t remember the name of this prickly fruit but knows it was used for something.
After the Garden of Eden introduction the pickup truck took the monkey to a vanilla plantation. This was interesting and he now understands why vanilla costs so much money. What with all the hand fertilization, hand massaging, drying, throwing away the first few harvests, and tending these gentle plants with great care you can finally get that wonderful spice. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world behind saffron.
These vanilla vines are growing around cement posts under a sunshade. Other variations have the plants growing up the trunks of acacia trees where the tree provides the necessary shade for the vines to thrive. Coconut husks trap moisture that keep the plants happy and they slowly decompose to provide the perfect fertilizer.
Naturally Mrs. Kongo got some beans to share with her close friend Carol who will undoubtedly put them to good use in one of her wonderful cakes.
In a small village we learned about rural life in the islands. About 6,000 people live on this island. Actually it’s two islands connected by a short bridge. The large island is called Huahine Nui (big) and the smaller cousin is Huahini Iti (small). Almost all the population is involved in agriculture as they voted to let Bora Bora do the big tourist trade in this part of the world. Although it’s pretty sleepy, from the monkey’s perspective they seem not to want for anything. Kongo’s guide explained that they don’t live to work here…they work to live.
Back on the ship the monkey sampled the piano bar and ate a great dinner of moonfish. Tomorrow is a visit to Taha’a.
Travel safe. Have fun.