Te Matau a Maui in New Caledonia
Te Mana o te Moana in New Caledonia
Day 1 – Monday 6 August 2012
The phrase ‘Third time lucky’ is used a lot, but never has it meant so much. Fa’afaite, Haunui, Okeanos and Te Matau a Maui finally made it to New Caledonia ‘Third Time Lucky!’ After 26 days since leaving Solomons Island for Noumea, and eight testing days from Espiritu Santo we arrived to Noumea, happy to see our Vanuatu brothers and sisters already relaxing on Okeanos, after arriving overnight. Several of Fa’afaite are there to greet us as some drove up to Noumea from Hienghene and others flew in from Tahiti. As usual there is an instant connection between our sailing whanau. We all know the trials and tribulations we have all gone through even if the whole trip the waka have been separated by the wind. We laugh about the difficulty of getting to New Caledonia and the cold snap and outpour of rain that we experienced on this voyage; A sharp taste of what to expect going further south. That night we share those stories amongst ourselves as we wish our waka Haunui to land, which they succeed later into the night. They join us and the waka narrative extends some more.
Day 2 – Tuesday 7
A lot of work’s been done today, the waka experienced a beating over the week and needs some good care from our end. The crew worked right into the afternoon getting Te Matau ready for the leg home.
At night Steve’s younger brother Teva, who has lived here over 20 years, took some of the boys out for a tour of the city, checking out the lookouts and briefly what goes on in Noumea at night time.
Day 3 – Wednesday 8
As accustom to all places we go to we are always obliged to be powhiri (ceremonial welcome) on to the land. In Noumea it is no exception.
In the morning the 3 waka sail to Baie des Citrons for such a welcome. We arrive under the beat of the Marquesian drum and welcome call ‘Maeva mai!’ The Tahitian himene and ukulele, and the welcoming voice and dance of the kanaky tribal chiefs and people.
We start. ‘Tihei mauri ora!’ Let there be life. Speeches from Frank from Tua and from the local Chiefs are followed by war dances and chants that new to us. They welcome us on to their lands.
Then, roaring from the back are Poihakena and Kaipara ‘EO! Te Mana o te Moana!’ ‘EO!’ we reply. Using our haka to spread the message once more, daring the people to take up our challenge head on!
Me mate ururoa kei mate wheke! Be like a shark, persistent and never ready to give up, or die like an octopus, hiding from its problems!
We continue back to the marina, to ready ourselves for a social night at the parliament building. Later on we arrive to our social at parliament expecting a group of civil servants, politicians, foreign commissioners, ministers and the president, but along with them are some of the people; many of the people who welcomed us on to the beach at Baie des Citrons. After a quick welcome we are signaled by Tua to do something, we respond with ‘a bit of love,’ a song that has become somewhat of a signature item of Te Mana o te Moana. Then ‘A Pe’e Mai,’ and, of course, the haka as well. With our message sent to the people we start to relax and socialise. We meet people from all backgrounds, but as soon as we hear the sound of Tahitian himene from outside we are out there trying our best to remember the songs that Fa’afaite have taught us over the last 2 or more years. The singing goes well into the night until it is time to leave.
But there is unfinished business for Te Mana o te Moana. So, as we walk to the waka we instead walk straight past to see Evohe the vessel that has been there for us through thick and thin. After what would be an innocent visit and chat, turns into a jam session with Liam, Poi and even Kaipara jamming on the guitars with a mix of us from all waka singing along. Midway Liam pulls out ‘a little love’ and we all join in, and out of nowhere, Karlo our Nuku-Hiva brother speaks. Then the next person and the next until the whole room has spoken something from their heart about the experience they have had on the voyage. Seems like a perfect ‘near’ conclusion to our voyage back home.
Day 4 – Thursday 9
This morning a group from a local College is coming down to the marina to visit the waka. Man! Were we in for a surprise. It was during our usual morning work on the waka that they came down with a roar, a rumble, and a thunder singing, chanting and haka-ing. Down the pier they came squashed up in files of 3 or 4 continuing their parade until the boys let out a roar back. ‘Eo Te Mana o te Moana!’ ‘Eo…’
This stopped them in their tracks waiting for our next moved.
When the storm cleared someone came through the cloud to present us with a gift, in accordance with their custom, they followed with whaikorero (speechmaking), Saying that this meeting here today dispels all gossip that we (all included) have lost our culture, with the waka giving them hope for a better world. Then was time for our response, Tua responded on our behalf outlining our vision of reliving traditions, uniting the children of the ocean and responding to the pains of the oceans and land in need of restoration, and welcomed them onto our waka.
They responded with the most proud displays of culture that I have seen. Haka from Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands, dance from Walis and Futuna, independence songs from New Caledonia full of kanaky pride. ‘EEE I AAA I E! whakarongo! tautoko!’ Wow, could we feel the ihi, wehi and wana building from them and us, or what!? With goosebumps as prickly as sandpaper and hands doing the non-stop wiri (shakes) we respond with our own ‘Te Mana o te Moana’ culture and finish off with the haka feeling at the same time the wehi building from the kids.
With our introductions out of the way we invite them on the waka. As they left they lifted our spirits once more with one more roaring haka as they walked back to the land.
Before our day ended we said goodbye to 2 more of our crew, Liam and Pere, both we will be seeing very shortly.
Day 5 – Friday 10
What a stay we have had in Noumea. The people have treated us with the upmost manaakitanga and allowed us the space to relax at the same time. All morning Tua is running around with a few from each waka sorting out the final provisioning for our trip back home. As they run around town the rest of the crews do the final checks on our waka, our safety gears and equipment. We all come together midday ready to leave.
So, we are now standing in a circle holding the brother’s and sister’s hand next to us, maybe all of us thinking something different, maybe the same. What I’m thinking is that after all of these miles from Aotearoa, almost 30,000 for myself, it has come to this final leg of one long trip that started 19th April last year and the waka has taken us all this way. Now 16 months later, from an idea that almost seemed impossible and still seems impossible to many, to something that we can say is achievable and has been achieved. The waka is my metaphor for life and for our struggles. He waka he motu. He motu he waka. Our waka is our island. Our island is our waka!
Like the journey you’ll have to plan for what is coming
Like the weather you’ll have to adapt to changes
Like the sun you’ll have good times
Like the moon you’ll sometimes feel full and sometimes empty, Like the stars you’ll have to navigate using past wisdom
Like the cloudy night you’ll have to be confident in your decisions
Like the wind you won’t always travel in a straight line
Like a wave you’ll sometimes have to go for it and take the leap into the surf
Like a squall you’ll sometimes have to let things blow past
Like the oncoming wind you’ll just have to push into it
Like the land you’ll have to be willing to search for it
Like the whale and dolphin you’ll be curious
Like the sails you’ll be moved constantly
Like the fish you’ll be hooked
Like the bird you’ll have to return to land sometime
and like the waka you will always end up somewhere…. but not tomorrow.
Tawhana for Te Matau a Maui standing by.