8º54.9'S, 140º06.1W
Baie de Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
a Tale of Two markets Part 2

Stories in this section... Marquesas
Tale of Two markets Part I
Tale of Two markets Part II


The Bloody Market
By Lois Joy                                  

The alarm jangled at 0430, as I was deep into my dreams. We all dress silently and climb down into the dinghy in the dark, still half asleep. Gunter wears a miner's flashlight like a band around his head. It is throwing a path of light into the ripples in the bay. We strain to adjust our vision as we watch for an anchor line here, a dinghy painter there, and for unlit fishing boats as we motor closer to the wharf. Armin jumps out as we try to grab onto the slippery stone steps, pushing aside the 4 or 5 dinghies already tied there.

"Where were you?" Jean-Claude asks, his dinghy already tied as he and Claudie peer down at us.

"We were at Makoko at 5 minutes till, as planned," says Gunter. "You were already gone."

"Well, you need to come early for this market. We found that out last time Come on, the fish are already laid out…some good tuna here."

The fishermen were crouching in the pools of blood and water, chopping the heads off the fish. Good size, but only half the size of 'the one that got away'. I wondered what we would have done with that thing, had we managed to get it on board. We ordered 4 kilo (2.2 lb) sliced off one of the tuna and 1 kilo of the redfish stored in picnic-style coolers topped with ice. I stopped at the lobsters. I added 4, which the man shoved into a too-small plastic bag, and I added to my large shopping bag, already wet on the bottom from the other fish.

I pull out a drier bag and move on to the veggies. The makeshift metal tables are crowded with cruisers and islanders, all frantically groping for the few vegetables that are left, knowing that the Marquesan stores do not sell them. A glimmer of dawn appears and we can begin to see without our flashlights. I manage to grab 2 bunches of green onions, 2 of a type of Chinese celery similar to bok choy, 2 bags of green peppers, 2 bunches of carrots. No tomatoes this week. What we have (plus canned goods) will have to last us for our sail to the Tuomotus and perhaps the first two weeks there.

I move on to the breads. I quickly select 3 sweetbreads, 2 quiche, 3 little pies, croissants. No baguettes, the only bread they sell here, but they will be delivered to the stores later, the well-endowed lady informs me. With the essentials selected, I slow down a little and talk to the yogurt lady.

I failed to find out why this market opens so early. No one knows. At 0600, the rush is over, with most of the tables sold out. Morning is here and the vendors can see to pack up. As we walk back onto the wharf, the fishermen are cleaning up their mess of eyes and heads and guts, hosing down the wharf, the bloody water and parts running down the slippery steps and into the dinghies below. I climb down the steps, even my Tevas slipping in the blood. We hand down the bags, which will have to be placed, along with us, in the messy dinghy. Everything-our clothes, our shoes, our bags--is now covered with dirt, mud, blood, and water. We glumly glide over the bay back to Pacific Bliss. No one talks. Armin secures the painter. Then I get out and he hands me the bags, one by one. Gunter immediately splashes sea water all over the dinghy, trying to rinse it the best he can. Armin sets up a fish cleaning operation on the steps of the port hull. He spreads out our old oilcloth, then cleans, guts and sprays the fish with the fresh water hose. He cuts up tuna steaks, one by one, and passes them over to me. I unpack the FoodSaver sealer and bags. Gunter and I set up an assembly line. I pack, he seals and I put each one-meal package into the freezer, which we defrosted yesterday. Now, we know how much room we'll have for meat We can buy it frozen, in one of the three stores in the town.

Then I unpack the vegetables, wash and soak all those that are grown above ground and will not be peeled in a bleach solution. Then I spread them all out on the trampoline to dry. Later, I will put them into green EverFresh bags and into the fridge.

Still silent, we each pluck a ripe banana from our bunch swaying from the bimini pole to have with a breakfast of chocolate croissants and coffee. The croissants don't hold a candle to the ones we purchased at the bakery in Canet, France, where we waited for Pacific Bliss to be built. But they are a step above the tough, paste-like baguettes we had found here so far. Baguettes are subsidized in French Polynesia, Jean-Claude tells us, so here, where they need the profit, they use the least and poorest ingredients possible.

We flop on our berths to rest, but not for long. We are all thinking the same thing. Today is Saturday. We want to leave on Monday right after the post office opens and we can get our visa stamp. The stores will be closed Sunday. Who knows how long they will be open today. And whether they will be quickly sold out of that frozen meat. An hour later, we drag ourselves back into the dinghy, back to the dreaded concrete steps on the wharf, down the dusty road to the markets, shopping bags in hand.

Life can be tough here.

A Tale of Two Markets part1





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