Whales sighted on the way to Gannet Island (No 37)
The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand.
There was harmony in the extended family of Ahu, Ahuahu, Hatiti and their four children. The children were all happy as nothing had changed for them. Both Ahu and Hatiti were happy they both had a husband who loved them who was gentle and kind and tried not to show favour to either of them. Ahuahu worked hard to provide for his extended family but he did feel the pressure of being pulled at by everyone, not only his wives but also by Kamaka who kept asking whether his daughter Hatiti was with child again as he wanted a grandson.
As winter approached Ahuahu told the village headman he should travel north to see if the annual migration of whales had started so that they could capture one if it beached in one of the coves north of their village. This would provide the village with blubber for oil and meat for drying and bones for weapons and carving in the quieter winter months. He thought about going with Kamaka but he did not want the whole of the journey being chided by him for not getting Hatiti pregnant.
The village chief asked if he would take his eldest son Paikea whose name meant Tame Whale. “He should bring you luck” said the chief, “and his eyes are sharp.”
Ahuahu laughed “He does not need good eyes to spot a whale but I will gladly take him.”
“If we get close to Gannet Island village we should tell them too so they may share in the rewards,” said Ahuahu “May I approach them on your behalf?”
The chief looked a bit concerned and said “But if we find one first surely it is ours.”
“We do not want to get into an inter village skirmish when so much of the catch will be wasted in any case. The sea birds will even be pecking at us while we are harvesting the catch so we do not need strife from our neighbours as well.”
“That is what I like about you Ahuahu you plan things out. Paikea listen well to Ahuahu you will learn valuable lessons from him.”
They left early and although they could see signs of whales on the horizon none were close to shore. They had made their way over the hills and far out to sea they could see a small pod breeching and few mothers protecting their calves.
“There is nothing close enough for the moment we will go on to Gannet Island and I will pay my respects to them and call on a friend of mine Hi’ilei from so many years ago.”
Paikea the chief’s son nodded and so they descended through the wooded area close to shore. When they emerged, Gannet Island was visible with countless birdlife circling the island and diving into the sea in the rich fishing grounds.
“If this is where you lived why did you leave, Ahuahu? Fishing would be so easy here.”
“The best thing about this village is that is where I found Ahu and married her. But I am happier at Black Sands, Paikea, even though the fish do not jump into the boat by themselves as they do here! We will pay our respects in the village then I will see if I can find my old friend Hi’ilei. Let us see what reception we will get. Do not offer any information when we speak.”
The boy nodded in reply. They approached the chief’s house and dutifully greeted him and his companions.
“What brings you here Ahuahu?”
“This is Paikea our head man’s son. I have been asked to show him the country between our villages. We did not think we would reach this far north so quickly, but he is young and walks fast. But now that I am here I would also like to meet with my old friend Hi’ilei who was not well the last time I saw him. How is he?”
“Alas he is with our ancestors now and has been there for over a year.” Here the chief indicated the direction of the burial ground.
“I am grieved to hear that. Then I will talk, if I may to Kiri his widow and give her my wife’s greetings.” He said.”
“Again the chief shook his head. “She and the children have long gone she does not live here anymore.”
Ahuahu felt that he had not been told the whole story but as it would be rude to continue the conversation, he merely thanked the chief for his welcome and said that Ahu his wife would be saddened.
“It will be dark before we get back to Black Sands we should start back soon.” Surprisingly there was no protest at this with a request to eat with them so Ahuahu once again thanked the chief for his welcome and Paikea did likewise and they left the way they had come.
As they approached the beach once again a young girl ran after them, “Ahuahu, Ahuahu” she called. They stopped and turned and a pretty girl of 12 or more years came up to them. “Do you remember me, Ahuahu?”
“Moana, I remember you. Only you say my name as you do. You fetched me when I was fishing on the rocks when Ahu was having her first baby. It is good to see a friendly face here. I will tell Ahu I have spoken to you.”
They all sat down on the sand now while Paikea stared intently at Moana.
“Do you want to tell me something, Moana?” asked Ahuahu.
“Take me with you; I do not like it here anymore.”
“What has happened?”
“They are planning to attack the Rocky Outcrop settlement again”
“How do you know this?”
Moana pulled the hair from ears grinning “Look how big they are, I hear everything.”
Ahuahu laughed but then was serious “This is not good news Moana. We cannot take you. They would think we have stolen you and there would be fighting between our villages too. Later on if you are in real danger run away and head south to our village. But do not mention this to anyone at all and do not say you have spoken to us.”
Moana nodded in agreement. She then looked at Paikea and said “I am Moana.”
Paikea who was only about 15 himself said, “My name is Paikea”.
“I will remember you”, she nodded shyly and reluctantly lowered her eyes.
They then got up, Ahuahu went up to Moana and gave her a hug and let their faces touch then they went their own ways. Later as they walked on the bluff overlooking the sea Paikea said “You did not mention the whales to the chief.”
“No. That seemed an unwise thing to talk about. But I will explain to your father that we should handle them by ourselves if there are any.”
Paikea was silent for a bit but then said. “Moana was very pretty…and strong and bold.”
Ahuahu laughed. “Don’t worry, you won’t have you rescue her, she will find us if she has to but she is too young to marry yet.”
“Don’t tell my father what I just said about her.”
“We didn’t see her, Paikea. There are much more important things we have to tell him”
“Even though I didn’t see her, I will not forget her, I wanted to hug her too Ahuahu.”