The Taro Civilization The taro plant— colocasia esculenta—was first brought to the South Pacific Islands from asia during the early Polynesian migrations. over time it has become the most characteristic plant of the austral archipelago. In ancient times this species that belongs to the araceae family was one of the most valuable products of consumption that the tribes in rurutu had. Stealing taro from a neighboring clan was punishable by death and could be the source of bloody tribal wars. To this day, each plot of land cultivated with taro belongs to a family and is passed on from generation to generation. In the tropics, and particularly in the austral Islands, the seasons don’t differentiate much from one another and therefore taro can be cultivated here all year round. In rurutu the taro root—which is simply boiled in hot water—accompanies almost every meal. While taro can be compared to the daily bread of other cultures, it is also eaten in a variety of other forms: taro that has been boiled, mashed by the help of a penu (pestle) and left to ferment is made into po’e, a sweet dessert that is often eaten with coconut milk. another, less traditional way to enjoy taro is to make taro French fries. The young leaves of the plant are reminiscent of a local variation of spinach, called fafa.

In order to thrive, taro needs a lot of water. It is found growing primarily in the humid areas close to the island’s three main villages, or in the valley of Paparai. an ingenious system of irrigation channels have been dug out through the plots of land where taro is being grown in order to irrigate each plot properly. one of the biggest and most beautiful taro plots lies in Te Vai avai not far from the village of avera. here you can admire the men from the village at work in the taro fields all day long. Taro cultivation is hard work and has traditionally been reserved for the men. after turning the soil they cover the entire surface of the plot with palm and banana leafs. The leaves—which serve as a sort of natural compost— help to conserve the humidity of the soil and also prevent unwanted weeds from growing. To plant the taro, the men use a wooden dibble to make holes in the soil, and then place the taro bulbs in them. Finally, all they have to do is wait 8-15 months for the crops to be ready! If the plots are too big for one man to handle, the cultivators make use of an old custom called pupu, which involves exchanging work-hours, and helping each other out on the bigger plots. Pupu is a great example of how taro cultivation is a part of community life, and an important aspect of the island’s heritage. along with fishing and pig farming, taro cultivation enables rurutu to continue to be self- sufficient with regards to food.

Randonnée De nombreuses randonnées sont possibles sur l’île, que vous soyez débutant ou grimpeur chevronné. Plusieurs guides vous proposent d’explorer Rurutu, à la journée ou à la demi-journée, que ce soit en randonnée pédestre, à cheval ou en safari 4x4. Il également possible de louer un véhicule ou des bicyclettes pour les plus courageux. Vous pourrez ainsi aller à la rencontre de nombreuses grottes comportant stalagmites et stalactites, de monts à la végétation luxuriante ou de plages au sable fin.

Hiking Numerous hikes are possible on the island whether you are a beginner or an experienced climber. You can explore Rurutu with a guide on half - or full-day excursions by foot, horse or safari-style with a 4x4. For the brave it is possible to rent a car or a bicycle and go without a guide. In either case Rurutu has many sites worth visiting such as the numerous caves with their stalagmites and stalactites, beautiful hillsides covered in luxurious vegetation, or Rurutu’s fine sandy beaches.

VUe De la BaIe D’aVera DU haUT DU moNT TeaPe / view of avera bay from mont teape

photos : Jean-philippe yuam

©Jean-philippe yuam

©Jean-philippe yuam

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©philippe bacchet