Nuku Hiva – Pig roasts, mythical cultures, and rich history in the Marquesas.

Nuku Hiva has always been the most magical and mythical of the Polynesian Marquesas islands, attracting Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson to its idyllic shores over a hundred years ago. Today you can still find much of the magic tucked away in its dramatic coastline, or through its misty plateau called To’ovi’i, which is covered in a pine forest, giving it much the appearance of the lower Alps in Germany rather than a paradise island of the Pacific.

Nuku Hiva’s history is rich, dating back at least 2000 years when the first people came to colonize the island. It has been a magnet for many cultures including Tahiti, Hawaii’i, the Cook Island and even New Zealand, and this melting pot has created a robust living and truly unique culture on Nuku Hiva. Dancing, woodworking, and a fantastic cuisine are all the product of having these many people bring their cultures to this largest island of the Marquesas.

One of the more controversial historic points is that Cannibalism was practiced on the island by the first inhabitants, more out of necessity then for ritual purposes. Since there is no written history but just accounts and verbal history to take in account, many have chosen not to include it in modern studies of the island and its inhabitants. True or not, the current locals of the islands are perhaps some of the most lovely and welcoming in the world, and obviously do not practice cannibalism in any form today. Rather, they have amazing feasts!

Pig roasts, or Umu, are a ceremony in Nuku Hiva, and no one does it better then Yvonnes in Nuku Hiva. Whole beasts are put in a wire cage, with breadfruit, taro and other veritable delights, covered with banana leaves, and placed under hot coals. There they are slow roasted for hours, before being unearthed, prepared, and served. Pisson cru (raw tuna with coconut milk), various raw fish, crabs, shrimp, taro, manioc, breadfruit, umara (sweet potato), several types of bananas, and tons of sauces and mashed stuff. It’s a total taste bud overload. And then there is fafaru, which you should just read about here because it’s a bit hard to describe.

The darling down of Taioha’e is to be relished, with it’s colonial and indigenous mix of architecture and culture blending together in an island setting. There you will find the Notre Dame Cathedral, a strong reminder of the far reaching Catholic influence even here in the middle of the Pacific ocean. This beautiful structure is covered in some of the most lovely wood carvings you have ever seen, with cartoonish poses in religious settings. Regardless of your belief or feelings about religion, it is worth a visit just for the craftsmanship.

Before Catholicism was injected into the culture, Nuku Hiva’s original inhabitants had a very strong and complex religious and cultural beliefs. Indigenous religion was strongly dualistic, postulating a living world of light ( ao ) and a world of ghosts, deities, darkness, and night (po). The presence of deities ( etua ) in this world was believed to be vital for making work efficacious and for securing life and prosperity. There was an extensive hierarchy of deities, ranging from the founding originators of the cosmos to their particular expressions in the gods of occupations and places, and there also were apotheosized shamans and chiefs, often linked with local temples ( me’ae). The aggrieved ghosts of major shamans were often propitiated to relieve famine, and many lesser figures were associated with illness and other misfortunes. Since the late nineteenth century, more than 90 percent of Marquesans have become Catholics, most of the remainder being Protestants descended from Hawaiian mission teachers. Modern Marquesan religion has not been adequately investigated, but syncretic elements appear to persist, including belief in a range of evil spirits, such as ghosts of women who have died in childbirth. Archeological sites are all over the island, and it is common to be able to find and explore Marae, which are Polynesian temples. Nuku Hiva has some of the most preserved temples in Polynesia, some next to ancient sacred trees that really impress upon you the power of this place.

Overall no trip to the Marquesas is really complete without visiting Nuku Hiva, which has intrigued visitors from around the world for centuries. Herman Melville wrote Typee there in 1846 and  Robert Louis Stevenson‘s first landfall on his voyage on the Casco was at Hatihe’u, on the north side of the island, in 1888. Since then many an intrepid traveller has ventured across the Pacific to witness the gentle marvel that is Nuku Hiva, and I was just so happy that the Aranui was able to bring me there in comfort and style to enjoy it’s boundless beauty, and fascinating culture.




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First Electric Bike Exhibit, ever.

A little sneak peek of the killer new exhibit at the Petersen Auto Museum in LA featuring the most advanced, cutting edge, wild and beautiful electric-powered two-wheeled beasts being crafted right now.

The VIP Press preview happened last Thursday and the exhibit goes live this weekend. Gotta say that these bikes will make you think differently about the potential of electric power. The exhibit, called “Electric Revolution” is the world’s first to elctro-bike exhibit and will feature over 20 new and historic electric two-wheeled bikes that will simply blow your mind.

Off-road e-bike from Swedish hotstuff Cake, Neil Connolly’s Storm 36, and the twin-motor Zeus from Curtiss Motorcycle Company are all there to be gawked at. Alta Motors, France’s Shiny Hammer, Blatant Moto, and artist Joey Ruiter are among other hot shots to grace the Petersen’s halls. This is a unique event not to be missed, and yes, of course they have more sexy and historic automobiles then a rich kid’s Matchbox collection. Race over, don’t walk, it’s wild.


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Riding Through Death.

A while back I had the chance to go experience Death Valley in a very special way: top a two wheeled beast who just devours desert.

With the adventurous crew from Honda who brought the badass bikes, along with my goto for all things cool, Tracy Motts from Rev’It motorcycle gear, we were completely covered in the way of motorcycle mayhem. Or destination was Beatty (pronounced either beat-ee or bait-ee dee-pending on who you talk to and how much they have had to drink) which isn’t so much a destination as a town as is a place that aliens forgot to obliterate on their strike on the U.S. in 1958 (something locals actually believe.)

The town is a wonderful place if you like weird, strange and that slight feeling that you are surrounded by people evading John Q. Law. We opted for the Motel 6, which was the finest joint in town.

Food wise there is actually lots to discover, some fine chili places, Mexican joints, and this dodgy little bar that had some fine salisbury steak. We tossed back a few root-beers, stapled a few dollars on the wall to appease our intergalactic overlords, and hit the hay to get up before sunrise to hit the dirt trails.


I cannot overstate how absolutely FANTASTIC it is to ride a dirtbike through desert canyons. At all. I had never ridden a dirtbike, and while I was secure on a street bike, this was a whole other beast. After ditching a few times in some soft spots I learned to stand over the bike rather then lean into it; something non-riders will scratch their head at, and experienced riders nod at. It’s just like riding a BMX bike, you know, like when you were 12, if your BMX had a 650 monster engine attached to it and you were fueled by whiskey rage.

Once I had the knack of it I was flying through switchbacks and even getting my front wheel up on long tracks. As you fly through the canyons you feel like Indiana Jones, but on a motorcycle, which is about as cool as you can feel. It was epic.

Here’s a little film I shot with my drone that day. Oh, did I mention I brought a drone? Yeah. I brought a drone to Death Valley.

Once through Titus Canyon we met the Honda truck which ported water, gas, and anything else we might need. This was the way to travel. As a side note, while we rehydrated, a runner came over the hill half dead. Apparently her boyfriend had fallen ill running a trail and was about 2 miles back, baking in the sun, unable to move. Like a modern western our best rider jumped on a 350 and tore off on his mechanical horse to help. Needless to say the chap was alright and our badass meter jumped up another notch.

We took lunch at Scotty’s Castle, which, if you’ve never been, is friggin weird. It’s a castle … in the middle of Death Valley. Thats it. A clear testament to human’s ability to put things where they truly do not belong. Strange as it is, it’s a magical place to take lunch, and get out the scorching heat for a sec.

Refueled, we continued on, heading to the famous Racetrack Playa, a dry lake-bed which has been in every car commercial in the 90’s. On the way we passed Teakettle Junction, and checked the pots for some secret messages. We found one, that said “Nancy. I’ve left. The salt has me now. Tell grandma I loved her. The money is in the seat cuchion. Don’t drink too much. Stay safe. Ted.” Ted is my new spirit animal.

The lake bed is an amazing place, unlike anywhere else on earth (other then other deserts that might have a dry lake bed). It’s a place with absolutely … nothing. For a kid from NYC this is unreal, and immediately made me nervous and start looking around for a Starbucks. Alas, there was none. Things started to get…weird.


We drove back hooping and hollering, through Ubehebe Crater, Zabriskie and the Rhyolite ghost town, and arrived back in sleep Beatty just in time for supper. We hit up this Mama Sara’s, which, no lie, had the best Mexican food I’ve ever put in my mouth. This coming from a man who has lived in SoCal, Mexico City, and even gotten into La Esquina in NYC. This was off the cadena (that’s “chain” in Spanish. Sorry).

In the end, Death Valley is a magical place. It’s a wondrous, empty, low spot on the planet that is strangely filled with so much to see, experience, and feel. It is a beautiful place for introspection and a meditative location to reflect quietly on one’s life. It’s only ten times better doing it ripping through a desert canyon on a 650 cc cannon as BRRRAAAAAP echos off the sandstone walls. Respect.


freeman’s social club. the perfect day.

May 23rd. The day we celebrate Dave Hanson Day.

Never heard of Dave Hanson Day? Never heard of Dave Hanson? pshaw. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Dave Hanson. He’s the guy that drinks you past the breakup, jumps your broken down CJ-7 at 6am, and can sit in silence with you filling the empty spaces with solid companionship.

In short, he is your best friends.


Sure, your Dave Hanson might be a Mike Johnson, or perhaps an Ellie Moss, of even a Chia Beng Xiao (it’s more popular then you think). No matter what you call your best friends, May 23rd is the day to celebrate them.

This all started because Dave was getting married, and to celebrate the occasion we thought it would be nice to do an extravagant “Gentleman’s Afternoon” out on the town. I had seen an interesting little package, set up by the fantastic UrbanDaddy people, for an all inclusive “manuxuary” afternoon, at the one and only, Freeman’s Social Club.


The package included a made-to-measure custom suit, a shave and a haircut at their bespoke barber shop, and fancy cigar and whiskey tasting in the back alley, a.k.a. Freeman’s. It’s about as perfect an afternoon could get. So us three – myself, Mr. Dave Hanson, and the impeccable Christopher “Sully” Sullivan, made our way over to the meca of man.

Freeman’s Social Club is the kind of place that the fabric of dreams are made of. Tucked away off Bowery in the LES, this little shop is the birthplace of a sharp new look, the Bethlehem of the hem if you will. A smattering of vintage motorcycles, tattered Americana bric-a-brac, and perfectly patina’d objet d’art line the corners of the store as you pay homage in this cathedral of cloth (last one I swear.). The fabrics are nothing less than the finest you can find in the world; Italian silks, Tunisian linens and Japanese cottons in colors so genuine and subtile that Caravaggio would have used them as his pallet.

Basically there is cool shit everywhere.

Which makes you feel cool. Very cool. Old playboys, tailor’s tools, and even gun casings can be found perfectly thrown around the store, as if you were in your grandfather’s basement, if your grandfather was Hemingway, and this was his hunting lodge that he shared with the Dos Equis guy. Stay fashionable my friends.

What’s more is the staff is as cool as their domain, going above and beyond the norm of service only helps you on your cool assent. Handing them the UrbanDaddy certificate was all it took for them to basically take care of everything, which is exactly how you’d want it to be. They showed us around, made us comfortable, and did so without being phony, but more like a friend that invited you to swing by their shop… you know, the one that sells 3,000.00 suits. Good friend to have.

We met our master tailor who we called Papito. A thick Cuban accent and a swagger that only comes with doing a trade for decades, Papito was our salty Virgil we followed through this elite world of fashion. We dove right in looking at swatches, deciding on the best color scheme and coolest cut that would make Dave look almost as good as his beautiful bride to be. For the next hour we discussed stitching, linings, vents and button placement, and I channeled my Italian father who taught me everything I know about how to look good in a suit. The two cornerstones of a good suit repeated in my mind: look for “the line” in the cut, and secondly, a jacket’s length should come down to the bottom of your balls. Or it might be thumbs, really it’s the same.

Having exhausted the possibilities and Dave feeling successfully dapper, they ushered us next door to the back alley bar where we would have a bit of the brown elixir and cigars. We delighted ourself on the rye, and took some memorable, albeit 80’s boy-band-esque pictures in the alley as we waited for the grooming portion of the afternoon.

(we decided our band would be named “Monsignors of Love ft. DJ Scratchatory Rape”)

Freeman’s Barber Shop is a place that occupies the space between new and old, classic and modern, cool and pedestrian. It’s simple inside; clean unfinished wood beams and frosted white lights give it the appearance that the Amish built this barbershop. The selection of hipster beards in the joint only added to the Mennonite mis-en-cine, but one thing is overtly clear; they are very serious about making you look perfect. Not good, perfect.


Everything about the experience was done with the skill of a master craftsman, but with the panache of Williamsburg bartender, sorry, mixologist. Our master barber assessed Dave’s nappy beard and plainly shaved head. “Do you wash your beard every day?” he asked Dave. “Yes.” Dave said, somewhat defensive. “Don’t.” said our piloculturalist, “Let the natural oils of your face keep your beard safe. The natural reds in your hair will come out, it will be healthier, and look more vibrant. virile.” Dave never had thought of his beard as virile, but immediately liked the idea, as if his beard could fight a bull, or maybe rebuild a carburetor. “Also, I see you probably use a #2 on your head here. I’m gonna go down to a #1 on the sides here, and fade it in the back. You won’t notice much today, but in 2 weeks, you’re gonna see the difference.” None of us can wait to see what the hell is going to happen in 2 weeks.

The shave was excellent. Our barber was a master, having grown up in a barber shop himself. These weren’t kids with jobs, these were artists with residencies. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to my old-school barber on 46th and 9th ave in Hell’s Kitchen. Henry is 78 years old and has been using the same blade since Truman was in office. The difference here is that Freeman’s has the same love and nonchalant execution, but done in a way that is much more, well, cool. I mean, they have a fully stocked bar. Henry is usually drunk, but he doesn’t share. These dudes do.


Cleaned up, suit being sent to the tailor, and having applied and ample dose of social lubricant, the day was a success, as three great friends celebrated the history they have made, and the adventures yet to be had. Such a luxurious afternoon worked up a sizable hunger, so we rolled literally across the street to Loreley, a proper German beer garden. Sitting out back, gently crafting the perfect ratio of sausage to kraut to mustard morsel, we tried to create the perfect bite. We experimented over and over, wiping the blackboard clean each time with a large swig of cold, delicious beer, until we were fully satisfied with the results. Expect them to be published in next month’s Sausagerific Review. (Why, dear God, does that not exist?)

Afterwards we stumbled northward through the city, stopping for a look at all the oddities a great calamity like New York can offer. We enjoyed another quick Instagram fix along Houston, and eventually made it up to Porsena where we ran into owner Sara Jenkins who I’ve had the pleasure to film at her other fab joint Porchetta. Well wouldn’t you know it … it was “Rosay” (That’s Rosé and the month of May mixed together, I figured the explanation was needed) so we indulged; three gents drinking rosé, eating strawberry risotto, and sampling some of Sara’s personal olive oil from her fattoria in Italy. Dandy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

And so, this year’s Dave Hanson Day was a success. There was great food, fun, and drink, and most of all, great company of two great friends, which is really what Dave Hanson Day is all about. #unicornamulet

freemans-3141* The author, Roberto Serrini, was in no way paid to write this review or has any affiliation with any business written in this article. What was written is just the opinion of his. That being said the day was awesome, and if you get the chance, I suggest going to enjoy any of these dope places.

** all photographs were taken with a lowsy iPhone and retouched afterwards.

*** Roberto Serrini loves a well placed semi-colon.