Well, hello there! Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard.
We needed to escape…leave our worries and cares behind. We hopped on a ferry and in just a 45-minutes from Woods Hole on Cape Cod, the Vineyard with its serene features, pristine sandy beaches, sand dunes and oodles and oodles of natural beauty waited.
Heading out to the other side(southerly) of the Island we left much of the commercial tourist traps behind (though not entirely). A few shops owned by the native people could supply needed trinkets and souvenirs.
Getting there was relatively stress free; an economical, convenient bus service from Oaks Bluffs ~ “Up Island” to the rural community of Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head,home to the Wampanoag**.
Once there we found the dramatic, color-streaked Aquinnah Cliffs. Walking along the narrow path of scrub bushes, down to the rocky shore is one of the most beautiful walks you will ever take. If you choose to, you can walk to the right toward the clay cliffs… you will encounter Jungle Beach, clothing optional. (oh, Dear)
Driving back through the winding country roads, many with stone fences and lush vegetation, reminded me of rural Ireland.
The cliffs are cherished by the Wampanoag tribe, who love to tell people about the importance of the cliffs to the tribe, and how they feature prominently in their spirituality and myths.
In 1997, the town changed its name to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for “land under the hill.”
MOSHUP TRAIL was completed in 1958 and follows the south shore across the dunes to an exit near the lighthouse. So important is Moshup that the main Aquinnah town road along the shore has been named after him. When Moshup envisioned Europeans coming to his fishing grounds, he is said to have left Aquinnah. He then changed his children into killer whales, turned his pets into stone, and with his wife Squant walked down the beach to disappear behind Zack’s Cliffs. Fog today is attributed to the smoke of Moshup’s peudelee (pipe). Cries heard off the south side during a storm are said to be Squant calling to her lost children.
The Cliffs are ecologically protected, and it is forbidden to climb the cliffs or even touch the clay.
THE AQUINNAH CLIFFS are one hundred and fifty feet of sediment – including red and white clays, green sands, white quartz, black organic soil, and lignite. They tell the story of the past hundred million years one colorful layer at a time.
The streaks of red in the Cliff are from the blood of whales that Moshup would drag onto the Cliffs to cook. The discarded remains from his table are now fossilized deep in the clay. To the Wampanoag, the Aquinnah Cliffs are a sacred spot for the very reason that Moshup chose this special place as his home – they are a watchful place of great bounties.
The ocean is a rare aqua color here, and the waves are quite high.
**The ancestors of Wampanoag people have lived for at least 10,000 years at Aquinnah (Gay Head) and throughout the island of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard), pursuing a traditional economy based on fishing and agriculture. The Aquinnah Wampanoag share the belief that the giant Moshup created Noepe and the neighboring islands, taught our people how to fish and to catch whales, and still presides over our destinies. Our beliefs and a hundred million years of history are imprinted in the colorful clay cliffs of Aquinnah.
As we boarded the ferry for our ride back to the mainland, a beautiful, bright full move eased out from its cover of clouds…the photo taken without flash, I think gives the best feeling and likeness of the night. We were tired and content.
I hope you are well,