Tales

The Marquesas - Part 1

By justine

It’s been 3 weeks since we dropped anchor in Taiohea Bay, Nuku Hiva on April 9th. Our time here has been one of transition; from being a 3 person to a 2 person crew, from the busyness of our preparations in Mexico to the ease of the South Pacific, from ocean travelers to island hoppers. 

Ah but the Marquesas! Its the land of plenty! Plenty of food, beauty, kind people, bugs! Everything we read led us to believe that provisioning in French Polynesia would be difficult and costly but only the later is true. Taiohea has sooo much. You have to work for it by getting up early and asking around but for the most part everything you need is available; except for that damn spark plug. Fish is caught here, cattle, chicken, and eggs are raised, and vegetables and fruits are grown. The eggs are in high demand and you have to ask around and smile to get some. The resupply ship, the Aranui, comes once every 3 weeks so after about 2 weeks shelves of dry goods and coolers with yogurt and cheese look pretty empty. Butter and milk are usually available because they’re shelf items; preserved via canning from either France or New Zealand, and they’re surprisingly quite good.

fruit hammock

We’ve met many nice people, Kevin & Annabel from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, Colette from the visitors center in Taiohea, Kua and Teiki from Daniels Bay, Demetri and Rose (sailors from France…via Hong Kong), Mike from the sailboat S/V Easy, and we also ran into old friends Jen, Alan, and Katie from S/V Goblin and Dave and Lynn from S/V Moggy.

The Marquesas are beautiful, green, mountainous islands. They receive a lot of rainfall and are quite hot and humid, thats why everything grows here so happily. Because of this you're likely to get caught in a squall once in awhile. It feels heavenly. You never really see umbrellas or raincoats. Everyone just enjoys getting wet and knows that the heat will dry them soon enough. This moisture and heat (aka humidity) also breeds bugs, by the 1,000s. Its a bit of a predicament for someone who doesn’t tolerate bug bites very well but it can’t all be paradise, right? The rainfall causes run off into the bays making for poor visibility under water. The things you do get to see in the water are magical though, sharks and manta rays, a school of about 30. And the water, it’s crazy warm! Average air temps in April have been in the high 80s and water temps in the low 80s. So when you jump in its almost difficult to feel the difference. You’re not so much refreshed, you’re just wet.

drying fish

NUKU HIVA

We visited 4 different bays in Nuku Hiva: Taiohea, Daniels, Controller, and Anaho.

Taiohea is the main town on Nuku Hiva and the capital of the Marquesas. This was our first landfall purely for administrative reasons. We needed to begin the paperwork for our Cart de Sejour (CDS) before its expiration date so we headed to the customs/immigration office in Nuku Hiva as soon as possible. This meant passing over the southern islands of Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva.

In addition to taking care of administrative duties we reprovisioned with a bounty of deliciousness, made phone calls to our families, and took a few hikes. We discovered one hike (~5 miles rt) to a view point. The hike travelled through an arid peninsula covered with nonnative plants. Due to overgrazing of goats and the transmission of nonnative seeds/plants there’s an issue with noxious weeds. Even so, the goats remain and you can hear their “nays” in the hillsides. They're mostly wild and are often hunted by the locals. The goat in the photo was hung, cleaned, skinned, and purchased by a cruiser for $70 all within about 20 minutes.

goats

Another hike was to Kou’eva, an inland ceremonial ground that has been restored and used for traditional cultural events. And if you’re not into a long walk there are also several tikis and a ceremonial site right along the waterfront in Taiohea. And you get lost just ask a local for help. Everyone was so happy to help us find our way even though we barely speak French or Marquesan. And btw…do yourself a favor if you plan to travel to the Marquesas…learn some of the language. It’s just polite, right? Kaoha means hello in Marquesan, so start there:)

tiki

We attended a community event where dancers and musicians were performing in 'traditional' attire. They did their best at getting the audience to participate either with song or dance. John even went up on stage for the “warrior” dance.

We came and went from town and in the end we spent about 2 weeks in Taiohea.