Wednesday, 6 November 2019

BACK IN PARADISE. November 7th 2019

Taohoe Bay Nuku Hiva

After 26 days at sea, the distant blur on the horizon was a very welcome sight. With Panama 4334 miles behind us, and on our second attempt to get to the Marquesas we had finally succeeded. Midnight arrivals seem to be a speciality and this one was easy. Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, is the capital and French Administrative centre of the Marquesas Island group. The waving palm trees towering volcanic columns of rock and balmy temperatures seduced sailors of bygone years to jump ship and go native here.

A long and violent history has left tall tales and grotesque archaeological remains scattered throughout. Royal roads with sculpted stone creatures along each side and dating back to who knows when.

Some of the anchorages around Nuku Hiva
Haikaui or Daniels Bay

First discovered by the Spanish in 1596 or thereabouts the Marquesas was then almost undiscovered until whalers started putting into the bays for supplies. The indigenous inhabitants were not treated well and as most of history shows and relations deteriorated with horrific atrocities on both sides.
Eventually the French “pacified” the islands inhabitants and the whole area is a French Protectorate.

The upshot is that there are great boulangerie (Bakeries) and croissants!! The five small supermarkets are well stocked and there's a fresh and vegetable market each morning. Meat is mostly imported from New Zealand so there's a good choice at a good price though. Fishermen sell their catch on the dockside each morning. Gutting and cleaning fish there attracts some large sharks so swimming by the quay is reserved for children on Sundays! 

The bay can get rolly. Deployment of a stern anchor is the best remedy. There's a dingy dock on the northeast corner where you take your chances between fishing boats against a barnacle incrusted rough concrete wall. Here we did deploy our dingy anchor as a stern anchor to keep it clear of entanglement but there must be some whopper rocks or cables and we’ve never seen the stern anchor again!.

Ashore at the dock, there's a small eatery with wifi and Nuku Hiva Yacht Services owned by Kevin, an American ex-pat has the only decent wifi in town.

Celinas has a nice restaurant near the veggie market and Tourist Centre, just 50 meters further in. It also has half-decent wifi. No Broadband here! 

Life is slow and easy. Afternoon siesta after an early morning start is traditional. People are not walking around with their phones glued to their faces but instead strolling, talking, fishing, strumming instruments and the children are running wild and free. There are loads of children!

The costumes go on when the cruise ships arrive.

Colete at the Tourist Centre is a wealth of information on the area and cars can be hired from around $100 per day. The island roads are notoriously steep and winding and we’ve yet to hire a car so that's for the next post.

Entering Daniels Bay

Daniels Bay, about 7nm west of Taiohoe lured us in for a few days rest and relaxation and to recover from the long and tedious passage. We were pretty tired and still had a few jobs to do so the leisurely pace there suited our purpose. Mile and Shelly on Libite, owners of Avatar, joined us there while they prepared Libete for delivery to Tahiti. The village has no road access and comprises just 6 or 7 houses. There's a pretty walk which leaves the beach at Daniels Bay and follows the headland around to the west where the houses are. From here the intrepid can take about a 5-hour walk, climb, scramble through mosquitos and sandflies to the most spectacular waterfall. (If there's water) We are not that intrepid preferring instead to return to Taipan for a glass of red!. 

Taipans hull was disgusting after 26 days at sea. Goose barnacles had made them selves at home from the waterline almost to the toe-rail on the aft port-side and slime and filth covered the rest of the hull. I spent long hours in the water scrubbing her, only to learn later that a well known nest of hammerheads and tiger sharks reside on the far wall of the bay. Just some 500meters from where I laboured…No-one has been eaten here in a long  while, we were told.

New Mercury with cover I made
David nursed the fridge back to life gradually over the next few weeks. It was new in the Canaries!! 12 Volt Marine refrigeration is a dark art but we’ve gauges and a lot of gas so can afford to play long and hard at it! The water-maker was also giving David plenty to be going on with.

Three weeks after our arrival, and after delivery into Nuku Hiva on the fortnightly freighter from Tahiti, of our new Mercury outboard, we decided to move out and investigate a couple more bays. Grahame and Janake aboard  Leela had joined us so we set off together Eastward to Controller Bay. There are 2 nice bays here, 

Photo of Ho omie Bay by Grahame Openshaw Leela

The most easterly is Ho-oumi and this was our first anchorage. Very comfortable and good fishing. Ever aware of the dreaded Ciguateira though we didn’t eat any until we got the word from locals of the bay that they were safe in that particular bay.  Together we took a pleasant walk up the winding road to the ridge top westward, passing many Pi-pi. These are ancient stone platforms, over a meter high, constructed with enormous boulders fitted tightly together and topped with enormous flat rocks. Palm frond houses were built on these in years gone by and the elevation prevented the ingress of pigs, goats, and water. Built along the valley, close to the stream, they would have provided relatively dry and airy platforms for living.  

Pi Pi One of thousands throughout the island

There are a surprising number of horses here. The copra farmers use them to transport bags of Copra to the road heads for transport to Taohoe where they are shipped to Tahiti for processing into oil. Copra farming is increasing as the price rises. 

Those coconuts are a long way up the tall skinny trunks and have to be climbed for then knocked to the ground. Then they’re cracked open, meat extracted and smoked, in smokehouses, before sending away. The mountainous nature of the terrain in which coconuts are farmed means only horses could be used. No vehicle could access these areas. Horse owners also use them to ride and we even saw a pretty black pony in a very nice harness rig with a 4 wheel buggy. I didn’t get a photo as we were too far away but I’m on the lookout for that again. There are also several trail riding operators but having seen the saddles, I’m very reluctant to mount up! They’re not as rustic at the Galapagos outfits though.

Various horses and their proud owners.

The other striking wildlife is the fowls. The Marquesan Chooks are famous they tell me. They’re certainly plentiful. Roosters rent the morning air with they’re raucous calls from well before sunrise and they parade in small clusters with several hens and often some small chickens. Let loose on the islands centuries ago, they have thrived and their spectacular plumage I never tire of. 

The next anchorage was just half an hour west at Taipivali. The bay was made famous by the book Typee (Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame. Free on Goodreads) In the late 1800s he lived with the Tipee for several months, after jumping ship, and writes a detailed report of his captivity. Unlike the 1800s the bay is now quiet and peaceful and instead of eating their enemy from the neighbouring bays, they play Boules with them at church fetes and take home frozen goat carcasses as prizes. This village is larger and has a small store with great apple Danish! There's a vanilla farm just out of town which we didn’t visit this time, but intend to when we do the car hire thing!

Anaho Bay

Anaho Bay on the north coast was our destination and so having spent 4 days in Controller Bay, and with very little wind forecast, we headed out onto the east coast and north for a 3 hour motor. Anaho Bay is spectacular, with giant ridges glowering over the semicircular enclosure fringed with palm trees and white sand beaches. The great ridges have gothic buttresses jutting out of them looking like some ancient fortress. 

The best snorkelling was in the area marked in red.

Once we got over the view we ventured out to snorkel in the small protected corner to the north-west of the anchorage and were rewarded day after day with plentiful fish in all the colours of the rainbow and even a bit of coral. Not a lot. The visibility wasn’t always good, but passable, and the water temperature is perfect. We lunched at the restaurant on local goat one day, which was delicious. David, Grahame and Janake walked the 5-hour walk to the neighbouring bay. Days were idled away fixing boat stuff in the mornings, swimming in the afternoons and evenings, we spent together aboard one or other boat comparing jobs, making plans and tossing back the odd Glenfiddich.

Lunching with Leela in Anaho Bay.

Two weeks slid by, Leela headed west to explore and we waited out a bit of an easterly blow. With supplies dwindling and the call of civilisation growing louder it was decided to make the trip back around to Taohoe Bay. Two beautiful weeks we’ve been in Anaho Bay with great weather and breathtaking scenery.

I finally worked it out. A Vini Spot card from the Post office will enable me to pick up the local WiFi hot spot aboard using the Bullet High Gain antenna. Now I have slow and expensive internet but at least I can post a few photos. 

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