Paradise - 8:56.627S 140:09.784W

Alex Belmont
Thu 14 Jun 2012 02:12
Sorry for the long delay since our last entry. Just couldn't drag myself
away from the island to sit down at the computer for half an hour.

Last you all heard, we were approaching Taiohae bay, Nuku Hiva. Just as we
thought, we arrived after sunset, entering the mouth of the bay a bit before
2200 local time. I decided that after 38 days of sailing, I wasn't quite
ready to start the engine, so under an easy rig (with just the main and
staysail, the boat is self-tacking - no jib sheets to pull) we tacked very
slowly un the bay. From the mouth to the anchorage is only 1.6 miles, but it
took about five hours to sail in. Very light and shifty winds as soon as you
get inside of the steep-sided bay.

We stayed in town long enough to clear customs and wander around a bit, then
took off for Daniel's Bay. Rose got an invitation to ride from Taiohae to
Dan Bay by horse (she can tell you more about that), so Moondance and I got
a nice little day-sail together. The wind was just right that I could sail
into Daniel's bay. It is a pretty narrow bay with swirling wind and there
were a few time I had my hand on the ignition, but everything lined up, and
under my beautifully easy-to-handle rig, we sailed through the fleet of ten
boats, right to the head of the bay and dropped the hook in fifteen feet of
water. That afternoon on the beach I got quite a few compliments on my
stylish and smooth entrance. It's always nice when something works out like
that. I could have just as easily been forced to start up the engine and
scramble to get the sails down, showing myself to be a cocky buffoon.

The past three days we have spent in the valley, hanging out with a couple
of the families living there. This place is paradise. I love it here. We
hiked in Monday morning with a couple loaves of fresh bread as gifts. We
were immediately showered with excellent fruit and friendship. Martin and
his son Cedric (some of the Marquisians adopt "gringo" names) invited up
into their home where we sat and talked for hours, sharing their delicious
banana and passion fruit beers. They even invited us to dinner that night.
We spent the night eating goat in coconut milk, rice and breadfruit, Rose's
excellent ginger cookies, and drinking mexican tequila with lemon and lime
juice. Good night.

The next morning I helped Martin set up an extra solar panel on his roof,
and brought some small, but very efficient LED bulbs. It is a pretty minimal
system, but plenty of light for eating or hanging out at night. He was very
pleased to not have to start up the generator or waste scarce and valuable
disposable batteries. Pretty cool. Teki and his wife Kua (not sure on how to
spell either name) really like my bread, so I brought a couple more loaves
for them, and we ended up hanging out for a while. These guys are so much
fun. That night, all the boats in the anchorage came to the beach for a
bonfire/potluck that Rose organized. I think everyone had a really good
time - I know I did. It was a great group of sailors, and a nice little
feast of different dishes.

This morning Rose and I went to Teki and Kua's for breakfast. They fed up
coffee, tea, fresh juice, barbequed goat, and fresh marquisian donuts (tasty
round fried things - Mmmmm). Teki and I set up a solar panel on his roof
using a charge-regulator I ended up not needing on Moondance. I explained
how to hook up more panels or batteries in the system. Again, it is a very
simple system, but it's efficient and fills their needs perfectly. Teki was
so happy to see the little charge-indicator light shining, and loved the
fact that if the battery in his old Toyota (just for driving a quarter mile
up the trail to carry produce back) runs low, he can use the solar panel to
recharge it. While Teki and I finished this little project, Rose and Kua
exchange recipes for cookies, pastries and donuts, making a batch of each,
which of course we snacked on while working on their new electrical system.
Later, we all piled into the old Toyota and drove up the trail to get some
bananas. Teki taught me about bananas, plantains, papaya, taro, etc., and we
came back to their house with the back of the truck full of fruit. It was
very cool to get to teach Teki about a basic solar-powered system and in
exchange learn a bit about the local agro-systems.

I love the way they farm here. What really strikes me when comparing
agriculture here to what we know in the states is that here they don't force
anything to grow. They guide the plants a bit, organizing the valley into
small plots to make harvesting easier, but they let the plants grow how they
please. There's no crowded monospecific rows here. In the plot of banana
trees, there are also coconut palms, citrus trees, papaya, all with a nice
understory and ground-cover. Taro grows in the low, muddy spots, and they
harvest fruit as it ripens when they need it. It is very gentle management.
You can see how healthy the land is even after hundreds of generations
living and farming in the valley.

I've actually impressed myself with my french. I took some french classes in
highschool, but after six years I thought it would be terrible. Our first
day on land, I found myself using spanish words out of habit after being in
mexico for so long (my spanish truly is terrible, but I have at least picked
up a few basic phrases). After asking for directions to the gendarmerie, I
accidentally said thanks in spanish. I have managed to stop doing that. I
know my speech is pretty rough, my vocabulary limited, I make a mess of verb
conjugations, and my accent is appalling, but I have been managing to
communicate pretty well. It is nice that french is a second language to the
Marquisians; they are very patient with my french. I know I miss a lot of
what is being said, but we can at least talk about the island and life here,
life on a boat, where I come from, fishing, farming, music, where we're
sailing, and even manage to joke around a little bit. I feel my french
getting better every day. A native frenchman would of course give me dirty
looks for what I do to their language, mais ici, ca marche.

It's going to be hard to leave. I already feel a big draw to this place.
Everyone here acknowledges that they live a simple life. They don't have
many gadgets and their lives are not based on money. Everyone I talk to
loves it, and in fact they feel sorry for those living in the village (a
town of a couple thousand, so you can imagine how they might feel about a
big city). Life in a place like this would rate a pretty close second to
cruising the world on a sailboat. Nonetheless, we do need to keep moving in
order to get to Fiji by August. It looks like we'll sail back into town to
watch some festivities and dance competitions this Saturday, then depart
Nuku Hiva for a quick visit to a couple of atolls in the Tuamotus, a couple
of weeks in Bora-Bora, and then a 2,000 mile jump to Fiji. We're forced to
sail past so many islands, but I keep reminding myself, "there's always your
next trip across".