The Marquesas Blog

Tue 27 May 2008 07:58
The routine of sailing in the tradewinds is such that, in a diary, you are wondering what to put in your text. By contrast there is so much here to write about that it is difficult to decide what to omit.But fear not reader, I shall be strict!
The Marquesas, unheard of in my little world twelve months ago, then assessed as a rest stop after the main Pacific crossing, now in reality a fascinating archipelago, quite different from anything we have seen before. Like the Galapagos they are volcanic, but far more rugged, and we are dwarfed by towering cliffs and mountains: Scotland to the Galapagos' Cotswold Hills!  These Islands also represent the most easterly fringe of the population drift that occured over thousands of years accross the Pacific from Asia. There is a wealth of archeological material here, much of it lying unprotected and apparently undisturbed in the hills. The ecosystem reflects mans presence here: no big tortoises, and the common wild animal is the pig, or boar as the hunters prefer to say. The Ocean is untamed; yesterday a trip to an outlying beach in our eight foot rubber dinghy was enlivened by an nine foot shark that swam alongside us: not then a location for the languid trailing af hands and arms in the cooling water!!. We are told that there are both tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks in the anchorage right now, and I have suspended my nightly swimming exercise. The most evident fish are big rays, they swim in groups of about six, just subsurface. Each fish is about five feet from point to point (length or breadth!), you can get very close.
I had been to many of the Islands: Fatu Hiva, Motane, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, and Ua Pou before meeting Vicky in Nuku Hiva, the largest. Earlier highlights were the fantastic anchorage at Hanavave in Fatu Hiva (the Baie des Verges!), and a walk into the hills above Atuona in Hiva Oa to see the Tehueto petroglyphs: a mysterious site, overgrown, remote, real Indianna Jones! 
Nuku Hiva promised the best scenary, and did not disappoint. The main anchorage, where I write, is in Taiohae bay. This deep bay is surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains, and we have walked to ruins high in these on two occasions. Best was Tohua Koueve: an area of huge stone platforms with wood and stone carved figures: 'Tikis'.
On other occasions we have travelled to outlying anchorages: Controleur Bay and Hakatea (Tai Oa, or Daniels Bay to yachties) Bay to explore the even higher mountains beyond the horseshoe. Utterly grand and magical was our hike to the Vaipo falls: these are 800 metres high, with vertical basalt cliffs on three sides. We swam in the falls pool at the trailhead, trying not to step on the crayfish. Back on land mice were rumaging in our backpacks! Our cameras were not capable of catching the perspectives of this place: somewhere you must go yourselves, someday!
We havn't mentioned the beaches because they are all infested with little sandflies. Despite our best efforts we have been bitten quite a lot by these wretched creatures, but we are leaving soon, and the positive memories will I hope outlive the dreadful itching and scratching that is going on just now.
The Marquesian poeple do look just as Gauguin depicted them, and many of the men are heavily tatooed, some women are also heavily tatooed, and some of these women are indeed men: Mahu. They tend to work in hotels and resaraunts, and indeed in our favourite (and the only) eatery, a rather fine pizza place. Eating out, and bars, are not a part of Marquesian culture, a slight disappointment as there is nowhere to go for a cooling drink ashore. On the other hand poeple are invariably polite and friendly; they are affluent despite no obvious source of income, and many trucks are owned: even in one small community, accessible only by sea, where the length of driveable track was surely less than a mile. Gardening is popular and carried out to exacting standards: of course everything grows well, with a riot of colour. Vicky and I enjoyed a pizza on my birthday (actually she had poisson cru: raw fish marinated in lemon juice, also a popular dish in Equador where it is called cerviche), and we also had a great night out with Brandon and Jamie from Gaviota, and Claes, Bertta and their children, Caterina, Felix and Gabriel from Tarita: the three of us had kept in contact through the Pacific crossing, and finally managed to meet up in the same anchorage here..
Vicky is now anxious to move on: to the Tuamatu Atolls, and then to Tahiti itself. Hopefully we shall be off tomorrow, a final weather forecast is required. We are getting on very well together, I think!!, but having someone to talk to has severly curtailed my educational activities, but hey, who is complaining! I thoroughly enjoyed my 62nd birthday last week, and many thanks to everyone who managed to send greetings and of course all who didn't had a perfect excuse, and are forgiven!
VB here: now an official fleck blogger following in the footsteps of Geoff on the ARC and 2p in the galgapgos.  Its has been great week on this island and the rays and abundent ancient Tikis are the hightlights.  Since arriving i also havent been swimming (for reasons explained above!) and instead have been looking at the destinations and where we need to be when, also been sorting through the boats store cupboards - i though there was going to be no food but instead found a tin treasuretrove. Not sure what i should do with it all, i think i need a copy of delia! Looking forward to the local equvalent of the '3 countys show' tomorrow then the big off to the tuamatu, circuar reefs/islands that enclose lagoons (with more sharks!).  xV