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Date: 22 Jun 2012 21:43:14
Title: Marquesas - Nuku Hiva

Lat 08:56.39S
Lon 140:09.48W

I'm going back a bit here, but I wanted to add in our adventures on Nuku Hiva, as I didn't get time to send this before we left the connected world! We spent 5 days on this island which is the "Capital" of the Marquesan islands. I was not expecting a big city or anything but I thought it might be a bit bigger and developed than the other main villages on each of the other islands. It was kind of nice to see that this wasn't really the case, except for a better road network (i.e more than one road on the island) and 3 stores rather than one. The gardens were still perfectly manicured and the whole place seemed relatively prosperous. Everyone in these islands seems to own a 4x4 truck, have flat screen T.V's, and think nothing of the extortionate cost of everything in the stores. We still haven't figured out how they can afford daily what we find so expensive, when their main source of income is selling Copra (dried coconut), fruit and fish to Tahiti. Another cruiser told us that the cars were given to the residents of French Polynesia from France, and that everything else is heavily subsidised by the French government. Sounds wonderful - set yourself up in paradise and we'll give you an income and a car!

We arrived early evening from Ou Pou, and took the dinghy ashore to find some dinner. There was a large group of people hanging around the dock, whilst the fishermen unloaded their catch of the day and prepared them for market. There was a bit of a buzz around and there were several other cruisers hanging around. It became apparent that Taiohae Bay is not suitable for swimming - the fishermen were chucking the fish heads off their tuna and wahoo into the water, and several large and aggressive sharks were feasting on an easy dinner. One of the cruisers had a fishing rod and was trying to catch one of these large sharks, whilst his 5 year old kids stood perilously close to the edge. We walked along the bay and found a stone oven pizza place that we couldn't resist. Gazing around the restaurant as one does, Dad said "the women are very straight up and down here aren't they". This seemed a little harsh - certainly they are not petite people, but my gaze moved towards the woman he was looking at who had her back to us, and as she turned to face us, the reason for the straight up and down comment became apparent. "She" was actually a "He". Who would have thought trannies would be existing with pride and freely accepted in such a tiny island population of subsistence farmers?! The next day we saw "her" again, with another trannie friend, and later we saw another one. What was going on? And then we remembered watching the BBC documentary about the South Pacific and an island population where if the family had more than one boy, the other boy(s) would be raised as girls. We don't know if it was referring to Nuku Hiva, but lets just say they really did make them look like women from the front, and cars and t.v's are clearly not all the French government's subsidies are paying for!! As we walked back to the dinghy dock, we heard some amazing drumming coming from nearby, and traced it to the school where a large group of people were playing drums and rehearsing a traditional dance show for the upcoming festivities in Tahiti in July. They allowed us to watch, and it was completely mesmerising. The drumming was so loud and fast, and there were about 15 men and 15 women dancing, separately at first and then altogether at the end. It went on for at least half an hour, and was incredible to watch. They were going to show it to the rest of the village at the end of the week, where they would be in costumes and carrying fire as part of the dance before competing in Tahiti, and they invited us to go along, but unfortunately that was another 5 days away and we were eager to get moving again to the Tuamotu's. We will see loads of dancing and festivities when we get to Tahiti, as we will be there for the big 14th July celebrations.

Fisherman's catch (with token Ukulele player sat down)

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Mystic - now proudly an Itchenor gal! (Finally found a flat enough anchorage to put the sticker on!)

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Anyway, we got up at 5.30am on the first morning as we had been told this was required in order to find anything left at the Saturday farmers market. Actually we should have got there at 5am as by the time we arrived many things had already sold out. We were eager to pick up some fresh veggies as this would be our last chance before Tahiti which was a month away. We bought some expensive green beans, expensive watermelon, expensive bananas and an expensive but giant marrow. Marquesans just don't eat vegetables as part of their diet. For the rest of the day we hired a car and toured the island by land rather than by sea. The eastern side is extremely lush jungle, with banana plantations everywhere (enough that the boys decided it would be ok to pull down a whole banana tree with brute force and steal away with the fruit. JoJo = highly embarrassed and hiding in the car - thank god no one drove past and caught us!). The western side by contrast was dry with rolling hills, grasslands and traditional farmland. It was bizarre how the same island was so different just a few km's away.

Taohaie Bay

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Tiniest 4x4 ever? Don't think we ever took it past 3rd gear.

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Not a bad spot for a picnic

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Ripening the offending stolen bananas

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Another day was spent sailing to Controller Bay, on the south east corner of the island, where we snorkelled and encountered more manta rays, not quite as big as those we had seen in Ou Pou but certainly more in number. There is a "surprise" rock off this corner of the island and although charted, you could very easily hit it, as only the pinnacle breeches the surface. After looking on the internet at the diving possibilities around, (ah the internet - how did we live without it?) we decided to dive this pinnacle rock, although our timing sucked and there was a big swell around the rock, making the dinghy drop it quite precarious, and the currents underwater were very strong meaning we could only dive the sheltered side before getting swept away. Funnily enough the website promoting Marquesan tourism hadn't mentioned this. Myself and Jamie went first and had a great dive seeing reef sharks, (one a bit more inquisitive than I like!), rays, tuna, and large schools of fish. Archie and Geoff tried after us, but failed to be able to get to the rock, as by that time the swell and current had picked up and they ended up fairly far downstream fairly quickly! Thank God for the dinghy and 15hp engine!

We spent another night in Taohae Bay and got up early to dinghy out to the edge of the bay to find our elusive Hammerheads, which we did, albeit only a few of them and quite small ones, but still such amazing and bizarre creatures to watch. In the afternoon we sailed around to Daniel's Bay just a few miles West. This is a very secluded anchorage and named after a guy called Daniel who has lived in the only hut at the end of the beach for 40 years and always been friendly to cruisers. That night one of the other boats had organised a camp fire on the beach and a Pot Luck dinner, where you bring a dish and some beers and meet other cruisers. It was pretty cool and nice to meet some more new people. The next morning we hiked for 2 hours through the jungle to reach the world's 3rd highest waterfall. The scenery was spectacular and when we reached the waterfall, it was like a scene out of the movie Avatar, with white birds flying high overhead, and soaring cliffs enclosing us all around as we walked across the jungle floor. The waterfall is a thin stream of water falling from over 300m above, but at the end of the walk you can't actually see the bottom of the waterfall. You have to swim across a pool and into a set of 3 giant caverns to swim underneath the water. There was even a bag full of hard hats for us to wear with a little sign telling us they were necessary to avoid the dangers of falling rocks from the overhanging cliffs around. The water was cold, and Dad later told us he saw an eel swimming around us, but it was magnificent, and we had it all to ourselves. A very memorable moment rounding off our travels in the Marquesas.

This one is for Jem and Ewan - finally we saw hammerheads!

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Walking through the jungle to the waterfall

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Inside the waterfall cavern - Geoff with token hard hat!

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Next stop: The Tuamotu's.







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