08:54.97S140:05.98W 17th July 2016 Baie de Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Mon 18 Jul 2016 21:13

17th July 2016 Baie de Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Rob counted six magical, temporary waterfalls cascading down from the Plateau atop this island after the deluge we had earlier, all clearly visible from Zoonie. It has turned the water around us into red/brown muddy streaks. We won’t be making water today!

“Where’s the tripping line buoy babe?”

“Oh I saw it floating along the hull a few minutes ago, its probably wrapped itself around the chain as we turned.”

Hmm. I recalled losing the oars overboard from our tender left tied alongside the Elizabethan 29, Berenice, I used to crew in from Blyth to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in Northumberland. An unexpected gale blew up in the night and we weren’t about to rescue the inflatable dinghy that was spinning round on its painter. It wasn’t going anywhere unlike the oars.

The next morning we wandered around the shoreline and found both oars parked up on the beach of a nearby bay. I envisaged us doing the same tomorrow in search of our bonny little red buoy.

 I awoke from a snooze to the happy news that the little red buoy is back in place bobbing around.

Our anchorage is in a caldera and the entrance, where the water must have rushed in millions of years ago as the caldera rim gave way, is marked by two, fine and inviting rocks, The east and west Sentinels and even more enticing is the natural white crystalline cross in the land mass to the right.

Ahead, as we motored at around 3 knots just to take in the aura of the place, are the high emerald green folds of the original volcanic rim. Softened by erosion, bringing many slopes to 45’ from the vertical, the human habitation is along the shore and spasmodically into the hills, reminding me of the coastal settlements in Santa Maria on the Azores but without the ascending vine terraces.

What interest lies ahead? And why are all the flags at half-mast? “Maybe because it is Bastille Day,” said Rob.

In this Bay in 1842 Herman Melville and his friend, Toby Greene, jumped the Massachusetts whaling ship, Acushnet, as he found the life tedious and the whales were fished out in this area even then. He is now recognised by some as America’s finest 19th century writer with such titles as Typee, (the name of the tribe he lived with and who cared for him on the island) and Moby Dick.

We ‘jumped ship’ to the concrete quay and found a local market full with fresh vegetables and fruit and wandered up the concrete road to the Gendarmerie to clear in. A charming, rotund, blue eyed Frenchman was happy to go through the formalities even on a Saturday.

“Your occupation, retired, ah very nice, that’s me in two years.”

“Will you go back to France to live?”

“Oh no, not with Europe as it is, financial, security, why would I want to do that?”

Back down near the little quay, in the new information centre we found a lovely French lady who was more than happy to practice her English on us. She mentioned that the weekends in July are when local village traditional Polynesian dance groups compete with eachother in Saturday night dance competitions which are well worth watching.

We came away with plenty to read and a booking with Eric on Tuesday for a day long guided tour up into the valleys and Toorii Plateau. “Take your hiking boots and some shoes to wear when you go swimming,” she said, “and be here for 8.30 am.”

Because of the daytime temperatures here a lot of the work is done early in the morning, the bakery, for example is open 4.00am to 6.00am and the supermarket, which opens at 5.30am, is only likely to have any bread until around 10.00am. So I am experimenting with making some on board. The sourdough mix I have underway at the moment is not rising, I guess the yeast in it might be too old, but if all else fails I will roll it very thin and make pizzas.

I have a store of dried yeast still in packets so I may have more luck with that.

From the writings of other cruisers we knew that Chez Henry’s shack on the quay provided a delicious dish called Poisson Cru made of raw fish marinated in Lime juice and served in coconut milk with boiled rice. It was really good and plenty of it. Rob had a chicken stir fry and we sipped pamplemousse juice through a straw (A cross between an orange and a grapefruit and tastier than either) while we ate, sitting under a fabric roof with a local dog fast asleep on our feet.

Busying ourselves on Henry’s excellent WIFI, while he and his mate hacked a dead cow into bite size pieces amidst a swarm of flies, we learned why the flags are at half mast, and the Gendarme scathing of returning to Europe, and felt for the victims and families in the beautiful town of Nice, the latest to be ravaged by a psychopath.

I also discovered an article I wrote last year has been published by Practical Boat Owner in the August edition and they needed somewhere to send the cheque!

As we lay in bed a couple of nights ago we pondered how to safely clean the hull in this bay which, is also the home of a healthy shark population. A brown/orange algae growth had spotted her hull stem to stern and barnacles and long necked goose barnacles covered her waterline to a depth of about 12 inches. Not only did this look unsightly but it slowed us down by nearly one whole knot!

It seemed important to have a running line along the hull to which we could attach the bow and stern line of the dinghy, so a rapid escape from ‘Jaws’ should he raise his ugly head, back on to Zoonie could be done knowing the dinghy was not going to float away.

Fortunately the local marine residents were otherwise occupied and we took about two hours to scrape each side with Rob doing the donkey work and me holding the dinghy in a working position for him, or trying to anyway.

After our mornings exertions we were hungry for a little historical culture so it was off to the Danse Marquesienne after the baking sun had thankfully sunk beyond the hills.

For all of £2 each we had second row seats with two little children infront of us and a fine view of the dance floor. All around and overhead was decorated with fresh, lush green foliage in this very modern barn type hall. Islanders of all ages started arriving, some wearing garlands around their heads and dressed to the nines. A little boy in his baby grow beat out a very presentable rhythm on one of the drums while waiting for the evening to start.

A charming, gay compere spoke through a mike to keep us aware of the progress towards the start. There were a few other yachties like us but most seemed to be locals. This was not being laid on for tourism, but a part of the ongoing value the islanders place on their past.

The judges were all in place behind the table on one side and as an expectant hush descended the big double brown doors opened and male dancers led the procession with more long poles decorated at each end with pairs of round green breadfruit and big green leaves in the middle. They laid these on the sides of their entranceway and filed around the dance floor until it was full with men and women aged from teen years to middle age and in fabulous attire of grass skirts, bands of grass tied around their legs and arms, headdresses of feathers, tattoos, bead skirts, war paint on the warriors’ faces. What a spectacle.

A choir of women and men on drums had no volume control and belted out the rhythmic chanting as a young lad lit all the grass torches that skirted around the central floor before the dancing started.

The children in the audience were all eyes, wondering when they would be able to take part maybe.

There followed and hour of vocal and dance narratives of their lives, domestic activities with the women sitting cross legged on the floor, hands and arms weaving their story around them, their long black hair waving from side to side, battles with the well-built men mock fighting amidst loud singing and drumming.

“What on earth is that,” said Rob “A child or a pig?” An earpiercing squeal rent the air above all other sounds.

It was a pig! A boar like piggy with big black spots, pulled unceremoniously around the floor as it was ‘stolen’ from its owner by a hog rustler from another tribe. It was hidden in a corner of the floor in a little pen where it tucked into some goodies while the dance continued. Then the real owner came to collect it, amidst mores indignant squeals, as it was carried out having finished its performance.

As the evening wore on many children fell asleep on loving laps despite the noise, no need for baby sitters in this society.

Towards the end of the evening three beautiful young girls with slim figures, straight flat backs and tiny waists came dancing on their tip toes across the floor. They wore skirts made of silver beads strings that caught the light, rows of upright black and white feathers in a band around their waists and more feathers as headdresses around their foreheads.

They tip toed with many tiny steps around the floor and then stood on green leaf mats infront of the judges weaving their hands and arms as they made their bodies vibrate like belly dancers. Quite lovely. We were so glad we didn’t miss this gift of an evening.

The sourdough pizzas were tasty and I will turn the rest of the dough into tortillas tomorrow, waste not want not. But it’s ashore by 7.30am tomorrow (reckon?) for fresh bread and a local sim card for my old Blackberry so we can communicate with home.

Well we made it ashore early and came to tie up by where the fishermen were preparing their catch for sale. The water alongside us thrashed with hungry sharks every time fish scraps were thrown in, so we very, very carefully climbed the stainless steel ladder to the quay!! There was plenty of lovely French bread, baguettes and pastries at the supermarket. A new mobile phone with a local sim card is now ready for use so we can contact family for a chat.