We heard great things about Nuka Hiva. Taiohae is its the largest village, town would be going too far, and it is the administrative centre for the Marquesas group with very shiny official looking buildings with lawns to proclaim their status.
We entered the huge S facing bay at Taiohae. Note the very obvious crystal scar in the cliff on the E side of the entrance. We initially thought it was a waterfall. We counted 35 yachts in and there is room for several times that. The books say stay away from the E side of the bay as ships going in to the dock there need turning room. My advice is to ignore that and go as far E as you can as there is a swell that wraps into the bay with the normal ESE -SE sea running. The further E you are, the more you can negate it. Ships aren’t regular visitors (one every two weeks) and you can always move. Holding seems to be good in hard sand at a depth of 30-40’ but there is a roll and you get nasty reflected waves amplified by coming off the beach and sea wall. The current swirls around as well. I’d suggest anchors fore and aft to ensure you don’t end up up beam on to the swell.
There is a mix of superyacht at 130’ with their beautiful people crew to a ridiculously small 20’, crewed solo by a hard as nails 70 year old lady. She doesn’t sail at night, choosing to take the sails down whilst she sleeps. She has come from Germany to see her son in Moorea! He will do the final leg with her from here. Nuka Hiva is the most popular booking out place for the Marquesas as it giving you a great angle to get down either in to or through the Tuamotus to the Society Isles.
We arrived as an annual outrigger race meet was being held with a large number of men and women racing distances between 3 and 12km.
They were all welcomed back by the singers on the shoreline and the drummers making great music. Some of the drums stood 5’ high, easily heard across the bay. It is common here to see folk with a flower headdress or a flower tucked behind the ear. Just so you know, the lady here with the flower tucked behind her left ear is saying she is either married, has a significant other or is not on the market at the moment. Those with a flower behind the right ear are single and interested in finding company! You will see both men and women using this beautiful “language” and it is used right across Polynesia.
We dinghied in and were greeted immediately by Mia, who had managed to get a flight a day early from Tahiti where she had holidayed with her sister. She showed us around the village and we did the normal hop from supermarket to supermarket to see what we might pick up in each.
What we didn’t know is the island is also one of the very few islands that has a problem with both mosquitos and no-see-ums (an equal, like no other we have met, to the Scottish midge) – in huge numbers. And critically, the mosquitos carry both Dengue and Chikungunya virus too.
Mia told us about Christian, another one of the Taranga crew, who had gone down with Dengue fever and had been holed up in a B&B, sleeping 18hrs in the day and absolutely wasted by a week of pain and nastiness. He visited the hospital here and was told there are a large number of people going down with both ailments at the moment. We decided that bug juice would be worn religiously and our plan of staying a while is being revisited. We met him the first day he became human again and got him onboard to enjoy the breeze in the bay and have a little lunch with us. He has lost a lot of weight and still looks wrecked but he has a smile on his face again.
This is the first island where tiki, a human like carved statue, with a religious connotation and a family value, found all across French Polynesia, have been easily identifiable and seen by us in large numbers. The photos with the horse are stones we saw in someone’s garden. I have to admit, I look at them and understand where the writers of Alien and a few of the other classic sci fi horror films got their ideas!
The advantage of having Mia join us is that she has been on Nuka Hiva for nearly two weeks and has had a good chance to look around. She took us to the partially rebuilt festival or meeting place called Tohua Koueva which is off the main road, up a track and around the corner in the middle of nowhere. We would have had difficulty finding it with the one small sign (knocked down) beside the road a mile from it. The festival place has a huge paved esplanade and wall construct which must have taken generations to build. The banyan tree, standing in the middle of the village is impressively huge. Look a the scale of it with Eleanor and Hannah standing beside it. The meeting place was used up to about 1845 when the French killed the Warlord chief of the time and the missionaries moved in.
On our way back down to the harbour we did a little liberation of fruit from trees beside the road. These are called Pomelo (Citrus Maxima for all you interested gardening types) and are grapefruit with a thicker skin, not as bitter and with a far more lemony smell. Google says that they are the forerunner of the modern grapefruit, the thick skin being breed out of the modern variety, replaced with more flesh. It is delicious and we are serving it mixed in with our homemade muesli and yogurt.
The weekend was in full flow and the kids were having a fine time down on the pier.
On our return to the dock, we found a new friend for Hannah, a little girl called Masha, on S/V Beruta. We had seen her go in with Elvira, her Mum, earlier in the day and had waved at her. Her Russian parents are en route to New Zealand but have had to stop for him to have an operation on a hernia. With no windlass, Elvira can’t manage the anchor weight so they are stuck here until he gets better. The wee girl has absolutely no English; Hannah has no Russian. Therefore all is well and they are having great fun!
I decided that as a celebration of getting this far and a memento of the Marquesas, I would finally succumb and get a tattoo. I couldn’t think of a better place to break my duck than where tattoos originated. Having done my research over the last four months, there are three tattooists in the Marquesas that are regarded as being within the best in the whole of Polynesia. One was in Fata Hiva and we aren’t going there for a while. Jimmy, based on Hiva Oa, is away on paternity leave at the moment, his wife having their child in Tahiti very recently. Moana (the Tahitian for Ocean – he is already sick of any questions relating to Disney productions and yes, it is a boy’s name) is based here in Nuka Hiva and is known for his very fine detail. I was firmly told by no less an authority than the heavily tattooed Police Sergeant at Atuona in Hiva Oa that I should stick to an tattoo done here in the Marquesas rather than risk one of the tourist types down in Tahiti. I did. I can talk about the detail and symbology but what it boils down to is family in the middle protected by a tiki for our journey through life and on the oceans. Simples! So, John Mc, thank you for the observation but I can assure you that no testicles were harmed in the production of this particular tattoo ………
PS For the Hendersons amongst the viewing figures, we have educated Mia on the delights on MUSH and she approves!
It is no surprise that the flora and fauna are impressive, both in quantity and vibrancy. I present you a small selection. We have no idea what any of them are and would be grateful for expert identification.
I suppose this doesn’t really count but…….. I was waiting for Old Man Willow to bite.
It is good having someone new with different ideas and routine on board again. Within 24hrs, Mia has instigated a morning swim as a requirement. Of course, the girls, happy to please their new toy, wanted to join her!
Mia wants to join the Danish Army as a medic and she needs to pass an initial fitness test. Before she goes to the Danish equivalent of the Vicars and Tarts course (She goes in as a Capt) she has a lot of core strength exercises to do. Lou, already doing her own exercises and (occasionally) the kids have embraced the new programme and the foredeck after breakfast is full of grunting, groaning and lots of “surely that’s 30 seconds by now?” comments.
I’ve been banned from putting a photo here –SH.