Tag Archives: Taranga

Diving in French Polynesia – 2016

I thought I had put this up when we left FP to go to NZ but I’ve just realised I never got round to it. It is a collection of some of the better underwater photos we have taken. Only nine months late. Oops.  SH Jul 17

In 2015 I was blessed to meet Robert of Almost There, a US Navy trained Master Diver who needed a dive partner in Bequia. He informed me with a pointed finger I was it and introduced me to the sport. His methods of teaching were old school and doing remasking drills at 15m was fun. But he took me out, held my hand (literally and figuratively) and taught me the basics extremely well as well as, most importantly, his philosophy for diving, for which I am very grateful. Since then, I have not had a more conscientious or competent dive partner.

Having qualified a in Nov 15 at Scubatech, under the lovely Evelyn’s care in Prickly Bay, Grenada , I have managed to do quite a lot of diving. Not as much as I’d like but it gets expensive if you don’t have access to a compressor and a dive partner, which for large periods this year I haven’t. Dives average around $70 a dive and most days you will do two dives so $140 a pop. Refills on tanks are dear (running to $30 a go in Fakarava) and again soon mount up. Problematically in FP, there are few places you can get a fill, really the larger atolls only, so you can’t rely on a school helping you out on most atolls.  If you have friends with a compressor or have one yourself, it costs you the price of the filters you will contribute to replace every 25 fills, needed to clean the air.

One clear lesson. If there are two of you wanting to dive on board, then having a compressor would be every penny for a Pacific trip. Find the space!

Fakarava was one of our primary targets for this year’s travels as it has a reputation for having some of the very best diving not just in French Polynesia but in the whole of the Pacific. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I started with a couple of dives up in the N pass. This is a deep drift dive going down to around 36m. After I had been asked what diving I had done, I was sent away with the schools own awful instruction document (French to English courtesy of Google Translate) which I decided to rewrite, if only so I actually understood what I was supposed to learn. I’ve always found that writing an instruction manual or guide is an excellent way to embed knowledge and I passed the test without issue. TopDive Fakarava N should be thankful!

The two dives in the N pass were interesting but not brilliant. We dropped into the blue and were swept on to the mouth of the pass, landing on the drop-off at 38m, 20m more than technically I was qualified for with my PADI Open Water and a couple more than the PADI recommended max with Nitrox (although 2m less than the absolute limit). The current runs very strong (3-4kts)and we were holding on tight to stop us from being swept in to the lagoon as we waited to see if any sharks would come to take a look at us. A few did, some Greys, and we then swept on through the pass bouncing up and down between 25-35m. We did see small schools of pelagic fish but we were moving too fast to really enjoy the few reef fish we saw. Dive two was a rerun of the first but with slightly more current, having lost half an hour of time waiting for a cruise ship to enter the pass. Waiting to drop in, we saw thousands of Sooty terns and 15-20 Devil Rays feeding on the surface which was the highlight of the day. The dive again was interesting without being fantastic. I found some white tips teeth on one of the sandy patches and passed them on to the girls.

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I have to admit I was very pleased to see Taranga arrive at Rotarua. Soren is a great guy and had first filled my tanks for me all the way back in Panama. He was very keen to get to the better S Pass and we travelled in company with him. For him to stay in the S for any length of time, he needed water as he has an emergency watermaker only and I would need air if I wanted to dive. It seemed a good swap and sweetened by a kilo of our honey (he had run out), Skylark for post dives coffee and teas, bug spray (we won’t talk about this….) and some petrol during our three weeks in the S, I think we were both happy with the arrangement.

The diving in the S Pass can only be described as spectacular. In terms of reef fish, ease of dive, shark population or coral density, I have never seen anything like it. We dived mainly on the incoming current, our outgoing experiences being mistakes hitting the water late in the tide, finding ourselves working hard. The outgoing was used by the dive schools to bulk up their paying customer’s dive time but we found that the visibility markedly decreased as silt and sand from the inside of the atoll was swept out. Whilst still a good 10-25m it didn’t compare to the frequent 50m+ of the incoming clear deep ocean water.

We dropped in normally to about 18m and generally stayed to the side of the pass wall, dropping to no more than 25m so we didn’t bother the sharks. We did go along the pass floor on one occasion, swimming beneath the approaching sharks, but they didn’t like it and quickly disappeared. Down at 32m you don’t have a huge amount of bottom time and it was more fun to stay between 15-25m.  On our best day, we finished the dive staggered by the number of sharks we saw. Normally we would see 100-200 on what is known as The Wall of Sharks; that day it was just a solid wall of them. We reckoned 500+, a mix of Black Tip, White Tip, Grey and a huge lone Silver Tip, all sitting in the incoming current. Just amazing.

All us divers need to say a special thank you to Lou who always came with us to snorkel the pass and look after the dinghies until it came time to pick us up at the end of the dive. We couldn’t have dived without you.

Whilst I think I got some good photos I have been wishing I had a decent underwater camera with the ability to zoom in. All of these shots were taken with a GoPro 4 Silver, a good camera but limited by having a fixed lens. You needed to be very close to small fish to be able to take a decent still and I’m afraid small fish are just too afraid to sit still enough to let you get close enough! Where the GoPro excels is film. I am inexpertly put together a small video segment which gives you a decent flavour of what diving in the S pass is like. I’ll link it in here when I am eventually finished.

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Diving in Toau as very different. We did one drift dive from outside the pass which was hard work as we had to deal with a big northerly surge. The dive at the N end of the atoll was better and going along the wall was great fun, trying to find all the caves talked about in the Compendium. They were pretty good and it was wonderful seeing the occasional huge pelagic swimming just at the edge of our vision off the wall in the deep.

Ann-Helen and John at the Wall of Anse AmyotCaves at TouaMoray Eel at Anse AmyotOn the Wall at Toua

I’m not sure if I have spoilt myself with the superb diving I have been able to do here but I have caught the bug in a big way and am praying for more of the same as we go through the Pacific next year. I have been extraordinarily lucky in meeting up with friends happy to help me fill my bottle daily and I doubt if I will be as lucky next year but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll find other like minded souls. I do know it should get easier to find dive shops able to fill bottles as we get to more populated places but I still need dive partners.

To those who have dived with me this year, a big thank you. They are John from Mary Ann II, Ann-Helen and Harvard from Wilhelm, Soren and all the rest of the mob from Taranga, a special mention to Mia, Olivia and David of El Nido and a few others who made guest appearances. It has been a great education.

My dive on the wall with Ann-Helen and Harvard proved to be the last dive before we hauled out and headed for New Zealand. I’m so looking forward to planning and researching more diving for next year, perhaps with Eleanor in tow if we can arrange it. I can’t wait.

Fakarava Diving

Rangiroa

Rangiroa was to be our last atoll in the Tuamotus. I’d love to have spent more time exploring more of this huge group but it would take years to do so properly. Next time with a compressor onboard……

One problem that I encountered when renewing my nav info for the year was that the wonderful Tuamotus Tidal Guestimator had not been updated in the Soggy Paws website. This was a bit of a blow. I managed to download the NOAA info on Rangiroa tides and then cross checked it against the WXTide32 programme I had and found that the two didn’t correlate. Typical.

We arrived at the pass of Rangiroa I thought about on time to find a great big dive ship waiting on the outside with the tide still howling out and big standing waves evident at least half a mile from the pass. I had a chat with the Captain who agreed with my data, added another reference which appeared to be as equally wrong. We agreed we would be waiting a while to get in. Remember my post on “The Vagaries of Tuamotus Tides” ?? It applied! After over an hour hanging around, a dive school rib came over and the local suggested we would be able sneak in if we stayed close in to the E side of the pass. Punching about 5knts of tide, thankfully in flat water out of the race, we were able to do so. The dive ship waited another 45mins before the actual slack.

The bay at Rangiroa was empty other than our old friend Soren of Taranga who had arrived a week before to do some diving with his new crew,Magnus, Fleming and Nico, a good bunch. We picked up one of the free moorings @ 14 58.930S 147 38.106W provided by the town just off one of the posh hotels. We quickly moved to another buoy 300m W in deeper water as the original, very close to shore was too sheltered from the winds and we weren’t getting power. We dove on the new one and found it to be heavy and in good order.

It was just as well that we did move. A couple of days into our stay we had a localised gale which roared in on us out of the W with no warning and nothing in the forecast. 30+ miles of fetch and 35+kts of wind gave us a short, very nasty sea and both Taranga and ourselves were thrown around  violently. Our dinghy, down but padlocked on, snapped its security cable and I was required to get the canoe down, quickly surf down to the dinghy and stop it before it hit shore. Not much fun at all in the dark but we were lucky we felt the cable snap and were able to save the dinghy and engine from being smashed up. The gale blew itself out by the morning but the weather wasn’t settled Trades. The sky, at times, could only be described as steel in colour.

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Eleanor and myself found a handy dive shop to fill our bottles and the Aquarium, a dive area inside the Tiputa pass, unaffected by the current which had a maximum depth of around 15m. We managed to get six dives in, gradually spending longer underwater as Eleanor’s confidence, buoyancy technique and stamina improved. A highlight would be the huge Moray eel that came out and nuzzled the camera, hoping it was food.

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I also did a dive on the pass with the Taranga crowd. A little different to anywhere else I had been, you drop into the blue and descend to around 35m and hang 30-50m off the bottom, waiting to see what appears. We got a glimpse of a Great Hammerhead, solitary and huge, well below us on the floor and then were surprised when half a dozen Scallop Hammerhead appeared in full hunting order. When you can see the eye stalks you know they are a little close.

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They charged in at us fast, thankfully realised we weren’t for eating and quickly turned away in search of better prey. Watching a full size Manta ray swim over me as we did our 5m safety stop at the end of the dive was magical.

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Life around the anchorage once the weather settled, was pleasant. We became a roosting place for Sooty Terns and we watched the local kids practise on the big 6 mans canoes around us. There was a pretty good supermarket a 10min walk up the road where we could get bread at 0830hrs every morning and we got together with the Taranga crowd most days. We even ended up in the big hotel enjoying G&Ts at the beach front bar, eating a drizzle cake that the girls had made to celebrate Nico’s birthday. The only trouble with Rangiroa is it is too big and spread out. It certainly felt the most touristy of all the atolls we have visited. If we had more time and had explored away from the passes (and therefore the tourists), perhaps I would feel differently but other than the pass diving, I could enjoy everything here at any of the other smaller atolls.

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We made friends with the owner of the cafe/bar/restaurant at the pier that provides pretty good free internet for paying customers. Lily is a character. A widow, her husband a French soldier killed in Afghanistan, she set up the place on her husband’s island rather than go to her home, Madagascar where they had met. She was a cheerful flirt and buzz-ball of energy and their son is in the same mould. Toue, Etan, his best friend and Hannah quickly came thick as thieves and had a great time. Hannah handled herself with aplomb whenever they said goodbye, done in strictly French fashion, in which Toue was very enthusiastic in doing! 

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Lou was very keen in moving on to catch the boat kids we had seen in the Marina at Tahiti. We said our goodbyes again to Soren and wish him luck in his next endeavour somewhere as yet unspecified in the Far East with the liveaboard dive boat he and his friends are planning. We will stay in touch and I hope to dive with him again one day.

Seeing no great change in the outlook but suspicious of the inaccuracy of forecasts in what we had experienced the previous week, we left to a forecast E at 15-20kts for the 210mile reach S to Tahiti. Life is never that easy. We came out and immediately hit 25+kts and that didn’t significantly change for the whole trip. With squalls hitting 38kts, lightening storms all around us through the night and an average of 25-28kts, we alternated between 2 and 3 reefs and charged along. Our second to last hour run of 10 Nm as the seas abated in the shadow of Tahiti and we approached the entrance to Papeete Harbour with 3 reefs and a hanky up is our best single hour run ever.  Tahiti was largely hidden in cloud as we approached. Moorea looked magnificent!

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We arrived at last light with the sun setting over Moorea 10Nm to our W. We crawled through the narrow pass by the airport, waiting for clearance to cross the end of the runway, to the mooring ball fields at Marina Taina and tied up.

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The noise and lights of the city of Papeete told a story. Skylark, after looking after us for so long in the boonies, was back in civilisation. 

Fakarava – The S End

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Fakarava is a long atoll, just over 30 miles long with a pass at both the N and S ends. The S pass is smaller and shallower but it is one of the most best diving sites in the world. It is famous for its Wall of Sharks, with Black Tip, Grey, White Tip in large numbers and the occasional Tiger and Silver Tip (both dangerous) sitting in the current. It also has some fantastic coral, described by John from Mary Anne II as the best he has ever seen. He has circumnavigated once so has seen a fair selection to compare to.

After a week or so at Rotoava, we moved S with Taranga, stopping half way down the E side of the atoll at 16 17.566S 145 30.461W, anchoring in 25’ of water. There was a  motu just to our S with a old copra hut and we landed in a tiny sheltered bay with coral growing in it to look like Mickey Mouse ears beside it. I left the Taranga crew collecting coconuts and found a little used track through to the reef edge on the outside of the motu. I cleared it a little with the machette as I walked along it. I was very surprised to find a well used 4×4 track running  N-S at the outside edge of the vegetation. Tourists obviously get a drive by tour here.

That evening we had an extremely civilised movies night, a couple of rums and enjoyed watched Captain America accompanied by popcorn.

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Taranga and ourselves took the opportunity to take photos of each other as we headed towards the S pass and we took Jasper on board to take pro photos with his SLR. He took the chance of having a go steering Skylark. We got lucky and picked up the last two buoys available to the E of the pass.

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We settled down to a relaxed and easy lifestyle. Morning exercise for Lou on the foredeck whilst the young ladies generally failed to tidy their rooms, a bit of school, then a snorkel exploring the bombies and reefs around us. I’d generally go for a dive with the Taranga crowd, John or Harvard and Ann-Helen of Wilmheim, a Norwegian boat, with the incoming tide through the S pass, looking at sharks and the extraordinary coral there, with Lou and the girls drifting 25m above us as the current dragged us through past the walls of sharks. 

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We had a good night at Mahini’s on his privately owned motu, eating pizza and a salad. One of his new guests, a lady called Marie, managed to slip between boat and jetty and chinned herself. She ended up with an inch long cut worth a few stitches and a very sore jaw. Instead of her four days diving, she got a night on the motu with ice on either side of her jaw, a couple of steri strips and some antiseptic cream applied by yours truly and a run back N for a trip to hospital on Tahiti. So unlucky.

We have also been getting on with some school. E has been getting better and better at the speed maths “tests” she has to do. H has a bit to go there but is working hard on it. Competition is good!

We also ran a hairdressing salon. My clippers, a wonderful buy back in the BVI, have had a few outings. Soren, Jesper and Rasmus all came to use them. Hannah volunteered to cut everybody’s hair but in the end, only Jesper, with little hair to damage, let her loose.

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Taranga’s engine failed to start after we left the anchorage half way down the atoll and started to spew out oil vapour from the air intake. Soren and I took the head off and found that one of the cast iron rocker bar holders had cracked, one of the valve springs had broken (the probable cause) and the whole rocker bar was bent out of shape. Soren is getting spares sent out from SABB, a Norwegian company that made the engines, originally designed for the Norwegian fishing fleet. I thought this would be less easy for him than I with my Volvos as his engine is 46 years old. However, he knows the owner of the company who is proud of the fact that one of their engines is still going in the S Pacific, who on getting the call, had new parts in the mail within a day. I’d say that was excellent customer service!  It might take a couple of weeks or so for the kit to arrive here but the S pass is not a bad place to break down. Fakarava is the best serviced island with scheduled aircraft in French Polynesia after Tahiti and we are parked up beside one of the top 10 dive sites in the Pacific. It’s a hard life, I hear you say………

With diving being so good, there are a couple of small hotels down here, always busy. For 873Euro a week (before travel costs – another 2500Euro return from Europe), you too can stay in one of these beach front cottages with the sharks basking in the shallows below your balcony. It is a very nice setup but has the disadvantage of being reliant on rain for water. Although they have huge underground water tanks, they have a major problem this year as the rains, due now, haven’t come. It looks like another fallout of last year’s El Nino. Salt water showers and a fresh rinse only.

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Thankfully with our watermaker, we have a easier life and I have been supplying Taranga water in exchange for scuba bottle refills. On the basis that the dive schools down here are charging $30 a refill (very rude – it is normally about $10), I’ve felt I had a fair deal.  However, with lots of showers after snorkelling and the supply of water required to wash 41 pairs of smalls used by the girls in a period of 8 days (no, we don’t understand it either…) it means the watermaker is getting hard use. Even so, with good sun and a reasonable wind, we have had to run the generator only one hour in the last couple of weeks and whilst useful, it was really to ensure the damn thing still worked.

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In the end, we spent three weeks at the South pass and we didn’t regret a day. Each dawn was glorious and sunset always seemed to come too soon. It was fantastic catching up with friends, John and Julia from Mary Ann II and Soren and his new crew of Jesper, Rasmus and Niels on Taranga and meeting some new folks that we had only spoken to on the morning HF net before. Ednbal, Ocean Star and Wilhelm from Aus, USA and Norway respectively, all socialised with us – all good people . I dived everyday and we saw the pass in all states of tide but never without a wow moment. Eleanor continues to stagger everyone with her near encyclopaedic knowledge of the fish we see  and the list of exotics has grown ever longer. Hannah had a great time helping the Taranga crew carrying water and doing odd jobs as they worked at Mahini’s in return for free pizza and a lot of goodwill. She achieved the title of Janitor of which she was very proud. Lou got ever trimmer.

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For our last night, we organised a beach BBQ on one of the motus and the crews of Taranga, Mary Ann II and ourselves cooked mahi, veggie burgers, sweet bread and the pack of marshmallows we found in Kauehi under a moonless crystal clear sky with the Milky Way blazing overhead. Soren, Eleanor and I lay back and watched it for a while. So peaceful. I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the Sangria, found in a long forgotten locker and a left over of a Puerto Rico shop, but it got finished anyway! Murphy particularly enjoyed the ice cubes.

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We said our farewells to Taranga with the girls blowing the conch shell mightily, answered by their horn. We have travelled with Soren and his motley crews all the way from Cuba, meeting them at each stop and he has come to be a good friend. He heads N to Marquesas for the cyclone season. We hope we might manage to meet up with him one last time in Rangiroa next March. Fingers crossed.

We left, heading N, to pick up fuel from the ferry which we prebooked a week ahead, necessary if you want to buy it directly from the boat. We broke up the trip N stopping in at Pakokota Yacht Club, a small pension about half way up the atoll, run by a French couple, Agnes and Matthiue, anchoring in 30’ of water. It is a nice wee set up. They are very friendly and can get any shopping you need from Rotoava. They offer meals, drinks and for customers, decent internet. They have, rarely free from the charter boat people, four free buoys.

Our timing to move N is good as an incoming weather low, the first we have seen in the Pacific bringing 25-30kts from the NW, is due to hit the atoll. We will enjoy the shelter of Rotoava and the N end of the atoll when it arrives.

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Hannah’s 9th Birthday – Manihi’s and the S Pass, Fakarava

H's birthdayWe have had some exotic birthday locations this past year. Lou’s was on passage between Barbuda and Sint Maarten. Eleanor’s was celebrated on passage half way along the S side of Haiti heading for Cuba. Mine was at the S end of Makemo. Hannah, living up to the requirement for another memorable place was held at the S pass of Fakarava.

Someone had to be sent back to bed at 0500hrs as they were a little overexcited. However, at a still early but reasonably civilised time, presents were opened on board. Hannah did particularly well out of Eleanor’s burgeoning craft skills. The gift cards promising to give unargued choice of films for film night and free bed making went down as well as the skirts (for Hannah and Snowy), cooking apron and a variety of necklaces and bracelets.  A great addition to the gift pile was a bag of balloons from Julia and John and the girls had a lovely time decorating them with pictures and birthday messages, putting them up around Skylark. Party blowers provided plenty of noise. Julia had also produced a beautifully crocheted crab (dutifully named Cedric) to add to the crocheted sea life collection that Julia had worked on during a productive crafty afternoon. 

 

 

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There was a special breakfast of pancakes. Unfortunately our last kilo of flour, bought and held back for the task in Rotoava before we came S, turned out to be inhabited by a few too many weevils for Lou’s liking! The day was saved by Mary Ann II and Taranga who both managed to supply some flour which did the job for both the pancakes and then a birthday cake, ably iced by a somewhat sticky Eleanor. Our thanks to both yachts.

We had a lovely snorkel through the pass, roared through by a strong current and then a little play on Skylark. The afternoon brought Taranga, Mary Ann II and our neighbours, Ocean Star on board for a birthday tea and cake. The food collection was impressive with cookies, cake, biscuits and a huge pot of macaroni cheese from Mary Ann II, which all went down extremely well. We even got everyone, a la Officers’ Mess traditions, to sign in the Visitors book. Good memories!

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We had to wait for a day to have a birthday dinner at Manihi’s as he was full of guests on Hannah’s birthday. However, the homemade baked pizza were worth waiting for, the company was great and our thanks to Manihi for the pineapple cake covered with icing and decorated with flowers. The Taranga crowd sang a Danish birthday song – Hannah was a little suspicious about what they were actually saying – which was again greatly appreciated. Hannah came home happy and exhausted.

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Our next birthday to celebrate is Lou’s which will be in New Zealand. We had better get planning but I’m already thinking Yorkshire puds, fresh veg and gravy need to figure…….. Smile

 

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Nuka Hiva – The Isle of Bugs – Pt 3

In hope of clear water to swim in, we decide to move on up to Anaho Bay on the NE corner of the island. The weather gods lied to us. 12kts from the E-ESE was the forecast. We came out of the shelter of the bay to be met with 30kts which made it a bit interesting for a while. We ran W to the end of the island, frequently hitting double digits.

We turned N up the W side of the island and were quickly in the lee of the high hills which towered above us. With flat water and no breeze, the engine went on. Once we got to the NW corner and passed the airport, the wind was back in our face with a vengeance. We motor sailed the 10 miles  to Anaho Bay. Again, it got a bit bouncy and Lou got on to her normal hobby horse of downhill sailing…..

The views on the N side of the island were terrific. Steep green valleys with the occasional house tucked away in a bay.

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Anaho Bay is wonderfully sheltered, beautiful and is the most interesting anchorage we have seen since arriving in the Marquesas. Bay Hanamoenoa at Tahuata may have been Bahamas white sand but it was pretty sterile and it rolled. The snorkelling here is excellent with good coral and a huge range of reef fish. Being surrounded by beach helps even if, as Mia found out, the place is crawling with no-see-ums (locally known as no-nos). She woke this morning looking as if she has chicken pox. We finally saw some lobster and if we have time, will be going to see if we can acquire a few too.

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We have also been getting some rain which have been keeping the water buckets nicely topped off.

There is a walk across from Anaho Bay to Hatiheu, the village in the next bay W. It is a bit of a hack up the hill separating the valleys but it doesn’t take long and the view back down to Anaho is spectacular. Note the reef just behind the boats. Skylark is the yacht closest to the reef in the foreground. One comment on the  hill on the way up. Be prepared for the constant carpet of ants. Don’t stop, as they will be half way up your leg as soon as you do. And yes, they do bite although thankfully nothing as bad as fire ants. From the edge of the beach to the top of the hill, perhaps a mile away, you will be standing on them, millions of the buggers. There is no relief until you go over the top and start going down, at which point they all disappear. Weird.

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Hatiheu Bay is a rated as a good anchorage in its own right but has far more roll than Anaho and therefore is less used. The village was, accordingly to the guide books, a firm favourite of Robert Louis Stevenson when he visited the Marquesas but we saw nothing to mark this. It does have a great collection of tikis standing along the sea front, including the one below, standing guard on the church. These days the village boasts one of the best restaurants in the islands, Chez Yvonne. Sadly it was closed for Sunday. There is a small shop here too.

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It also has the largest archaeological site in the Marquesas. There is a very large festival plaza, a temple with a huge sacred banyan tree and a second festival site a little up the hill. We enjoyed wandering around and I was impressed with the scale of the place. It is far bigger than Tohua Koueva, the site on the other side of the island.

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For Pratchett fans –  Apparently the ancient Polynesian people knew that “The Turtle moves” too………

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We took the chance to collect some more fruit as we walked back down from the site. We found some banana, star fruit, bread fruit, cocoa and pomelo. Other than Lou having minor hysterics when she saw the large gecko on the banana stalk she was holding, it was an enjoyable and easy job! 

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There were more lovely flowers on show all the way back to the village and the smell on the walk was truly exotic. The whole place seems to be in a perpetual state of bloom.

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We picked up Mia back in the village who had chosen to pass on the history lesson, having visited the site before. Her pack hammock is a great idea and the kids enjoyed taking the weight of their feet before the hour plus trek back over the hill to the boat.

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We will move on in the morning, heading back to Ua Poa. I have enjoyed Nuka Hiva and the views are fantastic but having been without bugs since Panama, it has been unpleasant having to cover up and spray on the repellent again.  It is somewhere I would recommend but be prepared for bugs and lots of them. As long as you are, you will enjoy this beautiful island.

Lastly, a plea. Much as I love them all, I am now even more outnumbered.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed by girls hair (all still moulting it seems – when does it stop?), endless gossip, deadly serious tips on yogurt making, discussions on girly chick-flicks and how much they each cried, hormones and the rest. I would be grateful for male company at some point. Any takers? PS bring whisky……

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Nuka Hiva–The Isle of Bugs– Pt 2

We  moved around to Hakatea Bay (aka Daniel’s Bay), about 5miles W of Taiohae. We chose an hour of squalls and bumpy seas to move between bays. It is an extraordinary entrance with 800’ cliffs running N-S as you enter. You feel as if you are driving into the cliff, before turning hard right at the last second through the narrow entrance into the shelter of the bay. 

The bay is in two parts. The western finger has a river running in to it and is very brown due to the runoff with all the rain we are having.  We anchored in the eastern arm in 30’ of flat water and then had fun with the paddleboard and kayak. I’m on 4 days no salt water because of the new tattoo so got photo duties. Try doing handstands on a moving paddle board in the surf. Well done, Eleanor!

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We did get some visitors too. Baby Manta Rays – about 5-6’ across feed in the bay. We decided to stay in the kayak to photo them after Mia noticed a large Black tip Shark just underneath her. With all the earth rolling down into the bay after more torrential rain last night, visibility isn’t good, about 3m, so it got pretty close. The sharks are in to breed and there are plenty of their prodigy around. We even caught one on the rod which we quickly released. We know from another boat there are Hammerheads in too but we haven’t seen them yet.

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The main reason for visiting Daniel’s Bay is the walk up the valley, following the river to the high waterfall. The walk is an easy one, a bit muddy at times, but I’d suggest you wear long sleeves and trousers as there are plenty of bugs along the route. You will be wading as well so make sure your shoes are waterproof too. It takes about 6 hours there and back.

The first part of the walk goes through the local’s back gardens and fruit trees. So bountiful. You can ask the locals here for fruit and they will arrange basket loads. You get a huge amount for not a lot. We were also  surprised to find a solar powered telephone box in the midst of paradise!

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Hannah was happy. She found a chilli bush. A new collection of birds eye type chillis for the pot.

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And we found the odd tiki as well. All along the bottom of the valley you will find remains of traditional houses with their house tiki standing as guardian.

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As we broke into a small clearing from the near continual canopy, we got our first view of the waterfall. It is the highest waterfall in French Polynesia and falls a little over 1000’. We could hear it rumbling from a couple of miles away.

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Once we got close to the falls, we had the river to deal with. Lou, of course, tried to fall in but recovered for the photo shoot opportunity. Watch out for the fresh water eels as you cross and recross the river as you get near to the foot of the waterfall. The eel we saw was more than 5’ long!

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Mia and I decided to brave the “instantaneous death” from falling rocks threatened by Terry, an emotive soul, bless him, and one of the tour guides we had met on route,  if we tried to get up to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  It was worth the extra 200m. The number of craters made by falling rocks a little worrying but we kept a good look out and didn’t stay long.

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Having taken our time and enjoyed the views on the way up, the walk back down was done at a fair pace to ensure we didn’t end up in grey/green territory. The evening sunshine, the few times we did break out of the canopy, gave us some wonderful light effects.

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Nuka Hiva–The Isle of bugs– Pt1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The weekend was in full flow and the kids were having a fine time down on the pier.

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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!

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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 ………

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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.

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I suppose this doesn’t really count but…….. I was waiting for Old Man Willow to bite.

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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!

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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.