Exploring the Islands
27 April 2009 | Daniel's Bay
Greetings from Daniel's Bay in the Marquesas.
Our time here in the Marquesas Islands is winding down and we are scheduled to set sail tomorrow for the Tuamotus. We have only seen a fraction of what the area offers and have had some great experiences. I will sketch a couple of the highlights, but the over all impression is that it is way too hot and buggy here for us and we are happy to be moving on.
Some of the events of note for the last week included Mary deciding that all her hair was way too hot for this climate resulting in an impromptu hair cutting party. She is now sporting the cutest bob that the humidity makes curl like mad giving her a very sporty wild woman look. (I like it!)
This week, we went in with two other boats to rent a pickup truck in the main village of Taiohae and explored the island of Nuka Hiva by land. It was great to see the interior of the island, and we covered four or five different climates that varied from the hot steaming jungles we were used to seeing in the valleys, to cold wind swept mountains tops looking out over thousands of miles of pacific, to pine forests and areas that looked like Northern California shrub oaks. I think that we explored most of the roads that the island has to offer as we circumnavigated the island. Paved roads ended after about a half hour in and we were driving on dirt tracks for the next 10 hours with all 9 of us packed into the pickup cab and perched all over the bed. Despite very sore butts, everyone had a great time.
Two days ago, we hiked up to the third highest waterfall in the world, cascading into an amazing canyon with sheer rock walls on both sides. Always taking advantage of fresh water to wash off, we swam in the cold fresh water at the base of the waterfall, complete with shrimp that scampered freakily over your feet in the cloudy water. It was an amazing experience and an indescribable setting.
On the way back from the hike, we met a cool family that lives in this valley with their four year old son in a classic south pacific lifestyle. The extended family owns the three closest valleys, each accessed only by water with protected bays. The couple we met live in their "house" on the beach with no walls, just palm screens and a picnic table set on a dirt floor, with baby goats, ducklings, chickens, dogs etc roaming everywhere. They pick fruit in the valley and grow vegetables in the yard, and have a fishing boat moored in the fresh water lagoon next to the house. The fishing boat is the only transportation to the village about 5 miles up the coast. We spent an afternoon chatting with them and sharing a glass of the local homebrew, a fruit based hard cider that clearly is something you need to grow up drinking. It was wonderful the way they extended their home to us and sent us home with all the fruits and veggies from their yard that we did not recognize and they wanted us to try.
After the hiking and playing on the beach for a couple of days, we have so many bug bites that we all look like itchy bubble wrap. The various organic bug sprays are worse than useless and the industrial strength ones are only marginally better. Long pants and shirts are the only defense and despite all that I am guessing that I have between 50 - 100 bites on each of my arms.
The scenery here is just unbelievable, post card views everywhere, but it is starting to feel too much like a Survivor episode. I have never felt so low in the food chain between the insects on the beach and the sharks in the water. We are looking forward to the Tuamotus which should be cooled by the trade winds, with clear water and fewer bugs.