Notes from a Large Ocean
09 June 2009 | Nuka Hiva, Marqesas
I'm ashamed to say I had never heard of the Marquesas before this trip but they are the first set of islands that you come to when you cross the Pacific from Panama or the Galapagos. They are the most northerly territory of French Polynesia and consist of six large islands and six small ones. The large ones are inhabited. They are all elevated and are mountainous but have no coral barrier reefs unlike the other islands further on.
The day we arrived in Atuona in Hiva Oa, we were so delighted to be on land again, we set off immediately to see the little town, forgetting that it was 80F +. By the time we'd walked for 45 minutes into town and had our first French Polynesian beer and walked back to the boat, I was suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion, lack of sleep and 'over-excitement'! I had to go to bed and miss the post-Pacific crossing celebrations on Taku Tori. Andy was able to attend and returned to the boat 3 hours later slightly worse for wear and fell into a deep, unrouseable sleep in the cockpit, by which time I had woken up bright and cheerful ready to celebrate! It's been a bit like that ever since!
We spent nearly a week in Hiva Oa which was about 6 days too long. They aren't really geared up for yachts and everything was hard work. We had to refill the water tanks by taking all our 20 gallon containers over to a tap on the 'jetty' and to get diesel involved taking the containers ashore, walking down to the garage, getting them filled and carrying them all back along the road before loading them into the dinghy and ferrying them back to the boat. Also VERY expensive compared to every where we've been before.
We did a bit of provisioning at the supermarket but again very expensive. Everything is brought by supply ship every fortnight and not much is grown locally except bananas and a bit of salad stuff. Coke is US$5 a can and beer even more. Luckily we had stocked up in Panama where it was cheap. As well as all this, the locals were really unfriendly. Not sure why. Maybe they're sick of tourists which seems unlikely as this seems to be the only money coming into the island. However, they are quite heavily subsidised by the French government, mainly due to the fact they tested nuclear bombs on nearby islands so are given quite large benefits and consequently don't actually have to work. On the plus side though, they are French so we got fresh baguettes every morning which almost made up for everything else!
We then sailed overnight to Nuka Hiva, the largest town in the Marquesas which was a huge improvement. The locals were really friendly and we got a chance to practice our school French. They speak a local Polynesian language and French is their second language, taught in school here, so not so much better than ours! The scenery is stunning. Large cliffs surround the bay and are densely covered with trees. The sand on the beaches is black from the volcano eruptions. . The trees are laden with pineapples, limes, coconuts, pamplemousse and mangoes. And the people are great over here, really friendly and pleased to talk to you and tell you about their island. The girls dress like any other girl in the world but most of them have a gardenia or other flower in their hair. And everyone has at least one tattoo! Some all over their bodies. Lots of the cruisers have got one or two done, so maybe we might get a little one done...........!
We are leaving here tomorrow to go to Papeete (pronounced Papee-a-tay) in Tahiti. We have to go though the Tuomotu Islands and had planned to stop at one or two of them on the way but navigation is really difficult though there. Each island is a lagoon surrounded by a coral reef with a small gap which we would have to navigate to get inside. We are going to have a look and may well decide to crack straight on to Tahiti. The trip should take 7 days and, as the sat phone is still playing up, I probably won't be able to update this until we get to Papeete, If you haven't heard from us after two weeks, we're either lost or getting the full body tattoo done!!! Jx