May in the Marquesas
07 May 2010 | Nuka Hiva, French Polynesia
First Mate Hels
Following the drama of our last blog we have been having a very quiet and relaxing time in the Marquesas. It is a very laid back place and we have managed to find some superb locations to hang out in. Unlike many other islands of the Pacific which are fringed with coral reefs and covered with palm trees, the Marquesas have high peaks with jagged edges rising right from the water - they really are quite stunning. Most of the islands only have one small settlement and are otherwise deserted.
We have managed to mix a bit with the locals which has been great. Aided by my French it is has been nice to be able to communicate a little. In the famous yachtie hang out Daniels Bay (a stunning bay on Nuka Hiva island) we even manged to get ourselves invited to a local goat roast party. The goat was roasted in the ground for 5 hours and it was a hoot to watch it lifted from the ground as Mahi, the host, performed a haka type ceremony. With a bunch of yachties from various corners of the globe mixed with Marquesan and French people it made for a memorable night!
The next day we went on a superb bushwalk up to the local waterfall. The valley at Daniel's Bay is like a true garden of Eden. The trees are laden with more fruit than you can "poke a stick at" and there are literally areas strewn with mangoes and pamplemousse (grapefruit). Apparently the valley used to have a population of 20K plus but what with various charming diseases spread from the early explorers, the population is now around 800 and the valley feels like the lost world. The people are totally self-sufficient what with fishing, copra from coconuts and the fruit - they go to town via boat or via a 5 hour walk.
The following day, invigorated by our bushwalk, we got into some serious boat cleaning. Hoping to find "treasures of the bilge" we took up all the floorboards. Captain Tykes was in charge of the battery drill (who in their right mind lets their 5 year old have a drill???) and, assisted by Zodiac Zoe pulling out the screws, the floor came up quickly and easily. Disappointingly we found no treasure - instead we found 6 months of grot mixed with exploded beer - we nicknamed it the "horrors of the Nika bilge!"
We are now at a lovely anchorage called Anaho Bay and are surrounded by kid boats. We have been snorkelling with heaps of manta rays and the odd shark. Last night 14 adults and 13 kids all piled onto the lovely Oso Blanco, a Nordhaven 64ft motor cruiser owned by one of the yachting families, and we motored around to the next bay for a pig roast cooked in the grounds of the local restaurant. The meal was super and the kids had an absolute ball!!
We had an interesting meeting with the local customs patrol boat. Thinking we only had a couple of bottles of wine on board we were as surprised as the customs guys to learn that we had a significant cellar in various obscure lockers on the boat. I guess with 3 weeks in Panama we had forgotten the numerous supermarket trips at which we would stock up! It really was quite a ridiculous moment and reminiscent of a scene out of a Peter Sellers movie as the gendarme would sternly say to Skipper JD "Monsieur, iz zere any more?" To which JD would open yet another obscure locker to reveal yet more liquor! Luckily we managed to get away with it being "bonded" and officially sealed into one locker which cannot be opened until we're 200nm off French Polynesia. As we are partial to a G&T and beer it really is no drama that the wine has been bonded - we are now starting to wonder how on earth we can get through all the wine between here and Oz. With Nika being a fast boat already imagine how much faster she would go with all the less weight??!!
With our parts arriving soon, we will soon be on our way again - heading to the Tuamotu Islands which are apparently just atolls. With all the recent dramas and with a birthday coming up - fingers crossed that the skipper will be feeling in the mood to buy some black pearls for his first mate!!