Exploring the Island
30 October 2019 | Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
Only a few hundred miles apart, the Marquesas are remarkably different to the Tuamotus. The latter are just coral atolls that formed as fringing reefs on volcanic islands that have long ago sunk beneath the waves. The Marquesas are much younger volcanic islands, steep and high, with no fringing reefs and little coral. This makes for a very different cruising experience. The anchorages are deeper and unprotected, sometimes making for a rolly experience that varies between mild and unpleasant. At the moment we are in a small bay on the SW corner of Nuku Hiva that is perfectly calm and quite beautiful.
The other difference is the experience onshore. The Tuamotus consist of just reefs and coconut palms and bushes with only a couple of meters of elevation and very few people (thankfully....). The Marquesas are highly contoured and lush with small communities in the valleys.
The valley where we are currently anchored is one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. The surrounding hills are a delight and the valley is amazingly verdant with a few small farms that produce an astonishing variety of fruits and vegetables. Just in this small valley there are coconuts, mangoes, grapefruit, avacados, guava, limes, lemons, oranges, bananas, soursop, custard apple, breadfruit, taro, tamarind, ginger, and vanilla. We are sure there is more that we are not spotting. As we walked down the valley yesterday we were given grapefruit and limes and offered bananas but we already have more of them than we can eat.
The place has such a peaceful feel to it, horses are used a lot and there is barely any traffic on the few roads. There is absolutely zero sign of tourism. The population is pretty much entirely Polynesian and the place is utterly spotless. Nearly everyone we met walking through the village was carrying a rake or a brush and all the gardens were immaculate and beautiful with a heady mix of frangipani, jasmine, hibiscus and bougainvillea along with many beautiful trees and plants we don't recognize at all.
One highlight of our walk was eating fresh tamarind straight from the tree. It is an amazing flavor, recognizable from the dried variety but quite different. Today we are going to the annual (?) village fair that seems to be quite a big deal. I will report later on that.
For those of a literary bent. This valley is called Taipivai or Taipi Valley and is the subject of Herman Melville's first book 'Typee' before he became famous for writing Moby Dick. Before the local population was decimated by western diseases there were 20,000 people living here in a tribal culture that seemed to spend their time playing, carving statues, fighting and eating one another. There are ancient ruins everywhere in the woods and museum quality statues in people's yards and by the roadsides.
There are a few other apparently lovely bays on the island so we are doing a slow and weather dependent circumnavigation.
UPDATE: We grabbed a weather window and headed round to the more rugged north side of the island and we are now anchored in Anaho Bay (pictured). Unlike the southern shore we can snorkel here. The visibility is nothing like the Tuamotus but the marine life is interestingly different. There are half a dozen other boats here so we are having a pleasant social life. There is no road into the bay but there is a small boarding house that brings their guests in by boat so we will try their lunch today with a few other cruisers.
Yesterday I managed to help fix an obscure electrical problem on another boat's generator which was very satisfying but also confirmed our 'keep it simple' 12V only system that does not require the complexity of a generator. This does limit us to camping mode without the luxuries of washing machines, induction hobs, microwaves and the like but Leela is too small for all that stuff anyway. There are many different approaches to this cruising life. They all have pro's and cons.
As long as the weather holds we will probably stay here another week before continuing our circumnavigation.