Nuku Hiva - reflecting back on our last Marquesan Island
16 May 2016 | 15 49.21'S:145 7.13'W, Tearavaro Village, Kauehi, Tuamotos
Although we're now in the Tuamotus, I want to share final impressions of Nuku HIva and the Marquesas Islands. Nuku Hiva is the largest and most populated Island in the Marquesas. This Island is also the setting for Herman Melville's well known book Typee. We spent most of our time in Taiohae, the town where the 23 year old Melville deserted a whaling ship and headed into the jungle in 1842. We also explored Comptroller Bay, which was the setting for Melville's six month stay with a Marquesan tribe. I enjoyed reading the author's descriptive account at the same time as we hiked to archaeological ruins - the combination made it easy to appreciate the rugged terrain and the Marquesan way of life prior to the influence of Western civilization.
Speakeasy also anchored in Daniel's Bay, or Baie Taioa, where an early season of the tv show, Survivor, was filmed. We quickly determined that the dreaded no-nos were the biggest challenge in the Bay. Thousands of tiny insects came through our bug screens and covered our boat, whilst biting any exposed skin along the way.
The two hour hike to the Vaipo waterfall - one of the tallest in the world - made it all worth it. With John and Deb from Moonshadow, we followed an ancient royal road that followed a valley and riverbed. Our pathway was lined with coconut palm and hibiscus trees which dropped giant yellow blossoms at our feet. Nestled throughout the jungle, we saw traditional Marquesan stone foundations and platforms indicating significant pre-European civilization in the area. Wading through rivers and trudging through mud, two out of four pairs of sport sandals met their demise that day. However, the waterfall was ultimately worth the effort.
The Vaipo waterfall is spectacularly high and narrow, and exploring its base was an extreme experience! Water flows vertically from an unimaginably high plateau and descends straight down through a narrow gutter into a basin. This basin creates a natural swimming hole. We swam in an outer pool and then climbed over slippery rocks to reach the waterfall base. What a cavernous, wild, wet, and windy tunnel! My eyes were as big as saucers as I swam into the wind, spray and current to reach a rock perch at the bottom of the falls. Mark and four young Marquesans dove off the rocks into the basin, and I delighted in the aliveness of this once in a lifetime experience!
At the conclusion of our hike, we enjoyed a traditional Marquesan lunch in a family's home. We were welcomed with flowers for behind our ears, and served lovely lemonade, friend bananas, green papaya salad, poisson cry and breadfruit in coconut milk. Each dish was delicious, and we were urged to eat more and more by the grandmother and cook. Several cats surrounded our feet, and a pretty pre-schooler played on her smart phone; her Mom explained that they weren't connect by tv or computer though, as these devices robbed too much power from their solar panels. Internestingly, the mother shared that her teenage daughter may go to college in Quebec because a Canadian post-sec education is preferred by Marquesans, over the same in France. To top off a memorable day, we went back to our boats with freshly picked star fruit, bananas, pamplemouse, limes and papayas, shared between Speakeasy and Moonshadow.
We look back on Nuku Hiva and the Marquesas Islands with an impression of abundance. Of fertile green slopes, coconut palms, rain water, fresh flowers and fruit dripping off branches. Of wild goats and horses traversing steep cliffs, and colorful roosters crossing our pathways at every step. Of lovely clean villages and beautiful people who live simply and closely connected to their Island, the sea and their families. Thank you, Marquesas Islands for showing us your beauty - you will not be forgotten.