Nuku Hiva Island
19th June 2013
We are still about 4000 miles from home but being in the Marquesas seems familiar, a laugh, a snippet of conversation in Marquesan, tiki carvings, music wafting across the bay, the relaxed pace of life, generosity, among the many things that remind us of the command threads that link the islands of Polynesia including New Zealand.
We left the tall rock formations and steep hill sides of Fatu Hiva and sailed 45 miles north to Hane Moe Noa bay on Tahuata Island. We should have gone straight to Hiva Oa to clear in to French Polynesia, instead we used the excuse that the coastal cargo/passenger ship, Aranui, was in Hiva Oa and the harbour was also in disarray. 24 hours of torrential rain had produced a flash flood bringing whole trees into the harbour causing havoc amongst the anchored yachts. The town was also a mess from landslides. At Fatu Hiva we had had the same rain but the affect was much more pleasant, pretty waterfalls formed around the hills, we put fresh water in our tanks and had an enforced day of rest.
Hana Moe Noa is a very pretty bay on the northwest coast of Tahuata. The bay has a long golden sand beach with clear blue water ideal for swimming. We spent the weekend there catching up with friends and watching the manta rays feeding in the bay and around the yachts. Although only 10 miles from Hiva Oa, which has the second biggest town in the island group, no one bothered us. After the Caribbean it is so refreshing to be in a bay with no boat boys hassling us to buy over priced lobster, no beach restaurants or souvenir stalls and a sandy beach clear of deck chair clutter. Although as in the Caribbean vegetables are a bit scarce and expensive. On the other hand stalks of bananas, fresh mangoes and juicy pompelmoose can be swapped for a length of rope or a few Pacific francs.
On Monday we sailed around to the main Hiva Oa harbour , Atuona, which has a reputation as a very rolly anchorage where anyone susceptible to sea sickness could be tempted to re name it Hiva Over. Fortunately we had come during a period of calm, swell and wind was minimal for the 3 nights we had there. To accommodate the swell and small space yachts anchor with a stern anchor, the first time we have had to anchor that way and we accomplished it with surprising ease and quiet i.e no shouting! Sandra the agent cleared us in quickly and efficiently after a false start on the first day. This was our fault as we did not know we had to produce a copy of our travel/medical insurance. So we gave her the correct documents later in the day then the next day she took us into the Gendarme to complete the clearance. French Polynesia is the only place in the world non EU yachties have to pay a bond, however by paying an Agent about 320NZ$ we got a bond waiver and a form for duty free fuel. The yacht can stay 18 months but we can only stay 90 days and if non EU boats are left here the owners must stay out of the country for 180 days before you can get another 90 days. Seems all very complicated but disappointing for those who would like to spend more time here.
We visited the town and the supermarket where we bought a few expensive items with our expensive CP Francs. New Zealand may be a fellow Pacific Nation but no favours are given when it comes to the exchange rate. Two most delicious crisp braeburn apples cost .... Well I am not really prepared to say they were so extravagantly expensive but oh so delicious. Once we have got over the shock factor of those we may indulge in some of the Tip Top ice cream (NZ ice cream ) which fills the freezers. I haven't worked out yet what hokey pokey is in francais, if I do may be price won't matter! How do the locals afford to eat and drive around in newish four door utes, we constantly ask. We can only suppose that the French taxpayers at home pay dearly for the French presence in various islands around the world. Unlike the British empire the French empire is quietly still flourishing. We decided looking at our well worn and patched French flag, that it is the flag we have flown most during our trip. Crunchy baguettes, soft brioche and expensive internet... ah well c'est la vie.
We stayed only a short time at Atuona , the town was still cleaning up after the flood, the Gauguin museum was not really open as the flood had caused damage there and the lovely anchorage at Hana Moe Noa was a nicer place to spend my birthday. Another couple of nights there which included a trip 3 miles south along the coast to the village to buy/trade for fruit . There we found Liberty VI and persuaded the boys to come back to our sandy anchorage to join us for birthday drinks on Tuatara. A nice evening was had on Tuatara with friends . Once again it was time to move on so we left at 3 in the morning to sail the 65 miles to Ua Pou. Another small town anchorage needing stern anchors.
At the main town of Hakahau we shared the anchorage with all the "kid boats" as we call all the cruising families. There are quite a number this year, I think around 13 kids in total when they are all together. We enjoyed watching them mix with the local kids jumping off the wharf, none of them minding the odd shark under the wharf.
Clouds wafted across the hill tops shrouding the rock peaks, just showing one or two at a time. The day we left we caught a fish just outside the harbour and in the middle of dealing with that we looked up and there were all the rock peaks cloud free, quite a sight.
The Hakahau Harbour is very small and the Aranui was due so as we were tied stern to the wharf we had to move or leave. We decided to leave although it was tempting to try and squeeze in and stay. The Aranui is a cargo and passenger boat which travels the Marquesas. Many of the little towns they call into give the ship a singing, dancing welcome and the craft stalls are set up. When we saw the Aranui docked here at Nuku Hiva we were pleased we didn't stay as I am not sure how they got docked at Hakahau without hitting an anchored yacht.
So now we are anchored in Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, outside the largest town in the islands, a handful of shops, some basic services and internet. The dinghy dock is right beside where the fishermen clean their catch, sharks prowl under dinghys waiting for a head or intestines to be tossed their way. I don't see kids jumping off the wall here!!
Yesterday was our first internet connection in about 5 weeks. We do get most of our emails via sailmail, but it was nice to get the ones on gmail and read some news. Thanks to everyone who has written messages on the blog.