Monday, May 6, 2013

Ua Pou and Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Wrap-up

By Aaron

Ua Pou

We decided to do the 70-mile trip to Ua Pou as an overnight passage.  The first few hours were nice, but then it turned very squally with 30-knot winds and lots of rain broken up by periods of no wind and motoring.  But we made into the harbor without any problems and put the anchor down right as the sun was coming up.

Bella Star, dropped and stopped on the island of Ua Pou.  You can kind of see one of the spires in the background, of which there are several.  Unfortunately they were generally obscured by clouds on otherwise blue sky days.

Nicole not only conquers the island, but some very heavy bananas as well!

We had a nice pizza lunch here. We asked a lady sitting in her truck where the restaurant was. Without hesitation, she kicked her kids out of the truck.  Literally kicked them to the curb and loaded us up, and drove us over to the restaurant. After thanking her we sat down and ordered our pizzas, amazed at the generosity of the people on these islands. 10 minutes later, the truck pulls up again. We thought maybe somebody left their sunglasses in the back or something. No, she just wanted to bring us stalks of bananas and a huge box of mangoes. The people here are just amazing. We’ve never felt as welcome in any other country.

So the big event on Ua Pou was the hike across the island with Bravo.  This would prove to be a very challenging hike.  Maybe our last … 

Blew out my Keens so this is all in flip flops. 

Me, a mere few miles into it.  So far, so good!

Not even 1/4 way and I was starting to feel pretty wrecked.  Not surprising considering that I spent the last month training my gluts by sitting on them while watching movies and 6 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm… seriously there was some major vertical climb involved here that had me wishing we owned a helicopter.

After a few wrong turns and Bravo ominously procuring a goat skull for their bow pulpit, we decided what was goat path and what was human path and made our way through the jungle and across several valleys…

… to a tiny village that to our profound disappointment had no place to eat.  Oh well, at least we found a truck ride back on the island perimeter dirt road for a mere 6,000 francs.  It was either that or die, so it was a bargain.

Next stop Nuku Hiva!

As we put Ua Pou, astern it was hard to believe that we hiked all the way over the top of that island to the opposite side.

On approach to Nuku Hiva with SV Bravo pulling ahead. Tropical tradewinds and sunshine… 18 knots true, sailing on a broad reach… Hull speed and no equipment breaking in over an hour… This is what it’s all about!

Nuku Hiva

We arrived in Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva and were again impressed by the dramatic scenery these islands have to offer.

This is a great stop to reprovision with easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  Also there is internet!  So we got to catch up on emails and do some blogging while munching on baguettes. 

The town is very pretty, like every other town we’ve seen in the Marquesas. 

Just 5 miles around the corner from here is another bay known to sailors as Daniel’s Bay.  The bay gets its English name because of Daniel, a Marquesan famous among cruising sailors who used to live at the head of the bay and would welcome visitors.  Apparently he was also known to assist with procuring water and fresh fruit.  He is mentioned in every guidebook we’ve ever seen on the South Pacific and sailors, anchored there would sign his guest books.  Daniel unfortunately passed away several years ago.  Adam from Bravo and I went to get tattoos on Taiohae – turns out the artist, Francois, is Daniel’s grandson.  He is in possession of the guest book so I got to read the entries for hundreds of yachts that have stopped there since the 1980s.

I even found an entry from another Hans Christian 33, Delphinus, owned by Linda and Ray Beauchesne.  Where are you now, Delphinus?

So after a few days we upped anchor and headed over to Daniel’s bay.  A cold beer sure was good after the epic 5-mile journey. 

Daniel’s bay offered pretty 360-degree views.

As always, we’ve got chores to do before we go play.  Although we put them off to go play most of the time.

We decided to walk over to the tiny village of Hakaui and from there hike to an 800-foot waterfall.  With a quick stop to conquer.

The village is only about 1km and 1 stream away from the anchorage.

Once we got to the village, a tattooed Marquesan dude came running out at us quite excitedly and motioned for us to go to his house.  This was the first local I’d seen with the face tattoos so that was pretty cool.  And he has a big scar on his side that he later told me was from a gunshot wound.  He said his cousin (or uncle, I’m not sure) mistook him for a pig during a hunt. 

Meet Teiki and his wife Kua, another shining example of the friendliness of the people here.  They seem to be pretty happy people too, which shouldn’t be surprising since they live in a quintessential paradise.  Teiki had us sit down at his table with them and cut open a coconut for us to drink and gave us some mangos for our hike.  They’ve got fruit trees growing coconuts, limes, mangoes, bananas, star fruit, papayas, oranges, pamplemousse, and breadfruit.  They sell their fruit crops to a sorbet maker (we think that’s what she was trying to say) in Tahiti.   They’ll also sell fruit to visiting sailors fresh off the tree at very reasonable prices.  We got more than we could carry and had to make two trips back to the boat!  Teiki also provided me some coffee.  “Make you strong!”

The trail to the waterfall starts as a truck road through the orchards and turns into a winding path marked by cairns, stone walls, and various foundations from villages hundreds of years in the past.

We spent hours walking around in a tropical Bob Ross painting!

I’m a happy hiker – It was super beautiful and just the right distance, with very little elevation gain and the biggest obstacle was a couple of stream crossings.

Approaching the waterfall in the canyons… with the sun directly overhead and the dark canyon walls rising vertically it made for some interesting views and green light that seemed to just glow.

Nicole at the base of the waterfall.  Too bad it was only a trickle this time of year!  We heard that after some rains the water is clear and makes for some good swimming at the base.  Oh well, the hike alone was worth the trip!

Also when we were at the village some of the locals told us to be careful of  leaving our dinghy on the beach around 5pm.  Because of the cows of course.  The dinghy is the natural enemy of the cow, and in the past they have apparently been gorged and popped by these dinghy-hating cows.  #cruiserproblems.

So of course we found a bunch of cows hanging around our dinghy when we got to the end of the trail.  Fortunately our dinghy had not been gouged.  I suspect this is because it’s so old and beat up with patches all over and fittings falling off that they really didn’t feel that inflicting further damage was necessary. 

Well that’s about it for the Marquesas.  It’s time to move on to the Tuamotus!  It’ll be about a 4 or 5 day passage to get there and we probably won’t have internet access for quite some time, so this might be the last entry for a while. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Loving landfall

By Aaron

Hiva Oa

After 25 days at sea we were quite excited to make landfall in Hiva Oa.  And we were so happy that the island provided such a wonderful first stop in the Marquesas.  It was our first landfall where people come out on deck to cheer and congratulate us!  Checking in proved to be totally painless.  There was only one stop to make at the Gendarme’s office.  It was close to the anchorage, fast, straightforward, and free.  Although we did pay an agent a reasonable fee to facilitate the check in process and procure paperwork that would allow us to purchase diesel duty free at a little over $4 a gallon.  Interestingly, all the locals we’ve met here have been very friendly and helpful.  People smile and wave at us and a general feeling of happiness seems to prevail.  Perhaps it’s just this island?

The anchorage in Tahauku Bay on Hiva Oa.  It got totally packed as one boat after another kept arriving with tired but excited crews and their quarantine flag flying.

The supermarket on Hiva Oa.  After 25 days we we didn’t have much in the way of fresh produce and were eating bomb shelter fare, although Nicole proved to be a skilled cook combining cans down in the vigorously moving galley.  We have a new appreciation for the venerable cabbage!  Food here is relatively expensive.  For some things it’s really expensive, like $12 for a bag of Doritos.  For others prices were comparable to, say, Costa Rica.  Milk is cheap.  Baguettes are super cheap and really delicious.  We’ve been eating a lot of them.

We spent several days in the anchorage swapping stories of our passage across and meeting new cruisers from all over.  One day we spent doing a driving tour of the island. 

Tikis and archaeological sites are commonplace.  You can just walk right up and check out a pieces of the unique history of these islands.  I couldn’t help but wonder how long an irreplaceable 800 year old artifact would last unprotected where I’m from before it was defaced, destroyed, or stolen. 

Vistas all over the island were beautiful

Every populated valley has a church, even if it’s only a few dozen people living in the valley.  A couple of pastors rotate among the churches. 

A double arm shot on one island!  An first!  One day I may unleash the right handed arm shot.  But alas, it is too soon. 

We forgot to conquer this island.  WTF?  I really don’t have an excuse for this and unfortunately it does not up our official island count.  I guess we’ll just make it a gift to SV Palarran, who has quit their jobs and is leaving to cruise in a matter of days.  So, Palarran, we’re giving you this prime island, totally virgin unconquered.  As if you could make it this far.

Well it didn’t take long before that old feeling crept back up on us and we started to wonder what the sun was shining on over on the next island.  In this case, it was only 6 miles away.  So after a nice few days of rest, repairs, and provisioning, we left for Tahuata.


The water back in Tahauku Bay was a bit murky with poor visibility.  After our pacific crossing we had a pretty nasty layer of green slime and gooseneck barnacles all over the hull.  We wanted to clean it up somewhere where we could get in the water with good visibility – mostly so the sharks would be able to see that we aren’t food.  Coming into the anchorage on Tahuata we were alarmed to see the bottom when we thought we had plenty of depth.  Turns out we did have plenty of depth; we just saw the bottom at 50 feet and it looks closer than it is.  Something we’ll have to get used to with South Pacific cruising I guess.  Also the water temperature was 94 degrees, so it was looking pretty inviting for a swim.

Scrubbing the hull could wait.  We opted for a snorkeling trip with SV Bravo instead.  Can’t wait to see the water in the Tuamotus, where it’s supposed to be much clearer than here.

The beach at our anchorage on Tahuata.  Sans tourists, hotels, garbage, or just about anything.  We’re glad to know it can still be found.

A local’s beachfront property on Tahuata and the view it comes with.

From where we were anchored, it was only a couple miles over to the next bay where the village is located.  We rode over one day with SV Bravo to check it out and procure some baguettes. 

Tahuata, properly conquered.  (But wait for a future post, she takes it up a notch when she conquers Ua Pou)


The village was lovely, and we enjoyed walking along the quiet streets and avenues. 

And I will say that this is a place where time stands still.  Coming here truly feels like you’re stepping back into another era.  I did the math, and arriving via sailboat is slow enough for temperal overflowance to overcome natural end-state relative velocities and sub quantum deceleration curves (negative vectors of course).  This allows sailboats to enter the islands in their current state.  For others, however, they’ve got to use this time machine which I found at the local market.  Of all places!  Nicole said it was for making baguettes…  She cracks me up.

With Tahuata sufficiently enjoyed, we headed out to Ua Pou, 70 miles away on an overnight passage…