South Pacific

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We were really looking forward to arriving in Nuku Hiva as several boats that we hadn’t seen since Pape’ete were there as well as others from the Tuamotus, so it promised to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately our arrival on Wednesday afternoon was not quite as joyful as we had anticipated as our engine failed about a mile from the entrance to the anchorage. We turned offshore and sailed around for a couple of hours while Neil tried to fix it but without success.

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Our bad luck was balanced by the good luck of having friends at hand. Iolani radioed to ask if we were OK and we explained what had happened. In less than half an hour we had three dinghies from Libby, Mary Ann and Ednabel alongside to assess the situation. It was 4pm, the wind was over 20kts with a moderate swell, too rough for a tow by dinghy. Oliver and Almut on Fat Cat offered to come out and tow us in and we finally anchored in Taiohae Bay at 7pm. We were a little chagrined by our ignoble entrance but were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the yachties in the bay.

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Taiohae Bay is huge with 50 plus boats there when we arrived and space for plenty more. The chance of finding a diesel engine genius aboard one of those boats still seems remarkable but “Doc Martin” was at our service and spent several days aboard our boat. He and Neil nursed our engine back into good health, repairing the mess caused by some dirty diesel we picked up in New Zealand and fixing a myriad of other small glitches. She’s now as good as new and we are much the wiser about diesel engines.

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Taiohae is a pleasant little town and the administrative centre of the Marquesan archipelago. For the first few days the weather was quite unpleasant, overcast with strong bullets of wind, frequent rainstorms and a moderate swell which makes the anchorage can be quite rocky. However the skies cleared in time for the Fete Patrimoine which is a celebration of Marquesan culture. Speeches were made, weaving and carving were demonstrated, tales were told and a Marquesan four was prepared. A four is a pit filled with hot rocks then meat and vegetables wrapped in pandan and banana leaves are placed on top. They are covered with a thick layer of banana leaves and then sand and left for 5-6 hours. At midday we feasted on roasted pig, goat and bananas – it was tasty but a little “toothsome” as an American friend described it.

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The culmination was a dry run of the dance performance which would be presented by the Nuku Hiva group at the Marqeusan Arts Festival in Hiva Oa in December. An excited audience had gathered at the the pae pae and cheered as a hundred dancers entered the grassy arena. Both men and women performed the Pig Dance, the Warrior Dance, the Bird Dance and various other Marquesan favorites. The men were dressed in fearsome costumes and seemed to take the principal role in most the dances, the women a soothing counterbalance to the fierce intensity of the male dancers. It was quite a spectacle to watch as the sun set behind the mountains and the drums pounded and the voices intoned the repetitive chants.

Once the engine was good to go we sailed about 6NM around to Anse Hakatea, aka Daniel’s Bay. This is a really picturesque spot at the mouth of the Hakaui Valley which is a deep cleft on the west side of the island of Nuku Hiva. The first order of business was to fill up the water tanks as the water in Taiohae is not potable. The village tap in Hakatea was definitely the quaintest water fill we’ve had, it is located in a wooden shed that looked like an abandoned cattle byre. The water is said to be potable but we filtered it just in case!

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The highlight of Daniel’s Bay is the walk up the valley to the Vaipo waterfall, said to be the third highest waterfall in the world. The path follows the river which it crosses several times. The crossings were easy as there had been no rain for 5-6 days but there had been flash floods last week catching friends of ours by surprise. They had to fell a tree to cross the river which had become a thundering torrent. As we walked we noticed that the path was crudely paved and in places had retaining walls built – this was more than just a foot path, it was a road known as the “royal road” constructed in pre-European times. We passed by many ancient structures and just before reaching the waterfall we crossed through a network with rock walls, pits and platforms. The valley had a real atmosphere of the spirituality and religious practices which existed several centuries ago.

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We really enjoyed Daniels Bay, the only down side was the flies which were omnipresent from sun up to sun down. We put fly screens up on the companionway and all the hatches which helped but still there was always 2-3 buzzing around. Neil, I discovered, is a crack shot when it comes to swatting flies, he rarely misses – must be a necessity of life growing up in the Australian bush.

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We are now back in Taiohae and planning our departure for Hawaii. We will probably leave next weekend which means we will be at sea for Christmas but will arrive in Hilo hopefully just in time to celebrate New Year onshore. There are two or three other yachts making the passage at the same time so we will be able to keep in touch by radio. We will also be at sea for our 10th anniversary on 23rd December so we are going out to the Kaikahanui Pearl Lodge for dinner tonight for a bit of a treat.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Suzy and Neil

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