In parts of the Society Islands in French Polynesia like Moorea and Bora Bora, you can swim or snorkel with stingrays, specifically the pink whipray (Tahitian Ray). We spent all of last year in Mexico shuffling our feet when we got out of the dinghy to scare away stingrays so we wouldn’t get their barbs in our feet. Here, these much larger species are very accustomed to people feeding and swimming with them, so much so that if they hear an engine they will come to explore.
Our first trip to visit the stingrays we took bread to feed them. Turns out they don’t like bread, so we didn’t have as much interaction with them as we had hoped. There were quite a few black-tip reef sharks swimming among the stingrays. Here is a few photos from our first visit.
Andrew went for an early morning dinghy trip to get a tin of mackerel so that we could make a trip to feed the stingrays. We went early to beat the horde of tourists that were there on our last visit and we were rewarded with some very curious stingrays.
A tin of whole fish would probably have been better as the mackerel kind of flaked and fell apart, but the stingrays hoovered it up.
Nope, not a puppy dog beggingfor food, just a stingray.
I’m not sure if Tristan was trying to kiss the stingray or just get a closer look?
Andrew quite happily interacted with the stingrays and giggled as they got close to him.
And a few final photos of these cool creatures during our snorkel
After our experience on Monday I was keen to go back to the stingrays so that Max and Ava could experience it. This required everyone to be up at 6 am so we could get there early. Getting teens up and moving in the morning is difficult, I had to wake Ava and Tristan up three times and listen to lots of grumbling.
Andrew decided to sit this one out so we headed off at 7 am and were the only ones there. Max and Ava were very hesitant with their interactions with the stingrays at the beginning until Tristan showed them how to do it.
Tristan is definitely determined to get up close and personal with a sting ray and share a kiss.
Max looking a little wary.
Mmmm not sure if Max is flamenco dancing, stingray (bull) fighting or just trying to get away.
Whereas Ava just looks nervous.
Ava learnt to never turn your back on a stingray or it will try to climb it.
This stingray just wanted to sit in Ava’s lap.
And when the stingrays disappear the clownfish come out to play.
It was such a cool experience I can’t help sharing one final photo.
The Aquarium is located not far from the airport in Tahiti and is a shallow novice dive or snorkel with a maximum depth of about 10 metres. The highlight of the dive is the Cessna 172. The plane sunk near the runway at the Tahiti Airport on the 16th of April in 1995 following an emergency landing. The plane is largely intact with just the tip missing from one wing and even the tyres remain. You can actually get inside the plane if you are diving, I’m not sure that you would have enough air free diving to do it. Andrew and Tristan just free dived down beside it.
Photos of the cessna, Andrew is clearly visible in one and if you look closely you may spot Tristan in one of the photos too.
Also at the dive site are hulls of two schooners.
One of the schooners, along with a couple of inquisitive fish who insisted on being included in the photo.
Andrew with schooner 2
There is a small amount of coral surrounding the site, but ultimately you are snorkelling or diving to see the wrecks. There is also a concrete table and chair at the site, I assume set up by a dive company and someone has placed rock or coral to form a heart shape.
Ultimately Tristan and I a chance to experiment with out new cameras, more photos to come in the future.
The dive site is located near the airport and there is an orange mooring buoy that you can tie up to if you wish to snorkel or dive the site. The GPS co-ordinates for the site are: 17°33.910’S, 149°37.644’W
We had a quick but rolly trip to Rangiroa, arriving before the tide and having to wait outside the passe for the tide to change. Two boats we know had been through the passe in the past week and felt lucky to have gotten through without losing their boats, thankfully the passe was relatively calm, and we had a safe entrance.
After an easy anchorage and a quick catch up with Charisma, we went ashore to get a few needed supplies; unfortunately, the one we were most looking forward to, baguettes, except they were already sold out.
We soon settled into an easy routine of an early morning baguette run, a bit of school and then an afternoon snorkel at the coral garden.
The coral garden is probably the best part of Rangiroa; you take yesterday’s stale baguettes to feed the many fish who eagerly attack you for the bread. You need to either keep the baguette out of the water or be careful with your fingers otherwise you will end up getting bitten like Andrew did from a rather excited paddletail who couldn’t distinguish bread from a finger. There are usually a few small black reef-tip sharks below the fish feeding frenzy, but they keep their distance; even Ava happily snorkelled and fed the fish. There are always a lot of tourist boats just before sunset who go to the coral garden to feed the fish and snorkel while being serenaded by a local on the ukulele.
We tried several times to dive the passe but with the strong winds and increasing swell all of which affects the forecasted tide times and currents have made it almost impossible. Adding in the fact that you are also in a dinghy with 15 horsepower engine, trying to get divers in all their gear meant Tristan and Andrew managed just one quick dive. I went a couple of times to dive but the currents and tides weren’t right, and it was just too dangerous.
Motu Fama – 7/7/2021
With Charisma’s planned departure from Rangiroa soon approaching we decided to visit Motu Fama and stay overnight before visiting the Blue Lagoon, as the Blue Lagoon doesn’t have a suitable overnight anchorage. Motu Fama is made up of a series of motus (islands) with little lagoons enclosed between them, some of them you can enter with your dinghy during high tide. We went into one little lagoon with the approaching high tide and snorkelled among the small coral bommies looking at the fish, eels and even a hiding octopus. Tristan found a whole pile of nudibranchs right along the shoreline which pleased him.
Pretty isn’t it?
After we explored the lagoon, we met up with Charisma and Distant Star in the neighbouring motu, just managing to navigate the dinghy through a precarious passe narrowly managing to avoid beaching ourselves in the waves. Ashee, Alexis and I chatted while the kids were off exploring, Andrew snorkelled, and Leif and Eden swam. A very relaxing afternoon on the lagoon.
The teens and Kline went off exploring for a couple of hours and returned with a couple of coconuts.
Relaxing in the sun.
Blue Lagoon – 8/7/2021
We got up bright and early and headed to the blue lagoon knowing that we would have to pick through coral and that if we didn’t go today, there would be no other chance as the wind was going to continue increasing. After anchoring we left Tristan and Ava on the boat to keep an eye on it as we were surrounded by coral bommies and with big waves we wanted to make sure the boat was safe. Ilo stayed on board Distant Star to keep an eye on her.
With the waves we managed to get both the snorkelling gear and everyone on board the dinghy, it was a bit of a trial. The next challenge was finding a suitable passe to get the dinghy through to the shallow waters on the outside of the lagoon. We did have a few reef sharks follow us in, looking for food as the local tour operators feed the sharks here. Inside the shallow water, while anchoring there was much excitement from Kline who was spotting all the baby black tip reef sharks in the water. The sharks would come to within a few feet of you before veering off.
We carried all our gear, Alexis and Chris manoeuvred the little ones through the coral, and sharks, to reach the island on the edge of the lagoon. There wasn’t really any coral to snorkel on in the lagoon, it was more of a swimming experience. Most of the sharks were either where we had anchored or around the other side of the lagoon where it is set up for the tour operators to take tourists to feed the sharks.
The kids happily played for hours while everyone chatted. Andrew and I went out to where the tour boats are anchored and snorkelled the coral wall where the bigger black tip reef sharks were. The water wasn’t as clear and often you could turn around and after a few seconds you would notice 5 or 6 sharks following behind you, and if you stopped, they would deviate off.
Andrew went back to get Tristan (Ava opted to not go swim with sharks) and went for another snorkel in the same area. Andrew saw a much larger shark which wasn’t a black-tip reef shark… hmm maybe Ava was right to sit that one out.
Meanwhile back onshore, Kline was off near the restaurant with Chris paddling among the baby sharks while Leif slept half on, half off a log, and everyone relaxed under the shade of a palm tree. Just before leaving my buddy, Leif walked with me over to the restaurant side to look at the baby sharks, although he didn’t want to go in the water, so we looked from the sand.
How cute is Leif, falling asleep on a fallen tree?
My buddy Leif and some of the baby black tip reef sharks we looked at.
Kline pointing out the sharks as Charisma leave the blue lagoon.
After a long, slow trip we returned to the anchorage at Tiputa. Our last night with Charisma was spent aboard Utopia with a few drinks. We had a lot of fun and Alexis you are hilarious; I think we laughed until we cried. We will miss the Charisma crew’s company but wish you and your beautiful family a safe trip back to the USA in a couple of weeks.
Tiputa to Avatoru Bike Ride – 11/7/2021
I decided it would be a great idea if we (our family) hired some bikes from Pension Josephine and ride to Avatoru, which is 10 km each way. Lucky for us the pension had enough bikes. Andrew then thought it would be a great idea to also bring a jerry jug and get some petrol at the service station at the other town. Finally, after the delay we set off and I set a cracking pace with Ava close behind. We passed palm trees, views over the interior of the atoll, bridges linking the motus and friendly locals.
At the start of the bike ride near the passe.
What I didn’t realise was Tristan and Max had rusty springs in the bike stands which kept flopping down and dragging on the ground. Not sure who’s ingenuity it was, but by the time they caught up the stands were tied with strands from the palm leaf to stop them scraping on the ground. I guess I need to look behind me more often to see where everyone is.
We arrived at the petrol station to find it closed. Hmmm looks like another bicycle trip to come. We stopped for drinks and then I took everyone to see the unique statue on the church grounds which incorporates pearl shells into its design. Tristan thinks it is a waterfall, makes sense. After looking at the passe we stopped at another magasin for iceblocks before beginning our return trip.
Not sure if this boat was beached for repairs or wrecked here after going through the pass?
The trip had been going pretty well until just before the halfway mark, the airport, when Tristan commented that my tyre looked flat – I thought it was hard pedalling. I walked the bike for a while. Then Tristan doubled Max on the back of the bike, I rode Max’s and Andrew rode his holding my bike beside it, an arrangement that lasted less than 5 minutes. Back to pushing the bike. We ended up sending the kids ahead and I had the brilliant idea of trying to hitch a ride, with the bike. I was unable to convince Andrew to go ahead of me, so he rode in circles while I unsuccessfully hitched a ride. A local, in a small car, pulled over and told us to stop; he called Josephine’s and organised for them to come pick us and the bikes up.
While waiting he stayed and chatted to us. Turns out he is from Bora Bora and is running a hotel here on the island now. A lovely guy who was very interested in Andrew’s tattoo from the Marquesas. He did tell us that a night at a resort in Bora Bora (there are 10 resorts with an 11th approved) not over the water starts at $1100 US a night. No wonder they don’t want boats cluttering their island.
The atoll is made up of lots of little motus or islands many of which are connected with bridges like you can see in the two smaller photos.
We were picked up by the French owner of the pension and were saved the 5 km walk back. The kids were waiting for us back at the pension, looking tired. When we rode to Avatoru the road felt flat but, on the way back we noticed that there is a slight slope uphill combined with the 25 knot headwinds; no wonder the kids were so tired.
We finished the day with a snorkel over the coral gardens, where they have now installed floating underwater signs with information about the reef, which is a great idea.
Tiputa Passe – 13/7/2021
After a few very slow days we met up with Distant Star onshore to have sundowners at the lookout over the Tiputa passe. There was one major flaw in the plan. We went to the magasin to get some cold beer and some candy. We returned with just candy. Turns out there are new laws in force banning the sale of cold beer during the Covid-19 pandemic to try to stop people congregating. We are not sure if that is everywhere or just in the Tuamotus.
The kids relaxed with chocolate and cookies.
Nevertheless, we went to the lookout and watched the waves roll in through the passe. The kids shared the chocolate and Ava shared the peanut butter cookies she had just baked, while Ashe unenthusiastically drank her not-so-bubbly soda water. It was the daredevil Kahlil who kept us entertained by climbing on the channel markers while dodging waves. Unfortunately, in my haste to snap his photo before he returned to shore, they are a bit blurry.
Daredevil Kahlil venturing through the breaking waves to reachthe marker.
Toaroa Motu – 14/7/2021
With no end in sight with the wind and us looking likely to remain in Rangiroa for another week, Ashee decided we should adventure further into the atoll and explore some new places. Our first stop was Toaroa Motu. The motu is fringed with palm trees and the azure waters lap its shores; it even has a small inland lagoon, although I don’t think you really want to swim in it. There is a cabin ashore, but we have not seen anyone using it. We walked the beach, climbing over the fallen palm trees and talking before the no-see-ums started eating us alive and we retreated to the boat for the evening.
Tristan and I made our own homemade version of bounty bars using fresh coconuts Tristan had collected and de-husked and put through the food processor, coconut oil and condensed milk and then covered in chocolate which we enjoyed for dessert. They weren’t the prettiest, but they tasted pretty good. We already have plans on improving them.
Our second visit to the motu, Tristan, Ilo, Makawi and Kahlil all went spearfishing. They were gone for quite some time; it was when we could smell smoke that we knew that they had caught something and were cooking it onshore. They decided to cook the fish whole on the fire and discovered was that it takes a very long time to cook, hours. Max and Ava finished their schoolwork off (we are playing getting ahead before our next long passage) and went ashore to join the others. They managed to keep themselves busy and are already talking about how they will cook the next lot.
Another day and another spearfishing adventure. Tristan, Ilo, Makawi and Kahlil were gone for hours in the morning and returned after cooking and eating their catch. They were back for about an hour and were off again, coming back with quite a few marbled groupers. Andrew was very impressed with Kahlil’s catch; not only did he get the biggest fish, but he did it on a Hawaiian sling.
We met on the beach just before sunset so the boys could cook their catch, while Ashee and I brought in some other dishes for our potluck dinner. The boys were really pleased with their fish dinner.
The kids sat around the fire chatting and the adults relaxed a few feet away when Andrew had the brilliant idea (according to the kids) that he should let off all our old, expired flares that we can’t get rid of. Don’t worry, there were no accidents. Most of the flares worked fine, a smoke and parachute didn’t work but the kids all know how to use a flare if it is ever necessary. Although you really want a boat or plane to be pretty near you when you set it off as they really don’t last long.
Kahlil with a branch covered in vines, Tristan setting off flares and Andrew reading the instructions on how to use them.
They look a little spooky, don’t they?
Hauone Island – 15/7/2021
Our next stop was at a little lone island inside the atoll which was supposed to have good snorkelling. I did not go snorkelling, but Andrew and Tristan and the Distant Star crew did. The water visibility was not good and there wasn’t a lot of interest to see under the water. They did visit the island which has a lot of nesting birds including boobies, and pretty shells. We decided to continue while we had sunlight to get through the maze of coral awaiting us ahead.
Maufano Motu – 15 – 16/7/2021
Our next stop was Maufano Motu. We spent two nights here with the wind howling and frequent rain, some of it torrential. Luka and the kids went ashore which turned out to be a difficult challenge as there is no easy way through the coral bommies and there were areas where they had to lift the dinghy. They managed to amuse themselves for the afternoon, but we have decided to return to Toaroa Motu where there is easy beach access and the boys maybe able to do some spearfishing.
Overall impression of the Tuamotus?
I had spent ages researching dive spots and finding their co-ordinates and which atolls we would visit. What I didn’t consider was the ability to dive the sites from a dinghy. Most of the dive sites are in the passes or on the outside of the atolls. This means you must dive on slack tide and while we were in the Tuamotus there was a lot of wind, waves and swell which directly affects the when the high and low tides were (which is not necessarily the predicted times) and this makes passe diving difficult and dangerous. So, we didn’t do as much diving as we would have liked, it was definitely easier diving the south passee in Fakarava than diving in Rangiroa. So that aspect was disappointing. Perhaps later in the year, without the trade winds blowing so strongly, the diving would be easier to manage.
The coral really wasn’t that great. The best we saw was on either side of the south pass in Fakarava, outside the Kauehi atoll and the coral gardens in Rangiroa. The corals are mainly brown, yellowish- green with the occasional purplish area but there are no vibrant colours. We didn’t see in clownfish, but we did see a lot of sharks.
The other thing we hadn’t anticipated was how strong the trade winds are at this time of year which meant we were frequently stuck for a week or more in places waiting for the winds to die down, so unfortunately, we spent far longer than we had planned in the Tuamotus.
In hindsight I think we should have spent a bit longer at Fakarava, maybe stopped at Kauehi and called the Tuamotus done.
The shark diving in Fakarava in the south passe is fantastic. We did numerous dives in the passe and saw the marbled grouper resting on the sandy ‘bunny slope’ area that you dive. The bunny slope is also like a shark superhighway; they swim up and down the slope and there are a lot of them.
I expected the experience to be terrifying. Since the time in Fiji when we snorkelled with Andrew, his brothers and their wives when I had a reef shark circling me while pregnant with Ava, I have very successfully exited the water after seeing a shark. The encounter was very serene and peaceful floating amongst blacktip and grey reef sharks that swim by above, below, and beside you. If you get too close, they will quickly turn away from you. There were usually a few whitetip reef sharks lying on the sand strip sleeping but if you got too close, they swam away swiftly. We did see one shark repeatedly diving on the sand and rubbing its body as though scratching an itch. The shark diving is a pretty cool experience and definitely the best of the Tuamotus.
Interestingly enough Charisma tried to get their dive tanks filled and couldn’t find a dive operator who would do it. I don’t know if this is the norm or whether it was because it was spawning time. If you can’t get your tanks filled then you either miss the opportunity or you have to pay to go with a dive operator. Our dive compressor has gotten a lot of use here.
Unfortunately, we have had the underwater camera die on us; we think the seal had worn out as it was used so much last year, so water got in. Yes, we do have a dive camera housing, but this occurred while snorkelling. We have ordered new ones and hope they will arrive before we leave French Polynesia. We are anxiously watching the FedEx tracking (LA to Hawaii to New Zealand) and wait for it to leave its current location in New Zealand.
Andrew during our shark dive.
We did not dive the north passe as the anchorage is too far away from the village anchorage to dinghy with a 15 hp motor and with the currents and waves in the passe it would have been too dangerous.
21 – 23/6/2021
By the time we arrived back in the anchorage after our trip to Motu Hirifa, there were close to 40 boats anchored to see the marbled grouper spawning.
A very busy anchorage with over 30 yachts
We did a few more dives over the next two days in the south passe and took Seth from Distant Star with us. Most of the marbled grouper were gone from the sand slope and had moved out into deeper water, perhaps in preparation for spawning, but the number of sharks had increased dramatically.
It was then time to say goodbye to Fakarava! Photos below are of the resorts and dive centres lining one side of the passe.
Motu Hirifa 18 – 20/6/2021
The wind did pick up in the south anchorage and we moved to another anchorage at Motu Hirifa (Hirifa Island) about 6 miles away where we spent a few days until it settled down and we were able to return to do some more dives.
The anchorage in the south-east corner has a restaurant and a kite surfing school which Makawi attended and enjoyed. On the island there are also slack lines set up which entertained the teens and a rope swing which entertained Leif, Eden, and Kline. The restaurant had a puppy, a couple of hefty sows with large litters of adorable piglets, which Ava loved. We had a pot-luck dinner on our last night in the anchorage where we said goodbye to Maya who was staying to work at the kite school.
After dinner, we had a bonfire and then Ashe brought out her fire twirling sticks which entertained everyone for hours. Ashe is absolutely amazing with them and actually makes it look quite sexy. Max, Seth, Alexis, and Maya enthusiastically participated and had a fantastic time, I have included a few short clips of each person. Seth did manage to singe a bit of his hair, but it will grow back.
Videos of the Utopia Crew; Max and Ava
Videos of the Distant Star Crew; Ashe and Ilo.
Videos of the Charisma Crew; Alexis, Chris, Seth and Maya. Don’t worry none of the littles had a go at fire dancing.
Our next stop was to be Hiva Oa, but there was supposed to be a 2-metre swell and as it’s known to be a rolly anchorage we decided to go to Tahuatu Island first. Tahuatu lies less than 4 km from the southern end of Hiva Oa and is the smallest of the inhabited Marquesan islands. The island’s two main villages Vaitahu and Hapatoni are home to most of the 653 residents.
The island has a really interesting history; while Fatu Hiva was the first Polynesian island sited by Europeans, Tahuatu was the first island set foot on by Europeans, or more precisely by Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña in 1595 when he sailed into the little bay at Vaitahu, the island’s main village. He named it Madre De Dios (Mother of God). It was also at this time that he named the archipelago, “las Marquesas”.
The bay was later visited by another famous explorer, Captain James Cook in 1774, when he named the bay “Resolution Bay”. It was Admiral Dupetit-Thouars who probably had the greatest impact on the bay’s history when he claimed the island for France in 1842, and the local chief, Lotete resisted. Lotete encouraged the rebellion of his warriors and against the better-armed French, it resulted in a bloodbath. Several French sailors were killed and are now buried on a hill above Vaitahu. The admiral then built a fort overlooking the valley which remains in an overgrown state.
Vaitahu – 3/6/2021
We stopped at the village Vaitehu and went ashore looking for some internet to download a school document. A local who owns the restaurant allowed us to use his internet and then offered me coffee and some of his large oranges to take back to the boat with us. After inquiring about a tattoo artist who is supposed to live in the village for Distant Star, I was taken to talk to another local about it and left Max and Tristan to download the school document. I was told there was a tattoo artist up the hill, so I radioed Distant Star to come in. While waiting for Distant Star several other local men came over to discuss the tattooing and then seemed to decide that the village tattoo artist was too expensive and the one in Hapatoni would be better. This led to me being taken over to the little supermarket to talk to another lady whose boyfriend is the tattoo artist in Hapatoni. Eventually I left promising to return soon with Distant Star.
Eventually Distant Star came in and we did the rounds of the locals again who were all quite excited. While Luca and Ashe were discussing it with the lady, I spoke to one of the locals who was at the entrance at the supermarket, I had noticed a few people with band aids on their arms and I asked if they’d had the Covid-19 vaccine. I learnt that the nurses and a doctor from the hospital in Nuku Hiva had been at the island today to vaccinate everyone with the JJ vaccine, but she thought it had finished at 3 pm. I radioed Andrew to come in and we made our way to the hospital, more like a clinic and were told they were closing in 2 minutes and unless we could come up with 6 people to be vaccinated, they didn’t want to open another packet and waste any. Tristan came ashore, Ashe and a reluctant Luca, along with Maya made up our 6 people. We were very lucky to have received the free vaccine and very grateful that the Distant Star crew agreed to get it done so we could too. As a type 1 diabetic with a husband with blood pressure problems it was a relief to finally get the vaccine after 18 months of vigilance to avoid getting Covid-19. 15 days and we will be protected, yeah!! I think Distant Star have decided to wait on the tattoos, it became too difficult to try to co-ordinate.
Record of Andrew, Tristan and my Covid-19 vaccination. We are so pleased to have gotten it, now we just hope at some stage Max and Ava can get it.
The kids came over to Utopia for card games that evening, while Andrew and I retired to read and promptly fell asleep only to be awoken a couple of hours later by a frantic Max. Distant Star’s dinghy had come untied, and the kids had been searching the bay in the remaining dinghies but had been unable to locate it. Distant Star and us took out the boats looking for the dinghy knowing with the heavy rain it would be unlikely to find it and we didn’t. Andrew and Luka searched the coastline the next morning but couldn’t find it. The only way I can explain the significance of this loss is if you think of the boat as your home and the dinghy as your car. Without the dinghy you can’t get ashore, you can’t bring food or people to your boat and in a place like French Polynesia it is difficult and expensive to replace not only the dinghy but the motor. We will be heading to Hiva Oa on Monday to see if Distant Star can find a second-hand dinghy in the boat yard or on the face book group.
Hanamoenoa Bay – 4/6/2021
After the dinghy loss last night and everyone who was vaccinated not feeling great (with a range of symptoms from the shakes, fever, tired and achy joints) we moved to the white sandy bay of Hanamoenoa. Everyone had a bit of a quiet day, other than the kids who swam and talked on the beach.
Hapatoni – 5/6/2021
We set off on Utopia to head to Hapatoni with the Distant Star Crew onboard and Charisma following close behind. After anchoring we dinghied to the dinghy dock and headed off to find the artisanal centre that displays the island’s bone and wood carving. We arrived at the spot marked on the map to find a building filled with mattresses, tables and stacked chairs but were soon greeted by a local who Maya spoke to and said they would set up their crafts for us to see. Soon there were several ladies setting up their tables and we explained that we would go for a walk while they set up.
We walked along the Royal Road, a stone terraced road shrouded by temanu trees that skirts the bay and passes through the tiny village. We stopped in to have a look at the stone Catholic church which had interesting contrasts (juxtaposition?) like the traditional bible and one in with the Marquesas cross as well as drums and guitars near the altar for the Sunday service with traditional seating and stained glass windows. Alexis was explaining to the littles the significance of the church, which was very cute.
The royal walkway.
A very pretty little stone church.
The church is an interesting mix of Marquesan and French and old and new.
I find cemeteries interesting, in Italy a lot of cemeteries have tombs above ground, some countries are brightly coloured but here each of the grave crosses has a Jesus on its cross.
We continued to the end of the road and were met with a warning sign to not enter and so promptly turned to return to the artisanal centre. As we passed some of the homes we were invited to a local’s house to see his bone carvings. We looked at his necklaces with carved seahorses, whale’s tails, manta rays and tikis for $60 US, earrings ranging from $60 – $150, hair combs etc. After looking we continued down to the artisanal centre which sold sandalwood carved bowls for about $100 US, similar necklaces, earrings, rings and ceremonial knives made from marlin bills, etc. Ava ended up purchasing a tiki necklace and negotiated the price a little. I ended up going back to the house with Tristan so he could get some earrings that he liked that had the Marquesans cross carved into it. So with souvenirs purchased we headed back to our dinghy. One of the locals gave Alexis some starfruit which she shared out.
There is no supermarket or baguettes sold in this village. The dinghy dock was safe, and we didn’t use a stern anchor. We had anchored in this bay our way to Fatu Hiva and found the bay to be calm while we were there. After an easy lunch and cookies on board Utopia thanks to Max we dinghied back to Vaitehu. The dinghy dock at Vaitehu is much more difficult to disembark from and really requires someone to drop you off at it and also time your arrival with the waves. The dock itself is very slippery. Some members of our group went ashore to find flip flops as some had gone missing with the dinghy and see if there were any vegetables or fruits. The only fruit and veg available we found during our two visits were apples 10 for $12 US and a packet of ten garlic bulbs for $3.50 US.
We returned to Hanamoenoa for a late swim and to spend the night.
We had a weather window to get to Fatu Hiva motoring directly into only 5 knots of wind, so we decided to go while we could. We stopped overnight in Hapatoni on the island of Tahuata before continuing to the Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva.
Hanavave is set in the mouth of a steep-sided valley. The bay is called the Baie des Vierges or the Bay of Virgins. Originally the bay was named the Baie des Verges which means the Bay of Penises, due to the cone-shaped rocks protruding from the mountains which resembled giant phalluses. When the missionaries arrived on the island they were outraged and added an ‘I’ to the name which changed it to Baie des Vierges or Bay of Virgins. This was the number one place I wanted to visit in the Marquesas as it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful anchorages. I have to say as we came into the bay it was rather underwhelming until we got closer and could actually see the cone shapes. The bay is steeped in green high mountains and there are often goats grazing around the cone-shaped rocks.
Pretty, but not spectacular.
Much more picturesque once you get in close.
The village is small, but the locals all say bonjour and are very friendly. By the time Charisma and Distant Star had arrived there were 9 boats in the anchorage. The anchorage is very deep so you can only fit so many boats where it is shallow enough to anchor. An English couple said they had been at the anchorage last year with 15 boats and it was a tight fit. Charisma and Distant Star soon made it ashore to have a look around except Makawi who had fallen through a hatch while trying to get the dinghy off the boat and was left bruised and sore.
Photo 1: The village church. Photo 2: The town tiki which greets you as you set foot onshore. Photo 3: View from the breakwater.
Every evening the goats would climb up to the top of the penis shaped rocks. One night two males were head butting and it was quite amazing they both survived, Andrew had hoped that one might land near Utopia and he could have a goat curry.
Waterfall Hike – 1/6/2021
After a couple of days of sailing we decided to have a later start and do the hike at 9 am. Ashe brought ashore their organic scraps for the pigs that are tethered below the bridge, which Leif, Eden and Klein fed.
The hike meanders through the village before heading up on the main road. Eventually there is a dirt track of the road that leads up into the forest, the hike isn’t too strenuous or too steep.
Someone had used some old stays from a boat for one steep section of the trail near the waterfall where it is a bit slippery, which is helpful. We finally reached the waterfall and similar to the one in Daniel’s Bay there wasn’t a lot of water due to the lack of rainfall, but most of the kids went swimming and a couple of the adults. Mosquito repellent is a necessity here as there are lots of mosquitos near the falls. Kahlil from Distant Star didn’t come on the hike as his mosquito bites had become infected and he wasn’t feeling the best.
Photo 1: The rather dry waterfall. Photo 2: Those who went swimming. You may notice Tristan with his snorkel and mask on in the background, I’m not sure if that was when he was photographing eels or shrimp.
Satelliteimage of the hike to the waterfall.
We hiked back to the main road and our group split up. The mums, (Ashe, Alexis, and I) and three of the teens/young adults (Maya, Seth and Max) decided to continue up the steep incline to the crucifix while the rest returned to the boats. It was a killer hike!!!! The road is incredibly steep and filled with switchbacks that are so tight that we witnessed a car having to reverse back and forth to make the turns. We had to frequently stop, especially me, while the teens went ahead. The climb went on and on and on, with no crucifix in sight.
Maya with the very placid bull, although Alexis was a little terrified of it.
The view as we begin the climb.
Eventually we saw Seth, Max, and Maya way above us and we asked if they could see the cross which they said yes. So, we assumed that yes, they were at the cross. Mmmm need to word the questions more concisely as they could see the cross but were not at it.
An excavator at the top of the lookout point, I think it is Maya standing on top of it.
By this stage I decided I was done and told Alexis and Ashe to continue up without me, later changing my mind and continuing up. After arriving at the lookout point, Ashe pointed out the cross below us, right where I had pronounced I was done and for others to continue on without me. “Bloody Hell! We were right there!” The teens thought it was funny at least.
We made it!!!
The view from the top looking down on the bay of Virgins.
We enjoyed the lookout point over the Bay of Virgins before continuing to another mount a little further out with views of the ocean. The hike back down was long and steep, and our legs were burning by the end. We didn’t stop at the cross on the way down as we couldn’t find a pathway to it and we were all pretty tired. The scary thing is that the hike continues from the lookout point to the other village, Omoa and is 17 km one way. (we may have done 6 or 7 km of the walk). Most people get the ferry back or get a lift. It is a long hike and definitely one that Julie and family should do next year, not sure Lochlan could do this one Steph.
Seth, Max and Maya at the tip of the mount overlooking the ocean.
Satellite image of the hike to the lookout point.
For the more adventurous here is the hiking map to Omoa.
Volleyball – 2/6/2021
The kids caught up on schoolwork while Andrew, Tristan and I dinghied over to the bay at Omoa. There was a huge swell in the bay and breaking barrels on the shore. There is a dinghy dock and while we put out a grapnel at the rear and tied onto the dinghy dock Andrew wasn’t comfortable leaving the dinghy unattended, so we took turns to go and look ashore. The village has a pretty church, and the locals were all friendly. Have a look at the picture of the skulls nailed to a tree, I think they are definitely goats and that the bottom jaw has been flipped above the head, Tristan disagreed as there were no horns and thought they were horses. I think they are too small for horses.
Photo 1: Another white village church. Photo 2: One of the locals smoking tuna. Photo 3: skulls on a tree, goat or horse or something else?
On our return trip we explored two grottos and several blowholes that dot the rocky cliff faces along the edge of the Bay of Virgins before returning to Utopia.
Our group were invited by the locals to participate in a volleyball game at 2 pm. The village has a volleyball court permanently set up, although the ground is concrete rather than sand. Luca organised for the teens to go ashore an hour before the game to practice their volleyball skills and we came in later to watch the game. Meanwhile the local kids practiced their volleyball and then soccer skills while their parents played. After practicing as mixed teams, the locals wanted to keep score and then the teens decided to play locals against tourists, although Seth joined the locals to even the teams. While the locals did win the game, there was less of a gap in the final score and the kids have definitely improved. Fatu Hiva is a beautiful spot, and a favourite anchorage in terms of beauty. As far as provisioning there were no fresh fruit or veg in the store, but we did get pamplemousse from one local and Alexis did buy bananas and pamplemousse from another. While we were there, we found the anchorage was calm and not rolly at all.
Everyone enjoying a game of volleyball.
The kids at play!
Ordinarily you would check in to French Polynesia in Hiva Oa and then visit Fatu Hiva but with Covid-19 the only entry point is in Nuku Hiva, so it means you have to wait for calm weather to avoid beating in to the wind and waves. Hopefully, that will change next year.
We went ashore in Taiohea Bay early to get fresh baguettes, top up on fruit and vegetables and email in schoolwork before we did the 25 nm sail to the island of Ua Pou. On rare occasions while we sat in Taiohea bay in quarantine we had seen Ua Pou with its phonolite needle-top mountains in the distance. When we arrived in the bay Mount Oave, which stands at 1, 203 metres, was covered in clouds. The bay is beautiful and besides Mount Oave there are also a dozen or so basalt thumbs that protrude from the ridges. Ua Pou actually featured In a song ‘La Cathédrale’ by Belgian Musician Jacques Brel, who made the Marquesas his home.
On our arrival we were met by Spruce who helped direct us into the anchorage where there were three other boats, all stern tied. We soon had Utopia stern anchored, dinghy down and Andrew, Tristan and I were off for a walk around town (Max and Ava had schoolwork to do). We passed a clothing store and Andrew was able to replace his board shorts that had ripped that morning. There are two supermarkets but the only fresh vegetables were carrots. By the time we returned to the dock Charisma and Distance Star were anchoring, leaving the bay pretty full.
There are actually two hikes on the island; one is to the Crucifix and a longer one, the ‘traversière’,is a trailthat starts from the village of Hakahau and joins the village of Hakahetau with great closeup views of the pinnacles. Our plan was to stay only one night as we had a weather window to get to Fatu Hiva, so we opted to do the Crucifix hike.
We met onshore at 4 pm when it had cooled down a bit with the other families. The kids chose to stay on the beach and set up their volleyball net to have a game. The adults, minus Chris who looked after the littles, (as they are often referred to) went on the hike.
The kids setting up up the net for a volleyball game
The Crucifix Hike is a 3 km round trip uphill to a cross; it does afford beautiful views over the pinnacles and the bay. While it is recommended to do the hike early morning, we went late afternoon and the clouds had cleared, giving amazing views of Mount Oave and the other pinnacles.
View as we walked up to the crucifix, pretty isn’t it.
Ashe and Luca relaxing below the cross and tolerating me taking yet another photo.
View over the bay from the crucifix.
The shrine below the crucifix.
We returned to the beach as a volleyball game against the locals was ending. The kids had been slaughtered, and it looked some volleyball skill practice might be needed.
Ua Poa is a great spot for a stop for a couple of days if you want to enjoy some of the hikes, the view or visit the small chocolate factory on a hike to the waterfall from Hakahetau.
Below is a map of the hike to the Crucifix and the ‘traversière’ if you want a copy you can use offline feel free to email me.
We sailed from Anaho Bay along the western side of Nuku Hiva and anchored in at Daniel’s Bay. The anchorage is beautiful surrounded by steep, rocky mountains. The kids walked the small white sandy beach looking for shells and shark teeth that apparently wash up on the shoreline. Tristan returned with an assorted shell collection.
We met Charisma and Distance Star onshore at 9 am for a hike to Vaipo falls. We followed the trail passed a couple of houses and found the sign about the fee of 1000 CFP ($10 US) for an adult and 500 CFP ($5 US) for a child but found no one around to pay. Charisma and Maia had been to the waterfall before, so they led this hike and we followed them along the uphill trail. We bumped into a local couple that Alexis had met in 2012 when they were here with their boat and she told us that she does lunch at her place, so we organised for lunch when we returned from the hike.
The hike took us about 2.5 hours up, through a couple of small rivers, passing many platforms of stone blocks that were probably once pae pae (base of homes that would have had timber and plant roofs) You need to look down as you walk as there are so many rocks and tree roots embedded in the pathway and with the drizzle of rain it does get a bit slippery. We finally reached a section with incredibly high cliffs and an almost narrow valley of knee-high wild grass before we finally reached the waterfall.
Alexis with a sleeping Leif on one of the many times she has carried him uphill over the past week. Photo 2: The first river crossing to reach the waterfall.
Photo 1: Kahlil waiting in a tree for everyone to catch up on the hike. Photo 2: The second river crossing required using a fallen tree to get across.
Vaipo Waterfall is at the bottom of Hakaui Valley and is the tallest waterfall in French Polynesia at a height of 350 meters high. The teens were super excited, and many had stripped off and were in the water in minutes. Leif was standing on a rock in the shallows of the water when some little crayfish nibbled on his feet and then an eel swam by and at this point, he was a little frightened. Tristan promptly followed into the water to photograph the crayfish but had missed the eel.
Photo 1: Leif directing Tristan as to where he had seen the eel and shrimp. Photo 2: Everyone returning from the waterfall. Photo 3: Tristan photographing shrimp in the water.
The waterfall itself was but a drizzle. Nuku Hiva had been suffering a drought until recently so the falls didn’t have a lot of water in them. There was enough that some of the kids and adults were able to swim and jump in and enjoy it.
If you look really closely you may see the trickle of the waterfall behind the boulders in the front.
Our hike back through the forest past fungi covered logs, lush greenery and even little tikis.
The hike back probably took us about an hour and a half to reach Tiki’s house where he was BBQ tuna steaks and flapping fresh herbs over them. We all sat down and relaxed while Tiki’s wife brought out fruit salad, various juice drinks, a mix of breadfruit and tapioca fries and then plates of fresh tuna. The meal was delicious, and we were all completely stuffed. Tiki told Andrew that there were lots of tiger sharks in the bay, so I don’t think we will be swimming, especially as the water is not clear anyway. The lunch was 1000 CFP or $10 US for an adult and 500 CFP or $5 US for a child and well worth the money.
Tiki cooking the tuna with fresh herbs on his BBQ. Us getting to enjoy the great meal.
The hiking trail. If you want the kml files to add to maps.me app that you can use offline send me an email.
While we had been warned that over the years the bays have been inundated with cruising yachts and with COVID-19 it peaked last year with 90 boats in Taiohae bay and that the locals were sick of cruisers and somewhat ambivalent to them. We found people were friendly; people waved as we walked by, kids high fived Andrew and waved from car windows and the lady at Larsons supermarket laughed every time I paid for something and used Spanish instead of French. The other bays around Nuku Hiva we found that the locals were a lot more welcoming and more willing to have a conversation.
The two closest small supermarkets or Magazins to the dinghy dock are Larssons and Kamake. I think Larssons has a larger selection. Larssons and Kamake has fresh baguettes and croissants if you get there early or reserve them, and they do sell out quick. Things start early on Nuku Hiva, people get their baguettes or fresh fruit and veg at 6 am.
Larssons and Kamake stock potatoes, onions, garlic, and most of the time in the fridge section you will find carrots, leeks (imported from NZ) and apples (again imported from NZ). On the front counters there are sometimes bags of fresh cucumbers, bok choy or something similar.
Between the two stores you can buy pretty much everything including things like quinoa, couscous, dried herbs. There are a lot of Australian/New Zealand brands particularly with the chips and biscuits (cookies) you will even find Tim tams. While you can pretty much buy anything, it will not be at the same price as Mexico, America, or Australia as you would expect with imported items.
If you look for the red dot items like on flour, pasta, tinned vegetables, chicken thighs and rolled beef, they are government subsidized and cheaper. So, if you forgot to stock up on something before leaving Panama or Mexico you should still be able to find it. There are a couple more supermarkets too they are just a further walk from the dinghy dock.
Price of a few items to give you an idea:
Can of sprite/coke $1.70 (coke sans sucre or coke zero $1.40)
Eggs $5 US for a dozen (Grande/large) eggs
Aerogard $4.20 (from Kamake it is not a red dot in Larssons and over double the price)
Tinned corn/peas – 0.67 CFP or 67 cents US
Rolled Beef (red dot special) and delicious cooked on the BBQ – 2 kg for 2100 CFP or about $10.50 US a kg
Flour – 119 or $1.19 per kg
Pasta – 112 CFP or $1.12 US for 500 grams
Potatoes – $2.90 kg
You can buy a sim card from Kevin who runs Nuku Hiva Yacht Services for about $80 US for 10 gb. Kevin also offers internet which you can use at the tables out front of his store, but it is not free anymore and he charges a daily rate of $7 US.
The little local café Tematapuaua, just down from Kevin’s also has Wi-Fi if you buy a drink, snack, or meal, we did find the internet there dropped in and out and took forever to load a page, and friends tried it on a different day and found the same thing.
Another alternative which we were alerted to by an Australian/Norwegian couple was the local library or bibliotheque. For 1000 CFP or $10 US you can get an annual subscription to the library and you are able to use their internet while the library is open. Ava and I did go to the library and join up as she had a lot of school to catch up with and it required internet. The internet worked fine, the later you go to the library the slower the internet is. If the librarian needed to make a call the internet is disconnected to do so. The librarians do get upset if you say you want to buy internet so ask if you can join the library and then you have free use of the Wifi which the periodically change the password to. The library is open the following hours: 7 am – 1 pm, Friday 7 am – 2.30 pm. The Wi-Fi is turned off once the library hours are finished.
Charisma a boat we met had used Moana to get a tattoo and were very happy with him. Seth (Charisma) kindly took us to show us where Moana is located. Yes, we did use Moana for tattoos. Moana has been tattooing since he was 11 years old and has done tattoos in Tahiti and in New Caledonia as well as where he is currently based in Nuku Hiva. Moana did tell us that he had a film crew coming to make a documentary on him the following week and it looks as though talent scouts could potentially recruit him for a tattoo parlour in Tahiti soon. From what we could work out the price of tattoos depends on how long it takes and is approximately $50 US per hour.
Tristan getting his tattoo done.
Fruit and Vegetables
The ladies set up fruit and vegetable tables on either side of the local café just near the dinghy dock. It is very hit and miss as to what you will find each day. There has been a drought until 6 weeks ago and so there have been limited supply particularly of vegetables. To give you an approximate idea of prices I have included a few:
Rambutan (a bunch with about 30 – 40) 400 or $4 US
Cabbage (small) 240 or $2.40 US
Mangoes – 5 small for 300 or $3 US or medium $100 or $1 each
Other items we have found there but not necessarily every day include cucumbers, watermelon, pineapple, my favourite passionfruit, chives, Pamplemousses, grapefruit, ginger, parsley, white carrots, bok choy or something similar, green beans, bags of small peppers, bags of limes, coconuts or capsicum, eggplants. We did not see tomatoes but when we first arrived Spruce did bring us a bag which Andrew thought were the best tomatoes he had ever eaten. Supposedly Saturday and Wednesday are the best market days, but we did not find that was necessarily the case, Monday seemed to be one of the better days. If you want things that are imported like potatoes, carrots, leeks, garlic, and apples you need to go to one of the Magazins.
Fresh fish is sold early in the mornings at the dinghy dock. We paid $5 US a kg for yellow fin tuna (2 pounds approx.) and often when 2 kg was purchased, they through in an extra half a kg. At times they also sell coral trout and mahi mahi.
Due to Covid Andrew and Tristan had been using Love and Luck’s clippers for haircuts and Ava and I had not had our hair cut in 16 months. Now that we are in French Polynesia and the COVID-19 risk is a lot lower here we decided it would be a good place for haircuts. Charisma told us about a hairdresser, Maria Haoatai. Andrew and Tristan went first to get their hair washed and cut for $25 US per person. Ava was very excited to get her hair cut, and I was also able to get mine cut and a few foils. Maria offers a full range of services, cut, colours, foils, blow dry and she also had a ready supply of bright colored temporary gels which are so popular with the teens. Maria has a saloon set up in her house and I have marked her location on a map. You can dinghy to the beach and it’s a three-minute walk to her place.
After being at sea and a two-week quarantine you may be looking forward to a night off cooking. Moana’s is a 20-minute walk from the dinghy dock and serves pizza and a variety of beverages including alcohol. The pizzas range from about 20 – 24 US for a large one.
Walking along the main road of Nuku Hiva you will eventually see a side road with an island with a cross on it, indicating the church further up the street. (or see the map) The church, the largest in the Marquesas was constructed between 1973 and 1977 and was done on the site of the previous church which had been built in 1848. The two bell towers and a section of the wall from the original church now serves as the entrance into the cathedral complex.
The cathedral’s entry doors are flanked by rosewood Marquesan style carved statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. While the walls of the church are made of wood and stone, what is interesting is that the stone used was brought from each of the inhabited islands in the Marquesas.
The kids have been dragged to so many churches and cathedrals over the years of travel they were more interested in looking at the nearby fruit trees than admiring the beautiful structure. We were not in the bay for a Sunday service.
On Tu Hiva Hill where a former fortress was constructed by an American to wage war against Britain, now stands the world’s largest and some say ugliest Tiki. The Tiki stands at 12 metres tall, and it was designed to represent the female figure depicted in Marquesas carvings. Beside the female Tiki is an 8-meter-tall male who has tattoos done in the Marquesas style. The statues are made of iron and concrete mostly and the outer layer is made of volcanic rock which is often used by local carvers on Nuku Hiva.
The female tiki has a hole in her bellybutton, which has become popular by locals to write a letter and insert it into the bellybutton. While we did not write a letter, Ava and I did wander around the statue and made a surprise discovery that the statue even had a vagina.
We did sit at one the stone tables and chairs that surround the Tiki and look out over the bay and mountains while enjoying our first sunset and freedom from quarantine.
Andrew and I went for a walk one evening and decided to take a closer look at the ancient site of Temeea Tohua which is on the main road in Taiohae. The square park is home to a series of statues some of which have alien like appearances. Why would the Marquesans have carved alien like figures? Some believe that when the first settlers who came from Samoa some 2 000 years ago may have had an alien encounter and that may be the reason that the figures have long heads and large eyes. Other archaeologists believe that early Marquesans may have worshipped a Reptilian deity and that is why the look otherworldly. Either way they don’t look particularly human.
Alien Life form or a Reptilian deity?
The statues feature big eyes, large elongated heads with some featuring a small body while others have huge bodies, and other several strange looking features that make you wonder what could have inspired the ancient inhabitants to carve such non-human features?
Dinghying ashore during low tide in the bay allows you to see all the things you miss during high tide like the stingrays and baby black tip reef sharks of which we saw a few. Eventually everyone arrived onshore, and we began the trek, one local family told us it was 30 to 45 minutes to reach the bay. It was definitely slower than that. Alexis and Chris carried their younger two on the way up and I have to tell you it was a steep incline.
Anaho Bay during low tide. Andrew practicing his grandparenting skills. (we are not going to be grandparents anytime soon)
Finally, reaching the top of the mountain we were afforded with fantastic views over Anaho Bay. We stopped for a break, while some people climbed to the top of the rock on one side and Kahlil relaxed in one of the trees. Eventually we continued downhill along a path lined with pandanus trees, purple wildflowers and the trees with the red seed beads that they make jewellery from.
Walking along the road into Hatiheu you can see the basalt needles in the background the first of which has Madonna perched on the top. The Madonna was constructed by missionary Brother Michel Blanc in 1872. Brother Michel Blanc had wanted to build a catholic church, but the villagers were at war with neighboring tribes at the time so there was no labour available to carve the stone blocks, so instead he came up with the idea of creating the statue of Madonna.
It was a pretty amazing feat considering Brother Michel would have had to scale 400 meters to the top of needle as there is no pathway, many times during the 12-month period of construction, and his unique choice of resources to build it. Michel used breadfruit to form the shape and then lime to create the statues details and to cover the creation, all of which he had to carry to the top of the rock. He used coral branches to fashion her crown and to decorate the foot of the pedestal.
The war between the tribes ended and the church was finally constructed in 1879.
The beautiful church in this picturesque village.
After stopping at one of the small supermarkets for refreshments where Andrew learned from a local that a tour group of 70 people were coming to the local restaurant for lunch we ventured on. It was another hike up a different hill to reach to first of the three archaeological sites, which make up the largest excavated area in Nuku Hiva. Restoration work took place in 1998 and was led by archaeologist Pierre Otiina.
The first site we visited was Tohua de Hikokua and Sacrificial Stone. Dating back to the 13th century, this was essentially a large ‘town square’ where the valley’s former residents (estimated in the thousands) used to gather for large ceremonies.
Our hot and tired group at the first archaeological site.
The statues at this site are probably the best we have seen of the sites we have visited in Nuku Hiva. There are two side by side on the right-hand side that are particularly in good condition. One is clearly of human sacrifice where the main statue is holding a smaller person with his head tilted back. The other statue of a male with a female on either side depicts polygamy. Intriguingly the polygamy statue has two heads sitting under each of the woman, not sure on their significance.
The two most impressive statues at the site. The first represents polygamy and the 2nd a child being sacrificed.
And a few more statues…
Towards the end of the site is a large platform which is the sacrificial stone. (Marked on the map) The site sits in the shadow of the basalt spires, perhaps the reason for its chosen location.
What a fabulous spot for the sacred/ceremonial site.
We continued uphill to see the other two sites. On our way up we could hear the rhythmic beating of drums, Alexis and I were rather excited as we hoped that there was a special performance on at the site that we may be able to see. The closer we got the more cars were parked along the side of the road. One of the locals told us the cruise ship was in town and that there was indeed a special performance on and that we could join. We hurriedly, as you can with 16 people made our way to where the locals were performing in front of the largest banyan tree on the site, estimated to be 600-year-olds.
Curiously, the performance was more reminiscent of the New Zealand Haka than what we expected of a Polynesian dance. We were very fortunate to see the show, with Covid-19 I do not imagine there will be many other opportunities.
Dancing and singing, Marquesas style.
We began our tour by visiting the restored Tohua Tahakia, one of the biggest in the Marquesas, as well as some pae pae. There was a tiki and a carved turtle on one of the rocks. There were a few pits around the site which presumably held breadfruit, the staple of the diet back then. Interestingly Chris noticed that on some of the blocks had carved circular pits with a diameter of about 3 inches. We speculated that perhaps they were used to hold some kind of candle during ceremonies.
The pae pae, a tiki and a carved turtle.
Once the tour had left, we returned to the banyan tree to take a closer look. At the rear of the tree is a mana hole, which held sacrifices or taboo objects. At the foot of the largest banyan is a deep pit, presumably dug to hold the remains of sacrifices or for taboo objects.
Ashe and Luca in front of the 600 year old banyan tree. The big hole at the foot of the tree was used for sacrifices, human ones and taboo items.
Some of us continued up higher in search of the petroglyphs that are found on some of the larger rocks. We did find ones of turtles, fish and people.
Petroglyph photos are of men, a fish and a turtle.
So began our trek back, where we stopped at a different supermarket to buy what we could to throw together some lunch before we began the super long and hot trek back to the boats. We walked about 15 km according to Makawi’s watch today. Klein who is only 6 did a fabulous job with the hike, as did his parents carrying the two little ones for quite a bit of the trail.
Our long, hot hike back.
The exuberant teens still had energy to burn and stayed onshore, where they were joined by the local teen for another game of volleyball, I believe some of the adults later joined in too. It was a great hike and worth the effort.
You may wonder why we didn’t just anchor in the bay of Hatiheu and do the hike from there? Well, we were told by other cruisers and locals that the bay is very rocky and landing the dinghy ashore can be difficult. I think it would be possible if the weather was co-operative and we could have probably done it today.
I have included a photo of the map we used, if you want a downloadable one that you can use offline to guide you feel free to email me. The map is accurate.