Daniel’s Bay and Vaipo Falls – 26 – 27/5/2021

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.

Taiohea Bay – Provisioning and Things to Do in the Local Area

Locals

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.

Supermarket

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

Internet

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.

Tattoos

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.

Fish Market

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.

Hairdresser

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.

Moana’s Pizza

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.

Map will be added next time I have internet.

Other things to see or do in Taiohea Bay:

Notre-Dame Cathedral

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.

Tiki Tuhiva

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. 

Temehea Tohua or Piki Vehine

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?

Hike from Anaho Bay to Hatiheu and the Archaeological Sites – 25/5/2021

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.

Depending on which bay you anchor in will determine your trail. If you anchor in Anaho Bay you will do both the yellow followed by the orange trail. If you anchor in Hatiheu you would only do the orange trail.

Anaho Bay – 23 – 25/5/2021

We spent three days in the beautiful Anaho Bay, surrounded by a steep mountain, and rocky spires shaped similar to the buttresses in a cathedral. 

We snorkeled in several spots in the bay and there is one spot marked with a buoy in front of where most of the boats anchor which seems to be the spot that the manta rays are attracted too.  We (except Max) snorkeled with the manta rays, one was curious about Ava and I and swam around us a few times, one time it turned 90 degrees and swam sideways to us showing us its white belly.  The water is not the clearest, but better than Taiohea.  Tristan spent hours and hours snorkeling and found lots of nudibranchs, flatworms, eels, sharks, and octopus to hold his interest.

Charisma went ashore on the first afternoon in the bay and met the family who run the pension/restaurant and booked for dinner.  They invited Distance Star and us along.  The family run restaurant has the grandmother (who looks maybe 50) as the chef and her daughter serves, and her granddaughter helped to clear the tables.  We had a delicious dinner of goat curry with rice and breadfruit fries, while Charisma had tuna instead of the curry.  During dinner two local men sat nearby and serenaded us with their instruments and singing.  The tables are set up on the beach which gave the little ones a chance to run around and play.

Day 2 in the bay involved more snorkeling.  The Distant Star boys took their volleyball net ashore, and the teens played volleyball while we walked along the beach track and back.  By the time we had returned the owner of the restaurant had come down to where the kids were playing with her own volleyball net (bigger and stronger) and set it up.  She and her 14-year-old daughter and friend joined the teens for a volleyball game.  Eventually the adults joined in.  There was a lot of fun and laughter throughout the game.  The daughter and her friend asked me to take some photos of them playing volleyball which I gladly did and told them I would print them out and bring them to shore the following day.

And a few more volleyball photos.

Controller’s Bay and a Hike to Tiki Paeke – 22/5/2021

After a quick top-up of baguettes and fresh fruit and vegetables, we finally left Taiohae behind and headed for Controllers Bay.  We anchored off the second lobe of the three in the bay before heading ashore.  Tristan, Andrew, and I decided to explore the town while it was high tide and went up the river for a walk. 

The view as you dinghy up the river.

The village of Taipivai is set in the lush valley of Taipivai which was once home to a formidable and feared tripe called Taipi.  When Merman Melville, the author of Moby Dick jumped ship off a whaling boat, he became a voluntary prisoner of the tribe for 4 weeks.  At the time of him imprisonment the tribe was known to have been cannibals, but Melville was well looked after during his stay and would later write the novel Typee about his experiences there.

We did not see any formidable tribe members only a quiet sleepy town, with the occasional passing car and one local collecting mangoes from his tree, the only other visible inhabitants were the four-legged variety: horses and dogs.  We did see a site with tikis and pae pae but the entrance gates were securely locked.  After looking at all the fruiting trees, noni, bananas, Pamplemousses, lemons and limes we returned to the boat.

By the time we had finished lunch we were radioed by Distant Star with a weather report of unfavourable winds in the coming days.  We decided to do the hike to the waterfall and tikis in the afternoon so that we were ready to head to Anaho Bay in the morning before conditions worsened.  We decided to risk it and go upriver even though the tide would be changing. It was a challenging river entrance with the tide and current, but we eventually docked the dinghies and were ready for the hike, except the tour guide (me) left her phone, with the map for the hike behind on the charger, failure number 1!

Distance Star brave the surf and outgoing tide to go up the river.

We bumped into Charisma and Alexis, Seth, Klein, and Leif joined us for our hike to the waterfall.  We figured how hard could it be to find, both sites are off the main road. The teen boys took it in turns of giving Leif a piggyback ride on the hike.  After 30 minutes walking on a slight incline, I flagged a passing local car for the waterfall and tiki directions.  The waterfall is straight ahead, and the tiki site was at his house, which we had already passed.  Mmmm what to do?

View of the valley on our hike

I flagged the next passing car, and we were told the waterfall was a 4-hour hike.  We quickly realised that Andrew and I wouldn’t make it, and neither would Leif (3 years old) or Kline (6 years old).  So, we inquired about the Tiki site and were told to go back 500 metres and look for the yellow house and it was an hour uphill.

We found the correct driveway and after asking a few of the neighbours we found the very overgrown pathway.  It was a bit of a hike uphill but nothing like the hike up to the observation point we had done two days previous.  Ashe and Kahlil led the way and found the overgrown tiki site.

The site dates to the 16th century and consists of several platforms and is home to a few largish tikis. The tikis have suffered years of erosion and their features are somewhat ambiguous. The Paeke Me’ae was excavated and restored in the 1950s by American archaeologists, to extract the ruins from the forest.  The path does not look like it is used very often and the site itself was very overgrown with grass.

Most of our group at the bottom platform

I had recalled that there were at least three platforms however we could only see two.  The first platform is on your left as you enter the site and is surrounded by several deteriorating tikis.  We took a few photos and some of the teens went to look at the mango tree while the rest explored the site further.

The teens exploring the bottom terrace or recovering from the hike uphill.

On the right-hand side are two joined upper platforms, the terraces are slowly collapsing at the edges.  There are three tikis embedded in the walls, one of which is missing its head and the other two remain standing sentries amongst the walls. 

Ashe and Leif as we explored the 2nd and 3rd platforms of the site.

This prompted part of our group (Ashe, Ilo, Alexis and Klein) to go in search for the fourth platform.  While waiting down lower the kids plucked a couple of mangoes from the tree on the site to eat and entertained themselves.  Finally, Ilo returned and when asked where the others were, he replied he traded the women and children with the cannibals (known to have inhabited the island a long time ago) which provided much amusement.  Eventually, everyone reunited with the platform still unaccounted for.  Now that I have my phone, I realise that the fourth platform was in fact the slope of the mountain.  Mmm, I guess that phone would have been handy after all.

Andrew among the tikis.

The kids had well and truly grown tired of the site and we started heading downhill.  Within a few minutes of leaving the site, there was a huge thud behind me.  I turned around and took a few minutes to comprehend what had happened.  Ilo had been hit on the head by a coconut which had fallen from an extremely tall coconut tree and the thud was it hitting his head.  I am still not sure how he was still standing.  Everyone promptly asked if he was okay and were told it wasn’t that heavy.  Ilo picked up the coconut and I held it, it felt plenty heavy to me and falling from that height I think he was a very lucky person.  A lot of teenage male pride entered and Ilo insisted to his very worried mum that he was okay and set off downhill.  Ilo bravely carried on and hid how painful the incident was.  It is very easy to understand how people have died from incidents like that.  I will admit I would not have been as calm or been able to carry on like he did.  Just to reassure you, he is okay.  He did have blurry vision, had a headache, and couldn’t remember exactly how he got back but he is okay.  Ilo is one tough teen! (Wild boy Ilo)

Ilo with the offending coconut

Just to finish of the trip, they say things happen in threes, well it is true.  It turns out that it is true that you can only go up the river during high tide.  Our return trip meant we did get stuck on the bottom, multiple times and did involve us all disembarking and pulling the dinghy at one point, and Alexis did suggest I should get a photo, in between her laughter at the situation.  We finally reached the entrance to the river where everyone went ashore and Tristan and Max rowed our dinghy, Luka rowed Distance Star and Chris and some local kids moved Charisma through the entrance and then it was all hands-on as we had to manoeuvre dinghies through the surf to return to our boats.

Everyone scrambling to remove the shoes to help push the dinghy over the shallows. Tristan and Max rowed the dinghy to the river mouth.

I guess you cannot say sailing is not an adventure!

Here is an interesting fact on the Marquesas.  It is believed that the Marquesas had a population of about 80 000 prior to the arrival on Europeans.  By 1926 the population had been ravaged by European diseases and only 2 094 survived, 9 of which inhabited the Taipivai valley we just visited.

Do I recommend the hike and anchorage?  The anchorage does have two taps to get fresh water, and it is a calm anchorage compared to Taiohae.  It has several small magasins (supermarkets) and as long as you go up the river to the dock during high tide you should be alright.  However, if you are on a 3-month visa to French Polynesia I would probably skip this bay.  The hike was okay, but the archaeological site wasn’t in the best shape and the trail is not well maintained, but part of the charm is in managing to find it.

Tohua Koueva – 20/5/2021

We did a hike into the Haavao Valley to visit the Tohua Koueva Archaeological Park with Distant Star and some members of Charisma. Our plan to leave at 7am was delayed due to sleeping teenage boys (not mine for a change) and we ended up leaving the dock at about 7:45. The site is about 3 km uphill and not too steep a climb. I had mapped out the route using GPS coordinates and satellite images but instead of trusting my route, we followed where the map indicated it was, which led us in circles. We ended up using my original route and lo and behold it was right. 

Tohua Koueva was restored for the 1999 Marquesas Festival. The site was believed to have belonged to the war chief Pakoko who was killed by the French in 1845. The site is a large rectangular field that has a giant banyan tree in the centre. It is surrounded by refurbished huts, called paepae. What are paepae? They are stone platforms used for ceremonies with a covered roof. Around the site are ancient carved stone tikis.

The paepae surrounding the giant banyan tree.

Ilo and Ava with their new friend.

One of the highlights of the sight is a moai (Easter Island head) it was apparently donated by the Rapa Nui of Easter Island for the Festival in 1999. It is reminiscent of the statue from the Night of the Museum movies.

Makawi, Ilo, Seth and Tristan with the Moai. What handsome young men! I think you may need the hat more than the Moai though Ilo.

I managed to convince Kahlil (tarzan) to swing on one of the vines and I would snap a photo of him.  Its nice to have someone a bit younger and more cooperative in our group for photos.

From the archaeological site the path continues further uphill, only about 1.5 km but it is steep and rocky and with the frequent showers of rain it can get a little bit slippery. The route has lots of fruiting trees and vines; passionfruit, starfruit, mangoes, bananas, pamplemousse and noni. 

We got to within 200 metres of the viewpoint before we were intersected by a French yachtie who also seems to have a garden on the hill. He rather insistently told us to go back and not go any further. We discussed it, I think Andrew and I would have continued on the path as it’s a public pathway, but everyone was a little hesitant so we turned back. We suspect that this is the area they grow the marijuana and perhaps that’s why they didn’t want us to come there.

The hike back down was much quicker, and I will admit we were all pretty tired by the time we reached the bottom, except maybe the teenage boys.

Julie and Steph when you get here next year stop at the archaeological site.

Walking distance:  3 km (one way) to the Tiki Site and about 1.45 km further to reach the observation point (steep uphill).
Elevation min: 18 meters max: 478 meters
Type: One way

I am happy to email anyone who wants a downloadable file KML file to add to maps.me app so you can use it offline while in the Marquesas.

Nuku Hiva

Passage and Arrival

Why are we choosing to cross the Pacific during COVID-19? There is a list of reasons the most important being its our only choice. Australia’s restriction of 15 people per flight – and at a cost of $8000 pp and up – has made it impossible to get back without sailing.  The world is heading to requiring vaccines to be able to travel which is not available in Mexico for Australians. Combined with the risk of catching Covid in Mexico with our pre-existing conditions, we made the decision to go.

We left Tenacatita, Mexico on April 13th with the prospect of light winds ahead. Why did we leave with that kind of forecast, you may ask? We didn’t have a lot of choice. We obtained our approval to go to French Polynesia back in December and since then the rules have changed considerably to the point that if you don’t make your dates within 7 days you have to reapply.  To avoid not being able to go to French Polynesia, we had to go.

This is the one passage we have really not been looking forward to in 11 years, with just the sheer length of what was awaiting ahead. We have successfully managed to find islands to stop at across our other ocean passages so that we had only spent 8 days at sea at a time. Unfortunately, this time the closest island is 2 800 nm away. 

The passage was boring and involved constant sail adjustments and/or course adjustments, lots of sail slapping due to the light winds and motoring at very low revs (we used 2.2 litres an hour of fuel we usually motor much faster and use a lot more diesel) As we approached the doldrums there were squalls, rain and lightning. Fun!

We have heard from friends who have done this journey, how great the fishing was, so we had very high expectations. Andrew and Tristan did catch three small tuna, but compared to our Indian Ocean crossing where we caught so many yellow fin tunas it was disappointing. We did see fishing boats and one got quite close, even though we were 9 days into our passage.  It looks like the Pacific Ocean has been overfished.

So, what did we do during the passage? Not school. We baked and cooked, everyone participated, and we ate really well, Max managed to gain 3 kg during the passage, but he is so skinny you would never know.  I read a lot, the kids watched movies, read, played computer games, and wrote. 

The single best entertainment for the kids though was the emails they received on the satellite phone. There was always so much excitement when the phone was checked as to see whom had received emails.  Heidi, Lucy, and Sally (Love and Luck) and Riley and Ada (Arena) emailed the kids daily sometimes several times a day sharing what was going on in their lives, providing encouragement and motivation. Likewise, I received many emails from Julie. So, a big thank you Love and Luck and Arena girls for all your emails, we will be there encouraging you guys along next year when you go across the Pacific.

We were travelling with Distance Star during the passage, so for a lot of the trip we were within radio contact and spoke several times a day to discuss weather, our route or just general chit chat.  When we didn’t have radio contact, we used the Iridium to message with each other. It was great to have someone so nearby, especially during the doldrums with the squalls.

The most excitement during the passage was when we had a booby sit on the bow of the boat.  He stayed with us for a few days and was named Bobby by Ava and Tristan. It would occasionally fly off, I assume to fish, but always came back. Even with rough seas Bobby stayed on. Eventually, by about day 12, Bobby decided to stretch his wings and go. Tristan was very disappointed not to have something to look at during his watches.

We finally got in on the 4th of May into Taiohae just before midnight and there were about 10 mast lights visible, it was a bit of a shock when we woke up to find about 40 boats in the anchorage. I guess not everyone bothers with their lights.

The rule for boats arriving in French Polynesia during COVID-19 is that if there is 5 or more people on board you must quarantine for 14 days or get a COVID-19 test. We had discussed the COVID-19 test option throughout the passage and for us it would cost about $1300 AU so we weren’t sure if we were going to do it or not.  As it happened on our first day there were two other boats that had nursing staff coming to their boats for the COVID-19 test and we decided we would do it too. Kevin, from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, thought we would get the results either on Friday or Monday. The negative results finally came in on Tuesday morning and then it had to go to another government department for approval before we were finally free to leave the boat on Wednesday afternoon after 8 days in quarantine. Was it worth the covid-19 test? Yes, the last 24 hours we were all grumpy and desperate to get off the boat. As I’m writing this on April 19th Distance Star have just finished their 14 days quarantine having missed getting a Covid-19 test by a couple of hours and I know how hard that quarantine was for those guys.

Our first 12 days in Taioa bay involved many sleepless nights, the bay has been rocky like La Cruz in Mexico. Thankfully, the last couple of days the anchorage has been flat, and we have been able to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Our first thought on arriving is ‘green’ after being in Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, for two years in the desert surrounded by brown. It is so nice to see green everywhere.

A huge thank you to Andrew who did a fantastic job ensuring we got there safely.  Also to Tristan, Max and Ava who changed the sails, did watches and helped with the cooking.  Stay tuned as we explore the Marquesas! 

This is the world’s largest Tiki, some also say the ugliest. Yes Tristan’s beard is new and Heidi and I are trying to convince him to shave it off.