“Nuku Hiva? Where in the world is that??”
As we get further from home, the places and names become less and less familiar. When I call home to check in with my parents, it usually prompts them to get Google Maps pulled up on their computers so that they can visually see where in the world we’ve brought their grandchildren!!
The Marquesas Islands are the northernmost of the South Pacific, consisting of 10 main islands. Only six of these islands are inhabited today - Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, and Ua Huka in the northwest, and Hiva Oa, Tahuata, and Fatu Hiva to the southeast. The islands lie at about the same latitude of The Solomons and are roughly 1,400 km northeast of Tahiti. Have you even ever heard of these places? Probably not, unless you are a geography buff or a blue water sailor. As we are studying about the landscapes, people, and history of these remote islands, I realize that we are seeing places most people will never get to see. (I also realize that Elizabeth and Michael will have an uncanny knowledge of remote island geography, but the names of our fifty United States might elude them!)
One of our favorite of the Marquesas Islands has been Nuku Hiva. It is one of the larger islands, so the main village has many of the basic necessities - internet, bank, post office, and grocery store. After almost a month without internet, the small internet cafe near the dock was a popular cruiser hangout. The slow bandwidth couldn’t really handle all the eager boaters, so Mark would wake up at odd hours in order to get a more speedy connection without all the traffic. The main bay on the southern side of the island was filled with kid boats, and it was a good opportunity for the kids to play with friends.
However, after about a week, the customs officials came by our boat to warn us about the large swell that was forecasted to come into the bay in the next day or two, so we opted to head around to Anaho Bay on the northern side to avoid an uncomfortable weather change. It turned out to be a fantastic getaway. The bay was tucked in among high peaks, inhabited by only a few local families.
One day after school, the kids went to the beach and I went on a hike with my friend, Sara, from s/v Loch Marin. The lower level parts of the hike were infested with tiny, tickling ants that would swarm our feet if we stopped. They didn’t bite often, but created quite an incentive to KEEP MOVING! Which is exactly what I needed as the hike got steeper and steeper.
Eventually, we were above the ‘ant line’ and entered into the mango trees. Soft, rotten mangoes covered the trail, but every once in a while we were delighted to find a newly fallen mango that we stuffed into our backpacks. Tantalizing mangoes hung from the trees, tempting me to climb rocks and use a stick to knock down even more! It is amazing how desperate we have become for fresh produce!! In the southern anchorage, we had woken up at 5 a.m. to be among the first shoppers at the small produce market, just to replenish our stores. Most of our fresh provisions were gone, and it will be a while before we get to another major urban area with large grocery stores.
Past the mango trees, we were again rewarded for our efforts as the forest opened up to reveal gorgeous aerial views of the anchorage. What a sight to see!
Meanwhile, Mark and a couple of the guys got geared up and took a dinghy to the mouth of the bay for some spear fishing. When they returned, they’d speared two beautiful grouper and were showing them off to the people on the beach. One sailor mentioned ciguatera, a neurotoxin that comes from algae and is contracted by eating certain reef fish. Just to be safe, we headed to the nearest hut and asked the locals if the fish was safe. With one glance, they shook their heads and very clearly said, “Ciquatera.” Well, we couldn’t argue with that, and we surely weren’t going to take any chances. Mark sadly dumped the fish back into the sea, hoping they could survive their spear wounds. Through further research we have learned that French Polynesia reports the most cases of ciguatera each year! No more spearfishing for a while, I guess! We’ll just stick to catching the blue water fish with the rod and reel.
One of our favorite encounters in Anaho Bay was with a group of large manta rays. Here is Michael’s journal about that experience…
One morning in Nuku Hiva, our friends from Loch Marin came to tell us that there were big manta rays in the bay. So we hopped in the dinghy and drove over to see them. Right when we got there, they surrounded us! It was amazing to see! Their fins went up and down. They are black on top and white on the bottom. Manta rays do not harm people. We were lucky to see manta rays so close.Finally, here is our video of the Pacific Crossing. It is lower resolution than normal as it took two full days to upload here in Nuku Hiva. Enjoy!