Fri. July 23, Taiohae Bay, Nuka Hiva. The Bird Dance and an early morning boat dance

What a night viewing the Marquesan dancing! Sue noted that this was our third Friday night at Heiva (Fete) celebrations, and this evening's theme was the bird dance. People dressed up in elaborate costumes, and drums beat out a rhythm to traditional singing while the soloists did their interpretive dancing representing birds, their feeding, mating rituals and flight. We watched wonderful displays of balance and coordination, and the audience cheered and clapped thru each group's dance. Two MC's narrated in French and Marquesan. It occurred to me that it was very impressive that so many young people participated in these dances; we think five years old was the youngest dancer; the majority of dancers were teenagers; all sizes and weights, and all actively involved in the performance. Most were elaborately tatooed; all wore grass or palm costumes, headbands and colorful necklaces of tooth, shell or feather. Many people in the audience were busy taking flash photos; it all ended too soon. A local band then took over; people danced, but we couldn't figure why one of their songs was "Feliz Navidad!" - maybe they're getting ready a bit early around here! The next morning (Sat. July 24) we awoke early for the weekly Sat. 0400-0600 farmers market. M didn't make it in as he had fended off a neighboring boat that had dragged down on us and would have hit our stern and self-steering vane had he not gently pushed the other vessel's radar arch away; fortunately the winds were gentle or the outcome would have been different. He stayed to ensure that a repeat bump would not occur, and at first light the single-hander woman captain of the boat came over by dinghy to let us know her windlass was broken, so we moved Infini to another location and all's well.

July 20 - Walking with the elders - a hike to the waterfall

We left early to make the high tide into the river and tied our dinghy to a boat owned by a local Marquesan named Ma'i, who lives on the waterfront in the small cove called Hakaui Bay adjacent to and west of Hakatea (also known as Daniel's) Bay. We had picked up Rich and Jan of sv Slip Away and hiked the several kilometers in beautiful forest to Vaipo waterfall, allegedly the third highest waterfall in the world. There was a pool at the bottom of it, and the water was, as expected, c-o-l-d. Sue, Rich and Jan climbed just a bit more to the cavern by the falls, which was a small trickle of its powerful state. We watched the tropic birds in their graceful flight land in the outcroppings of the towering walls above us. After eating lunch, we slowly made our way back thru the woods. Rock cairns marked the path, which went thru ancient areas of rock structures that we think represented building sites. Stone tohua (meeting places), me'ae (Marquesan equivalent of marae, where religious ceremonies were performed), pae pae (stone platforms that were used as foundations for ancient Marquesan houses), and ti'i(known elsewhere as tiki).Passion fruit, mango and noni fruits littered the path, while the biggest danger was falling coconuts (seriously). M walked point and stayed ahead of the rest of us, talking to the rocks and trees, and paying his respects to all the Native elders who went before us and requesting safe passage thru their lands.

July 17 - Daniel's Bay

We raised anchor and sailed the five miles west to well protected Taioa Bay (Hakatea), known by most as Daniel's Bay--named after the friendly Marquesan and his wife Antoinette (now deceased). We were surprised to be the only boat here, but by day's end, six sailboats were anchored for the night. The bay is more protected from the ocean swells; you feel like you're in a 'bowl' with the high cliffs and lush valleys encircling the bay. We hiked half of the 2+hr. walk to the Vaipo waterfall, the third highest in the world (according to Charley's Charts). We were just out for a stretch of the legs and not prepared for a full day event, as we'll make the trip again when some other friends of ours arrive. The landscape is amazing here. Fruit is abundant; mangoes and bananas hanging from trees; passion fruit, Noni fruit, citrus trees...the gardening and farming is well kept up. We've found free roaming chickens and roosters on every island that's inhabited, and horses loosely tethered to a rich grazing area. M spotted wild goats in the higher crags of some surrounding mountains.

July 14 Heiva Celebrations; Fete, Taiohae, Nuka Hiva

We spent Bastille Day starting in the early morning assisting an English yacht (Magic Bus) with engine troubles. Three of us anchored boats took our dingies out and hip towed the 49' boat to the anchorage. (Later worked on by an American yachtie who was an electrician, it turned out this boat had lots of electrical issues - the starter was fried along with the starter solenoid, and the windlass and generator had also failed; the boat had been on passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas). Activities ashore began with commemorative ceremonies and were followed by a colorful parade consisting of pick-up trucks that were decorated with flowers and palm fronds, and that had bands playing in the back as they slowly drove down the waterfront; beautiful horses ridden by tattooed locals that pranced and stepped to show off their training as they moved along; groups of various traditionally dressed folks (adults and children) who stopped by the reviewing stand and sang for the dignitaries; and a benediction before the entire parade broke up for a break before food was served. Covered open tents had been set up the day before, and tables of food were served to everyone for the taking; people were lined up 4-5 deep helping themselves to the free sandwiches, fruits and deserts...all you could eat. We had bought some "street meat," which we were pretty sure was roasted pig on a skewer (100 ff per) and went inside to sit down and order beers at one of the restaurants located inside the pavilion area. More traditional dancing took place and the entire area filled up quickly. The yachties were easily identified, and our table kept expanding as other crews wandered in. After a few hours of eating and socializing, we returned to Infini for a rest, and gathered later in the afternoon aboard a Dutch boat (Blue Penguin) for Happy Hour before returning to shore for the evening's activities. Once again, traditional dancing took place, and we only wished there had been an interpreter to explain the Marquesan songs and dances. When the troupe finally finished, a local band began playing, and we danced a bit before finally returning to the boat. What a great day; colorful, lots of activities and socializing, and beautiful weather!

July 11 - Taiohae Bay

I've heard that the singing alone was worth going to Sunday Mass at many of the Catholic Church's in the Marquesas. Forget that you can't understand a word- since it's in the local dialect-which is similar to Hawaiian and totally different from Tahitian. The acapella harmonizing was out of this world- no instrumental accompaniment needed. The Cathedral suits the landscape, and the Marquesan wood carving art work was a sight to behold. The crucifix as well as the stations of the cross were all locally hand carved; the alter a simple slab of stone. None of the overdone opulence I'm used to seeing; no stained in simplicity, the open rafters and overhangs keeping it well ventilated and cool.
Another thing not to be missed is the traditional Marquesan 'body art', ie tattoos. We were happy to see our single hander friend Keith on Atalanta here, and he was interested in getting his first tattoo. He was disappointed to learn they are no longer administered in the traditional manor of etching with a sharks tooth! We were pointed in the direction of the local artist named Brice (pronounced Breeze), and accompanied Keith to his appointment. He now has a beautiful permanent souvenir, as do many other sailors who have come this way.
So, we've been enjoying meeting folks from all over...taking turns with sun-downers on different boats. We had 11 in our lasted a bit past sundown - 10 pm saw the lst dinghy leaving! A good time was had by all!

July 7 - Nuka Hiva

What a nice day we had today. We started off hiking towards the fuel docks in a gentle rise of paved road that had a few switchbacks and ended up back in town. There were nice views from above the bay of the anchored boats although there was a slight rain falling. We then stopped for fresh tuna sushimi and croisson poi for an early lunch. We hit the grocery store (seems it's become a daily visit) and did a bit of provisioning. In the afternoon we returned to Nuka Hiva Yacht Services located right by the dinghy dock. This outfit is run by a local named Moetai, and can arrange tours, car rentals, fuel delivery to your boat, taxis to the airport, laundry and other yacht related services. As of this writing, wash and dry is 1000 ff per load. The local fisherman had just come in and were filleting their catch (snapper, wahoo and a few other fish I couldn't identify) at their tables in front of the dinghy dock, so we bought 4 kilos of wahoo (500 ff per kilo). Fresh wahoo and tuna sashimi the same day - how good does it get? The rain has been intermittant and according to Moetai, a welcome change from the dry conditions that have prevailed for the last several months.

July 6 - Taiohae, Nuka Hiva

Nuka Hiva (pop. 2600) is the second largest island in French Polynesia (after Tahiti). It has varied terrain, from steep wind swept cliffs to lush river valleys and deep bays to a third of the island being desert. The main town of Taiohae serves as the capitol for all of the Marquesas. (Only six of the fifteen islands are inhabited). It is also where Herman Melville (Typee) jumped ship in 1842 and hid out near the village of Taipivai.

In between drying the boat out, cleaning, and even recaulking a few deck and rail fittings, we've walked the waterfront road. On the road heading east is the hospital, P.O. and gendarme, and going west are found many small stores (magazins), stalls, a bank with ATM, artisan boutiques and historical sites. We found Rose Corser at her Museum/Boutique. She settled here with her husband Frank (now deceased) after many years of sailing, opened an Inn and has been a friend to cruisers ever since. She sold out to a Tahiti conglomerate 3 yrs. ago and is building another Inn/Restaurant which will be adjacent to her Museum/ Boutique. Two evenings ago we went to the cultural center to watch a part of the celebrations leading up to the July 14th Fete celebrated throughout French Polynesia. Locals perfomed traditional dances in native costumes and singing and drums accompanied the troupes from the various villages of the island. It was very well attended and we really enjoyed the display, even though we didn't understand the MC's explanations - it was all in Polynesian!
There's a lot of history, culture, and traditions to read and learn about...and many different bays to explore. We'll be watching the weather for any subtle changes in the easterly winds, to prepare for departure to check out other locations.

July 2 - Infini is safely anchored at Taiohae Bay (Nuka Hiva, Marquesas)

Position: lat08deg54min;long140deg06min. We had a difficult 6 day passage in high winds and rough seas from Fakarava to the Marquesas. We had hoped to stop in Fatu Hiva first, but the weather was so contrary it was not to be. We arrived at Nuka Hiva at dawn, and experienced more squally conditions typical of this last week. We also experienced engine trouble again, but that was fixed just in time to motor sail the last few miles to windward and get to the anchorage. Last night we, once again, saw the Southern Cross, and I couldn't help but think of the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of that same title, and how we were experiencing a magical night, even if the winds were a constant 25 knots with higher gusts, and the seas were 10-12 feet and rough. So, we'll be exploring the Marquesas for the next 8 weeks or so and will continue to update our blog entries about these fabled islands. Right now it's relaxation time...