About a week after our Green Coco raffle, the Marquesan school kids went to Chile. (The Green Coco community fundraised nearly $2100 to gift to the non-profit Motu Haka, which is coordinating the school kids’ marine reserves. Read more on our post her)
The Hatiheu valley is a “power spot”. Giant banyan trees flank the end of a valley, with a perimeter of rock ridges that are sharp as dragon spines. By now, we know that we can expect to find the remnants of ancient Polynesian villages in this kind of place: it is full of mana.
We decided not to take Aldebaran to Hatiheu, on the north coast of Nuku Hiva, due to time constraints.
Instead we scored a car ride with Josephine, who was born and raised in Hatiheu. “I’m a special education teacher, I’ve never given a tour before,” she warned us with a laugh. We loaded the Hilux pickup truck with our crew mates (Matt, Diyana, and Melanie) and went on a drive around the island.
Three guests were dropped off at the Pearl Lodge in Nuku Hiva, laden with duffel bags. Tired from the long day of travel, they walked to the hotel’s infinity pool, with a beautiful deck overlooking Taiohae Bay. That’s when one of the guests, Matt, noticed a dinghy flying across the bay with… something unusual.
He reached into his duffel bag and grabbed a pair of binoculars, focusing on the dinghy heading straight towards them, driven by two dark figures with unknown intentions.
“Excuse me,” Matt turned to the hotel owner, who had just given the newcomers nice flower lei’s. He hands over the binoculars to the proprietor to see for herself. “I think you’re about to be attacked by pirates!”
The proprietor immediately saw this was no joke: it was the Pirate King and Queen of the South Seas, last seen crossing the equator south of Galapagos. She promptly opened the spiced rum stash in the bar for the invading marauders.
Luckily the pirates’ evil intent was tamed by rum cocktails, multiple hugs, and a delicious dinner after a dip in the infinity pool. The Pearl Lodge escaped major harm, but the newcomers were kidnapped and taken aboard the ship Aldebaran, laying at anchor just in front, in the bay of Taiohae.
We now had our new crew members: Matt & Diyana, dear friends from Santa Barbara, along with sister Melanie. They will be sailing with us 700 nautical miles from Marquesas to the central Tuamotos… we are going farRRRRR mateys!
The town of Taiohae is located on Nuku Hiva’s southern coast, only a few miles upwind from Hakaui – meaning, it is a slow and bumpy boat ride.
This is the largest sheltered bay in the Marquesas, and it is a little heaven for yachts. There is free wifi (unheard of!) at the snack bar right on wharf; the laundry is “only” $10-12 per load (in contrast Hiva Oa was double that cost); and the 5am veggie and fish markets are right next to the pier.
Early morning fishermen come back with their catch of yellowfin tuna and throw their filleted carcasses to sharks in the murky water.
Depending on the fishermen, the tuna slabs were either very cheap ($2/lb) or if you’re a sweet talker like Sabrina, sometimes free. Like fruit, fish is bountiful here.
But this is the Marquesas, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and transportation is expensive. We dropped off Adam’s family along with Matt & Judy here, after a wonderful two weeks together sailing north from Hiva Oa. They paid $40 per person for the 1.5hr ride to the airport, to catch their flight back to Tahiti (the flight itself was $700 round trip).
Our hike to Vaipo waterfall in Hakaui Bay, the highest waterfall in French Polynesia, was unforgetable. Also, it was Asher’s 10th birthday! Wow, what a lucky guy to celebrate his first decade out here!
Approaching the Hakaui river valley in the afternoon was like sailing into a Lord of the Rings movie set. The light glowed across the misty ridges like the scenes when Bilbo Baggins enters the land of the elves. The cinematographers went overboard in their editing, but its not real, right? The whole valley pulses with energy and it is so deep and steep, it is best called a canyon, winding its way to the largest waterfall in French Polynesia.
The first half of the 1800s rival missionaries- primarily Catholic and the Protestant London Missionary Society in lock step with French and British jockeying for political power- increasingly arrived to convert the natives. The Tahitian king Pomaré converted to Christianity, dramatically forbidding traditional dancing and traditions missionaries saw as inappropriate.
Several decades later, Tahitian culture, celebrations and dancing were again permitted by the colonial French government, especially at the year’s major celebration, commemorating French Independence on Bastille Day, July 14.
Then we sailed into Hakahau, which is the main town in Ua Pou, located on the north corner of the island. It is a nice harbor with swirly winds and beautiful views.
The boat was repaired, and our new crew was in good spirits. After a month and a half in the southern Marquesas, we were finally heading to the northern group. The island of Ua Pou was our first destination, we set sail just after dark with strong SE tradewinds sending us flying north.
I often wondered why some of the largest ancient Marquesan villages were located (at times) in valleys without great harbors or easy access to the interior of the island.
For example, Taaoa is located in a bay with a windy, surf ridden beach, a ten minute drive from Atuona, the current capital of Hiva Oa. In contrast, Atuona is next to the most sheltered bay on the island (where we hauled out our sailboat).
Directly behind Taaoa, however, is a gigantic steep 3000ft mountain peak. This was an amazing power spot! I speculate that villages were built in powerful locations more for the “mana”, or life-force, than for economic reasons or transportation access. What do you think? Maybe someone with internet can verify this hypothesis. If you have a comment to share, write in the Reply section below.
Our friend Mu has the heartiest laugh ever. He made Hiva Oa home for us. For our last night in the island he prepared a feast: “chevre à la broche”, which is wild goat on the BBQ marinated with secret sauces. Dinner was also served with the usual feast of poisson cru and other Marquesan dishes.
Hunting for wild goat and pig is part of Marquesan daily life. There is a bountiful supply of both on every island. Since Mu loves both fishing and hunting, he has a special technique for catching goats: he finds goats that are perched precipitously on a cliff over the ocean, shoots them with a rifle from his rolling dinghy, in such a way that they fall into the water. Then he scoops them up like fish.
This is a very tough shot and not many people can make it. But if you can, it sure is easier than trekking up the steep mountainous valley of Marquesas. Mu tells us this story and then laughs even more heartily.
“Where is Aldebaran ?” you may be wondering. The Hiva Oa boatyard put a halt on our blog, followed by fundraising for the Marquesan school children’s marine reserves (which was a big success, thanks to everyone for chipping in!)
Now we will be sharing the remainder of our journey in the Marquesas archipelago.
On the last day of our boatyard onslaught, our new crew members arrived. To recap the introduction of our crew: Adam is an old friend who was sailing with me back in the days of the 29ft Tabula Raza sloop cutting our teeth in the Channel Islands. He brought his wife Kendra and son Asher to join us in Costa Rica last year, and now they were sailing with us for two weeks in French Polynesia. Along with them were another couple, Matt & Judy from San Diego, parents of our long time coop member Robby Seid. It was their first time aboard. It was a crowded boat, but we took everyone because as school teachers this was the only time they could visit us: summer vacation.
Our route: sailing from Hiva Oa south (12 nautical miles) to Tahuata for a few relaxing days snorkeling; then heading north overnight (65 nautical miles) to the island of Ua Pou, and then finishing with another day sail (25 nautical miles) to the island of Nuku Hiva.
With huge smiles, elder ladies sang Polynesian songs to the strum of acoustic guitars, swaying in their sarongs and flowers tucked into their hair. They were amidst the July festivities, celebrating with a community lunch. Although lunch time was technically over, our host Pascal kindly asked the cooks to serve us portions of the traditional Marquesan meal they had prepared for their village members.
To our surprise, a huge feast of poisson cru, fire roasted wild boar, taro and banana in various forms was placed before us. As we sat in awe of this generosity, Pascal shifted his immense body and offered a soft-spoken blessing to the meal: “We thank the sun for nourishing this food, may it bring you wonderful health.”
Despite the revelry, Pascal seemed somewhat morose on this day. I asked him how were things with the kid’s marine reserve.
“Well,” Pascal began, in a lumbering manner. “There’s an exciting thing happening in a month, we are taking 10 kids to a conference in Chile. They will share with scientists around the world what we are doing here in Marquesas.”
“That’s fantastic. They are actually presenting at the conference?” I asked, still wondering how this could be getting him down. “Yes, in fact, our EMMA model [educational marine managed area] is being considered as a new, official protected area format. There are six types that are recognized, ranging from “limited entry” to “no-take” to “managed use,” Pascal continued.
“The IUCN (international union of conservation of nature) is the body that regulates this, along with other things like ‘how endangered are species’. The EMMA would be the 7th type of marine protected area. Although it isn’t about enforcement, we see the EMMA as a natural way to weave communities into the fabric of protected areas.”
“What a great idea! I know many people in the States who would be very interested in the EMMA model. So plans for the Chile conference are solid?” I prompted.
“That’s the thing,” Pascal said, looking slightly uncomfortable. “We had all our funds for the trip, in fact we have the airline tickets already, so we are going.
“But the French Polynesian education ministry just told us that our choice of accommodation wasn’t approved. We were invited to stay at a school in Chile, and also at a school with our ancestral cousins in Easter Island, which we will visit enroute, so costs were kept low. But now we need to stay at a hotel or bungalow, an “approved tourist facility”, Pascal intoned with mild disgust, referring to the bureaucrats’ terms.
“I am sad and angry that they only told us this with so little time left. But tomorrow on Monday I will start the day with a clear head and start looking for the money we need,” Pascal nodded solemnly.
I probed Pascal further and he shared that they are short US$7000, which they actually need by mid August ideally, or soon after. The funds need to go to Motu Haka, the non profit organization in Marquesas.
The crew aboard Aldebaran met and discussed whether we can help out. The Green Coconut Run was originally born with two goals: as a community sailing adventure, and as a way to promote ocean conservation.
Here was a perfect example of what we hoped to achieve: come across amazing projects along our travels, which we can help support and share with the world.
We want to work together to help the Marquesan school children and the EMMAs. Want to learn how? Read below.
—-> Here’s how we plan to help the school kids fund their trip to Chile to share their model with scientists from around the world; while supporting the EMMA program and marine reserves in Marquesas.
- Share this post with your friends
- We ask you to contribute $100 or $250 via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org ; the first 20 donors will receive special Marquesan gifts.
- Green Coco will match up to $1500 in funds via our crowdfund site Patreon.com
- Conference in Chile, Sep 4-8, 2017. “International Congress of Marine Protected Areas”
- Network of EMMAs in Marquesas, known as “Pukatai”
- Video about Regional Marquesas Protected Area in the works
- Green Coconut Run’s last two years described by Seven Seas Magazine
We met Pascal during an extraordinary slideshow presentation about the school children in their village.
“Our kids have an important task,” Pascal had said in his resounding voice. “They are managing the marine protected area in front of our village.”
I raised my eyebrows. Come again?
“Our coastline in Marquesas is precious,” Pascal had explained. “We’ll need marine reserves, as other nations have done, but instead of starting with the adults, we are starting with the kids. They are our future.”
Somehow we got it done… Aldebaran repaired and repainted, ready for launch.
– 15 days on dry dock
– Major repair 60 sq ft of fiberglass
– Minor repairs totaling 30 sq ft of fiberglass
– 2.5 gallons of epoxy
– Plenty of sanding discs and face masks
– 1 gallon of primer
– 2 gallons of white topside paint
– 5 gallons of red bottom paint
– Rudder repaired with new bushings
– $1200 in boatyard fees
– $1800 in materials
– 10 bottles of rum gifted
Photo of Crew, from left to right:
– Judy (from San Diego)
– Adam and 9yr old Asher (from Santa Cruz, returning to Aldebaran with mom Kendra) – Matt (Judy’s partner)
– Captain K
– Mu (our kind host in Hiva Oa)
– Vincent (boatyard owner)
– Chris and Willie (helping to launch)
– Freddie (runs the transport boat to Fatu Hiva and Tahuata) – Sabrina and Kendra
During our stint in the boatyard, Sabrina and I took time a few evenings to recharge our batteries, and help make our two week marathon-sprint of boat repairs a little more bearable.
Every Wednesday evening at the “Search and Rescue’s” lookout station, a five minute walk from the boatyard, a BBQ fundraiser is held which lots of cruising sailors attend. Enjoying a $5 can of Hinano beer with a music jam by the open air fire, we met quite a number of young people cruising the high seas. Most of them were “hitchhiking” on boats (via find-a-crew type of websites), serving as crew members to help run night watches across the long Pacific passages. But there was also a surprising number of young sailboat owners (in the 25-45 year old range). This was very different from what we are used to back in Central America, where the overwhelming majority of boats were owned by retirees.
These younger sailors are normally looking for work along the way, or planning to sell their boats as soon as they arrive in New Zealand or Australia, and several also receive contributions from their crew members.
(Photo: a Swedish couple with dog and hitchhiking German fellow Durant balancing gingerly on an inflatable kayak, the only ‘dinghy’ aboard their 30ft sailboat powered by outboard-only, that they took around Cape Horn in a westward direction, after learning how to sail just months before underway in the French winter. These folks are seriously bad-ass)
The boatyard was as nice a community as we could hope for, and we were often invited to have lunch or dinner with other sailors on their land-locked boats. This helped our morale to carry on the daily toil of sanding fiberglass and filler, which seemed to never end.
Our energy level began to waver in the last week of work, and Sabrina and I took turns “crashing”. Our bodies were simply too run down by the intensity of the work. Beyond the dust, heat, and exertion, the worst physical effect of working with the heavy duty fiberglass from the boatyard was the unbearable, itchy rash it left on our skin.
We never experienced this problem before with the thin fiberglass we use back home. However, the thick fiberglass shards got through all four of the protective suits we had purchased, to the point we could no longer wear them; or for that matter, our long sleeve work clothes that were now also contaminated with fibers. The only saving grace was the cold pressure shower 30 yards from our boat, which we now used obsessively to cool off and wash off the grime.
In retrospect, we should have paid the local lady to launder our work clothes (@$20 per load!) but we were so disgusted by the high cost that we forgot about that possibility. My clothes made me itch like a madman, so I ended up working in old boardshorts and running into the shower every two hours to wash off my body.
Our departure from California in 2015 was at the tail end of four months of work at the Ventura Boatyard. I hoped that in the future we’d never have to do all that grizzly repair work of fiberglass and sanding the boat on our own again. I hoped we’d be able to hire help in affordable countries down the road. As fortune would have it, we ended up doing a haul out in Marquesas where labor is expensive.
The only thing that kept us in overdrive through days 10-14 was that the end was in sight. We frantically worked to make the most of the miraculous sunshine, which we knew could be interrupted by torrential rain any day. We were determined to finish since our friends were joining us in a few days, and Purgatory would soon be over and Aldebaran would be back where she belongs… in the water.
The largest tikis in all of French Polynesia live in the lonely valley of Puamau, in the far eastern corner of Hiva Oa island.
Mu drove us expertly on the dirt track like a rally racer. “It’s much more fun in a rented car!” he hollered, downshifting around a sharp hairpin corner that led into yet another fantasy bay. The Toyota Hilux moaned happily as it accelerated into the next steep climb.
The Winding Road to Hanapaaoa
After seeing the Giant Pig’s footprint, we drove on a narrow paved lane that climbed the hillside alongside the valley of Hanapaaoa. Copra sheds and small homes with flowering gardens lined the twisting route, leading to views of the valley through breadfruit and coconut trees. Mu pulled over at the end of the road and asked a fellow with a machete:
“Rodrig, ça va? Is the Tiki access clean, can we walk up to see it?”
“Muuu!” Rodrig greeted him with enthusiasm. “Yes, the bushes have been cut, I will take you there.”
Rodrig led us up the path, looking like a happy Greek gladiator, with his white flowing outfit, leather belt, and criss-crossed sandals. He took his time walking up the steep slope, pointing out the downhill area where all the coconuts roll towards. “So that I don’t have to come up the hill to fetch them,” he beamed.
An Ancient Banyon Tree Burial Site
A decrepit stone wall terraced the hillside in the next switchback. It was evidence of a Marae, an ancient religious site. “Check it out! Petroglyphs,” said Chris, huffing like the rest of us.
Two figures with outstretched arms were carved into the rough rock. Behind them, a banyan tree guarded the pass into a thin ridgeline. Rodrig moved a few stones next to the spiderweb-like roots of the banyan tree, and signaled us over to see. A pile of old human bones lay in a heap.
“The ancient made their cemeteries under the banyan trees. Their roots are the connection to the spirit world. Almost every banyan tree has a pile of buried bones, if you know where to look,” Rodrig explained.
We stood pondering this fact, considering all the banyan trees we had walked past, and unbeknownst to us, all the human bones that were hidden deep within their roots.
Capt. K, Pierre & the “Tiki Pêcheur”
A clearing with rocks running parallel drew us further upslope. There it was! A stoic rock figure, powerful in stance and expression, stood gazing at us, or past us.
“Le Tiki Pêcheur,” introduced Rodrig, which means ‘The Fishing Tiki’, so named for his power to assist or obstruct the efforts of fishermen.
Rodrig added: “But some people call him the ‘Crowned Tiki’ because he’s the only Tiki we know of with a crown.”
He wasn’t very large, but he was formidable. The tiki had giant eyes, pursed lips, and stood with hands bracing his hips – like a martial artist drawing energy into his stomach. Like a tiger surveying his domain, frozen in time and space, the Tiki stood overlooking the valley.
Polynesians describe power in terms of ‘mana’. Ancient kings commissioned the Tiki statues in attempts to have access to increasing amounts of mana. In its wild, raw environment, the Tiki Pêcheur still pulses today, alive with mana.
Rodrig & a Goat Hunt Trophy
Local copra farmer Rodrig holds the skull of an impressive old goat he shot while hunting. Hunting for food- including wild boar, goat, sheep and chicken- is a weekly ritual for many Marquesans.
Mu and the Road to Hanapaaoa
And finally, here’s a panorama of our fearless Marquesan leader Mu overlooking a beautiful bay on the road to Hanapaaoa.
This story starts with a bag of coffee in the Galapagos. “Take this gift to Alec Mu in Hiva Oa,” said Diego, our Ecuadorian friend who had worked in Marquesas on a big yacht.
When we arrived in Hiva Oa we asked around for “Mu”, as he is known, and had him over to the boat with his son. He’s a jovial, stoutly built Tahitian with Chinese ancestry. For a living he trims trees along the roadside (to keep them off electrical wires). He came to Hiva Oa for his two year army service, met his wife, and never left.
When we sailed to Hanaipa, on the north coast of Hiva Oa, we were surprised to bump into Mu at the local BBQ. “My wife is from Hanaiapa,” he explained, and introduced us to his brother-in-law.
We were looking to rent a car to visit the Tiki sites on the north coast, and Mu suggested: “If you pay for the rental, I’ll drive you there.”
It was arranged. The five of us jumped into a 4×4 Toyota, bumping with Polynesian tunes, and hit the pavement, climbing out of the steep valley in extremely circuitous roads.
Mu knows Hiva Oa like the back of his hand. He drove us up random muddy tracks, crawling in four wheel drive, leading to vistas of the island.
Our first major stop was the village of Hanapaaoa. Mu changed music on the stereo, then said: “This song is about the Giant Pig. During ancient times, the people of another island did not have enough food, so the king of Hiva Oa sent the Giant Pig swimming across the ocean, where it collected many fish, and brought it to the hungry islanders. After they finished the fish, the islanders also ate the Giant Pig. You can still see the foot print of the Giant Pig here in Hanapaaoa as he was climbing into the water,” explained Mu.
Sure enough, the massive footprint was in the rock by the seashore. The Giant Pig reflects the spirit of gifting and sharing, so integral to Marquesan culture.
Uploaded via wifi in Hiva Oa
6am, Hanaiapa Bay. In the monotone grey of dawn I saw something moving in the water.
It was far away… could they be little black wingtips gently breaking the surface?
“Sabrina, there might be Mantas out here!” I hushed.
She jumped out of bed and climbed the aft cabin ladder to peak out the hatch. “Oh God I stood up too fast. Woooo,” said Sabrina, dizzy and excited. I scampered on deck to drop two SUPs in the water, which we keep handy when at anchor. We reached into the dive locker and strapped our masks around our necks. Moments later we were paddling, searching the bay for the black wingtips.
After a few minutes we came across the Mantas. The underwater visibility was very poor. Yet, standing up on the SUPs offered a great vantage point to see the beautiful white markings that flow along their black bodies. Each Manta has a unique identifying pattern, which seem to flow out of their flared mouths like the designs on aerodynamic jet planes.
Laying down on the board made it difficult to see. The higher up we were, the better we could look down upon them. This gave us an idea: “Let’s fly the Honey Bee!”
Back on Aldebaran, Pierre and Chris rallied and took over our SUPs. “Which direction to the Mantas?” Pierre asked, scanning the horizon. “About 100 yards towards the big rock,” I said.
As they paddled away, Sabrina and I launched the Honey Bee from the foredeck. The drone zoomed over our mast as the sun crested over the valley.
The glare of the sun now made it difficult to see the underwater creatures. The fellas were paddling around, searching. We flew Honey Bee high up in the air and turned the camera to point straight down. Immediately the distinctive shape of the Mantas clearly popped up on our screen. “Right there!” Sabrina said.
Chris and Pierre followed the Honey Bee, which we parked high above the Mantas. Given the poor visibility of the water, we were amazed at how well we could see; even fish swimming along the surface showed up clearly.
Flying forwards while filming downwards is very confusing, but we got lucky with a few moments when everything lined up: the fellas paddling with the Mantas swimming past.
I’m glad we woke up early and saw them; encounters with marine life are so uplifting! We feel fortunate to see these graceful beings from up close, and share the experience with you (using the cool aerial perspective, thanks to the Honey Bee, and all our Patrons who helped us purchase it!)
See our Patron site and get cool Green Coco goodies as thanks for your support:
Uploaded with wifi in Hiva Oa
I was under the impression that Polynesians are supposed to be, well… relaxed about work. Even lazy. “The tropical sun and family culture makes them unproductive,” is the assumption.
In Central America, the joke is that locals will get things done “mañana”… I’ll do that tomorrow! Here in Polynesia there’s a similar expression: “Fui”. As in, “I’ve worked enough for the day… fui!” It’s like a sigh of tired relief, converted into a word.
In Central America, the joke is that locals will get things done “mañana”… I’ll do that tomorrow! Here in Polynesia there’s a similar expression: “Fui”. As in, “I’ve worked enough for the day… fui!” It’s like a sigh of tired relief, converted into a word.
Just like “mañana”, however, the idea of “fui” has become a frustrated joke that foreigners like to tell. Yet I’ve seen Polynesians work as hard as anyone else. How to reconcile this misunderstanding?
Case in point: we hiked almost 2.5 hours to the lovely cove of Hanatekua, which has no road access, and found three Marquesans there working copra. As usual, they weren’t dilly-dallying.
Even as we talked, they were opening dry coconuts, removing meat, and taking a moment to go fetch us a few huge green coconuts to drink. This isn’t unusual, and frankly I’m always impressed by their keen productivity. If I were shelling coconuts every single day for a year, the hammock would surely be my constant companion, and I’d find every reason possible to procrastinate.
Our sailor legs were incredibly tired from the walk, and we meandered in dazed exhaustion between the wooden hut, the ocean, and the river that flows through the valley. The cove of Hanatekua, like the rest of the island of Hiva Oa, has brownish water, and the beach has occasional swarms of no-nos. It is not a beach destination. Yet the land here is gorgeous. A pleasant river winds its way through wild orchards of fruit trees where the copra guys have temporary homes (they work here all week long, and return home for the weekend) to the coconut trees by the seashore.
The hike itself was spectacular, criss-crossing ravines that revealed views from rocky outcrops one moment, to druid-like nooks of old trees the next moment. Goats scampered on the hillside and the easterly breeze kept us fresh in the shade.
One of the older copra workers returned by horse along the trail to Hanaipa. He nodded to a younger guy who was slamming down repetitively on coconuts with a huge axe, chopping them in half, sending fermented coconut water flying into the air. The axe-wielder showed no signs that he would be stopping anytime soon, evident from the giant mound of coconuts he was tackling.
Instead of sitting idle the other young guy was cleaning the vegetation around their garden. It’s worth noting that the gardens in people’s homes are impressively manicured, especially when one considers how fast things grow in the tropics, and how much fruit is falling on the ground.
Talk about hard working! There is no doubt the people we’ve met so far – in eastern Polynesia at least – have a solid work ethic.
Yet if you ask them to work on the weekend, or after hours, forget it. They are going pig hunting, or relaxing with their family. Personal time is sacred, keeping a smile and good attitude is paramount. So when it comes to getting things done, their priority is not punctuality. People are relaxed about the concept of time. Like the passengers on Air Tahiti flights that get turned around by bad weather, it’s how it goes.
That relaxed approach is at the heart of “fui” and “mañana”. People are stress-free, and aren’t about to be rushed by anyone’s demands. This takes some getting adjusted to, and can be very frustrating when you’re on a time crunch. But it’s something we can all learn from, if we want to be as happy and stress-free as many Polynesians are.
There is a scene in the movie “Big Fish” where the hero traverses a spider-infested path to arrive at an idyllic town where everyone is happy.
In our case, we battled the no-nos in Hanamenu then struggled upwind for three hours. We wondered if this would be worth it.
Then the rough waters eased into a broad bay. A magnificent waterfall streamed down onto the rocky shoreline. Blowholes spat powerful jets into the air, and a dry breeze rolled down the valley. The wingtips of a Manta Ray cruised close by.
We had arrived in Hanaiapa – and it was as idyllic as that make believe town in “Big Fish”.
The anchorage was sunny and peaceful, which we shared with three sailboats. We landed on the small concrete wharf, using a stern anchor to keep the dinghy off the rocks.
Picturesque narrow roads were lined with flowers and remarkable landscaping. Fruit trees everywhere were heavy with ripe breadfruit, bananas, pomplemouse, limes and starfruit.
The locals from Hanaipa were frolicking on picnic tables and kids were swimming in the river mouth. We soon discovered it was Sunday afternoon, and a volleyball game and pig roast was underway in the main park.
The typical Marquesan barbecue is very casual and tasty. There is always wild pig or goat which an intrepid hunter caught the night before; plus an array of fish; all cooked on a huge grill which people slowly serve themselves from. A big bowl contains sauce to garnish the meats; there are no plates or silverware, usually only over-sized tree leaves which are used to hold the food. The atmosphere is ultra relaxed.
We stayed several days in Hanaipa to go hiking, explore archeological sites, and relax in the great atmosphere of this town.
Today Sabrina and I celebrated our four year anniversary together. We met on this boat, and this voyage is a product of our relationship… so I wanted to share a glimmer of how I feel.
Sailing the Pacific can be extremely hard work… and I’ve never seen anyone work harder than Sabrina to make life wonderful for those around her. No matter the conditions, she can bake a quiche, clean a bilge, don a harness in a rainy night, organize thousands of photos, or chisel paint for countless hours.
Although as captain, I am the one driving the boat, it is Sabrina who turns this trip from good to great.
Like fairy dust, her joyful enthusiasm adds an extra twinkle of magic to even the most mundane moments. Now sprinkle that onto the exquisite vistas and experiences that we reach through sailing.
Despite the laughably exhausting moments, we are rewarded with the most sublime moments. I am lucky beyond words to share them with her.
Like a kiss under a rainbow under a waterfall. I mean, seriously! Magic is possible. I love you Sabrina.
Losing track of all the place names? We do too! Here’s a map of our route so far along the islands of Marquesas to help orient yourself during our travels…
Map of Marquesas Archipelago (lower image):
We first arrived in Fatu Hiva, after a crossing from Gambier Islands (via Reao Atoll). After that we went to the Hiva Oa, the largest island in the southern Marquesas. We cruised twice to the island of Tahuatu, before exploring the northern coast of Hiva Oa. After we finish the repairs to Aldebaran, we hope to go to Nuku Hiva and Ua Poa, which are islands on the northern part of the archipelago.
Map of Hiva Oa (upper image):
Atuona is the main town in Hiva Oa, also the regional capital of the southern Marquesas. Many sailboats check into French Polynesia here after crossing the Pacific. It has spectacular scenery but we jokingly call the anchorage the “toilet bowl” for its swirly, chaotic nature. The island of Tahuata is just to the south a few miles. The primary anchorages in the north coast of Hiva Oa are Hanamenu (where we got eaten up by no-nos) and Hanaipa (which is as far as we’ll take Aldebaran on the north coast). Further west, the bays of Hanapaaoa and Puamau are exposed to the easterly trade winds, so aren’t good anchorages; but they have great Tiki archeological sites; we want to try to visit them even if it means renting a car.
Pro Tip: Notice how many of the