1 May - 12 September 2009
French Polynesia: Îles Marquises - Archipel des Tuamotu - Îles Societes
Written October 2009 -– Niue & Tonga
|It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.|
I love finding a theme for each of our Migrations – and it seems that the world usually helps me out. But our travels over the last five months have defied my efforts to themetize. I just made that word up. Maybe it will catch on, like monetize. Oh, I hope not.
"Here we go again with a long drawn-out, verbose update. Please just let me see the photos..."
I can hear some of you thinking. So stop thinking so loud. No worries! This one doesn’t have anything about politics or the universe. Well, not intentionally. Or, should I say, at least not now, at the beginning. We’ll see what happens by the end. Maybe it will themetize itself along the way. I will keep it short, honest. At least as short as will fit 14 islands, 3,050 nautical miles, and 134 days.
So, to paraphrase Ms. LeGuin, it is good to have a theme for a travel update, but it's the photos that matter in the end.
For our upwind efforts to reach the Marquesas we were rewarded with over 9 weeks of exploring the Land of Men. That’s what the Marquesans call their islands: Fenua Enata. The Marquesas are quite far removed from the rest of French Polynesia. There’s a different language (Marquesan!), a different landscape, and definite distinct culture.
Our route through the Marquesas.
These are islands that leap from the sea. No fringing reefs to break the swell which crashes against the volcanic cliffs so violently we were always double- and triple-checking our navigation. It is a beautiful, yet unforgiving, coastline.
Fatu Hiva's dramatic Hanavave valley
Not only did George Washington visit
Easter Island, he was on Fatu Hiva as well.
Everyone hikes up the valley to the beautiful waterfall...
and some find a cute girl swimming in the pool below.
VIDEO: Fatu Hiva Waterfall (0:27 - 2.2 MB)
We did a lot of exploring with Patrick and Rebecca from s/v Brick House.
Patrick sailed to the Marquesas 30 years ago on a Catalina 27!
One day we all went aboard Migration to the neighboring village of Omoa
where we found many beautiful, and strange, tikis.
Patrick and I tried - unsuccessfully - to fix
a local family's generator.
I spoke at the small school. Alene did a
great job translating my talk into French.
There are only xxx people in the village of Hanavave.
I think I was the first author to visit.
Marquesan women decorate their hair with plants and flowers.
And nearly every Marquesan, man or woman, has a tattoo.
*Chest tattoo photo by Patrick Childress (s/v Brick House)
When we left Fatu Hiva, we finally broke our spell of bad fishing luck.
TAHAUTA & HIVA OA
It was busy in the Marquesas with dozens of boats
arriving each week from the Americas. Still, we were sometimes
able to find uncrowded anchorages.
Some local kids on school holiday came to visit and play.
Lots of fruit to pick in the Marquesas.
Like the Tuamotus, much of the economy is dependant
on copra -- dried coconut meat. Walking past these drying
beds, the sweet, cloying smell can be a bit overwhelming.
I thought I'd get a picture of Alene getting
splashed by a wave on the rocks.
She stayed dry.
But the cameraman got drenched.
Every village has at least one church;
usually two or three.
Migration in Hanatefau Bay, Tahuata.
Hanatefau is a dolphin nursery with lots of baby
dolphins playing near the boats.
VIDEO: Tahauta Dolphins (1:05 - 3.9 MB)
After checking in with the gendarmerie in Hiva Oa's main town of Atuona, we sailed around to the less-visited north coast. We tacked back and forth all the way up the coast. It was fine sailing with beautiful scenery.
Sailing past a waterfall dropping right into the sea.
A spectacular coastline.
Finally at anchor at Hiva Oa's most northeasterly
village: Puamau, the site of the largest tiki in the Marquesas.
Ua Huka isn't nearly as high or as heavily wooded as the other islands.
It's known for its many wild horses.
There are small museums in each of the three villages.
We were the only boat visiting the island at the time.
Though you can't see it in this photo, the sky above
Bird Island was thick with thousands of terns.
Locals collect tern eggs from the cliffs.
Nuku Hiva was our favorite island. And spectacular Anaho Bay
our favorite stop. We spent two weeks there.
We arrived just before Alene's birthday hoping to host a party with whatever other boats were in the anchorage. But the Irish catamaran had to leave and the other boat housed a strange, unsociable Frenchman. When we finally wanted to be with other boats, we were nearly alone.
Onshore, we met Pautu and Maria, two of the 13 residents of the bay. When they heard it was Alene's birthday, they invited us to their house for a Marquesan dinner which included a delicious wild goat curry. I made a birthday cake. And Alene had 4 birthday songs: in English, French, Marquesan, and Tahitian.
LISTEN TO HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN MARQUESAN.
We grew very fond of Pautu and Maria and
spent a lot of time with them.
Waffles aboard Migration with Maru, Moiva, Pautu and Maria.
We hiked over the mountains to Hatiheu village
where there are extensive archaeological sites.
The hiking in the Marquesas is great. You just have
to be careful you don't slip on the fruit.
There are ancient marae (platforms) all through the Marquesas, as well as
tikis and other remnants of the culture that once flourished here. Before the French arrived,
it is estimated there were 80,000 Marquesans. Within 100 years, there were only 2,000. During the last 20 years there has been a revival of Marquesan culture and arts.
Look how big this beautiful banyan is.
That's me at the base.
Pautu and Maria came aboard Migration for two days.
We sailed around to Hatiheu, snorkeled, caught an
octopus, ate well, played music, and sang.
VIDEO: Pautu & Maria sing onboard Migration (0:39 - 2.9 MB)
Hatiheu: Another beautiful Marquesan
bay with towering peaks.
In Hatiheu we continued Alene's birthday
celebration at the only restaurant. They were
unexpectedly closed but they opened just for us,
and presented Alene with a cake decorated with fresh flowers.
We finally had to drag ourselves away from the Anaho area.
The weather reflected our gloomy mood. But the island
was still stunning in the mist.
In Hakatea we hiked through spectacular verdant forests
to the highest waterfall in the Marquesas.
Whenever there was a boulangerie in a village,
we loaded up on baguettes.
We were fortunate to be in Taiohae, the administrative center of the Marquesas,
for La Fête d'Autonomie (Autonomy Day).
The day started with the singing of The Marseilleises and the Marquesan anthem,
and continued with a parade, food, crafts and lots of extraordinary dancing.
Ua Pou is famous for its fantastical topography of soaring pinnacles.
Another beautiful waterfall. Though only an hour's hike from the village,
when we're swimming by ourselves in a pool like this, it feels
like we're on our own island.
In Hakamaii, Susanne and her family, like so many Marquesans,
were friendly and generous.
An attempt to make us feel guilty for eating a cousin.
The peaks of Ua Pou are almost always
obscured by clouds... but what you can see
is still wonderful.
LONGING FOR THE TUAMOTUS
We loved our time in the Marquesas, and were really glad we made the upwind effort to get there. But a longing for the Tuamotus accompanied us everywhere. We also had a schedule: Heiva was approaching, we were meeting my cousin Loren in Papeete, we had to receive our new foredeck hatch and install it, and, most importantly, we needed to start moving west to be in New Zealand before the mid-November start of the South Pacific cyclone season.
We headed to sea for our first downwind sail in a long time. It was delightful.
Our third path through the Tuamotus
Our friends on s/v Qayaq had told us how much they liked Kauehi when they visited there last year. After our great experience of Heiva on Amanu in 2008, we were looking for a small atoll to spend the celebration. We weren't disappointed. The festivities were numerous, the local dancing energetic, and the people easygoing and friendly.
The soccer field became the Heiva fairgrounds. Though only about 230 people live on Kauehi,
there were ten booths set up: snack bars, restaurants, games, crafts, and even a disco.
Invocation at the opening of the site.
Competitions & Games
Coconuts figure big in life – and in the competitions:
copra harvesting, making coconut milk, and palm frond weaving.
For comic relief, they let me try.
Dancing & Music
Faces of Kauehi
Purple taro ice cream was our favorite treat.
Each day we printed a collage of photos
from the previous day. They were quite popular.
We also created a video for the village.
VIDEO: Kauehi Heiva 2009 (21:45 - 34.5 MB)
It's long but it gives a great feel for what it's like.
With our good friends, the Dauphin family and Tori.
We left Kauehi with a few shell leis
and other gifts.
DIVING IN FAKARAVA
We stopped at Fakarava to meet divers Scott and Cindy on s/v Beach House.
When we were diving on our own, we towed
our dingy above us on 90 feet of line.
Lots of fish.
two sharks, three sharks, more...
Alene keeps watch as we exit the south pass.
BACK TO THE SOCIETIES
We were sad to leave the Tuamotus; they were by far our favorite islands in French Polynesia and we knew we wouldn't be back – at least not for many, many years. We did have a delightful downwind sail to Tahiti. There we met my cousin, Loren, who was taking a course to become a dive master. He joined us for a week onboard.
While diving in Fakarava, I'd had a possible minor case of decompression sickness. So I went to the hospital in Papeete to get checked out (all was OK). But we did get to ride in a "Reanimation" ambulance. Anyone who knows the song "Señor Don Gato" will appreciate that. "Though his funeral was slated, he was reanimated..."
New hatch installed... no more leaks!
We sailed with Loren to Moorea. On the way we did a fish dance in the Tuamotan Haka style. In spite of the dance, our efforts were unsuccessful.
VIDEO: Fish Dance (0:08 - 0.5 MB)
I couldn't dive for a month so Alene and Loren did all the diving in Moorea.
It included making friends with a turtle.
We had fun snorkeling.
And we visited the Moorea stingrays again.
VIDEO: Loren & Jeanette (3:30 - 9.9 MB)
We had a music night with our friends Mike & Mary of s/v Carpe Vita.
And another with our friends Hans and Erica of s/v Babalu.
We biked to the bellevue of Moorea.
Loren rode his skateboard all the way down.
The last days of Loren's visit were blustery and
rainy... but they made for some awesome rainbows.
Still happy cooking.
We think Loren liked the cruising life.
LES ÎLES SOUS LE VENT
We headed west to the Îles Sous le Vent (Leeward Islands) of the Societies. These islands, though very much smaller than Tahiti, are also mountainous. A perfect combination of beautiful green hillsides and aquamarine waters.
Good bike riding on Huahine. And flower-picking, too. Notice Alene's backpack.
When hiking into the hills to visit archaeological sites,
we watched whales breaching offshore
VIDEO: Huahine Clown Fish (0:30 - 1.7 MB)
A day's sail brought us to Taha'a; more biking and hiking and lots of great snorkeling.
Ancient fish traps.
A picturesque island.
We found Taha'a had the best snorkeling we'd seen outside of the Tuamotus.
The "Coral Garden" area was stunning below the surface... and the peaks of Bora Bora
in the distance made it so above the water as well.
VIDEO: Coral Garden Shark (and More) (1:01 - 4.1 MB)
Norbert owns property on the motu
next to the coral garden. We traded for fruit,
had coffee together, and he gave us a nice tour of the islet.
We were told of a 'secret' coral garden near the
north end of Taha'a. We anchored on the sand shelf
in just a few feet of water. The depth goes instantly from 60 to
Add 2.5 feet to what the depthsounder reads
and you get the depth to the bottom.
We draw 4 feet 9 inches.
VIDEO: Anchored on Taha'a's Sand Shelf (1:07 - 3.9 MB)
An invitation to a birthday party on Bora Bora had us raising anchor and heading further west.
Bora Bora is famous for its jagged peaks,
beautiful lagoon, and exclusive resorts.
Johanna from Finland (on the right) was turning 40 the same day
Derek from England (on the left) was turning 60.
Together they had a 100th birthday party. It was lots of fun.
Allison from Northern Ireland (in the center) is married to Derek.
It had been a boisterous sail from Taha'a and
our mainsail got a small tear. Alene was happy to repair it.
A month had passed and I was able to dive again. We took Migration
outside the reef with a bunch of friends. The dive wasn't spectacular
but I saw my first lemon shark.
Shark photo by Tricia on s/v Geramar
Like many other cruisers we decided
we would climb Bora Bora's peak.
With Ben and Carine of s/v Avel Mad, we made it.
Stupendous views from the top.
It was exciting going up... and down.
VIDEO: From the Top of Bora Bora (00:54 - 2.9 MB)
We'd been in and out of the anchorage by Motu Toopua five times. We were anchored near town and now, after our hike, we were heading back to Toopua. It was nearing sunset and we were tired, but happy. I set the autopilot as we headed up the channel. Suddenly Alene shouted, "Where are we going??!!" I ran to the helm, but too late. Migration stopped with a crunch and shudder. From five knots to zero in one second. I quickly put the engine in reverse and we backed off the edge of the reef I had just run us onto.
We made it to the anchorage and I quickly jumped in the water to check out the damage. Migration may be an old girl (40 years now), but her keel is strong. And three years ago we had put new layers of fiberglass on the front edge. There were two fist-sized chunks of glass and wood out of the keel. But that was it. We weren't taking on water. The repair will require several days of work when we next haul out. If the reef had been two feet under instead of three, our hull would have hit and that would have been far worse. We were lucky. But I was a bit of a mess for a couple of days. I couldn't believe I had become so complacent and had let Migration, and Alene, down. I learned my lesson.
The leading edge of Migration's keel after
patching with underwater epoxy putty.
The weather had been unsettled for over a week. Lots of wind and some rain keeping boats in the anchorages. In fact, we had spent several days on the boat because it was almost too windy to get ashore. (The pictures don't reflect this because we don't take that many photos when we're just sitting around inside the boat on gloomy days).
Finally the weather cleared. It was time to go. Time to say goodbye to French Polynesia. On 12th September we sailed out the pass bound for Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. After a year in French Polynesia, a 500 mile passage would bring us to another country where they speak Maori and English, not French and Tahitian.
But that's for the next update. This one's finished. No theme. Except maybe the same one that runs through most of our updates... we love this life. And, the best thing is, we realize it. We acknowledge the fact every single day. Well, maybe not when we're miserable at sea in snotty winds making little progress toward a destination hundreds of miles away. But, thankfully, those times have been rare. We hope they'll remain so; there are 2,500 miles to sail until we reach New Zealand in November. Until then...
Au revoir, Polynesie Francaise.
VIDEO: Bye-Bye Bora Bora (1:09 - 3.9 MB)
Where we've been since May 2009
3,050 nautical miles traveled this period.
20,451 nautical miles since leaving Long Beach in June 2005.