Sunday, November 25, 2012

Off on another seafaring adventure

Position: 04°44'S, 138°49'W

Saturday nights haven't quite been the same since we left New Zealand.
At sea, it's the one night of the week when we have a beer and sometimes
watch a movie. On land, it's usually just the two of us out for dinner
or having a few drinks. Wherever we are, it's generally a quiet affair
so we were delighted to hear that all the villages from Nuku Hiva were
coming together to host a Marquesan cultural festival the Saturday night
after we arrived.

The event reminded us a lot of the evening Maori performances that are
hosted for tourists in New Zealand – heavily tattooed men dressed in
grass costumes start with a haka; a group of young women wearing a
flower behind their ear and patterned dresses shook their hips at the
speed of light; kids from a local school performed a Macarena-type
dance, nervously watching each other to make sure they got it right. The
main drawcard of the event was a young Marquesan singer who recently won
something akin to 'Marquesas got Talent'. He appeared at the end but
instead of swooning teenage girls fighting to get his autograph, the
audience just clapped as politely as they had for the earlier acts.
Either he's not such a big deal after all or Nuku Hiva suffers from the
same Tall Poppy syndrome ("Easy now, don't want him to think he's any
good") we have in New Zealand.

We hired a 4x4 Suzuki jeep for a day to see some of the island and give our legs a rest. We thought the choice of car was overkill but it wasn't long before the nicely paved French roads gave way to country tracks, some of which you would hesitate to tackle even with a tractor at home. Every now and then we would come across a house in the middle of the wilderness and wonder at how people can live in such isolation. It's one thing for the locals to rely on a weekly freighter to stock the island with food and drinking water; quite another for these people be entirely self-sufficient as their nearest neighbour, let alone village, is miles and hours away by dirt track.

Nuku Hiva is different to the other Marquesan islands in that it has
four distinct regions. At sea level, it's hot and humid with sandflies
and mosquitos, which the Skipper can well attest to unfortunately.
However in the high hills of the north-west, there are spruce pine
forests and cool breezes that reminded us of springtime in the
Coromandel, NZ. The east of the island has the most beautiful bays and
beaches but we kept our distance from the waves after a recent encounter with local sealife in Taiohae Bay.

On our first evening in Nuku Hiva, we arrived back at the quay as the
crew of a local fishing boat were chopping up the few tuna they had
caught that day. A fish head went flying into the water and the water
erupted with the rapid flashing of fins and tails. Four sharks were
swimming back and forth by the wall of the quay, waiting for leftovers.
There was no mistaking it this time – these were no harmless, reef
sharks, and they were hungry. Keen to get back to Ashling before dark,
we inched our way down the quay ladder to the dinghy with fear and
trepidation, just centimetres from the sharks. The locals watched in
amusement, nudging each other and smirking at our fear of the local
predators. Then, as if there wasn't enough meat on show already, an
evening breeze came along to whip up Sweeney's skirt as she was on her
way down the ladder. It was a choice between life and modesty – life won
and the locals got a good eyeful of Primark's finest.

First Mate with Rose Corser
As a final treat before setting sail, we spent two nights at Rose
Corser's B&B in Taiohae Bay. Originally from Oklahoma, Rose and her husband Frank arrived in Nuku Hiva on a yacht 32 years ago. They fell in love with the island and ended up staying for life, setting up the island's first international hotel and a museum exhibiting Marquesan arts. After Frank died in 1992, Rose sold the hotel to a local resort chain and now runs a small guesthouse of her own which is much more personable. She is a part of the Nuku Hiva sailing folklore and known to most sailors who visit the island so we were delighted to meet her. She also gave us good advice on where to get drinkable water, gas refills and general provisions.

We're now four days into our second ocean passage across the Pacific and
so far, so good. The average wind speed is 18 knots, the sea is slight
and the sky is clear. The full moon is back again to light our way
through the night and we have the astronomy book out, looking eagerly
for upside-down dogs, bulls and archers.

Some messages for friends and family this week:

Happy 96th Birthday Grandma Dennis!

Best of luck to Duff, Rob, Dermot, Steph & Bryony on the Taupo 160km cycle!



What lies ahead...the Pacific Ocean from Nuku Hiva
 

3 comments:

  1. Good to hear this leg is a bit calmer. Will flick through link to pics of millie. She is growing up far too quickly!

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  2. Finally found my favourites and the link to Sweenaghans @ sea... I am now sitting in the office wondering I am not tiki touring around the world like you! So jealous...

    One thing I've noticed is that it's always sunny where you are :D looking forward to seeying you both back to hear more about the adventures :)

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  3. Life and modesty, ahahahaahha. They'll never forget you E ;)

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