Friday, May 28, 2004

Passage Marquesas to Tuamotus

We were finally heading for the Tuamotus, also known as the dangerous archipelago, which is a group of over 70 low lying atolls that runs for several hundred miles in a northwest - southeast direction between the Marquesas and Society Islands. They get their name because they are low lying which makes them difficult to see until you are about four miles away. In most cases a palm tree is the tallest object and strange currents can exist between them, adding to the dangers. An atoll is basically an ancient volcano that has sunk back into the sea, leaving only a fringing coral reef around the old rim. The coral reef is not very thick (1/4 mile) but the atolls can be 30 miles long and 15 miles wide, they look (and feel) like great big salt water ponds with 100 foot depths on the inside and 3000 foot depths just on the outside. Usually there is only one pass in the reef which means all the water fills and empties from one spot creating very strong tidal currents (6-9 knots in some cases), faster than our boat will travel. This creates a navigators nightmare because you have to leave and enter the pass at slack tide, which makes inter-atoll route planning an interesting task to say the least. THEN you have to time your path across the atoll so that the sun is above or behind you so that you can see the coral heads that litter the inside of the lagoons.

We listened to the normal cruisers net and discovered that most boats were traveling the northern route through the island group, so we decided that we wanted to “go off the beaten path” and travel the most southern route we could reach based on winds. . The far southern atolls were used by the French for atomic testing and are off limits to cruisers, so we were aiming for Raroia, Makemo or Kauehi.

Our route from the Marquesas to Tuamotus

It was about a 550 nautical mile trip, which we planned for three and a half or four days. For me it was nice to be at sea again, I think we got stuck in our last anchorage in the Marquesas too long.  KT pre-cooked a lot of excellent amazingly great tasting food, which made her less sea sick, so we were like a sailing machine. Our goal was to aim as far southeast in the Tuamotus as possible so that we could sail down wind to the other atolls that we felt like visiting. The wind was further from the southeast than normal so we spent the first couple of days closer to the wind (70o) than we had planned. As usual the swells were from a different direction (southerly) so we had a pretty wet ride as the swells smacked us right on the nose. After a few days our friends that left a day behind us, who were not enjoying the bashing, decided they were heading for Kauehi. Kauehi was our furthest west destination but an atoll with a very easy pass entrance and still off the main northern path. We bore off which created a much more comfortable ride, although we did have to reduce sail so that we would not arrive in the middle of the night.

I can’t imagine traveling like Cook through these islands without charts and radar, if you blinked you’d miss them.  I was a little nervous so we used our radar and spotted the atoll right in its charted position. The electronic charts we used were exact, like a big person looking down from the sky and drawing us on the chart.  Now we had to time our entrance. We waited in front of the pass entrance by heaving-to, planning to enter around 11:30. We noticed a couple of other boats on the horizon and they talked to their friends in the anchorage via VHF who said that anytime was good, because it was wide (1000’) with no obstructions on either side. They both entered ahead of us without incident, so we just followed right along. We had two knots of current going with us with some pretty big standing waves (three feet vs. dead flat) inside the pass, and got squirrelly once or twice, but did fine.

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Daniel’s Bay through Nuka Hiva, Marquesas

May 7th – May 27th

On Friday May 7th we pulled anchor for a day sail over to Daniel’s Bay, Nuka Hiva.

Daniel's Bay (Nuka Hiva)

Have I mentioned how beautiful the Marquesas landscapes are???  Daniel’s Bay is completely surrounded by high rising cliffs of black and green that are populated with palm trees galore. The mountainous protection provided a very calm anchorage, but also blocked out any strong breezes, which meant that for the first time mosquitoes and no-nos could come aboard!  But for all the bug bites I came away with (and we aren’t talking small quantities here) I wouldn’t have missed Daniel’s Bay.

Taiohae Bay Photos below
Saturday we joined Emerald and Bobulona for another fantastic waterfall hike.  We came ashore near Daniel’s house (new house that is, as Survivor built him the new house in order to bulldoze his old house and use the location for one of the tribes).  Daniel and a friend enthusiastically greeted us.  Daniel has a very witty sense of humor and a smile that reaches ear to ear!  He pointed us towards the waterfall and told us to stop by again on our return.  The hike led us through an enchanted forest, where any minute you expected the trees to get up and start walking.  We compared much of the scenery to that seen in Lord of the Rings. The entire place seemed mystical, magical, and spiritual.  It wasn’t as easy to get to the base of the waters (as at Fatu Hiva or Oa Pou), requiring us to cross the flowing river four times and then either climb over a moss covered rock or through a small cave (under the rock) in order to actually swim to the base of the waterfall.  When we did reach the base we were overwhelmed by its power.  It was a long tiring hike, and we were exhausted when we finally made it back.  Monet and her husband (two locals we had met on our way up) waved us over to their house and brought out cold limeade, pomplemousse and bananas.  Two strangers giving openly to a bunch of tourists … how often does that happen in the states?  We chatted for a bit, and Monet showed us some necklaces she made, they were terrific and at only $5.00 per necklace a true steal.  Not having any cash, we all promised to return the next day.  As we were leaving I stopped to admire some of her flowers, she instantly yelled at for me to take one!

Exhausted Chris and I decided to watch a movie before bed.  We had aboard the first and second season of the TV series 24.  So many of our friends had talked up this show before leaving (this is when we didn’t have cable) that we purchased the DVDs for a “rainy day”.  Our friends on Waking Dream told us it was “addicting” and that when we finally decided to watch it they “wouldn’t see us for a couple of days!”  Each episode is about 40-45 minutes long.  That night, I’m embarrassed to admit, we watched EIGHT episodes!!!  It was just that each one ended in such a cliffhanger that we just had to know what was going to happen.  We kept saying, “this is the last one”, but when it would end it became “ok, just one more”.  Finally exhaustion overtook us and we dragged ourselves away.  Since then we spent many the next nights watching the series, and have now finished both seasons!  I think we are actually relieved to be done with them!  We passed on the first season to Emerald and the second to Waking Dream … we called it passing the curse!  Emerald has said they don’t know whether to thank us or hate us!  Bobulona has also gotten into the curse, the DVDs being passed from Emerald.  We highly recommend the show, but do have to warn that it is  extremely addicting!

On Sunday we went back ashore to buy some fruit and necklaces from Monet and sign Daniel’s cruisers guest book.  Again, Monet and her husband gave us ice-cold limeade along with fried bananas.  Daniel proudly showed us his guest books, which go back at least ten years.  Cruisers sign in, pasting in pictures and boat cards, or drawing pictures next to their messages to Daniel and his wife.  The books were amazing and we enjoyed leafing through them.  We all added our own messages and pictures, while Daniel entertained us with stories and jokes.  Daniel gave us coconuts and made the opening and peeling of them look easy (although we still seem to struggle with them).  Back at our boats, Chris took up a collection of light painkillers (like aspirin and Tylenol) for Daniel’s wife who suffers from arthritis.

Had it not been for the bugs (at this point I easily had at least 30 bites on EACH leg), we would’ve stayed longer, but the sleepless, itchy, hot nights were getting to me, so the next morning we moved down the way to Taiohae Bay (Nuka Hiva).

Taiohae Bay (Nuka Hiva)

Looking back it doesn’t seem like we spent two weeks in Nuka Hiva, but we did.  We were excited to find ice cream, sashimi, and pizza!  We ate out (at the local fire-oven pizza place) twice, both times with large groups of cruisers (10 to 12 of us).  On our first visit we met Akitini, the “tattoo guy”.  He was covered head to toe in traditional black Marquesian tattoos.  Chris had been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo since we left Ventura, I on the other hand was pretty sure I didn’t want another one … until that is, we got to the Marquesas and I saw some of the magnificent work.  When we met Akitini, I just knew I had to have a tattoo!!!  Two days later we were committed, along with Doug and Angela from Solstice.  Angela and I were ready to go, while Doug and Chris were still thinking it over.  I was up first … I wanted my tattoo to be “very Marquesian”, “related to the Ocean”, and linked to “life and spirituality” … with that in mind, Akitini decided on the Marquesian Turtle.  With the help of Chris, we drew a circle on the upper center part of my back … my only constraint was that it be no bigger than that circle.  I ended up with a beautiful turtle, with Tikis within each leg and a spiral of ‘dots’ in the center of the shell.  The Tikis are good luck (like someone watching over you), the spiral represents the tides of the Ocean, and the turtle itself is believed to represent the link between life and death!  There was a bit of a shock factor when it came to size … he used the circle for the body of the turtle, the head and legs expanding well outside the body … YIKES!!!  I’ll admit it took me about a week of asking “is it to big?” and looking in the mirror multiple times a day to get used to my new (very permanent) body art.  In the end I loved (still do) it (phew!).

Angela already knew she wanted a manta ray, and found one in his small sketchbook.  By the time Angela and I were both tattooed, Chris and Doug were convinced that they did indeed want tattoos … but what?  Chris found the perfect thing for him … it was a sand drawing, that Akitini’s friend had laid out to dry, of a fishhook with a dolphin ‘coming out’ of the hook.  Chris showed it to Akitini, who said it would be no problem.  We came back the next day to get Chris and Doug tattooed.  Akitini had been sketching some different ideas for Chris’s tattoo, all of which were beautiful.  He also had his friend show us all of her sand art.  Such talent!  I’m really not sure how to even go about describing them … they are like tattoos drawn out with colored sand then framed.  Everything from Tikis, to birds, Manta rays, sharks, and abstract designs.  After all this time in the Marquesas I was beginning to feel inadequate due to my lack of any artistic or musical talent.  We loved the sand art so much that we purchased one.

Chris’s tattoo is full of Marquesian symbolism … Tikis, manta rays, dolphins, the sun, and more.  The fishhook itself symbolizes safe passage over water.  Of the four tattoos, Chris’s is my favorite.  Doug decided to “go for it” and gave full creative leeway to Akitini.  He gave some size limitations and location and let Akitini do his thing!  It was a wise decision because his tattoo was just awesome.  We are still debating whether to post pictures … there is so much detail that we are convinced the pictures won’t do them justice, but then ago nor do these words!!!

Saturday was the 4a.m. (yep, that’s AM) market.  If for no other reason then to be apart of such craziness, we just had to go.  Boy, are we glad … fresh (just caught) yellowtail, warm croissants (plain and chocolate), quiches, and tons of fresh veggies.  I am not a morning person, AT ALL, but the melt-in-your-mouth fish and days without fresh veggies made 4 a.m. feel like sleeping in!  For the next two days we feasted on Sushimi and green salads.

Sunday brought with it another treat … ICE!  A few of us were getting together on Ocean Girl late that afternoon for drinks, and Chris and I were hopeful that we might still have a bit of ice left from Atouna (we don’t have a freezer, but if we put something right next to the cold plate at the very bottom of the frig it will usually freeze).  We were bummed to find only a very very small block; maybe enough for two to four drinks max.  We jokingly suggested to Ralph (Ocean Girl) and Gordon (Ascension) that they dinghy over to a large U.S. ship that was temporarily anchored just within the bay, and ask for some ice.  Ralph and Gordon actually went for it, and, mission successfully, they returned with a large bucket of ice … crushed ice no less!!!

The next day was packed full with an all day 4x4 Island tour.  The 4x4 was definitely needed, she took us on all sorts of back roads, up mountains, and through mud ponds.  With eight of us packed into the Land Rover is was a bumpy smelly ride.  We saw parts of the islands and views that we could've never experienced otherwise.  The best way to describe this tour is via pictures (soon to be posted).  The comical highlight of the trip was when Jocelyn (the tour guide) was pointing out a poisonous flower and telling us how it has been used for suicide and murder.  Angela leaned forward and [in all seriousness] asked, "How does it taste?".  Those of us in the back started laughing immediately while Doug (her husband) just shook his head and said "That's Angela!"  She was a good sport, trying to explain what she really meant by the question, but really, there was no excuse!  What was even funnier is that Jocelyn, in an attempt to be polite, actually tried to seriously answer Angela's question!

We also enjoyed an evening watching (and listening) the locals practice for the upcoming festivals in Tahiti.  The drums were powerful ... you could feel their beats and rhythms vibrate and pound through your entire being.  I tried to capture in on tape, but it's just not the same (however I'll still post a snip-it for you soon).

The next five days were spent “working” during the day and “playing” at night.  Oil changes, sewing projects (shade awnings & cockpit shade curtains), laundry, provisioning, and other boat projects were balanced by dinner with Waking Dream aboard Billabong, Cranium on Emerald, drinks at a magnificent hotel overlooking the anchorage, and group Pizza night out.  I also went through an extreme bout of homesickness.  Without constant email access or affordable phone cards, our communications home had dwindled to one short call a week.  For me, this just wasn’t enough.  I was used to daily, even hourly emails with my sister and friends, weekly or bi-weekly dinners with my dad and his wife, non-stop use of my cell phone with out-of-town friends and family, and now I barely got fifteen minutes a week.  We meet (and have met) a lot of great people cruising, however you don’t always know when you’ll see someone again (if ever), and this makes developing and maintaining close relationships difficult.  Even worse, once you do develop that relationship, it’s another person to miss when you end up at different anchorages.  I especially seem to miss “girl time”, we do a lot of things as couples or in groups, and I crave that alone time with all females … something Chris just can’t provide!  Luckily I got out of my funk after a week or so, and I’m hoping that the email situation will improve when we arrive in Tahiti.  In the meantime, I‘m making every effort to enjoy those people that I am meeting and to not get caught up in the “but I may never see them again” syndrome.

We were around for another 4a.m. market, where I became task force lead in the objective of securing tomatoes, quiche, and fish (you see, in our first market visit I discovered I’m just not quite aggressive enough to battle the outgoing, outspoken locals and other cruisers … I missed out on the tomatoes & quiches, and had a near-miss on the croissants).  Even with my well laid out plans, it was a close call.  I just barely snagged the last bag of tomatoes, and almost panicked as I watched the quiches disappearing before my very eyes, even though I had been the first one at the bakery stand (first one there but somehow not the first one to order) … with the help from Angela I obtained those desperately desired four mini-quiches!  We didn’t think it was possibly, but by the time Chris and I had finished our second fish we were actually tired of sushimi!!!  

We finally made it to church on Sunday, to hear first-hand the singing that so many cruisers had told us about.  Their voices boomed out in amazing, powerful harmonies, as we sat there in awe.  I hope that their voices echo through my thoughts years from now.

In the afternoon we finished up our final preparations, cleaning, stowage, and pre-meal prep for the upcoming four-day passage to the Tuamotus.  A huge part of me was sad to leave, especially knowing that the odds of ever visiting these miraculous lands again was next to nothing, however the clear water and white sand beaches of the Tuamotus beckoned, and I knew I had something to look forward to.

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Fatu Hiva through Oa Pou, Marquesas

April 19th - May 6th 2004

We are still pinching ourselves on a daily basis that this is real.  Are we really living on a sailboat in the South Pacific?  How can we possibly capture the wonders of our new lives, be it via journals, film, or video?  Not to say that this rose doesn’t have a few thorns … there are many days when the boat demands our attention, the heat melts us, and the bug bites scar us … cruising involves a lot of work, but the upside is so magnificent that we can only dream about what tomorrow continues to bring.

We wrapped up our visit on Fatu Hiva. We made a few other stops to drop off a hat and t-shirt to a couple of people that had given Chris some fruit on his earlier visit and to say hi again to the Chief (hi was all he got since we no longer had his t-shirt!).  The Chief was carving a beautiful wood hatchet with a bone carved handle.  He told Chris that if we showed up at the Festival in Papeete he would have a carved fishhook for him (Chris had given him a few Dremells earlier for his bone carving work).  We hope to make the festival, so it will be interesting to see if he really makes Chris a bone carving (we have absolutely no expectations).

Atouna, Hiva Oa

Our next stop was Atouna, Hiva Oa, a fairly easy motor-sail from Fatu Hiva.  Unfortunately Chris’s body was going through shock from the fruit feast he had enjoyed over the last two days so he wasn’t feeling so hot.  We spent four days in Atouna.  The anchorage was a few miles from the town, so typically we hitchhiked our way there and back … the natives were terribly friendly and riding in the back of a pick-up truck was as close as we ever got to air conditioning!  The town was cute (though Chris probably wouldn’t use that word), however after Fatu Hiva, there seemed to be just too many cars (how quickly our views change … when did twenty cars become too many???).  Chris was still ill our first day in, so I explored the town with Emerald and returned with fresh baguettes … our soon to be major staple for the months to come!

Oa Pou Photos below

The next day, Chris and I went in together.  We finally checked in, where I was thrilled to get a Marquesas stamp in my passport!  Oddly, we didn’t have to pay a bond.  Yet others did.  We thought we had it figured out, those with visas obtained prior to arrival didn’t have to pay, but the others did … however later on it was rumored that in the second wave of boats, everyone had to pay regardless of visas or no visas.  We are guessing that the bond will catch up with us sooner or later, probably in Tahiti.  Finding a time when the Gendarme (local police) was in to do the check-in was tricky as well … we have yet to figure out just when Siesta starts and ends.  But all in all it went very smooth and sure beat all the walking we had to do in Mexico!  While waiting for the Gendarme office to open we explored the small town; visiting the few shops and stores, and hiking up to the graveyard, where Gauguin (famous artist) is buried.  On the way home we stopped in at Felix’s (the “Fruit guy”).  Talk about fresh fruit … he picks it off the tree right there and then … pomplemousse, avocados as big as grapefruits, mangoes, and some other scary looking things that we weren’t brave enough to try.

Throughout the day, having just studied up some more on my photographer’s field guy, I was snapping pictures left and right, attempting to get creative angles, using the manual aperture settings, and playing with the exposure settings.  I must have taken over thirty; very brilliant I’m sure, photographs.  Only I had forgot to put the media card back in the camera the day before!!!  So much for being the next Ansel Adam!

We also purchased our first veggies since leaving Mexico … never had I so craved a green salad.  That night I made a HUGE salad with all the works; bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, carrots, and lettuce.  Lucky for me Chris bit into his first.  “Hmmm, it’s kind of … spicy.”  Thinking he was talking about the bell peppers (which were small and chili looking rather then the big peppers I’m used to from the states), I replied, “Shoot, I didn’t think they were bell peppers”.  “No, not the peppers, the lettuce”.  “Spicy lettuce?”  Sure enough the lettuce had spicy-ness to it, almost like horseradish.  So much for the traditional green salad!!!

Friday we had our first adventure in laundry-by-hand!  It wasn’t the nightmare I imagined, but it was quite a chore … I will definitely show my appreciation to any future washing machine and dryer I own!  We also walked out to Felix’s to pick up our bananas. When Felix saw us he slapped his forehead - he had forgotten to go cut the bananas.  No problem, he grabbed his machete and Chris, and off they went … into the jungle.  Climbing over and under barbwire fences, and across a stream on top of a fallen palm tree with no hand holds (if you’ve ever seen Chris attempt to balance on a beam like a ballerina you’ll realize how funny that is) to return with a banana stalk that held at LEAST 110 bananas (that was our best guess)!  Of course we all know that green bananas all go at once … just what were Chris and I going to do with all these bananas?  [It took about six banana bread loaves (some with chocolate chips or blueberries for variety), banana cake, banana muffins, banana biscuits, and lots of just plain eating them to get through the stalk, to our amazement we threw out very few!]


Saturday we moved over to Hana Moe Noe on Tahuata (about a one hour sail).  We had pre-planned a little birthday cake gathering with Island Sonata and Emerald for Sunday.  The water was a beautiful clear turquoise and the anchorage uninhabited.  Koncerto (a fifty-foot catamaran) invited six other boats over for a potluck dinner.  We started my birthday celebration a bit early with everyone singing happy birthday to me over candled banana bread.

Sunday, my 30th birthday, was an awesome day.  It started with Chris offering to make me breakfast … before we had a chance Whisper and Emerald stopped by on their way out to dive.  We followed them out to do some snorkeling.  The visibility wasn’t great, but it was still a good time (even with the tiny jelly fish stings!).  Back on the boat, I was in such a good mood that I cooked us breakfast instead.  Chris did a great job entertaining me with a few games of Canasta (although he didn’t let me win).  At 4p.m. we headed over to Island Sonata.  What was supposed to be just a bit of cake and swimming turned into a full out party.  Twelve of us packed onto Island Sonata and enjoyed drinks, an excellent chocolate cake, great singing by M.J. (of Island Sonata), and later on some karaoke! I was given lots of candy and beer (birthday presents), and a beautiful traditional head wreath (or as I called it, crown) from Chris (who had a bit of help from Emerald in decorating it with flowers).  I loved the wreath, and in wearing it was promptly name Princess Tahuata!  I still occasional wear the wreath (or crown) around the boat just for fun (or because I’m weird!).  Knowing my 30th birthday was going to take place either at sea or somewhere in the South Pacific, I had originally been a bit bummed thinking, “who [besides Chris] would I celebrate with?” … I needn’t have worried, it was the best birthday celebration ever and a terrific way to turn 30!

We stayed in the next day keeping things mellow and doing a few chores with breaks to get in a few hands of Canasta.  The following evening Island Sonata held a dinghy raft up next to their boat.  We all joined our dinghy’s or kayaks, tied off to Island Sonata, and chatted the evening away.  When the weather turned, bringing in huge thunderclouds and massive amounts of rain, the party broke up.  A few of us celebrated through the rain, but no longer being tied to Island Sonata began drifting out to sea.  Before getting too far out, we motored back in to tie off to the nearest boat, which just happened to be Billabong.  A few hours later another storm came through, but this time the chill was hard to shake without the sun, so we finally called it a night.  It was at this raft up that we met the first cruisers younger then us (well, younger then me!).  Ben and Lisa from Waking Dream … Lisa was just going to turn 29 the following week … guess I’m no longer the ‘baby’!!!

The next morning was a treat.  I was up in the cockpit reading when Chris comes up and says, “What’s that?” “What’s what?”  Just stern of our boat there were at least six manta rays swimming around.  Chris couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them!  Apparently they were feeding … slowing maneuvering all around Billabong.  I asked Chris if it was safe to swim with them, to which he said yes.  So I threw on my suite and grabbed my snorkeling gear.  Just before getting in I asked “Are you sure they don’t bite? … They look kind of scary!”  Laughing Chris just said, “No, No, hurry ... just get in before the go away.” “Then why aren’t you getting in?”  To this he just laughed … out of either stupidity or faith I jumped in anyway.  A couple of the manta rays were huge, as large as our dinghy.  They basically ignored me, but there were a few moments in the beginning, when they were swimming right at me, that I just wasn’t one hundred percent sure!  Eventually Chris and Peter (from Matura who was anchored next to us and noticed us pointing into the water) joined me in the water.  These animals were so amazingly graceful looking with their gigantic ‘wings’ flapping in the water.  We must have snorkeled with them for at least an hour.  Chris and Peter tried to catch a ride, but they were never quite quick enough.  I braved a single touch on the top of one, but a single slimy fingertip was about as close I got.

We had some friends (Ocean Girl) over for snacks and drinks later on that evening and retired rather early (seems we pretty much fade with the sun).

Hanamenu, Hiva Oa

The next morning (Thursday April 29th) we pulled anchor for a short day sail to the north side of Hiva Oa, Hanamenu.  Shortly after anchoring a huge squall hit and continued throughout the day and into the night.  The next morning we awoke to a mud and tree filled anchorage. I came up into the cockpit to find Chris battling to push off an entire tree that was floating by and entangling itself in first our stern then bow anchor.  With some effort we were able to get it free, luckily without tripping either anchor.  A neighboring boat yelled over that it was like being anchored in the Mississippi!  The rain, wind, and swell made it impossible to leave the boat, and the next day, as the swell continued to pick up, we decided to try the next anchorage up instead.  Our plans changed when we poked out of the anchorage and found strong headwinds coming from the direction we wanted to go.  Rather then beat up, we decided to return to Tahuata with plans on leaving for Oa Pou around 3a.m. the following morning.  The squalls continued through the night, and when 3a.m. hit neither of us had the energy to get up and go.  We opted to stay the day (and relax) and then head out that evening for a night sail.  We enjoyed some great snorkeling, took a brief siesta and lifted anchor around 5p.m.  It was a great night (although winds lightened up and it got a bit rolly) … the moon was full, lighting up the sky, and seas were relatively calm (minus the annoying swell).

Hakahetau Bay, Oa Pou

We hadn’t yet decided which anchorage we were going to stop at on Oa Pou, but learning there were twenty or so boats in the main anchorage, we quickly bypassed it and went for the northwest side instead, landing at Hakahetau Bay.  We made an excellent choice.  Hakahetau Bay and Fatu Hiva turned out to be my two favorite spots in the Marquesas.  The spires and landscapes take my breath away every time I look. Emerald and Billabong were the only two boats in the bay (for awhile anyway).  After naps we went ashore with Rick and Corbie (Emerald).  During our initial tour of the village we met Pasqel.  He spoke excellent English and we were able to learn a lot about the town and some Marquesian history.  Including some history of Marquesas tattoos and their meanings.  We learned that in the “old days” a persons tattoos would tell about their entire life, from what they did, to what they believed, and where they were from.  As a person aged, they would continue to add tattoos, which represented the different trials and phases of their life.  Anyone who met them would instantly know a hundred things about that person.  Pasqel talked us through his armband tattoo, explaining each symbol.  It also became obvious to us why no one goes by their Marquesian name … Pasqel’s name must’ve have been ten words long and taken him a good five minutes to say!!!  He also gave us some information about the different sights around the island, some of which would require a guide to get to.  The “two to three” hour hike up the crest and to the waterfall (via the back way) sounded great, so Pasqel introduced us to Michelle who was a very very handsome Marquesian and also a tour guide.  Corbie and I joked (in private) that we’d have no problem following him!  We arranged to meet the next morning for the walking tour.

The walk took us up along one of the crests, providing breath-taking views.  The trail (if you could call certain parts of it that) was extremely muddy … we had to stop often to knock off the thick layers that accumulated on the bottom of our shoes.  Michelle was a great guide, he claimed he didn’t know English, but his English was terrific!  He stopped often either to make sure we were all keeping up ok, or to point out different trees, plants, fruits, etc.  About two hours into the hike, he mentioned we were about halfway!  The mosquitoes in the forest were bigger than bumblebees and the buzz they created sounded like far off power tools.  It was definitely a difficult, uphill, sweaty, buggy hike, and worth every bit of effort!  Throughout the entire hike we couldn’t take enough pictures, or stop enough times to admire the views!  When we finally hit the waterfall (five hours later) it was wonderful and the cool water was inviting.  Luckily we took the short way back (30 easy minutes downhill)!  Michelle mentioned that we could buy ice cream at one of the houses down the way if we were interested.  “If we were interested?”  We couldn’t get to it fast enough.  The ice cream was sold from a couple’s home … we actually sat in their backyard eating it!  Without a second thought the husband picked a couple of pomplemousse, cut them up, and handing them out to us.  We are still continuously amazed at the friendliness we keep encountering.

On our way back to our boats Rick met a local, Martin, who invited us all (at this point there were now two other boats in the anchorage … Bobulona and Waking Dream) to a potluck BBQ on shore with his family.  After being entertained by the children playing with our kayaks we returned to our boats to clean up and nap before dinner.  Martin and his family put on a huge feast … tons of meat kabobs, rice, bananas, French fries and sausages.  Although Martin spoke some English, his family and children did not, so there was a lot of smiling and hand waving going on in attempts to communicate.  Chris and I found it easier to “talk” with the children through the common language of games!  We played hide-in-seek and taught them duck-duck-goose.  Ben and Chris also got some of the boys into trying one-handed handstands.  Francios (who was crewing on Bobulona) speaks fluent French (being that he is French), and was a great conduit to the wife and cousin of Martin.  Chris and I are continuously bummed that we don’t know French, because it seems that our experiences are greatly enhanced whenever we are around those that do.  Martin also tried to show Corbie a few dancing moves, but it seems no matter how much hip shake she got in there, it just couldn’t compete with the locals!  After the long day of hiking I wasn’t sure how energetic we’d be at the BBQ, but with their huge smiles and endless generosity we couldn’t help but perk up … it was a perfect night to go with a perfect day!

The next day we decided to visit the waterfall again … the short way this time (30 minute, mostly easy hike).  We joined Bobulona and Waking Dream for the hike and again relished in the cool water.  After the waterfall, we spent a few hours playing with the kids (we had promised to bring back the kayaks) and laughing in the sun.  That night we went for a mellow relaxing evening watching a video aboard Waking Dream.  Ready to hit the hay, we went above to discover our dinghy was gone!  At first I thought the current was just pulling it around to the other side of the boat and jokingly said “Oh, too bad our dinghy seems to have disappeared”, but Chris replied, “No, it’s really gone!”  Apparently we didn’t use the best knot when we tied it up, and with the large swells that were coming in the dinghy worked it free.  I am soooo thankful that it was Chris who tied the knot and not me!!!  We borrowed Waking Dream’s two-man kayak to go looking for the dinghy, in hopes that the swell (which was coming in) outdid the wind (which was going out) and we would find the dinghy ashore.  No luck!  Waking Dream inflated their dinghy and Chris and Ben went off into the night in search, but it was a lost cause, we had no way of knowing how long ago the dinghy floated off and in which direction it really went.  The next morning Chris went on a two hour hunt (via kayak), but again, no luck!  We were now dinghy-less.  It’s a lot like not having a car.  Luckily we still have our kayaks and we have another two man inflatable kayak that can hold 750 pounds of gear should we need to lug anything to and fro.  We were also lucky in that Chris didn’t give into my ‘whining’ that evening.  We didn’t want to kayak over to Waking Dream, because we didn’t want to have salt-water wet asses when we went to sit down below.  Since the dinghy was out we decided to row the dinghy over.  I wanted to put the engine on the dinghy, but Chris stuck to his guns and insisted that it wasn’t that far and that we could row.  Because we rowed we still are in possession of our engine!  What we aren’t in possession of however, is the dinghy cover (or chaps) that took me three frustrating days to sew!!!  Life without a dinghy so far hasn’t been too bad.  Most the anchorages are small enough that paddling is ok … plus we’ve been able to hitch a lot of rides.  The biggest inconvenience is that you never have a dry bottom!  We are still debating whether we will try and get a new dinghy in Tahiti or wait until New Zealand.

After Chris’s no-luck search for the dinghy we did a bit of snorkeling.  Visibility wasn’t great, but we did see an octopus.  He was a wonder to watch, as he changed colors to match the surrounding rock he was held up in.  Chris tried to encourage (without hurting or overly scarring) him out, but it was a no-go, we were stuck admiring him from afar.

Our first two and a half weeks were absolutely wonderful.  The generous people, rugged green landscapes, daily adventures, fresh air, bright sun, colorful rainbows, vibrant sunsets, and warm tropical waters were more then we could’ve dreamed for … and to think we still had so much ahead of us to look forward too!

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