As Sienna wrote in her diary ‘it’s great to be on land again’, it really was. The first day we slept and recovered a little. The second day we thought we should go to the village (as they call it here, how cute) to customs (whom had the friendliest customs officers we have encountered so far, asking us questions in broken English and very cheery and relaxed), then off to the Banco to try and get some Polynesian francs. After being on land for 15 minutes we realized it ‘felt’ different, much different to the other islands we have been to. These people seem much more relaxed and friendly and I certainly didn’t feel like our belongings would be pinched or have to look over my shoulder. The person behind the counter at the petrol station was friendly with no attitude even though we couldn’t speak French / Tahitian. He called us a taxi with no problems. The people here all look like Mauoris, with their facial features, large frames and many with those geometric tattoos that are back in fashion here on the islands.
The village was a 10 minute taxi ride from the anchorage (dingy needed a stern line) along the side of a mountain. The village is nestled in the valley of the largest mountain here and surrounded by cliffs, it’s stunning. The streets are lined with fruit trees, mainly mangoes, bread fruit and bananas. Can’t wait for mango season as we missed it last year. The money here is really cool, in the post office we got a SIM card for data and were given change of brightly colored paper notes and large coins with pictures of the mountains, really interesting money – called French Polynesian Francs. It is a small village (but the second biggest here in the Marquesas’ islands), it has one main road with a few shops scattered along it. Everyone was friendly and waved to each other in the street. Most don’t speak English, but some do. We met another cruising family in the street with two boys our boys ages, awesome. Had a long chat in the hot sun.
Time for some land time, we hired a car the next day and set off to find the tikis. We found the smiling tiki, which as the guide book describes it as the original minion! I was driving very gingerly at first on the right hand side of the road, up very steep mountainsides with vertical cliffs a meter off the road. The longer we drove the slower the pace was as the roads deteriorated to dirt cliff side roads. We stopped for a photo stop and a local drove along who was a guide for a group of people going to the same place we were, and he shared out his massive Pamplemousse with us then proceeded to tell us where his house was and to go get some more if we wanted. So we did, expecting a whole heap of different types of fruit that we could buy. When we got there, we gestured that we wanted to buy some fruit from the 2 old men that lived there. So he proceeded to pick the Pamplemousse from the trees then would not accept any money for them!!!! Can you believe it! We were stoked and surprised at their generosity.
We are really ready to leave Hiva Oa, Stu and I are covered in no no bites (no see ums with a different name here, tiny biting insects that are really itchy and leave a blister). Stu’s back is covered. I am really itchy most of the time and just want it to end. I have read that this side of the island has many no see ums so I’m hoping the next island won’t be as bad.
The next Bay was only a short sail away, though it was very rough upwind and beating into swells, I felt a bit yuck and super tired, I perked up in the calm lee of the island. We arrived in this truly beautiful picture perfect anchorage around noon. White sandy beach (not many in the Marquesas as the Marquesian islands are ‘new’ volcanic islands with steep to edges cascading into deep waters) and palm trees lining the beach. Not as tall as Hiva Oa and not so much like a jungle, more like rolling hills. Should be less pesky bugs! It is so nice to pull up and see the clear stunning waters. As soon as we anchored I started the watermaker, we haven’t been able to make water since we arrived as the water in Hiva Oa’s bay was too dirty-silty. So we had been carting water from the shore the whole time. Did two loads of washing, yay 4 weeks worth piling up. Everyone else was in the water, we were all stoked to be hitting the water again. It’s been a long time. The water is warm here but not as hot as Panama which is great, it is refreshing but not too hot or cold.
Alex and I jumped off the bow. Stu found an octopus and Alex and I went to investigate. We checked the anchor which was dug in nicely into the sand. It is Alex’s 8th birthday tomorrow so I stayed up late making him a treasure hunt as he hinted he would love to have one on his birthday, hiding his presents all over the boat in certain strategic places, with rolled up clues tied off with string which Alex had to read to decipher the clues. I also blew up many balloons and made a balloon fortress for Alex to burst through on his way up the steps in the am. Made a balloon wall line with his name on it, he was stoked with all of this.
There was much excitement in the morning with a 5:30 start and Stu and I dragged ourselves up as we don’t open presents without all of us being there. Alex read all of the clues so well, his reading is coming along nicely – YAY. As I was cooking pancakes 2 manta rays swam right by our boat!!!! Woo Hoodoo I really want to swim with one as have never seen one in the ocean. I’m going to be ready tomorrow hope we see another.
We all swam to the beach, so lovely to be in this refreshing water. The kids frolicked on the beach with the boogie boards in the small waves. Jake made a small monohull out of driftwood he named ‘Menace’ complete with a weighted keel to keep it upright. It actually works and stays upright even with Alex causing tsunamis, it sails too, very clever and cute.
Later that day a man who lives here (there’s one hut on the beach that must be his), was on the shore yelling and obviously very angry with one of the crew of a boat here, there are 5 boats. Eventually another French guy on a boat started yelling back in reply. The man on the beach seemed very aggressive, maybe he was upset that they were catching cray or maybe he thought they took some of the coconuts or other fruit from the trees on the beach. Who knows, but after a while of yelling the 2 men went to shore in their dingy and the yelling continued but they both came back after a while, so I guess it got sorted out. I have read on the Soggy Pores compendium (another cruising boats information for other cruisers) that there is a man who lives here who is not that friendly and apparently cruisers have taken his fruit and even walked into his house. Anyway we won’t be setting off the fire crackers on the beach we bought for Alex’s birthday, pity.
We had been doing school and jobs all day and needed to get off Neverland, as there is a job where ever you look it seems. We went for a snorkel and explore to other bays. We discovered heaps of lava tubes in the cliff faces, so cool. One lava tunnel had a large nest in it, perfect place away from predators and we saw the chick in it!! So cool. Stu lead me through a lava tunnel underwater, it was pretty cool and covered in fire coral which I am very happy to say I didn’t touch! Fire coral is a bright red coral that burns for weeks if you touch it, it can get really infected and make you sick from what I have heard from other cruisers. The kids were great, Alex trying to equalize, Jake doing loads of duck dives and Sienna following my lead.
Guess what, today we met the angry man that was yelling on the beach! The kids wanted to get some beach time, they were having a ball trying to catch crabs, building nests complete with fronds and eggs to protect and generally loving life. The man came up to us and introduced himself! We couldn’t believe it, he also spoke English! We offered him a rum and he gladly accepted and we started chatting. After a while we figured out he was the owner of the land and he was really interesting to listen to. We told him we thought this place was paradise, he asked why?!…….. Huh! So we pointed out the white sandy beach, palm tree lined glistening clear aqua waters along with the remoteness. He did not seem to have this view of his home, in some ways he did and not in others. He explained that he is trying to keep this bay wild and pristine, he has had many developers come and make offers on his land but he turns them down as he wants to keep it natural. Good on him I say. Though he has a time of it trying to keep it as is. There are usually boats in the bay, sometimes there are none he said. So his rules are you can go on the beach but not walk inland, no catching crayfish but you can fish. If you want to go for a walk just ask him, he just wants respect. He told us that some cruisers just the other day took a tree full of coconuts, the coconuts are his lively hood in that he dries the meat for Copra. He has some fruit trees and lives off the land on chickens, the occasional pig and I’m guessing crabs and fish. He told us that a manta ray comes into the bay and its bigger than our dingy which is almost 4m long, he said its 3m bigger!
Steve told us he has seen cruisers killing and eating a ray, he has found cruisers eating his coconuts and walking on his land. He was a pretty intense guy but he loosened up after a while when talking about how he gets boat kids to plant coconut trees sometimes. I can see why he got so worked up the other day yelling on the beach, but I really wish he would find another way. This bay is one of the most popular in all of the Marquesas, I really hope it stays this way without out Steve having a heart attack in the process.
Today I winched Stu up the mast 4 times! The wind sensor that started playing up a day after leaving Galapagos is still not fixed, in fact the new one only a month ago old was accidentally dropped from the top of the mast, bounced off the saloon roof and into the water…….oooops and DOH. When Stu was safely back on the deck I snorkeled down and found it, Stu and Jake were nursing it hoping it will come back to life. We popped the old wind sensor back up, but it’s just reading wind speed not angle. We did school again today amongst all this up and down the mast, in the pm the kids and I scrubbed the decks with some pumping music playing to amp Sienna up (though doesn’t need it, she such a little live wire dancing sticking her behind out). The mess is getting to me and it feels good to have somewhere reasonably clean (for a few days anyway).
Afterwards much to Sienna and Alex’s delight we jumped off the bow of Neverland, Stu joined us and showed off his backflip and superman impressions which really set Alex off, he was diving off the back in full swing with Sienna giggling big time. The water was so wonderful I told Jake after I had done 3 more jumps then I was going to get him in, so he disappeared for the rest of the time.
We have discovered some new music that was given to us (from Drakkar I think), and we have some Nanny music for you Nanny Bennett and the Colams, so where the bloody hell are yuh????? he he, I know half a world away does pose some problems!
The little fish here are so pretty, fluorescent blues and another type that’s a brilliant yellow. The star fish here are like a big fat cushion barely with any arms at all, a green colour with blue or yellow underneath. The water here today was thick with a clear jelly like creature that looks like the flesh of an orange all broken up, it might be plankton we’re not sure. There are some stunning yellow angel fish also. Today the goats on the cliff were bleeting while the sun was setting.
This life style is great but some days I would gladly go back to normal life at home. Some of today was like that, school was hard, I am a bit unwell which doesn’t help, Stu had problem after problem with the generator and I guess feeling like I need some space from the family or just needing to chat with some one else. We are getting ready to sail early in the am leaving around 3am so we can get to the next anchorage in plenty of daylight time to anchor. Sailing is not really my thing I feel at times, I struggle with sea sickness and have lost confidence in my tablets, but when I’m feeling well I enjoy the sail trimming and technicalities of it. But as Stu said there are more good days than bad. It’s like the man on the beach it’s a matter of perspective, here he is in absolute paradise but the poor guy seems to feel it’s more like a prison we feel. I must say he is living hard with no luxuries and his house is open on the sides, he is living all alone though which would be hard and I’m not sure that he would make much money with his palm trees. Last night we heard him yelling like a woooop yell, happy yells coming from the darkness (like he was drinking) and we heard like a singing coming from the palms today. It seemed like he was alone, (though he may not have been). Last night it was a little eerie hearing these noises come out of the darkness. Just a bit of a worry I think the poor guy needs some company, I would probably go a little nutty if I was all alone in this isolated place and come to think of it I would probably sing and yell to myself too! I’m pretty sure there is no road to town only one a few bays away and he doesn’t have a boat.
Baie de Taiohae
The bay is overlooked by a giant tiki (human like carved structure that date back to early pre Christian times). This tiki is obviously not a heritage one, it sits on a lookout overlooking the whole bay, it’s very spectacular. We walked up to it, as we entered there is a gate that had obviously been made by an artist. The road was steep with a one car wide dirt road leading up to a level open area, where the giant tiki is surrounded by other pieces of art. The art were tables and chair, some with sunbrellas made out of concrete and stone/ mosaic, a sculpture of an octopus representing the French Polynesian islands, with each island group encased around the tip of the octopus’ tentacle, wrought iron sculptures resembling a bin shape made from twisted pieces of metal and little stone statues, etc. As we took all of this in, we noticed a man who was obviously the artist working with a welder, a very talented man. Stu and I were just saying to each other we better tell the kids to respect this place and tell them to be careful not to break of climb on things, just at that moment we turned to see Alex peeing on one of his structures!!!!!! Ahhhhhh – Stu freaked out, I was trying not to laugh (I was pretty sure the man could not see us from this angle) while Stu has a stress and explained to Alex he was peeing on this man’s art work, his pride and joy! Haaaaa he IT was FUNNY, in a wrong kind of way.
We met a few other cruisers here, one was a south African boat called Leia-B, we introduced ourselves as we saw them at the other bay where they were watching us as they pulled into anchor, as the kids were running amok jumping off the boat and having fun. They were busy with their boat parked up on the beach hull cleaning, we saw a large sting ray next to Richard and later Wayne said he saw a shark whilst retrieving the stern anchor, which would make sense as they were right next to the fish cleaning area. We enjoyed their company over pizza at a local restaurant.
The fishermen clean and bag their fish everyday at the warf, and sell it if you ask, for $5 a kg for yellow fin tuna!!!!! Gotta love those prices. We spent a little long here but needed supplies, internet which is like 2G speed and unusable for somethings. We also got a lot a boat jobs done, it seems after every sail we spend time fixing things (well Stu does), in fact I think we spend more time fixing and cleaning than almost anything else, except school of course.
This bay was recommended to us by all the cruisers we met in Taiohae Bay, as we are keen to go to the Tuomotos we had to prioritise so we picked this one bay to go to before heading off. The sail there was an upwind bash bash slog motoring, not much fun. I didn’t feel sick but was extremely tired, Jake doesn’t take sea sick tabs and looked a bit green.
This bay is stunning, tall peaks with lines of vertical wafer thin black cliffs in lines of 3. Coconut trees lining the white sandy beaches and all natural, no houses. Leia-B came around the point and anchored near us, we were hoping to see them again, we were the only two on this side of the massive bay.
The next morning we did some school, but were ready with snorkelling gear on the back step. As soon as Stu spotted some Manta rays I called Leia-B on the VHF radio but no response, then we were all in. We met a family with 3 boys that we are hoping to see here again (as they are staying in Society islands for the cyclone season too) and they swam with manta rays here in the mornings.
I thought they had gone and was just about to swim back to the boat (as Sienna was getting cold), when all of a sudden the manta rays appeared, it was so so so amazing. Jake yells out “Manta ray” at the top of his lungs. One, two, three, four ……five manta rays played around us for 10 minutes. It seemed like they were curious appearing until they were done, there’s no way you can swim to find them yourself plus it’s too murky. They swim towards you then dive under you, all in a procession like follow the leader, they are like big bomber jets. Two almost collided and had to bank hard to avoid each other, such majestic and fun creatures. We were all stoked to see them, I just kept close to Sienna in case she got scared but all the kids were great. They were about 2m wing span with a catamaran like head, just stunning and such a highlight. Swimming with Mantas is definitely a bucket list item for me, fully stoked!
This bay is stunning, we are surrounded by hills and mountains with tall peaks, there are 3 tall black volcanic rock sky scrapers on one side of the bay, looks perfect for zip lining from one to the other. These islands are spectacular but no one has really marketed them, there are so many cool things to do but no one is offering, though that is part of the remoteness and uniqueness of the place. Our friends on Leia-B are here, yay. They popped over just as we were heading into town and warned us about the beach break, their boat got flooded by a breaking wave they had their laptops on board but luckily no IT casualties.
This town is pretty, one cobble stone/dirt road along the black sandy beach with houses, a shop, a post office, a town hall, cute church along the tropical plant and flower lined road. There are 2 streams flowing into the ocean. We went for a walk to the only food shop here, with 2 friendly locals sitting outside and a playful kitten inside that the kids were intrigued by. We were greeted by 4 local dogs just outside the shop, they all looked pretty happy and healthy, I don’t think this town would have strays as its too small and the people in the streets all looked pretty content. We saw the men from the fruit orchid that was in the other bay, they both said bonjour.
We had our exit plan to leave the bay in the dingy, we ended up getting swamped by a braking wave on the bow, luckily the camera and phones survived! The only thing we did wrong was take too long getting into the boat, or we need to go out further before getting in – the plan for next time.
Stu took Jake and Sienna out at 0600 to trawl for tuna, half way through it started pelting down with rain. Alex stumbled out of bed telling me about a minecraft dream he had with cows firing milk at him, he said he dreamt all night and wasn’t too upset when he realized he missed out on fishing. They returned soaking wet but buzzing with excitement with the 4 fish they hooked.
Jake – We caught 4 fish but we only got 2 1/2 as a shark bit one in half and the other took the whole tuna and the lure as well! We didn’t see the shark that took half the fish, Dad was fighting the tuna when all of a sudden the fighting stopped and we thought we lost it but instead we reeled in a fish head. I also saw a shark on the surface! I saw a gold brown grey shark fin and tail swimming toward the lure so we stopped so the lure stopped looking like a fish, we didn’t want to catch a shark. I think the shark was around 2 1/2 meters.
Alex, Sienna and Stu went to the dock with some French words rehearsed that Jake and I had advised, asking if these tuna were safe to eat, ie: no ciguatera poisoning. They are safe to eat and the local fisherman were happy to answer his questions. Stu and Sienna ran some over to Leia-B just as they were upping anchor to leave, whom were stoked. One of the fish was a little Tunny tuna, after some investigation.
Since we arrived we have not seen any locals in the water, black sandy beaches are not considered safe due to sharks. Stu saw a 6 foot reef shark in the previous bay and I must say on this particular day it felt sharky, as we could not see the sea floor in 12 m of murky water and it was a bit overcast.
Thanks for reading our blog.
Neverland crew xxxxx