Friday, November 22, 2013

Visiting the Marquesa Islands French Polynesia - Part 4

(Here is the link to Part 3. If you want to see all the posts about our trip click on Aranui in the right sidebar.)

Hiva Oa

Yes, we are back at Hiva Oa but this time a different part of the island. Our first stop is Puamau where we use the barge to get to shore. We've got a short ride to the Te I'Ipona archeological site, through some more beautiful scenery.

This site was easy to visit. The trucks took us right to the site. The English speaking group went ashore first and everyone cooperated by staying off the site so we could all take pictures with no people in them.

Then we all went crazy, climbing all over the site and taking a closer look at some of the very interesting tikis and other artifacts. Just about everyone had their picture taken standing near one of the tikis. Once that was done, we gathered around for a lecture about the area.

The trucks took us back to the ship where we had lunch on board. We did make another stop, at Hanaiapia, but we decided to stay on board.


This was a Sunday and we were able to wander in town, popping into a church service or two. We found one that sounded traditional Catholic and another where the singing was in Marquesan. Afterwards, we headed back to the ship and sailed to another anchorage off of a beautiful beach.

Today was a BBQ lunch on the beach and swimming. The water was wonderful and we stayed on the beach as long as we could.


The most interesting part of the visit to this island was the ship's maneuver in the harbor. We were told the night before to be up around 6 a.m. if we wanted to see it.

The ship entered the harbor bow first, very close to one of the cliffs lining the harbor. The anchor was dropped and the ship was then swung around, 180 degrees, on the anchor rope. At one point, the stern of the ship came very close to the cliffs on the opposite side. We had very calm water and I can't imagine doing something like this in high wind or bad weather.

The day ashore was very long and admittedly not one of the most interesting, even with a visit to a botanical garden. We visited the local museum and handicraft center. We had a long wait there because pax were being barged ashore and we had to wait for everyone to arrive before the lectures began. By then we had already been though the museum on our own, I had visited the craft center more than once, and we, personally, were ready to move on.

It was then that we discovered we were right next to an elementary school. I walked to the school and had fun watching the children and taking pictures. They were a delight.

Our next stop was the botanical garden which was disappointing. We saw more flowers in the gardens at the museum.

Finally lunch, another buffet, and then we made the short walk, downhill, to the beach where we just spent some time watching the water before making our way back to the ship.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Visiting the Marquesa Islands French Polynesia - Part 3

(Here is the link to Part 2 in case you missed it.)

Hiva Oa

We were finally able to watch some of the loading and unloading of freight while at anchor as we stayed in the harbor of Tahuata for about 2 hours. It looked like those bags of gravel we had seen previously were destined for this island.

We then sailed onto the town of Atuona where we were docked and found trucks waiting to take us to the cemetery where Gauguin "may" be buried. Also buried at this cemetery is Jaques Brel who we learned was a very famous European actor. We took the truck ride to the cemetery but when we saw the incline of the hill to the graveyard, we decided to stay on the truck and get off at the Gauguin Cultural Center. There was a lot of information about Gauguin including his life, is style of art, the evolution of his work and many copies of his works.

Copra Drying Rack - Main Commercial Crop of Islands
This was a quiet day. After lunch at a local restaurant we had time to wander around town, or if so inclined, there was a 1 hour mile hike up to a viewpoint. We chose to do our viewing at sea level.

Fatu Hiva

Fatu Hiva is the southernmost of the populated Marquesan Islands. Here we had a demonstration on how they make tapa cloth and mono oil (fragrant coconut oil). As usual we were divided up into three language groups and we did find the demonstrations quite interesting.

In making the tapa cloth, the bark is first removed from a tree branch (breadfruit, banyan or mulberry), then the inner part of the bark is removed. That is then folded and pounded and folded and pounded and wrung out and then some more, to remove as much water from the bark as possible. Then it is allowed to dry for a day or two before being decorated. Moistening the cloth again allows it to be used as cloth, such as in preparing the mono oil.

Preparing the mono oil is another long and tedious process. (I found it interesting that only a sprouted coconut is used for this.) The coconut is grated into a tapa cloth and then fragrant flowers are added. The cloth is then twisted and wrung out over a bowl, with the coconut oil mixing with the fragrant flower oils.

(I bought a few small bottles for gifts. Never dawned on me until I saw the bottles later in our cool cabin that the oil would solidify in the cold. Will have to wait until next summer to use it, leaving it outside in the heat to melt again.)

This island was probably the most lush one we visited and, for sunset, we headed to the Bay of Virgins. Several pax were fortunate enough to see the green flash during this sunset.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Visiting the Marquesa Islands French Polynesia - Part 2

(Here is the link to Part 1).

Ua Poa

We docked in the village of Hakahau which made getting on and off the ship easy. The handicraft center was right on the beach and we had free time to wander the village. There was an exhibition of Marquesan art in the town hall and the Catholic church has some nice woodcarvings.

It was possible to swim at the beach here, and while others did, I didn't. While it looked nice, and we spent a bit of time walking the beach and wading ankle deep, I have this philosophy about not swimming in water that is part of an active port, which this was.

Artwork here consisted of something unique .. rock art made from flower stone ... and I did buy a piece for a friend of mine. Lunch was on shore, a buffet at a local restaurant. It was within easy walking distance of the dock but if anyone felt they needed a ride, one would be arranged. We were treated to a display of Marquesan dancing and then settled in to eat. There was a wide variety of dishes, for everyone from the vegan to the carnivore.

After lunch it was a stroll back to the ship. The Aranui changed anchorage in the afternoon, to the village of Hakahetau. It was nice just to stand at the ship's rail and take pictures of the beautiful changing landscape.

This is a picture of the airport. Notice length of runway.

We were told there wasn't much to see and do in Hakahetau... some crafts, hike to a viewpoint .... and also that disembarking and embarking the barge on the shore could be dicey. So we stayed on board (as did many people). I took advantage of the pool which is very nice when the ship is anchored and the water is not sloshing all over the place. Many pax simply found a comfortable place on board to read, play cards or sunbathe.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

More Aranui and Marquesa Island Posts Coming

A combination of a head cold and a sick computer put me behind schedule. There will be more posts coming about our sailing on the Aranui 3.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Visiting the Marquesa Islands French Polynesia - Part 1

(Be sure to check out Onboard the Aranui 3  - Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 and Part 4 if you haven't already. )

 OK ... the part of my report that I am sure you have all been waiting for, as in "So how were the islands?"

Briefly, the islands are beautiful. The Marquesa Islands are volcanic in nature, being the youngest geologically of all the islands in the chain that starts in southeast Asia. We visited two atolls in the Tuamoto Islands group that lies between Tahiti and the Marquesas: Fakarava (first island stop) and Rangoria (last island stop). The rest of the time we spend sailing around the inhabited Marquesa Islands: Nuka Hiva, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Ua Huka, and then back to Nuka Hiva and Ua Pou to deliver cargo picked up on the other islands.


Fakarava is an atoll with about 600 residents. I would guess its highest point is about 15 feet above sea level. We had no cargo to deliver or pick up so why we stopped I'm not particularly sure. We had time to wander around, walking across the motu (island) from the lagoon to ocean side which took us all of about 10 minutes. (An atoll is a ring of coral that surrounds a calm lagoon. However, the ring does not necessarily break the surface all the way around and the result is a string of small islands circling the lagoon.) The lagoon was very calm and the oceanside was protected by a shelf of coral. However, I'm sure I wouldn't want to be here during a hurricane (cyclone in this neck of the woods).

We had time to wander around, look into whatever shops were open including a very nice pearl shop. It was Sunday and most shops were closed. We passed two churches, one holding a Christian Sunday service and the other where the singing was Polynesian.

Nuku Hiva

We had a day at sea and it rained most of it. But the next day dawned clear when we docked on Nuku Hiva. Our stop was its capitol, the town of Taiohae. The dock was about a 25 minute walk to town or, for those that didn't or couldn't make the walk, there was a Le Truck (picture a wooden school bus with benches) to take us the distance.

Perhaps because of the bad weather, we docked about 1 1/2 hrs late and things were a bit rushed. We were supposed to have time at the handicraft center in town and then board any of the four wheel drive trucks waiting nearby. With really no spare time, most pax went straight to the trucks while others (moi?) had to browse the handicrafts first.

As each truck filled up with 4 passengers, it took off to visit the Cathedral of Taiohae. The pax were divided into three groups for lectures on the history of the church and of the missionaries in the area.

Along a drive up the winding island road -- concrete in some areas and dirt in others, with the associated ruts and potholes -- we stopped at a couple of places for photographs. Of course the views were stunning and I would have loved to have pulled a chair out of the trunk of our vehicle and sat there with a drink in my hand.

We were offered a beverage but it was simply bottled water. Back into our vehicles for a visit to the archeological site of Tohua Kamuihei.

There we were entertained by dancers. Afterwards, we again split into groups and those that wanted could wander around the ruins. While there was a defined path, it was rocky and crisscrossed with tree roots so we decided to pass, saving ourselves for the after lunch "20 min walk uphill to the MeaePaeke" site.

Lunch was a buffet, as all lunches ashore were. They were all handled very well, with multiple tables serving the same dishes so no long wait to eat. This particular stop was special as parts of the main course, such as the pig, goat, fish and some of the vegetables, were cooked in an earth oven. We got a chance to watch as the workers scraped off the dirt, peeled back layer after layer of burlap and then layer after layer of leaves, finally lifting the food out on a stretcher.

Some of the menu items included cold foods such as poisson cru, octopus salad, and shrimp salad, plus hot foods such as the roasted pork, fish, goat and vegetables. For the first time I had a chance to try breadfruit and cassava and liked both. Dessert was a banana pudding which was the most unappetizing looking dessert I (and a lot of other people) had ever seen. While it was tasty, most of us couldn't get past the appearance ... trust me ... you don't want the "image."

We had options for after lunch: an approximately 40 minute hike to the saddle between two beaches, an approx. 20 min walk uphill to the archeological site, or swimming at the beach, if it was calm. We opted to visit the archeological site.

This is where the brochure can use a rewrite. For us, it was grueling and we wished we had our hiking poles. It was uphill over rocks, roots and, in places, mud. By the time we got to the top, we were soaking wet, exhausted and very thirsty. While we found the site interesting, with barely uncovered walls and tikis, we were so busy recuperating from our hike that we didn't pay much attention to the lecture. In the end, after we visited another site (by vehicle) we really began to understand that all we were learning about Marquesan culture was really conjecture. In 1888 Marquesan society came to an end, when all of the Marquesans were disarmed and the Church forbid the practice of any Marquesan culture. The Marquesan culture we see today is being reconstructed from the journals, logs, reports and artifacts found in museums around the world.

During our time ashore, the Aranui 3 had moved anchorage. After hiking back downhill, we grabbed a bottle of water (provided by the Aranui) and got into our ride. Down more curving roads to a black sand beach and the barge waiting at the beach to tender us back to the ship.