Friday, November 29, 2013

Bread Run over the Hill

(By sat phone)

The backpackers’ guides talk about a wonderful, but strenuous hike from the town of Hatiheu (where there is a pension) to Anaho, one of the most beautiful bays in the Marquesas. The cruising guides on the other hand write about a “not to miss” hike from comfortable Anaho Bay to the friendly, cultural village of Hatiheu, where the anchorage is very rolly. The hike is the same, but the starting point and destination are reversed. The incentive to do this trek also differs: tourists come to Anaho to sit on the beach, relax and swim or snorkel; cruisers walk to Hatihue to buy bread and groceries, and to visit the archeological sites.


Beginning of the trail from Anaho to Hatiheu


Mark and I needed baguettes to make stuffing for Thanksgiving. And, we were ready for some bodily effort and sightseeing again. So, a few days ago, we left early for the steep hike to Hatiheu. Just when we anchored our dinghy in the shallows off the beach, we saw a monstrous catamaran pull into the harbor. Its tender was a serious looking sport fishing vessel, well over our 35 feet. Later on we also saw another dinghy, the tender to the tender. We were looking upon “Hemisphere”, the biggest privately owned catamaran in the world, dwarfing all of us in the anchorage. Mark and I calculated it must be about 140 foot long, since Irie seemed to fit in it four times. We could have been their fun catamaran toy!


S/Y Hemisphere – as big as all of us together!


We followed the path along the bay and turned onto the horse trail to start our hour and half long climb up a pretty steep, but shady hill. Drenched in sweat, we reached the top for a nice view and some welcome breeze. On the way down to the town - the easier and quicker part of the trip – we noticed that the abundant and giant mango trees are starting to drop their fruit. We collected some yellow mangoes in a plastic bag and hid it behind a tree, to be picked up on the way back. Some French cruisers were following us and you never know with them…


Anaho Bay


Once in Hatiheu, we scouted the village center with its usual church and gazed at the impressive rocky spires protruding at the edge of town. We bought bread and cookies, which we also left behind to avoid extra weight during the rest of our visit. Some friendly locals gave us Marquesan apples to taste. The consistency and flavor had nothing to do with the apples you and I know, but the shape had some correlation, even though its color was pink. It was tasty and juicy nevertheless – a new food to try.


Church in Hatiheu


Another mile or so out of town, up a hill towards the capital Taiohae, we found the spread out ruins of paepae and marae (stone platforms), remnants of the grand Marquesan past. It is the biggest excavated site we have visited so far, and upon the higher terraces we discovered some petroglyphs and full fledge papaya trees. Jack from Anaho was sitting on the ancient rocks, making skirts out of fresh leaves. He performed a bit later with three other male dancers. Their natural stage was one of the platforms, next to a humongous banyan tree. The occasion of the performance was the arrival of about 120 tourists off the cargo ship Aranui III which had docked in Taiohae earlier that day. Tourists for the locals, supplies for us! J


Jack and friends performing a local dance


Hungry without the cookies we bought in the store, Mark and I left the now busy scene, to stop by another - smaller but still quite impressive – archeological site with platforms and tikis. On the way back into the village we found an avocado tree and picked two of the fruits to join the already harvested breadfruit and papayas in our backpack. Loaded with packs of cookies, six (!) long baguettes and heaps of fruit, we scrambled back up and over the steep hill to return to Irie. The trip had been a success with practice for the muscles and replenishing of the fruit net. And, I think our friends of Kril and Iona agreed, after happily accepting “their” French baguettes!


Katie, Leili, Dylan and Chris – happy with our gift of cookies and bread


The spires of Hatiheu


Petroglyphs at one of the ancient sites


Paepae with papaya trees


Rocks used in the past to mix natural paints for tattoos and decorations


Remnants of a tiki at the “big” site


Deteriorated tikis at the “small” site


Monday, November 25, 2013

Anaho: Favorite Anchorage in the Marquesas?

(From the sat phone)


Anaho beach


The cruising life with its lack of good internet, unexpected boat problems, continuing chores, impossibility of finding certain items, and difficulty of getting things accomplished can be very demanding and tiring, and therefore frustrating, stressful and annoying. Mark and I haven’t had a break from it all for a while and sometimes we are really fed up with this way of living. Add to this being in constant pain (Mark) and a less than ideal anchorage and you get the mood on Irie in periods like this. What we need during those times is a beautiful, comfortable and peaceful place, without internet, where we can take it easy, focus on the important things in our household and enjoy being where we are and what we have chosen to do; exploring the area and taking our time with boat projects. Anaho in Nuku Hiva is one of those precious places, where we think “This is exactly what we needed!”


Anaho Bay – with Ua Huka in the distance


As we surely know and have experienced frequently, no place is perfect, and even this pretty anchorage has its negatives. The bottom is full of coral – we prevented the rubbing and scraping noise of our chain on rocks and coral by attaching a float a third of the way down to keep the chain suspended above the coral, there are quite a few other sailboats around, and the amount of nonos (biting flies, “no-see-ums”) on shore is incredible. We are being eaten alive in some areas and applying DEET does not seem to do the job. Wearing long clothes is undesirable in the tropics. But, for now, we are happy here, and we hope to stay a few weeks.


Time on the beach with our friends from Iona


Even though we miss our friends and the good times in the comfortable and attractive Caribbean, this is as good as it gets in the Pacific. The long, pretty beach has a lot of palm trees (and shade), we are surrounded by reefs (the water is – unfortunately – not very clear at the moment), there are hikes and friendly people, the bay is comfortable and the weather has been lovely. From the moment we dropped anchor and settled in, we saw two manta rays swim by and a turtle popped his head up. Mark finds it ironic that a place like this is every Marquesan cruiser’s favorite, while it basically resembles a random anchorage in the Caribbean (minus the incredible wildlife), a sailing area despised by many “hardy” cruisers favoring the Pacific. Needless to say, Mark is not very impressed by the Pacific (yet), but he does have a point!


Manta ray next to Irie


It was a pretty rough trip up here, the winds always being tricky along these mountainous islands and the waves bouncing off the steep shores, causing a chaotic chop, but we made good timing and only needed a good night’s sleep to restore ourselves. Since then, we have hiked to an expansive windward beach with our friends from Iona – where we were trashed by the violent waves and devoured by the nonos – and joined all the other cruisers and local residents on shore for a typical kai kai. The islanders slowly grilled a young goat and some freshly caught fish and a whole array of side dishes, cooked by cruisers and local women, was shared. With a farm in the vicinity, fresh vegetables were a nice treat, and the generosity of all provided plenty of food for everyone to enjoy.


Windward, nono infested beach of Haatuatua


And, talking about food, Thursday (November 28th) is Thanksgiving and – despite our floating, remote lives – that day will revolve around scrumptious dishes on Iona or Irie. Many of them. In more than generous portions! I can’t wait… J


Quick taste of the underwater world on a swim to the beach


Walk along the path of Anaho “village”


Outboard maintenance – the engine is getting tired


Small stingrays along the beach


Leili meeting a new friend


Organic farm near Anaho, on the way to Haatuatua


And then it was low tide!


Wild goat on the grill


Ursula (SV Kril) talking to “the Marquesan queen”


One of the local fishermen/hunters


Max and Jack carving the slowly cooked and tender meat


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hakaui: An Amazing Valley in Nuku Hiva

The entrance to Hakatea Bay is very narrow and sometimes tricky, but we picked “our weather” well, which is not too hard to do during the southern hemisphere summer – or better – the calmer dry season. No breaking waves for us, just a big pod of dolphins along the way, and an easy approach into the hidden and comfortable bay. This anchorage is commonly called “Daniel’s Bay”, but Daniel has not lived there for decennia and, actually, has passed away a few years ago.

After an afternoon of rest, a quick morning walk to the neighboring bay and cluster of houses, where we met the friendly Marquesan couple Teiki and Kua, and a tricky dinghy trip through a river into a lagoon (a bit hairier than in Taipivai) during high tide to get 24 gallons of fresh drinking water and to trade for some fruit and avocados, we were ready for an enjoyable evening. Our friends Patrick and Rachel on SV Namaste had arrived in the small bay and – being the only boaters here – we all gathered on shore before dark to make a fire on the beach. We cooked some food, had a couple of drinks and enjoyed a relaxing evening, only to be disturbed by a group of wandering cows, curious crabs and a local man on a horse, making sure we were responsible in regards to the bonfire.

The following day, we packed our lunches, plenty of water and bug repellent and some netting for our adventure in Hakaui valley. The 2-hour walk to Vaipo waterfall (the third biggest in the world) is reputed to be one of the nicest – and most buggy - expeditions in the islands, and after a lot of sweating in the humid climate, we were looking forward to a refreshing dip in the pool. The cliffs of the narrow valley rose up next to us after we passed through the well-maintained gardens and plantations of the 12 or so inhabitants, the vegetation was green and lush and we stumbled upon multiple maerae and other ruins, remnants of a grand Marquesan past.

The straightforward, relatively flat and mostly shady path crossed a few rivers and stopped at the end of the valley. Some water trickled down into a very cold pool and along vertical walls. The main part of the massive waterfall had dried up over the last couple of weeks, a result of the absence of rain. As we expected this, we were not disappointed to miss out on the “big highlight”. The hike had been very nice and the ice cold
water felt good. Our place of rest was bathed in direct sunlight for about an hour, while we swam through some crannies and caves further in. The men tried to catch some fresh water shrimp, but failed miserably. Our bait kept floating to the surface of the pool, feeding the smart creatures that avoided the net, but enjoyed nibbling at our feet.

The narrow gorge was soon in the shade again, and after eating and swimming a bit more, we released the three shrimp that were skillfully captured after an hour of trying. "A" for effort! The hike back to our new friends’ house was pleasant, and felt shorter than before. Patrick managed to trade a few things for fresh lobster, so that night a tasty and special dinner was had on Irie!

Teiki had raved about being a great hunter before and had proved to be a good fisherman already, when he and Kua showed up at Irie the next day. With a big smile and the words “One bullet, one pig!” he hopped on board and handed us two hunks of freshly butchered pork. He had left his house at 4am and returned four hours later with a 100 pound pig, so he said. His hunting dogs had done a great job and it had only cost him one bullet. We shared some stories and let them try our home brewed alcohol. They were as impressed with our fermenting skills as we were with their hunting and farming successes!

On our last day in Hakatea, we climbed one of the hills for a grey view of the two surrounding bays and went for a swim in the warm and murky water. The fridge had been running for days on end – first to preserve the lobsters, then to cool the pork – and needed some servicing. Mark and I had to run other errands as well, so this morning we returned to Taiohae, aka civilization, for a couple of days. We managed to rent some fridge gauges and add gas to the system today, and plan another doctor’s visit, some shopping and more internet tomorrow. Our next destination is Anaho Bay, along the north side of the island. It is proclaimed to be paradise in the Marquesas, and a day sail away.

With the land and beach behind us (see previous picture), this anchorage has all around protection

Cows strolling and resting on the beach at sunset

A local guy told us about cows using their horns to play with dinghies, so we (Patrick) came up with a dinghy fence out of dead wood, before leaving for a long hike! (Photo by Rachel)

Who would have guessed... a phone booth in the middle of nowhere. If only it took coins, I could have called my oma for her 93rd birthday!

Scenery along the beginning of the trail

 Steep cliffs and lush vegetation

Ruins of an old Marquesan settlement, We wondered whether they kept "long pigs" (= humans) in the deep pit before they cooked and ate them...

The end of the lush and pretty valley

Pool at the bottom of the falls

Trying to catch fresh water shrimps for dinner (Photo by Rachel)

Refreshing swim in the gorge and the caves (Photo by Rachel)

What is left of the  > 1000 foot waterfall during the dry season

 One of the river crossings on the way back to the start

Teiki and Kua drying bananas at their house (Photo by Rachel)

Teiki, the fierce looking fisherman, hunter and farmer (Photo by Rachel)

One of our new Marquesan friends' (pregnant) dogs. Her name is Vai (water) and she is extremely sweet! (Photo by Rachel)