Sunday, December 15, 2013

Conclusion Anaho Bay - The Pros and Cons

(By email)

Anaho Bay from the top of the hill to Hatiheu

Anaho Bay in Nuku Hiva has been called anything from “best kept secret” to “amazing bay” to “greatest anchorage in the Marquesas”, and even all of (French) Polynesia, by sailors, backpackers, brochures, travel books and cruising guides. It is interesting that Pacific travelers seem to prefer the bays and beaches that most represent the Caribbean and I wonder whether the pronouncers of these statements have ever visited the Gambier Islands or Fiji. Although Anaho certainly has its charms, we surely hope this is not the nicest place in the South Pacific, or we will be a tad disappointed.

Irie in Anaho, along the north coast of Nuku Hiva

Depending on the day, we like Anaho, or we want to get out of here. Negatives include the awful nonos (incessant tiny biting flies) on land, and after every shore excursion, we have red itchy welts all over our bodies and have the need to scratch them for days. Insect repellant (with DEET) does not help, but does work against the mosquitoes – whose bites we currently prefer. When we plan to go ashore, we never quite know what to put on our skin: suntan lotion, bug spray, monoi (local oil with a nice fragrance that is said to help against the nonos, but has no impact on mosquitoes) or anti-itch cream to take care of the current bites. Or, all four.  Or, nothing at all, since we’re in trouble whatever we do. We also have antihistamine tablets on board which come in handy these days, especially after I ran into a wasp nest and ended up with five stings on my back and head.

The idyllic setting of the farm close by is a mecca for nonos. The horses are used to transport the fruit and vegetables to civilization. They suffer from the insects as much as we do.

The weather has been grey, the wind gusty – sending Irie all over the place - and the water extremely cloudy. With all the fringed coral in the bay (a rarity in the Marquesas) this is a shame, since the visibility is awful and snorkeling unexciting or fair at best. It must be the time of the year, since these reefs are what a lot of people rave about. The other thing cruisers or books don’t mention is the amount of coral heads scattered around the part of the bay where one is supposed to anchor. When you get the anchor to set in a patch of sand, chances are that your chain will rub and grate against (live) coral more often than not. Sleep becomes difficult with thundering noise like that.

Life coral in the bay

Because of the bad visibility, you don’t notice the coral patches until you are settled, or when the wind shifts and the boat lies differently. Anchoring further out – where it is less protected – is a solution, or putting a float in place along the chain. Part of the bay is now also called a “marine park” by the locals – because of the density of the coral reefs - and they don’t want you to anchor north of the dinghy channel anymore. Since this is actually the place all cruising guides tell you to anchor – that’s right, on top of the fragile coral! – most boats try at least once to drop the hook there, before they realize there’s coral underneath or before they get asked to move. By then, the damage is done. On top of that, they might be wrapped around one of the heads and have a hard time picking up anchor.

Spring low tide – the dinghy lies high and dry!

Things to like in Anaho are the easy and protected dinghy landing (with an anchor in the shallows or dragging it up the beach; because it shoals gradually, the tides seem huge), the availability of trails with a strenuous, but good hike to the village of Hatiheu and a pleasant 30-minute stroll to an organic farm – both offering enough shopping possibilities to stay for a while – and the friendly people. The drinking water on shore is of excellent quality and easy to obtain. When the sun is present, the bay and the beaches look very pretty and in the mornings, the seawater seems a bit clearer allowing a snorkel try-out. The wind usually comes pretty steady out of the same direction (east or north) and the anchorage is comfortable. In the Marquesas, this seems to be the main concern, and indicator to be called a good place to anchor and be.

Looking for shells at low tide

The last week, Mark and I have been hiking a bit for food and exercise reasons. We tried to snorkel a few times, looked for shells during extreme low tide, cooked more good meals, from dinners to desserts, and tried some new recipes – an advantage of being in the same anchorage for a while and therefore having time for more frivolous stuff than always taking care of our floating home. As for Mark’s elbow, the pain is gone (for the moment), but his arm feels funny and is not healed yet, so he still has to be very careful. Since it is one of those days again – and we still hope to go to the festival in Ua Huka - we are leaving soon. J

At the farm, we pick the vegetables we desire – it doesn’t get fresher than this!

Walking up and over the steep hill for exercise, and to pick mangoes for our first mango chutney

Irie in a shell – the only boat in the anchorage

The village of Hatiheu

Tikis abound in every village of the Marquesas, even in tiny Hatiheu

An abundance of fish lives amongst the coral

Striped surgeonfish

Intermediate butterfly fish of some sort (top) and an ornate butterfly fish (bottom)

Congregation of fish around a piece of coral

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