Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Marking Time in the Marquesas ..... November 2015

25 Oct – 22 Nov 2015:  Taioha’e, Nuka Hiva, Marquesas ~ 8 54S  140 05W

Rugby, Rugby and More Rugby20151024_072006 

With France knocked out of the World Cup Rugby in the Quarter Finals by New Zealand there wasn’t nearly as much interest in the Semi Final game ~ South Africa v New Zealand. 

The big flat screen television had disappeared but beggars can not be choosers, the old 26 inch with the bright reflection of the harbour almost stronger than the picture was as good as we were going to get at 6am, so we settled in for another 90 minutes of spell binding, edge of the seat rugby.  The Men in Black came through again (just) and earned themselves a place in the final, another early start next Saturday for the BIG game!

PA270006How To Entertain Ourselves

With more boats arriving daily a pot luck dinner was organised to meet our new neighbours.  Our venue was interesting, Henri at the Snack Shack happily agreed to the use of his cafe, even though he is open evenings (which we didn’t actually realise because there is never anyone there at night).   We all brought our own food and drink and Henri provided the venue, plates, cutlery and a big smile, what a gem he is. PA300020  

A group of us returned to the Pearl Lodge for Friday Night Happy Hour (when cocktails are a mere $7 instead of $14), again with Jeff & Katie off Mezzaluna, and new joiners Barry & Sylvia off Iolani from USA and Roger & Sasha off Ednbal from Australia.  It is a lovely spot to sit back and enjoy the end of the day in tourist style comfort.

In between all this eating and drinking there was a leaking water tank to fix, gaining access to this was a two man and power tool job, 20151030_133216floors were taken up, holes were made, chaos was created and at the time of writing a 100 per cent fix has not been accomplished ~ suspect this little leak might provide us with many more hours of entertainment yet, what we really need to do is take the tank out but that will not be happening here! 

After extensive onshore excursions we have confirmed that there are no more hidden parts to “town”, what we see is what we get, and that isn’t much!  The upside to this is there is very little to spend our money on, so after a record high 6 month spend for the first part of this year we may have a chance to have a record low for the remainder.

Champions or Runners Up ~ What Will It Be?

Henri promised to bring back the big flat screen for the New Zealand v Australia final, the alarm was set and we were in well before the start to decorate everywhere with our flags but the Aussies got there first, what!  Roger and Sasha had flags everywhere,  in addition there was a charity breakfast on so there were palm fronds around the posts, balloons up and a live band playing ~ the Snack Shack was crowded, children were running round everywhere, music was blasting, this was certainly going to be a lively game in more ways than one!

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 PA315253It was a tense game, but then we expected nothing less.   The All Blacks lead of 13 points at half time did not make us feel confident and a determined fight back by the Wallabies the beginning of the second half had us on the edge of our seats for quite some time.PA315256  Meanwhile the party atmosphere continued around us, the band carried on, Henri’s Snack Shack had never been so busy. 

A couple of quick All Black tries half way through the second half and we were starting to breathe again, but it is never over till that final whistle goes, especially when we play Australia so it was with immense relief and huge pride to see our All Black side become the first team ever to retain the World Cup, well done to our Men in Black and thank you.

20151031_084912Now What?PB060004

With the need to have access to a television over with it was time to give some thought as to what to do now.   There are a few other anchorages on Nuka Hiva that we want to explore but the cyclone season has only just started so we have about 6 months to visit them, should be plenty of time we think! 

Instead we decided to stay the week as we had cruising friend Bill arriving in from Panama,  he was doing a huge delivery trip of a mates boat from the Rio Dulce in Guatemala to Cairns in Australia, around 9,000 miles.  Bill and friend/crew Brett were intending on travelling Panama to Cairns non stop but had engine problems and needed a new starter motor so had organised for one to be sent in here.  PB090008 We had been in radio contact with them for days monitoring their progress and on the morning of their arrival winds were very light and without being able to start the engine they were parked up, just 5 miles away.

We had a quick tidy up below, buoyed our stern anchor, raised our main anchor and motored on out to meet them and tow them in.  But a light breeze got to them before we did (Murphys Law of course) and as true sailors they persevered and managed to sail  right in amongst the boats and drop anchor, well done.    It was great to catch up and a fun night was had onboard, along with Ednbal and another Australian boat Arizona who was passing through.  Next morning the starter motor had been installed, fresh produce, cheese and baguettes were onboard and by 10am they were on their away again ~ Cairns bound, phew, rather them than us!


And so we have stayed in Taioha’e.  There is a constant stream of yachts coming and going, just 15 when we arrived and 48 this morning.  The additional numbers have put a huge stretch on the internet facilities here which at best were poor to start with, if I manage to post this I will be amazed and very happy.  The upside of all the extra boats is happy hours here and there, more pot lucks organised, we have even found a little cafe that opens in the evenings and does a great fish n chips, there may even be a turkey roasted for Thanksgiving. 

PB240017 We are busy doing boat jobs, parts for our generator have been flown in from Tahiti and that is working well once again.  I have been doing a major remake of all our canvas work, replacing all the stitching, clears, zippers and worn panels.  Trying to get this done between rain showers is becoming increasingly difficult, El Nino has moved the convergence zone eastwards so instead of it being the dry season here now we have had rain for around 7 days, we are hopeful this pattern will not continue for the next 6 months.

This weekend there is a festival here, a dress rehearsal for the big 4 yearly Marquesan Festival to be held on Hiva Oa mid December.  We have watched the practice a few times, and hear them every night.  We will stay for the festival and then think about a change of scenery.


If This Is The Dry Season We Are Glad We Didn’t Come In The Wet Season!  

Friday, 6 November 2015

Getting To Know Nuka Hiva ..... October 2015

14 – 24 October 2015:  Anaho to Taioha’e, Nuka Hiva ~ 8 54S  140 05W

PA080015This Weeks Tiki Tour

We stayed happily anchored on the north east coast of Nuka Hiva in Anaho Bay for a few more days, enjoying the peace and flat water.  Another “hill session” over to Hatiheu one morning had us setting a new personal best of 50 minutes one way, something to improve on over the cyclone season when we return there!  (Skippers note: had to wait for Admiral at top!!)

Re-energised after a long black espresso (run out of all manor of milk options at Chez Yvonne's and both stores!) it was time to walk further afield and explore part of the nearby ancient sites.


PA080012Hikoku’a is set in yet another beautiful location.  This was the site of the public plaza and ceremonial centre.  It has been extensively excavated and restored, previously removed tikis (now displayed in various museums worldwide) have been replaced with aging replicas and it was much easier to imagine this as a centre for the large population that once lived here as parts of walls and platforms were still in situ.


PA120004Back Down to Earth

Anchoring the dinghy had seemed a very good idea when we left it ashore at Anaho Bay in the morning at low tide. 

Have the tides really been this high? we commented as skipper waded, then swam out to Douglas the Dinghy who was now happily afloat in about 8 feet of water 100 metres offshore, whoops, won’t do that again!

We spent another couple of days in paradise, skipper occupied himself by making his way around Balvenie searching shade at every opportunity, servicing her winches for another season.


Meanwhile I spent a couple of afternoons ashore with my twin tubs making the most of the excellent piped freshPA120007 water supply ~ doing laundry by hand has never been so much fun, sun scorched hot water and bubbles everywhere, everything washable on Balvenie is now squeaky clean.   Next time I might even pop up a clothes line between the coconut palms, lie back in the shade and wait for them to dry.

Off To The Big City

The quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup were fast approaching and we needed to be able to watch the games live.  Rumour had it that the Snack Shack on the dock in Taioha’e would be showing them so we set sail for the main town in the Marquesas, we were off to support the men in black, our All Black Rugby Team.  

Enroute skipper deployed his new fishing line,PA160025 we had made another investment in extra strong line, hooks and tracers and we even bought a new bicycle inner tube for the bungy while at Ua Pou in an effort not to lose more gear to sea monsters.  Of course the flip side to that is now that we have gear tested to 180 kilos we are somehow supposed to actually land said sea monsters, that could be a problem!  But today we were lucky, a long sleek Wahoo decided to join us for dinner, we had him wound in, onboard and supping on vodka before he knew what had hit him.  Our new line has already paid for itself.

20151025_170151We entered the large open bay of Taioha’e mid afternoon, about 15 other yachts lay at anchor, 3 small local craft were tied to the concrete dock, a couple of two story commercial buildings showed some sign of business life, a few pickups drove along the waterfront road and the sweet smell of woodsmoke wafted out from shore, this was definitely not some sprawling metropolis or even bustling town.

A late afternoon excursion ashore reconfirmed our first impressions, just a couple of local cafes at the dock, a small produce market with souvenir section nearby, less than a handful of other shops, a bank, post office, mini hospital, administrative offices and 2 small groceries were all within short walking distance, any signs of other commerce were not apparent – perhaps on further inspections!  20151017_111855

 Game On

Most importantly we did find what we had come here for.  Henri, the very friendly, rugby loving owner of the Snack Shack at the dock confirmed that he would be bringing in a big flat screen tv and opening at 5am for the 5.30am New Zealand – France quarter final game in the Rugby World Cup.  Music to skippers ears! 

So it was out of bed at dark o’clock and ashore just as the skies were lightening to fly our flags, get front row seats and settle in with a big cup of coffee.  PA235212We were definitely in the minority, this is after all a French Territory.  At half time we were feeling confident but we know these French, anything can happen, half way through the second half it was all going our way, by full time it was a very gloomy bunch of French supporters sitting with us, but we were two extremely happy All Blacks supporters, off to the semi finals, yippee!

A Week to Wait till the Semi’s

We settled in for the week, the anchorage was a little rolly but we had a stern anchor out to minimise the discomfort.  PA230004A large cruise ship came in one day and we were overrun with hundreds of tourists, dance groups performed in the shade, souvenir sellers displayed their wares ~ it was a happening place for a few hours, but then they left and calm returned.

Appointments were made for dentist and physiotherapist visits to fix overdue ailments, the hardware store was found up the valley, free wifi was available in at the Snack Shack, just a shame they don’t serve alcohol as it would be a great spot for happy hour.  Instead we put our glad rags on one night and visited the very upmarket Pearl Lodge for happy hour along with Jeff and Katie off Mezzaluna and enjoyed a wonderful view over the harbour as we sipped on our cocktails.  We finished the evening with pizzas at a small local restaurant.  What more could we possibly want?


Maybe This Will Be Home For The Cyclone Season 


Friday, 16 October 2015

Paradise Hideaway on Nuka Hiva ..... October 2015


01 – 13 October 2015:  Anaho Bay, Nuka Hiva ~ 8 49N 140 03W

PA014775 Getting Away From It All

The days slipped into nearly 3 weeks with Balvenie tucked behind the breakwater at Hakahau on ‘Ua Pou, we enjoyed our time there but we were ready for a change of scenery.  So we stocked up with as much bread, fruit and vegetables as we could find, pulled up both the anchors and nosed out to sea. 

It’s actually quite amazing what a calming affect a small breakwater can have on a ocean that has the next closest landfall way over in the Americas, we were definitely back out into the big blue wobbly stuff once we popped out!


An uneventful sail across to the southern point of Nuka Hiva in a steady breeze in front of the beam (of course).  Then as we sailed up the east/windward coast of Nuka Hiva the wind went very light and fluky which was all rather weird and we tiptoed along past Haatuatua Bay in a light breeze from behind. 

Once we cleared the top of the island and turned dead downwind we sailed the last few miles then motored into the huge protected harbour of Anaho BayPA050062 What an absolute joy to arrive, an anchorage with no swell so no roll, good depths in sandy bottom, sitting comfortably to the light trade winds and no stern anchor needed ~ paradise found!

There are a few houses ashore, an easy dinghy landing, fresh spring water piped right to the beach, nice long sandy beach, a reef for snorkelling and some hiking trails, but as the last eleven years has taught us ‘there is no such thing as paradise’.  We too have been corrupted by progress and skipper now includes a shacky beach bar with satellite TV for live World Cup Rugby and free wifi in his list of must haves over the next few weeks, both conspicuous by their absence in this idyllic peaceful place.         

The cell tower high on the hill is not beaming in phone coverage or our prepaid wifi signal,  PA050076there is definitely no shacky beach bar with a big screen TV streaming in the Rugby World Cup, no fresh baguettes daily, actually no store at all probably because there is no electricity ~ oh well this is a remote spot on a small island in the middle of a very big ocean!    But we are happy here, this paradise is quiet, flat and home for now.

Work & Play ~ All In One Day 

One day we packed picnic lunches and along with Jeff & Katie went hiking off over to Haatuatua Bay in search of ancient ruins, a spot for lunch and possibly a fruit and veggie farm we had read about in the cruising guide.

We found a few black rocks just inland from the beach that showed no resemblance to ever having been buildings but ticked them off as the rather ruined ancient ruins, then we found a lovely shady area at the end of the sandy beach and set up to enjoy some leisure time.

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Little rocks were found to use as our  steel “boules”, another rock replaced the traditional wooden jack and we commenced a game of Pétanque.  We don’t know the rules, so there weren’t any, but we had lots of fun and amazingly I won ~ when are we playing again?? PA050056

Exhausted from our big game and replete from lunch we slowly made our way home in the hot afternoon sun.   We had found the gardens on our way through so stopped to make our purchases on our return and arrived just before the horses were being loaded up with the days pickings. 

This is a very remote garden, it’s a long way to the road in Hatiheu.  Firstly it’s about 40 minutes along the trail behind the beach then around 50 minutes going up the switchback trail to the top of the ridge and other 40 minutes down the more gentle trail on the other side to the road.  Quite a trek, then I guess the sacks get loaded on pickup trucks and taken to Taiohae for selling at the market or freighting to Tahiti.  A lot of work to sell your produce.


But we didn’t have any horses so loaded ourselves up with pamplemousse, melons, tomatoes, papaya, aubergines and limes for around $6.  They were all rather heavy but it was a relatively flat walk back to Balvenie and having fresh produce is worth it.

Off To “Town” For the DayPA030050

We have followed the horse trail over the ridge twice now for a full day out to neighbouring Hatiheu.  It’s a beautifully manicured village set along a small pebble beach ~ there are several well kept houses, a lovely church, small museum, 2 rather poorly stocked stores and an excellent waterfront restaurant.

One of the stores has wifi which is almost strong enough to use at the neighbouring restaurant, so with espresso coffee in one hand, curried goat on order for lunch and the laptops fired up we can happily settle down for a few hours entertainment.  There’s the news, sports results, weather, emails & facebook to check, updates to the blog to post, skype calls to make if possible, etc, all at the speed of worse than old fashioned dial up ~ but remember, paradise is never perfect!


Paradise?  Yep ~This Is About As Good As It Gets

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Off Roading In ‘Ua Pou ..... September 2015

24 – 30 September 2015:  Hakahau, ‘Ua Pou, Marquesas, French Polynesia


Time For Another Tiki Tour P9240090

We joined with Jeff & Katie from Mezzaluna and Frank & Sally an American couple staying ashore and went on a full day island tour of ‘Ua Pou with Jerome the owner of Hakahau’s Pension Pukue’e our driver and guide.  Jerome told us quite early on that one of is hobbies when he spends time back in France is to go 4x4 off road driving, well he sure gets plenty of practice here in ‘Ua Pou. 

Initially the road was paved as it wound steeply up into the rocky peaks, twisting and turning through barren landscape around one bend, lush jungle around the next.P9240015   It was easy to imagine there were witches and goblins hiding on these inaccessible precipices, living in harmony with spirits of ancient warriors and tapu tikis, this is truly a landscape of fairytales.  

The island was formed by two separate successive volcanic eruptions and the towering peak of Mount Oave (1,232m) is the highest in the Marquesas group.  The phonolite peaks are the backbone of the island and the valleys gouge heavily down the sides, falling steeply to sea level.  It is a spectacular landscape and the quality of the road was exceptional ..... until it ran out ~ time for some serious off roading! P9240020 

Mystical Me’ae

After a very bumpy off road experience we arrived at a large ancient me’ae and pae pae site, tucked well away in absolutely the middle of nowhere on private land.  The setting was inland and very remote which indicates that the island was highly populated before the onset of disease and destruction caused by the arrival of white men. 

Jeromes knowledge of the history of the area was excellent and very comprehensive, no stone – or tiki was left unexplained!P9230233   Many of the original tikis from all sites over French Polynesia have been taken to museums  worldwide, new pieces have been crafted to replicate and replace them.

He also has endless knowledge of the art of the historical tattoos, and has himself become a tattoo artist, displaying his own work on his bodyP9240028 – should have got some photos.  Tattoos are still very popular here and most men are heavily tattooed, generally they are absolute works of art. 

In Search of Flowery Pebbles

Our brains now overflowing with Marquesan history it was time to relax with a picnic which we enjoyed at Hohoi, one of two pebble beaches on ‘Ua Pou that you may still find increasingly rare garnet phonolite pebbles.  

The only other place these are found in the world is Brazil so our hopes of actually finding any on the beach weren’t too high, especially when you see just how many regular pebbles are on the beach.  But Jerome, with his expert eye for flowery pebble spotting did his best, not quite as many “flowers” as those in the brochure, but “flowers” none the less.


Off To The South Coast

We are not sure if we took a short cut to get to our next destination of Hakatao or if the actual road really was that “adventurous”.  What is amazing however is that it goes from total offroad dirt tracks to almost new concrete road in the blink of an eye, in some very weird places for no particular reason, oh well, sure kept us entertained.


Enroute we discovered tikis tucked away in thick vegetation, petroglyphs carved onto rock faces and a million mosquitoes hungry for human blood.  It seemed we had certainly ventured off the “beaten path”, going where very few tourists had been before!


We finally arrived in the seaside settlement of Hakatao.  A local fisherman sat next to his colourful canoe filleting his catch, young lads paddled their outrigger in from a successful fishing expedition, opened coconuts lay on the waterfront road drying in the sun before being bagged for export.  This was a tiny remote settlement, without even a store, road access was challenging, sea access was subject to the swell conditions ~ but the inhabitants were a friendly happy lot, just going about their day to day business. 

P9240048 P9240063

P9270023 P9270029 We spent another week in Hakahau, we hiked to the neighbouring beach, managed another quick catch up with Hilary and Chris our friends cruising on the Aranui III when it returned briefly to collect more freight, explored more ashore, witnessed the full blood moon with the last fragments of its lunar eclipse and caught up on more boat jobs. 

And We Never Did Tire Of This Magnificent Vista ......