July 24 - August 31, 2006

******************************************************************

HIGHLIGHTS

The South Pacific: Reverse colonialism, a different breed of sailors, cannibals, politics -- and seven dollars for a beer.

******************************************************************

July 24 - August 1, 2006

Ua Pou In The Marquesas

Ua Pou (pronounced Wha poo) is a small, rugged volcanic island with a population probably numbering around two thousand. We loved it. But then again, we weren't too hard to please after 17 days at sea!

We found the locals and officials very friendly. While we couldn't speak the language (the locals speak French and their own Marquesan language), people always tried to understand us.

Fortunately the French Gendarme who checked us in spoke English. He was also very friendly. When we asked where we could get bananas he said "You like bananas? Wait a moment!" He ran out the back of the police station with a big machete and whacked off a huge bunch (about 60 bananas) for us from a large stalk he had at the station!

Ua Pou men working hard on their strokes

Soon after we dropped anchor we saw young men of Ua Pou training for competition in their outrigger canoes. Races go between islands, over many miles of open ocean.

This fiberglass canoe evolved from the small dugout outrigger canoes and catamarans that carried the Polynesians across thousands of miles of unexplored ocean to settle virtually every part of the Pacific.

Hiking in the Bush

It felt to good to get off the boat and use our legs. We found that we could hike cross country, following goat trails through the bush -- a real treat after the dense undergrowth on most islands. Here's a view looking north and west over the harbor (Hakahau Bay below left, where we are anchored) from a goat trail up in the back country. We later climbed the difficult peak on the left.

Panorama view of Ua Pou from nearby hill

 

Spectacular Ua Pou scenery

Looking southeast we caught fleeting glimpses of magnificent spires poking through the almost perpetual clouds. Dramatic spire making rare appearance

 

Secluded inlet on northeastern shore of Ua Pou

Looking to the northeast over Bay of Aneo.

We finally decided to try climbing up a very formidable rocky peak overlooking the harbor. There weren't any regular trails -- as far as we know nobody ever goes up there. We followed some goat trails for a good distance up a ridge line, and then scrambled up the steep face. We were very proud of ourselves at the top. Not bad for a couple of 50 year olds!

Ken enjoying view from peak above harbor at Ua Pou

Looking down from the summit. The cobalt blue water and striking spires were gorgeous. Beth perched on rock at top of peak above Ua Pou

Standing Colonialism on Its Head

The Marquesans are pretty different from people in the Caribbean. Generalizations are dangerous, but we think they seem happier, more prosperous, and generally less resentful of foreigners. Certainly we have not felt the sense of danger that you get on many Caribbean islands in a bad neighborhood after dark.

In fact, we heard that the sole inmate of the jail in Nuku Hiva was let out at noon everyday to go home for lunch!

We enjoyed the friendly Marquesan children.

Boisterous children on Ua Pou

Marquesan kids ham it up for the camera at a dance festival on Ua Pou. The children loved getting their picture taken

The Marquesans also seem to have turned their contact with Europeans very much to their own benefit.

Colonialism in its original form was basically about ripping off the natives (although the colonizers often thought of themselves as bringing the benefits of civilization). The Polynesians did suffer from their contact with Europeans -- they lost about 98% of their population to European diseases. But they survived as a people, and they still own pretty much all the land.

Furthermore, the flow of money and benefits in French Polynesia has reversed -- it goes into the islands, rather than out. So the French pay for infrastructure, like roads and electricity and the police, but give a lot of local autonomy to the Polynesian government in Tahiti. (The Marquesas are just one part of French Polynesia, which also includes the Australs, Gambiers,Tuamotus, and the Society Islands -- best known for Tahiti and Bora Bora.)

Meanwhile the Polynesians seem to have a standard of living at least as high as most Americans, without having to do very much work. Oh, and the climate is pretty nice, too.

Exactly what a French taxpayer gets out of this deal we don't know.

The Marquesans drove very powerful 4 by 4's

Marquesans like big cars. Huge, brand-new 4 by 4s are very popular. We understand that a truck like this would cost about $90,000 after shipping and taxes.

 

Despite the high cost of these big trucks, lots of families had more than one.

Goats and 4 by 4's

We did not see any evidence of poverty as we walked around Ua Pou. The houses were comfortable and everyone looked well fed and quite happy.

We didn't actually see much work going on and we tried to figure out how people maintained themselves. The Marquesans get some house building subsidies from the government, but surely the French aren't paying for all those SUV's.

Breadfruit trees everywhere

One answer is that food literally grows on trees. People here have an abundance of fruit trees (breadfruit, coconut, oranges, pamplemousse, papaya, lemons, limes, and mangos, to name a few) in their yards.

Lucious pamplemousse

 

Pamplemousse, which is similar to grapefruit (orange colored round fruit at right), and breadfruit (cut open in picture) can be as big as your head!

Beth preparing to make breadfruit fritters

But it's hard to pay for an SUV with grapefruit -- especially as nobody seems to sell any of this fruit unless you go up to their house and ask them. ("Pardon, Je voudrais acheter fruit, s'il vous plait"). So there had to be something else.

Turns out that the islanders also get money from growing "Noni" fruit. About ten years ago an American company began selling Noni juice in the U.S., and Americans began using it for a whole host of ills, including cancer, hepatitis, heart disease, arthritis, ulcers, sprains, depression, and high blood pressure.

Now Americans buy so much Noni juice that Noni pulp has become the biggest agricultural export of French Polynesia. The locals couldn't believe that we'd never heard of it.

People have planted Noni bushes everywhere on Ua Pou, to the point where the traditional coconut crop is getting neglected. The French authorities have tried to discourage the Marquesans from becoming too dependent on Noni income -- they think it's just an American fad.

Lucrative Noni bush

Ken bit into one of the strange looking fruit and found that it tasted like blue cheese -- pretty weird for a fruit. We also didn't notice the locals eating many Nonis themselves.

We think the French have a point.

We were also told that about a quarter of adult Marquesans hold formal jobs -- mostly for the government at about $60,000 per year. (France has the highest paid civil servants anywhere, and the Polynesians get the same pay.) Young men will also take construction jobs and such to help finance their houses, but they often quit once the house is finished. The combination of lots of cash and not much labor supply keeps wage rates high -- probably higher than in the U.S. on average.

We did hear some rumblings in the Marquesas about independence.. but independence from Tahiti, not from France. Seems the Marquesans think that the Tahitians take the lion's share of the French money coming into Polynesia.

Anyway, we concluded that the Marquesans have successfully exploited the colonial ambitions of the French and the primitive superstitions of the Americans to provide themselves with a very comfortable, low stress lifestyle.

Local Traditions

Marquesan culture suffered under the influence of western missionaries, but in recent years the islanders have rediscovered their traditions. For example, the word "tattoo" is Polynesian, and body tattooing has re-surged, as has stone sculpting.

The missionaries definitely would not have approved of this sculpture! Tiki on Nuku Hiva produced in recent years reflecting the original style

 

Large, intricate tatoos were commonplace

A Marquesan fisherman (left) shows off his tattoos.

Many cruisers also end up with tattoos. Rob (right) of "Paulu" displays his striking tiki tattoo.

Rob and his tiki tattoo

We learned that you can get a full body tattoo in Tahiti for around $9000, but we decided to wait until next year.

Also, the Marquesans have resumed their traditional dancing, which differs from the hip-shaking Hawaiian and Tahitian styles. We were fortunate enough to see a dance contest in Ua Pou -- a local event held by village where we were anchored. We were captivated.

Local couple in elaborate costumes

Competing couples each performed their interpretation of the "bird dance". In the dance, the male bird sneaks up out of the bush and tries to entice the female bird. Couple performing bird dance

 

Mix of old and new costumes

Being a girl, she keeps him guessing for a while, but the dance always ends with the birds finding true love. Couple performing their interpretation of bird dance

We were amazed at the uninhibited enthusiasm of the Ua Pou children. The girls, in particular, were very aggressive, and a number challenged us to arm wrestling contests. The older ones were pretty strong, but we held our own. God help us if the boys had wanted to wrestle, though!

Some of the visiting children (from other boats in the harbor) were a bit overwhelmed by the attention from the local children. The Marquesan kids were particularly fascinated by the blond hair of some of the European kids.

Ua Pou girls were aggressive and friendly

We were told the hand signal of the rightmost girl in the picture means "cool"! Adults and kids in Polynesia use this signal a lot with each other.

 

Here's another charming bit of Marquesan culture. If you wear a flower in your hair on your left side, close to your heart, it means your heart is taken. If you wear the flower on your right it means you're available. And if you wear a flower on both sides, it means your heart is taken but the rest is available!

(More precisely, it means that you're involved with someone, but you might be willing to reconsider.)

Beth's heart is taken

The Polynesians also have a category of men called "mahus", who adopt feminine roles, either as cross-dressers or as transsexuals. A surprisingly large percentage of the population falls into this category, and many of the "waitresses" in restaurants throughout Polynesia are actually men. Since many of the women tend to be very powerful and masculine (although still beautiful) it can sometimes be hard to tell for sure. The mahus seem to be pretty well accepted by the other Polynesians.

Dark Past

One thing to keep in mind about the friendly and generous Marquesans -- as some will ruefully admit -- they have kind of a dark past. The various tribes fought constantly. And it wasn't so much that they took no prisoners -- they did take prisoners. Its just that they ATE them.

In fact, as we will show you in a bit, the back country is full of spooky ruins where prisoners were killed and eaten. The western missionaries changed the islanders' dietary habits when they converted them to Christianity, and also put a stop to the warfare. Unfortunately the missionaries also made the islanders give up their traditional dress, carving, tattoos, singing, and dancing, although those changes didn't stick long term.

Fortunately, the dietary change seems to have stuck.

Now some of the most beautiful carvings and stone work can be found in the churches. Even in the small village on Ua Pou, the church stood out as a marvelous structure.

Inside of Ua Pou church

Pulpit shaped like bow of ship Detail in base of sculpted pulpit

We wondered how the missionaries could possibly have converted a whole, highly organized society dedicated to rather bloodthirsty warfare. Imagine landing as a missionary on one of these islands, not even speaking the language, and knowing that the locals would probably view you as lunch! (And, in fact, some of the missionaries and other westerners did get eaten.)

But then we learned that the Marquesans converted after their population had been reduced from about 60,000 or 80,000 to probably about 2,000 by European diseases. (It has now recovered to around 8,000 across the 10 islands.) Think about what happens to a society where 29 out of 30 people die of disease in a fairly short period. That sort of thing has to make people think they were doing something wrong. In any event, the Polynesians are now far more religiously observant than the French.

Other Cruisers: The Survivor Principle

One of the strange things about the Marquesas is that pretty much every sailboat you see has crossed 4000 miles of Pacific Ocean from the Americas to get here. So these sailors are a whole different breed from those in the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean we were often younger than the other sailors -- who were mostly retired Americans. Our boat didn't seem especially large in a lot of Caribbean harbors. And when we said we were headed for the South Pacific people would say "Oh, yeah, we'll do that too someday, but what's your hurry? It's so nice here."

Small boats in Ua Pou anchorage

Well, it's a different story out here! All of a sudden the average boat is maybe 30 or 35 feet long, steel, and crewed by a European couple often young enough to have one or two young children on board.

Argo at anchor

And retired Americans over 50 in longer boats (like us) are suddenly about as common as out-of-shape gymnasts in the Olympics. Obviously time is not an ally in long distance passagemaking.

These folks often have very simple boats -- most don't have water makers -- and many don't even have engines for their dinghies, preferring to row. What they all share is a striking "can do" self-reliance.

For example, we met a Turkish couple, Turkan and Karem, who bought an old steel boat "Katama" that had been abandoned for ten years and rebuilt it from scratch. Their genset spent a year under water on a wreck before they purchased and rehabilitated it. And Karem was too tall for the interior, so he took a torch, cut a big hole in the deck and welded in a coach roof.

And Rudy and Andi from Austria, on "Uhuru" lost their rudder on the Atlantic crossing, but jury-rigged their way to the Caribbean and then continued on. And a small French boat had their rudder bearing fall to pieces in remote Ua Pou, and managed to find the only machine shop on the island to get a new one fabricated. Almost everybody had suffered major problems, but the ones who got here are the ones that kept going anyway.

Pepe and Blanka from Czechoslovakia

Pepe and Blanka from "Argo" -- a delightful young couple from Czechoslovakia -- sort of illustrate the phenomenon. Pepe is an inventor. He didn't have dive tanks to use to clean the bottom of his boat, so he took a bicycle pump, attached a hose, and had Blanka pump while he cleaned underneath. He said he got the easy end of the job -- Blanka was up in the hot sun while he was down in the cool water.

Pepe is also a little crazy. We mentioned (bragged, really) that we had hiked up the peak overlooking the harbor -- a very difficult and imposing climb. In the Caribbean this would have gotten us some very satisfying "you must be nuts" looks.

Well, that evening we ran into Pepe and Blanka with backpacks on. They had decided to climb partly up the ridge that evening, spend the night there, and climb the rest of the way before dawn so that they could watch the sun come up from the top! We said "you know, it looks like rain." Pepe said "That's ok, we have rain ponchos." (Blanka didn't say much.) We gave them a "you must be nuts" look.

That night it poured rain for hours. But when we got up early the next morning -- guess what? If you look really hard at this picture of the top of the peak, you'll see them.

Guess that's why they're here.

Pepe and Blanka doing what they said

We've really enjoyed meeting people from other countries. Cruisers share a very strong "help your neighbor" philosophy, and we've been on both ends. The day we arrived in Ua Pou, before we had even set our anchor, Rudy from "Uhuru" came up in his dinghy, introduced himself, and asked if he could take our stern anchor out for us. We were very grateful since our own dinghy was still tied up on deck.

Then late that night, at about 2:00 in the morning, our stern anchor dragged because we had not put out enough scope. We were awakened by a tapping on our hull -- our neighbors on the French boat "Swordfish" had noticed that we were way out of position - in the shipping channel. We thanked them and spent the next three hours getting the boat back where we wanted it. The main anchor had held, so we weren't in danger of going aground, but we couldn't stay in the channel. So much for a good night's sleep after 17 days at sea!

In turn we were able to help a few boats by supplying them with water from our water maker, since it was very hard to find potable water in the Marquesas. We also helped with mechanical problems on the Japanese boat "Akitsushima II" later in Nuku Hiva.

Gabriel, Marie, and Enrico from the French boat "Swordfish". They live in New Caledonia and are delivering "Swordfish" for its owners. We had a good time together despite their limited English and our non-existent French.

(Ken has been working like crazy on French since we left the Galapagos, but he's come to realize it will take more than four weeks to become fluent! He complains that if you're going to have all those letters in your words you might as well pronounce a few of them.)

Gabriel, Marie, and Enrico from Swordfish

 

We had fun spending time with Ginny and Tony from "Champagne Traveller", a young couple from England/Australia. Ginny made a delicious banana dessert called "Caribbean Bananas" which contained lots of rum and (best of all) lots of chocolate.

They also taught us a bunch of useful Briticisms -- "you are stuffed!" if something bad happens; but "that's brilliant!" if it's great; and "knackered" means you're exhausted. And you don't take something apart, you take it "to bits", to find the "bit" that's not working.

Ginny and Tony

We also learned that some American words have VERY DIFFERENT meanings across the pond. For example, the American word "fanny" actually refers to a completely different part of a woman's anatomy in the U.K. So use the term "butt pack" to refer to your little waist strap carrying bag in the U.K. -- if you ask a woman about her "fanny pack" she's likely to hit you!

August 1 - August 31, 2006

"Stuffed" in Nuku Hiva

We left Ua Pou for the 26 mile sail to Baie de Taiohae (Taiohae Bay) in Nuku Hiva, the main island in the Marquesas.

We found a huge and uncrowded anchorage at Taiohae. And we saw a gorgeous double rainbow that spanned one side of the harbor to the other.

Boats kissed by double rainbow

Then, the first evening after our arrival, the compressor that drives our freezer/refrigerator started making a terrible banging noise. We also noticed the current draw on our batteries had skyrocketed to an astronomical level. Even with the generator running, we weren't able to keep the voltage up. We quickly shut everything down and considered our options. We had a freezer full of meat and fish.

A 20 pound reefer compressor is one spare we don't carry. We were "stuffed."

Looked like time to buy ice.

Loading one of many bags of ice into our freezer and refrigerator

Fortunately, a shop on the pier in Nuku Hiva has ice for the fishermen. The ice is used to pack the local fish catch, so it was a bit aromatic -- but we kept it in bins or plastic bags and packed the refrigerator and freezer with loads of it. Every other day or two for 3 weeks we made the trek to shore to buy a 30 lb bag of ice.

 

Even with good insulation, the ice melted pretty quickly. We had to pump out gallons of water each time we put in new ice.

We put blankets and sleeping bags on top of the refrigerator/freezer cabinets to provide better insulation.

Beth pumping melted ice from refrigerator

We investigated and found that we could get a new compressor delivered to us in Nuku Hiva. Of course, the shipping was a little pricey. The new compressor cost about $500, and the shipping cost $700!

We also talked with our knowledgeable refrigeration consultants back in the States, but nobody had a clue why the very strong Bitzer compressor broke down.

Taking apart the refrigeration system is a big job and requires removal of the big heavy compressor motor

Ken tackled the difficult job of removing the old compressor. But first he had to remove the very heavy 1 hp motor (left). Working on the refrigeration system is grimy, dirty work (right). Ken showing off greasy dirty hands

 

Once he got the compressor out (right), Ken disassembled it and tried to determine why it failed. He was surprised that no broken "bits" fell out when he took it apart. We never did figure out what was wrong with it.

Very strange indeed.

Ken took apart the compressor but nothing obvious was wrong

Exploring The Hills Around The Harbor

While we waited for the new compressor, we set off to explore the island.

Ken enjoying view overlooking harbor entrance

A real trail (as opposed to a goat trail) winds its way up into the hills at the mouth of the harbor entrance. One of the sentinel rocks at the harbor entrance

 

From the top of the hill above the bay, we had a nice view of the anchorage. The bay where we were anchored (Baie de Taiohae) is almost a mile long. Deep harbor in Nuku Hiva

 

Outcropping with goat hideouts

Of course Ken wasn't happy unless we were on goat trails, so we followed the goats up to a cave in the face of this bluff.

The goats definitely liked this cave... Smelled like a zoo.

We saw lots of evidence of goat activity on this ledge

We've decided that following goat trails is our new favorite form of hiking. The trails usually follow a ridge or some kind of ledge and you can get to some less well traveled areas. We always like imagining we're the first people to have gotten to some particularly obscure spot. You have to be careful, though, goats can go places that people can't. And they aren't afraid of heights.

An impose tuna killer One day this huge tuna boat stopped in Nuku Hiva. We talked with some Marquesans who were petty worried about these boats -- one of these things can sweep a whole section of ocean clean of tuna. Basically our ability to kill fish has gotten ahead of their ability to reproduce, even for open ocean fish like tuna. Think buffalo.

About Town

The main town in Nuku Hiva had a couple of restaurants and we particularly loved the pizza place where they baked the pizza in a wood-burning oven. This was probably the best pizza we've ever had (high praise coming from Chicagoans!).

You have to watch the prices, though. The pizzas were ok at about $16 for a medium. But a beer will run you $7.00! High wage rates, high duties, and not much competition make for some eye-popping prices. French Polynesian is one of the most expensive places in the world.

The locals don't seem fazed by $7 beer. So for the first time ever we were in a place where the cruisers were generally poorer than the natives.

The sidewalks and streets were clean and well tended. But animals like dogs and chickens wandered around freely. Apparently no one owns the chickens and if you see one you want, you just grab it! Talk about free range chicken!

Most Marquesans prefer to buy theirs in the stores. So did we.

Chickens free for the taking

 

Marquesan lawn mower

The Marquesans love horses almost as much as 4 by 4s.

We saw a few weed whackers, but no lawn mowers. A grazing horse is a good substitute!

Marquesan horse contentedly munching plants

 

Kids using the dock as the local swimming hole

Kids at the local swimming hole.

The kids often ran over to help us land our dinghy. Unlike the Caribbean, they didn't expect a handout in return. They're just being nice.

 

We could buy tomatoes and cucumbers at the produce stand outside of the main grocery market (at very high prices) but it was the pamplemousse (grapefruit) that blew us away. When we finally found a place that sold them, they wanted over $2 for a single one! Pretty amazing, considering that they grow everywhere.

Compare this to the $5 lobsters that we bought in the San Blas, from people who had to free dive 20 meters to catch them!

This is a pretty strange economy.

Buyiing produce at the stand outside the local market

Eerie History

Jocelyn and her very large Range Rover

We signed up for a guided one day tour of the island. Jocelyn (left), a French ex pat, has lived on Nuku Hiva for many years. She gives an excellent tour of the island and we were glad SHE was driving over the rugged terrain and not us. We know we would have gotten hopelessly lost. There are no good maps and the roads are often not labeled.

We got a nice overview of the island -- its history, flora, and fauna.

Coconut trees were everywhere

Coconuts grow everywhere on Nuku Hiva. You don't want to stand under a coconut palm in a high wind, though -- we saw car windows that had been smashed by falling coconuts. Coconut sprouting on trail

 

Oven for drying coconuts

The islanders dry coconuts using ovens (left) and the sun (right). The dried meat, or "copra"is shipped to Tahiti for use in skin oils and other products. Coconut meat drying in the sun to make copra

 

 

The locals call the formation on the right the "sleeping dragon." Can you see it? Ken and Beth with sleeping dragon

Rainforest trees grow very tall to compete for sun. So they have evolved "buttresses" to help stay upright.

Graceful buttress tree structure

Beth and Ken with buttress roots Strange looking root structure

An Ugly Place

Now it gets weird. The forests are full of the remains of an ancient, much larger civilization. (Remember, there used to be 10 times as many people in the Marquesas.)

And they used to eat each other.

Ancient Banyan tree

The Marquesans attached religious importance to the huge, spooky, multi-rooted Banyan trees. Some of these trees still hold the bones of sacrificial victims in their tangled roots.

Holder of secrets

The first Polynesian settlers brought the non-native Banyan trees here in their canoes and planted them around their villages. If you see Banyans, then you will find ruins.

Jocelyn took us to an old ceremonial site where prisoners were killed and eaten.

The missionaries destroyed almost all of the original sculptures and religious "tikis." So this carving is modern -- it was made a in the old style a few years ago for a local festival held at this archeological site. The carving depicts a victorious chief holding his prisoner in one hand and a war club in the other.

Guess what he's about to do with the club?

King with defeated enemy

 

This hole would hold the prisoner who was chosen to be sacrificed

Prisoners (usually from other local tribes) spent their last hours in a hole near the site. When your number came up, you would be placed in this one-person hole for your last few minutes.

Jocelyn told us that the respected position of "mahu" (cross-dressers) in Polynesian society comes partly from the fact that they were not sacrificed. Seems that women were considered too unclean for sacrifice, and the cross-dressers were sort of like women, so they got a pass also. Hence families actually encouraged some of their boys to cross dress, in order to protect the male line.

This stone, recovered at the site, was used to hold the prisoner's head while it was whacked with a war club. The stone here is rotated 90 degrees -- in use the curved surface would face up.

Ken wanted Beth to stick her head near this thing for perspective. She was a little reluctant.

Stone used to hold the prisoner's head for crushing

 

Banyan tree on ancient site The islanders cooked their victims in ovens, creating a dish known as "long pig." High-ranking chiefs and priests claimed the choice bits (like eyeballs). After dinner the victim's bones were strewn in the woods and left for a few weeks, until nature had cleaned them off. Then the villagers collected the bones and placed them in the roots of Banyan trees, where archeologists can still find them. YIKES!

We were told that some cannibalism persisted into the early 1900's. Doesn't seem that long ago.

At least one missionary ended up as dinner. But the missionaries succeeded in the end, and they had themselves buried on this ancient ceremonial site as a confirmation of their triumph over the old religion. Missionary graves on old Marquesan religious site

 

One of the few remaining ancient tikis on Nuku Hiva

The tiki on the left is one of the few originals that escaped the missionaries.

We found the tiki on the right out in the woods. But it's probably modern.

Probably a modern Tiki

The World's Third Highest Waterfall

We moved our boat for a few days to "Daniel's Bay" -- a few miles from Taiohae -- because we wanted to hike to the world's third highest waterfall.

Solitude in Daniel's Bay What a stunning place. The mountains loomed above the isolated anchorage. Beautiful, remote Daniel's Bay

We stayed in the cove for a few days and met up with some other cruisers -- Tony and Ginny from "Champagne Traveller" and Kevin, Brian, and Andrew from the American boat "Seducente".

Secluded anchorage of Daniel's Bay

The cove was full of manta rays (barely visible at right). Some of these enormous creatures would swim upside down or make lazy loops in the water!

Maybe a mating ritual, or maybe just having fun.

Manta ray checking us out

Unfortunately the anchorage was also popular with "no-no's" -- small biting bugs (with BIG teeth). You don't feel them at all when they bite, but you sure feel them later. Their bites itch for weeks and they infect if you scratch them. As usual, Beth was immune, but they really chowed down on Ken. Ken was not a happy camper in Daniel's Bay!

While the "no-no's" chowed down on Ken, we feasted on another of Ginny's delectable banana creations -- this one called "banoffee pie". This is an incredibly rich custard made with sweetened condensed milk and banana slices. We definitely needed a rigorous hike after eating that!

Going up the river from Daniel's Bay The morning of the hike (which was also our 25th wedding anniversary), all of us (including the folks from "Champagne Traveller" and "Seducente") met on shore to begin the hike. We started by taking our dinghy a little ways up a river, where we left it at the trail head.

 

Gardens along the trail to the waterfall As we hiked into the rain forest, we passed by a small village. Most of these people have houses in the "big city" (Taiohae) and come here on weekends to tend their crops (left) and to hunt wild pigs. The settlement even supported a small church (right), Small church in the woods

 

Typical house in settlement at Daniel's Bay Marquesans taste in decorating gets a bit macabre. Animal skulls adorned many of the homes

 

The trail was hard to follow when it ran through a creek bed The trail meandered over dry and wet creek beds and we had to cross a couple of creeks against a brisk current. Beth carefully wading through fast flowing creek

 

Nuku Hiva waterfall in the distance If you look carefully in the picture at the left, you'll see the waterfall streaming down the middle of the picture. The hike took us to a basin at the bottom of the falls.

 

Tony brought a machete for opening coconuts. Amazingly, he could do this without cutting his hand off.

The coconuts hold a refreshing juice, and a meat which tastes nutty--almost like a chestnut or hazelnut.

It's nothing like the dried coconut flakes you buy in the U.S.

Tony hacking a coconut open

 

Lush cliffs surrounding waterfall basin After two hours we finally reached the trail's end. Moss covered rocks rose straight up. It was a gorgeous place.

 

When we reached the pool at the base of the falls, we could HEAR the waterfall, but we couldn't see it, since it was hidden back in a canyon. To see the waterfall, you had to put on a swimsuit, jump in the water, swim to the far side, scramble up some rocks, jump into a smaller pool on the other side of the rocks, and swim to a nook carved by the waterfall. Swimming across pool to get to waterfall

Of course Beth found another way. She was too modest to change into her bathing suit with all these people around, so she worked her way around the pool with all of her clothes on. Then, for the last bit, to Ken's astonishment, she jumped in with all of her clothes on and swam to the waterfall. This is the first time Ken has seen Beth voluntarily go swimming without a wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel. (Beth actually doesn't like the water much.) But she wasn't going to be left behind.

Oh, and there were five foot meat-eating eels in the water, too.

(We don't have pictures of this historic swimming episode because Ken couldn't take the camera into the waterfall.)

Group photo at waterfall Ken took a picture of the rest of us (from left to right: Andrew, Kevin, Ginny, Brian, Beth, Tony).

Beth had a soggy trek back with wet shoes, but the day was warm. And then when we got back to the settlement, one of the Marquesan women motioned us all to her home and gave us some fresh lemon juice and pamplemousse slices. That really hit the spot.

Simon and Felicite gave us a big bunch of bananas and we returned later to give them a small gift in thanks (right). We found the Marquesan people very generous and friendly. Beth with Simon and Felicite

Trading with the New Owner

The next day we visited the far shore of the anchorage. This shore had only one house, and we had been told that the owner had died about a month earlier. (He fell out of a coconut palm -- a common cause of death on Nuku Hiva.) The house hadn't been touched since -- even the man's laundry was still hanging on the line.

Abandoned house along shore We went ashore to explore the site and were struck by the openness of the place. The house had been built right around a large tree. There were no doors and we saw some horses strolling right through the house.

As soon as we stepped ashore, we heard some very excited meowing and a cat ran up to greet us. The poor thing was really starved for affection and we spent quite a bit of time playing with him. He also looked pretty hungry, although he had obviously learned to hunt if he had stayed alive this long.

Beth gathering fruit The property was covered with fruit trees -- pamplemousse, lime, and mango. We collected some of the fruit that was going to waste.

 

We wanted to pay for the fruit, and we figured the cat was the new owner. So we traded him two cans of tuna fish for the pamplemousse. (He didn't have much use for the pamplemousse, but he almost dove into the bowl of tuna.)

This is probably the friendliest cat we've ever met -- we hope he'll be temporarily adopted by every visitor.

Hungry, lonely cat

Tough Passages

People have some amazing adventures getting to Nuku Hiva.

Beth with Shigeo and Michael

For instance, we met Shigeo (left) and Michael (right), both single-handers. Michael sailed from the West Coast of the U.S. and took 57 days to get to Nuku Hiva. Shigeo sailed directly to the Marquesas from Panama and took 65 days to get there!

For comparison, our elapsed time from Panama was about 26 days, counting the run to the Galapagos.

We had Michael and Shigeo over to dinner one night to share stories and provide them some moral support. Ken served his new favorite dessert of banana flambe'. It tasted great and the "flambeing" went very smoothly, except for the part where Ken set fire to the table and rug.

Michael on "Tristan" told us the story of his trip. He experienced fuel problems and couldn't run his engine, so he lost all power and had no instruments except for a handheld VHF radio and a handheld GPS. He got becalmed crossing the equator -- with no engine. He finally limped into Nuku Hiva with lots of stuff to fix.

Shigeo, on "Akitsushima II" who is 69 years old, started his trip in Japan 35 years ago on a different boat. He vowed he would return to Japan only by sea and only after sailing around the world. His plans got sidetracked early in his trip when his Japanese crew mutinied and stole the boat. He narrowly escaped with his life. (Which probably explains why he now single-hands.) Before going back to sea he spent years in Europe as a news correspondent, including a stint with the prestigious BBC World Service.

Shigeo's boat (right) shows the effects of 65 days at sea. Hundreds of barnacles had plenty of time to grow along the waterline. Akitsushima II with seafood salad

Shigeo has now sailed his current boat from San Diego, through the Pacific, around the Cape of Good Hope, and through Panama to the Marquesas. (He keeps saying "Only two more legs to go to Japan!" We think he's a little sorry about making that vow 35 years ago!)

But something went wrong on the leg from Panama. For one thing, his autopilot failed, so he had to hand steer. For almost five weeks. With nobody else on board to take over!

Also the hydraulic steering developed a leak, so even hand steering didn't work very well. And about halfway through his trip, something must have gotten caught on the bottom of his boat, slowing him to about two knots, even under full sail in strong wind with the engine running. He tried looking under the boat, but was understandably reluctant to go into the water, leaving nobody on board. So, 65 days later he finally got here.

Then when he tried to put his anchor down his windlass failed. He had to pull the chain out by hand.

Shigeo looking fresh after his first shave in 65 days! At left, Shigeo looks 15 years younger after a shave. He's very tough and determined, and showed remarkably good spirits after his ordeal. He is close to completing his round-the-world voyage back to Japan. He hasn't been back to Japan since he left 35 years ago.

We helped Shigeo get his windlass working and did some diagnostic work on his autopilot. But we left before we had a chance to dive under his boat to see what was down there. We thought he might have picked up a fishing net.

We also met a delightful couple, Les, from the U.S. and Lindy, from Israel, on "Belle Ile VII". They just got married last December, after meeting in New Zealand.

They are on a goodwill mission to educate people about strokes. Les suffered a major stroke a few years ago at a young age and wanted to spread the word about the causes of stroke and its prevention. You can read more about Les and Lindy at http://www.voyageofhope.org/.

(As of October 9, "Belle Ile II" limped to Fiji after suffering a broken head stay on the run to Australia.)

Newlyweds Les and Lindy

 

Turkan and Karem leaving Nuku Hiva We also spent some lovely evenings with Turkan and Karem on "Katama", the second Turkish boat we've met so far. It has been very interesting hearing the perspectives of people from different countries.

Back In Business

Finally our new refrigerator compressor (looking cool in glacier goggles at right) arrived and Ken set about installing "him."

We thought he looked like a tiki, so we named him "compressor-tiki" (or "com-tiki" for short.)

Our new compressor

 

Vacuum pump -- don't leave home without it! After Ken installed "com-tiki" we needed to evacuate the system. Fortunately we just happened to be carrying a vacuum pump (left).

 

The last step is to load refrigerant into the system. We also had lots of cans of R134a and a gauge set for the purpose. Guess that refrigeration class really came in handy! Ken loading refrigerant into system

We finally got finished late into the night and fired up the system. Boy, did it feel good to see those temps drop.

In fact, the system now operates much better than it ever did and requires much less run time than before. We now think there must have been a problem all along with the old compressor.

With our repairs completed, we were ready to move on. Next stop: Tuamotus.

Politics -- A Status Report From Abroad

We've never made a habit of introducing politics into the website and we don't plan to change our policy. But we decided that since the website is about our experiences, we would be dishonest if we didn't report experiences that almost literally hit us over the head. Since getting to the Pacific, we've been involved in some lively political discussions with our cruising friends.

We've talked with people from Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Turkey, Italy, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Japan, the list goes on. We've gotten an earful. 99.9% of the people we talk to hate U.S. policy, especially U.S. Middle East policy. Everybody is nice enough to us as individuals, but when politics comes up, the consensus against us is awesome.

We don't necessarily feel that the U.S. needs to please other people. But when everybody hates you, you need to understand why. The world can be a tough neighborhood and it would be nice to have some friends.

We are deeply troubled by our country's isolation in the world.