Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quatorze Juillet - Fete Nationale - Bastille Day!

14th July of course is Bastille Day, when France celebrates the overthrow of the monarchy and aristocracy in 1789.
Now, 228 years later, this remote territory of France celebrates with dancing, singing, parades, speeches, flowers and food food food. 

Niku Hiva’s village communities divide according to the valleys where they live. Dance and drum groups practice for their competitions; horses and trucks are decorated, and everyone dresses their best, which usually involves many many flowers as perfume and jewellery. 

The parade of horses with their riders (described by the MC as 'chevaliers' (!) ) was a fabulous display of bareback handling skills. The loud bass pumping through the speakers certainly spooked the horses, challenging the riders to maintain control. 

Firemen, sports teams, fishermen, farmers, all paraded in groups along the waterfront road, before everyone (including us) was invited for an amazing feast in the community hall. 

Fireworks were set up on the beach and a few went off before the tide came in....

Horseman followed by (somewhere under there) a 4 x 4

This cowboy had tattoo designs drawn on his jeans. And impressive skills.

the only woman competing in the horse parade.

Cooling off - Rumpus in the background

Tattooing scene in one of the dance dramas. Very realistic!

Rumpus has been at anchor here for a few days and we have done some exploring. We rented a car and drove to a fresh water source in a neighbouring valley - a couple of trips and we managed to fill our stern tank. For some reason there are a lot of Danish boats here so we have met some great Scandinavians, including Klaus and Gitte who came on our expedition. We saw the cultural centre built in 2011 and some ancient villages and tikis from pre-European times. 
We also saw the most scenic telephone box ever, the wild agricultural west of the island and the "Nuku Hiva grand canyon"

Nuku Hiva - a week to prepare and explore; waterfall walk

Next stop,  the biggest village in the Marquesas, Taiohae on Nuku Hiva island, with a beautiful, sheltered harbour. Plan A was to stay two days then sail to the Tuamotus. But the weather at those low-lying atolls looked as if it would be pretty unpleasant after our arrival so we decided to sit it out here. 
We bought provisions, fixed the outboard engine, bought fuel and filled the gas bottles. etc etc. Plenty of time to socialise with other cruising yachties including the Freja family, and Mike and Kylie on their way back to Australia from the America's cup in Bermuda on their Beneteau Oceanis "Slice of Life"

We made a side trip to Hakaui, the first anchorage that we had completely to ourselves. An extended family lives in the bay; they maintain the archaeological remains of the village where royalty lived in pre-European times. Towering volcanic spires loom over the bay. There is no road access; the family travel to Taiohae by boat, on horseback or on foot. The house where Taniha and Tama live is full of their hunting trophies (pigs, goats) and craft work. 

We walked up the valley to view the third highest waterfall in the world. It’s a 14km hike there and back on a rough slimy track. We crossed several streams, one with a gigantic grandmother eel in it. The family charge each person FPF1000 (about NZ$12) so I made a quick paddleboard trip back through the surf to find the cash. Katya chose not to pay but stayed in the valley with the family and picked amazing quantities of fruit. Nico came with us and swam at the base of the waterfall. 

The next day Katya decided that she loved the Marquesas and would like to stay longer - so she left Rumpus and will spend some time here. 

I will make a separate post about the Bastille day parade. Here are photos of the waterfall walk. 

We were told that when we see this sign we proceed (!) across the stream and around the pinnacle to the cascade pool...

Kristin and Nico after a slippery clamber

Ancient guardian of the old village where royalty once lived. 

Rupe, Paul, one of the local family, and Kristin. The Toyota surf was brought in by barge to carry heavy loads the few hundred metres up the valley paths. It's fair to say it has seen better days, but Rupe thinks it would  be pretty good for D'Urville Island......(?)

Taniha's hand. The back of his hand is a 'night sky' symbol. His index finger has insects/mosquitos, the middle finger is the tropic bird design, and the other two fingers have representations of gods. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ua Pou - Lush and lovely

From Tahuata we sailed 60 miles or so to tiny, diamond-shaped  Ua Pou, with spectacular towers of volcanic rock wreathed in clouds.

To get there we passed "Haut-fond Dumont DUrville" - a shallow part of the ocean discovered by a famous French explorer who named a few things in NZ also...

The lush gardens and beautiful villages of this island led us one evening to the barraques, where young women and men were dancing and drumming on an outdoor basketball court; Katya was entranced by their tattoos. The club rooms nearby were decorated with coconut and breadfruit leaves and a little restaurant was open for the month of July. The next day there was volleyball and kai for a family gathering at the beach. 

Rupe and I walked up through a beautifully kept valley road lined with brilliant flowers and leaves, then found some fresh stream water for a quick wash. 

We saw manta rays at the wharf at night - feeding on the baby fish attracted to the lights. Graceful, captivating and HUGE:

The island's geology is truly spectacular. The spires are the remains of lava that came up through the  middle of existing volcanoes, and because of its different composition, hardened and remained as the other rock weathered. 

The hair-raising airport on Ua Pou. Downhill, downwind takeoff. No room for  error.

Dust designs, Ua Pou. 

Tahuata - getting to know the locals, one way and another

Our next stop was Tahuata; a beautiful golden sand beach lined with coconut trees. Nico decided to row ashore and enjoy the blessings and beauty of nature in the outfit he was born In. We watched him stroll naked into the coconut grove surrounding a house. He was chased back to the beach by the hostile residents shouting " GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY!" He tried to point out (in perfect French) that he was in France, was he not?….

We visited the next bay; a spectacular cove surrounded by high forested hills. Next to us in the bay was the huge beautiful yacht Silvertip, often seen in the Hauraki gulf and bay of islands. When they left we were the only yacht in the bay.
Rumpus, Katya, Nico

A little jewel, with astonishing beaches and a friendly welcome at the village of Hapatoni. I bought a 'hoe' (Marquesan carved paddle) there.
Copra drying shed; noni fruit has recently replaced copra as the most lucrative crop.
I met Tehina who brought out her ukulele and we enjoyed a  great singalong with some Rarotongan songs that we both knew. 
She showed me the stone church, built so solidly with coral cement that it wasn't possible to demolish a wall to extend it. So it's tiny, but big enough for the monthly visit from the priest.

The children of the nearby villages were all gathering for a picnic.

I also met Tehina's sister Leonne and Leonne's husband and son with their magnificent tattoos, depicting family stories, strengths and struggles.

Landrovers are the way to go in the Marquesas Islands.