DREAMCATCHER VOYAGE
Journal 13-Ua Puo and Nuka Hiva, Marquesas
July 15, 2004

MORE MAJESTIC, MYTHICAL, MAGNIFICENT MARQUESAS
  ........................Ua Pou and Nuku Hiva.....

Lat 08 55 S/Long 140 06W   



I’m back aboard DREAMCATCHER after nearly a month in Fremantle, Australia with my
Mum dealing with my Dad’s death and funeral.  It was a traumatic and unhappy time, and
I want to thank everyone who sent messages of support and sympathy.   When we were
in Perth in January, Dad was adamant, during a family conference after he was advised
he had only 9-12 months to live, that our cruising plans continue.  Hence Henry and I and
the DreamCatcher are re-united and will continue through the South Pacific, with a
planned landfall in Brisbane Australia, mid November, hoping to see my mum waiting for
us at the dock.

Glen.

We had a good overnight sail from Tahuata to Ua Pou, about 65 miles, seeing the first of
the island at daybreak from the south, though we had difficulty turning the corner to the
anchorage, and decided to motor for the last 5 miles.  What Ua Pou lacks in size, it
makes up for in majesty.  It is a wonderously weird island.  At first glance, it looks like a
cross between Disneyland’s Fantasy Land and Adventure Land: a pile of rocks growing
to a rounded peak from which 5 or 6 missile-shaped projectiles rise vertically from the
rich green hills.  These are known as the spires of Ua Pou, and indeed, they do look like
cathedral towers.  The spires are apparently “volcanic plugs” which have been hurtled
from the earth by the now extinct volcano’s energy, and which settled down into holes or
apertures left by the eruption.

We pulled into the anchorage – pale green and shallow, with not much room between the
breakwater and the beach.  Luckily there was only one other boat there  – Carmelita, with
Rob aboard – so we were able to anchor, though had to re-set the stern anchor as we
dragged after the initial drop during an unwelcome and poorly timed rain squall bearing
25 knots of wind.  The whole stern anchoring routine is like a trip to the dentist: you never
look forward to it, it’s a pain in the butt, but after the ordeal you’re glad you did it.   So
taxing is the whole stern-anchoring deal, that it’s prompted a separate article which will
be published to the website shortly!

We eventually got DREAMCATCHER snugged down and went ashore.  The beach is
beige-coloured and wide but shallow – alongside it is the main road into town: we walked
along it, checked in with the Gendarme (attired in red shorts and bare feet) and then
walked to one of the magasins (grocery stores) to check out the produce and purchase a
beer.
We found the bank – an add-on to the grocery story, bedecked with Coca Cola signs, no
bank insignia, and waited with the dozen or so local’s on it’s steps as the one clerk inside
the toilet-sized establishment, helped each individual customer.

Ua Pou is quite a pretty village but the waterfront area does not sport the majesty of the
Hiva Oa or the Nuku Hiva waterfronts….instead, there is a flurry of construction, centered
mostly around the tertiary boarding college there, and other student accommodation.  It
boasts the biggest number of grocery stores, about 5, some of which were very well
stocked (for a remote Pacific island) and for a treat, we bought our first icecream since
the USA.  Prices were still in the astronomical category, and we didn’t buy much, still
having a relatively full larder.  We did attempt to dine out on one of the 4 nights we were
there, but found the only 2 restaurants only opened with the Aranui supply ship came in,
about every 3 weeks!  The new bakery offered up better quality baguettes than the
original one and we were able to look at the Church activities while waiting for the bake
to complete: a special service was held on the Wednesday – Assencion Day, and we
admired the villagers in their lovely dresses and floral décor as they drifted out of the
handsome Church.  The village of Ua Pou is very pretty, back from the beach road, and
we roamed around the block several times, taking photos of the spires from different
angles, and admiring the green tangled gardens of the villagers.

We spent quite a bit of time aboard DREAMCATCHER this stop: we had discovered
some disturbing evidence that the battery combiner on the main engine was not
combining house & starter banks properly and thus ceasing to charge the engine starter
battery.   In addition, our “new” 120 amp alternator became faulty, meaning that
insufficient charge was going into the main batteries: we were down on our amp
balance.  You run your battery bank like you should run your bank account: charged up
with the highest balance possible available at all times.  This pointed to a fairly serious
outcome: insufficient power to run the anchor windlass to raise the anchor should we
need to make a hurried departure for any reason.  Given that we had 160 feet of chain
out on the end of our 65 pounder, this was cause for concern.   We spent a lot of time
troubleshooting, emails and phone calls to our electrician and eventually put on the old
back-up 30 amp alternator – this worked fine but restricted our power useage
substantially: it also increased our at-anchor engine running time to ensure a reasonable
charge was kept in the batteries…..not a lot of fun being aboard with a noisy engine
running.   So as to not “overload” the engine (or the eardrums), we decided to run the 25
year old Gen Set to help put amps back in the bank: that ran for about 3 minutes, grunted,
loosed a puff of smoke, and stopped.  The next half day was thus spent cleaning out its
cooling system by the dock: we replaced it, it worked terrifically for another 60 minutes,
then the main brass out-take pipe cracked across the threads, and it was “goodnight
nurse”.   It probably cracked because it was the first time in years it had experienced a
decent cooling water outflow!  Later, in Nuku Hiva, we were able to have a new one made.

Time aboard between fixing things was punctuated by popping above decks to see if the
spires had cleared.   Rob on Carmelita had been in the anchorage for nearly 2 months
and had said he had only seen the spires fully emergent from the clouds, twice.  We were
lucky.  Late one afternoon the entire sky cleared and we were able to see the three major
plug towers very clearly – quite magnificent with the crimson hue of sunset upon them.  It
is so easy to let the day drift by you just staring at the scenery in the Marquesas.

We eventually stopped pulling the dinghy up on the beach, and used the concrete pier
wall to tie to: it was a good stop, with 2 fresh water spigots available for free, so we
topped up our water tanks and and spent time laughing at the kids dive bombing from the
top of the jetty.  While the people were pleasant as always, we didn’t seem to make the
same connection as we did with the villagers at Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa: probably they
were more urbane and used to visitors, particularly with the comings and goings of
people and teachers connected with the college.  

Two of the four evenings in Ua Pou were spent with Rob : he came aboard
DREAMCATCHER, first time with a hand of ripe bananas, and Henry did his magical
banana flambé thing…complete with rum and brown sugar – we must have eaten about 4
dozen bananas that night!!  Next night, Rob came over with a pasta dish and we washed
it down with a box of red wine: a single-hander,we found him interesting and entertaining
company.  During our time there, the anchorage population built to 8 boats – quite a
squeeze, with one particular “disaster”: a French boat – obviously French as she was
buck-naked and he had a fag hanging out of his mouth – during the anchoring approach.  
As mentioned,  there wasn’t a lot of room between the breakwater and the beach - a
couple of boat lengths at most in light green shallow water: we had dropped the forward
anchor in a mere 12 feet.  We watched the nonchalant young couple come in, opened our
mouths in disbelief as they proceeded beachwards under full sail, clearly approaching
the mud-line and grounded themselves at a roaring 5 knots in the surf break!  We couldn’t
believe our eyes.  The French boats already at anchor also looked at them with disbelief
– sacre blue!  Such a disgrace to the French flag, that none of them went to help – at
least not immediately – they were so disgusted!  This scenario went on for a couple of
days, with various boats endeavouring to get them turned around and off the ground –
this was eventually accomplished and the beleaguered boat ended up behind us with 3
anchors out (2 of them loaned by other cruisers).  Nobody spoke to them for days, the
French guy next to us rolling his eyes and saying “too much pot”!!!   I’m not saying we’ll
never run aground, but dammitt, we’ll have our clothes on !!
    
Nuka Hiva
We left Ua Pou mid morning to passage the 25 miles across to Nuku Hiva, the main
island of the Marquesas.  Our trip started wonderfully with 15-17 knot SE trade winds on
our starboard quarter, however, after a couple of hours a very heavy squall appeared on
the eastern horizon and marched its way towards us (an excellent video clip available of
this).   It totally enveloped us,with driving, white-out rain, winds in the 27-30 knot range
and kicking up the seas…. During it, the wind shifted to the NE, which meant it was now
on the nose, and we were battling into quite big seas with no visibility: Our main concern
was that we were on the rhumb line to Nuku Hiva, a course that the freighter Aranui would
also be on in a reciprocal direction, and we knew she was in the vicinity…. The
proposition of running into a 400 ft steel freighter running at 20 knots was less than
appealing so we fell off to a westward and more comfortable course, running under rain
and radar for the rest of the day.  Subsequently we ended up way west of our intended
landfall and, now in the lee of the island because of the windshift, were unable to sail to
the anchorage.  After an hour of frustrating tacks which got us nowhere, we decided to
motor into Tiaohae Bay and drop the hook, for what was to turn out to be nearly 8 weeks.

For the island of Nuku Hiva, we feel we cannot describe it’s entrance any better than
Herman Melville’s perspective from his 1846 novel, “Typee”:

“The bay at Nuku Hiva in which we were then lying is in an expanse of water not unlike in
figure the space included within the limits of a horse-shoe.  It is, perhaps, 9 miles in
circumference.  You approach it from the sea by a narrow entrance, flanked on either
side by two small twin islets which soar conically to the height of some 500 feet.  From
these the shore recedes on both hands, and describes a deep semicircle.  From the
verge of the water the land rises uniformly on all sides, with green and sloping acclivities,
until from gently rolling hillsides and moderate elevations it insensibly swells into lofty and
majestic heights whose blue outlines, ranged all around, close in the view.  The beautiful
aspect of the shore is heightened by deep and romantic glens, which come down to it at
almost equal distances, all apparently radiating from a common center, and the upper
extremities of which are lost to the eye beneath the shadow of the mountains.  Down
each of these valleys flows a clear stream, here and there assuming the form of a slender
cascade, then stealing invisibly along until it bursts upon the sight again in larger and
more noisy waterfalls and at last demurely wanders along to the sea.  Nothing can
exceed the imposing scenery of this bay.  Viewed from our ship as she lay at anchor in
the middle , it presented the appearance of a vast natural amphitheatre in decay, and
overgrown with vines, the deep glens that furrowed its sides appearing like enormous
fissures caused by the ravages of time.   Very often when lost in admiration at its beauty, I
have experienced a pang of regret that a scene so enchanting should be hidden from the
world in these remote seas and seldom meet the eyes of devoted lovers of nature.”

Nuku Hiva is geo-physically two extinct volcanoes, one atop the other, creating two
separate but fitted semi-circles, like the letter ‘C’, the inner of which forms Tiaohae Bay.  
It is a cruisers heaven, with safe anchorage for over 100 boats and during our time here
this number has shrunk to 20 and risen to 80 several times, enhancing the local
population of  2,400.  There is an active dinghy dock, complete with precarious ladder, a
quay on which operates several small businesses including a yacht services company,
boutique, workshop and small coffee shop.  The quay road to the right leads up to the
post office, hospital and gendarmerie, under big leafy banyan and mango trees.  The left
branch becomes the seafront strand, hosting the village commune, several “magasins” or
grocery stores, a stationery shop, the bank, several small eateries & funky restaurants,
the seafront memorial park, and offers several branches off to the church, cathedral and
the main (and only) cross island road.  The seafront road continues around the arc of the
bay, to terminate in leafy tropical glades of the Nuku Hiva village hotel, some pretty
residences and the up-market Keika Hanui Inn.   The waterfront road is pretty, but not
manicured, and essentially delightful to walk around.

On anchoring, we were greeted by several Puddle Jumper boats who advised us a
package was waiting for us with Rose Corser, who had sailed here 30 years ago and
stayed.  They also gave us the “low down” on village activities, including the Saturday
Market: we thus got out of bed along with the locals at 0400, rode the dinghy to the dock
and purchased our weeks’ fresh vegetables (yes, cabbage at $5.00 each) and best of all,
awaited the arrival of the pastry truck!  There were only a total of about 6 vendors at the
market, not including the fishermen who delivered, butchered and sold their pre-dawn
catch, but it was one of the most fun markets we have ever visited and became a
“regular” activity.   Market was concluded by purchasing cups of coffee and consuming
pastries shared at tables with other cruisers and some of the locals.

The small open-fronted coffee shop on the quay is the only place in town to buy a cup of
coffee - the sidewalk café activity so practiced by the French has not taken root here….
but Louis and his family brew up the beans and sell local pastries, baguettes and stew
every day.  There are 3 crude wooden tables covered with plastic cloths for the
customers and a jar of powdered milk and sugar sit on each one.  Occassionaly he will
have a few vegetables for sale too.  Having coffee there, accompanied by a banana
turnover, is a pleasure: a place to talk to the locals and mingle with the other cruisers.

We also signed up for a one day tour with Jocelyn at the positive referral from friends
aboard sailing vessel Cest La Vie, now a couple of weeks ahead of us.  Jocelyn proved
to be a wonderful tour guide, focusing on many of the botanic aspects of the island – we
spent 10 hours in and out of her 4WD clambouring over stunningly amazing landscapes,
steep muddy roads and tracks, breathtaking vistas of the northern bays and wondrous
discoveries of plant life along the way.   Our lunch stop included probably one of the best
meals we’ve ever had in a pretty flowered beach-front restaurant… overflowing plates of
lobster, seafood, fish, breadfruit and mangoes, washed down with a bottle of wine, and
shared with our host over great conversation during which we learned a great deal more
about the island of Nuku Hiva.   We wandered through several archeological sites of the
pre-European Marquesan villages, all of which were fascinating, with black volcanic
stone platforms, wells, banyan trees which housed the bones of those unfortunate enough
to be eaten (the Marquesan race was occasionally cannibal until 160 years ago).  Stones
showed evidence of tattoo wells, where the bark colourings were ground for the tattoo ink
leaving small cup-sized depressions in many of the rocks of the chieftens’ platforms.  All
ruins were tangled in the omnipotent moist vines and ferns of the tropical glades and we
tramped through the streams and mud with total fascination.

We spent the first two weeks happily walking, communing with other cruisers both known
and new, greeting Speranza on her arrival, foraging in the grocery shops for “price
controlled” items amongst the outrageously priced goods, working on boat projects and
meeting the people.  During this time in early June, the most significant local event was
the Marquesan free elections.  The incumbent President of the Marquesas was an
appointed and much maligned cousin of Jacque Chirac, disliked because of his
inappropriate distribution of funds for the Marquesan islands, which resulted in him
becoming the owner of several jets and no less than 7 houses around Europe and the
US.  Of the 4 political parties, he held 28 seats, the main (and desired) opponent held 27
and the other two independents 1 seat each.  The election took several rounds but the
outcome was the joyous ousting of the incumbent and the placement of the desired
candidate into the Marquesas and representing French Polynesia at the European table.  
We watched, along with the excited locals, as the voting in the European assembly took
place and felt so happy for them that they finally had the leader they needed to help
restore some of their much wanted independence.  They want their culture back.  The
French authorities, strongly guided by the church during the 19th and 20th centuries,
banned their language, their music and their dancing for 150 years, based on the moral
view that it was sexual and licentious.  How could one country almost totally strip another
of 7,000 years of culture in merely a century and a half?    Sensibly, but grossly overdue,
during the past 30 years, the French have allowed the Marquesans to speak their own
language again and to resume the dance.  Some dance has been lost during the century
plus of European rule, but, some remains, passed down secretly from generation to
generation, and with new routines added.  We were fortunate enough to witness the twice
weekly rehearsals of the young Marquesans who, driven by an old dancer, were forming
a routine for the artisans festival held throughout  Polynesia during July.   The drums were
phenomenal, and improved each practice, booming out over the waters of the anchorage
– what a gift, to be part of the re-emergence of the Marquesan culture and to share their
jubilance as they worked towards the finale of an amazing dance competition.

GT saw three major dances – Henry saw more, including the rehearsals, as he was
camped at Taiohae Bay  aboard the boat for 4 weeks while awaiting Glen.  One dance
and feast night was for Mothers’ Day – the school hall filled with colourfully dressed locals
and joined by the cruiser community.  The women were so beflowered, with head and
neck garlands and brightly patterned clothes…the female dancers all lovely in coconut
bras, fresh grass skirts and laden with fragrant flowers.   There was a “Mothers Day”
competition for the older ladies , which was just lovely, about a dozen entrants and we
delighted in looking at their handsome flowered faces and photographing them.  The
Marquesans delight in having their picture taken, particularly since the advent of the
digital camera, when they can immediately see their image in the tiny silver box…the kids
are particularly enchanted by this and actively pursue you to take their photo!

Henry and Dave (of Speranza) saw the big Bastille night dance concert and all three of us
attended the two final dance shows – once again, gaily dressed locals crammed the
flower laden tables under a marquee, drank, ate and watched their countrymen and
women gyrate in magnificent costumes of palm leaf skirts and boar’s tooth necklaces
topped by flambouyant feather head-dresses.  The flowers that the last group wore were
simply amazing: probably about 2kg of flora to each dancer made into luxurious wide
head bands, leis and hip bands: the fragrance they exuded was heady. The music,
polynesian drums and ekulele’s , swelled by those beautiful and powerful voices that
seem to only come from being born on an island in the South Pacific, was truly moving.  
To see this, on the islands where this dance culture was born is a privilege.

One aspect of the Marquesans which has become more and more evident since we have
been here, is their gentle generosity.  They give of their time to talk, go out of their way to
help and all for a smile.   We had earlier made friends with the manager of a small
hotel/pension: we’d stopped for a beer, she joined us and the three of us talked about
matters of the world for several hours.  She offered to give us some pampelmousse and
sure enough, the next day did.  Several weeks later while we walked along the strand,
she stopped her car, called us by name, asked about our welfare & happiness and said
“come by for some pampelmousse’  ….too good an offer to refuse particularly as our next
destination, the Tuamoto archipelago, had no fruit available.  I stopped at the hotel
garden and she gladly kicked off her shoes, climbed the trees and picked 6 huge,ripe
pampelmousse (when was the last time your hotel manager did this for you?!).  Fully
loaded, I thanked her and enquired where we might buy some green bananas to take on
our voyage to the Tuamotos…..fruit is not sold in the shops, one has to pursue it from
home/land owners.  She immediately put me and my fruit in her car, drove me to her
home where she pointed out at least 6 laden banana palms:  When I selected one hand
of bananas, she cut it, put it in the car, drove me, it and the other fruit (likely totaling
45lbs/20 kilos) to the dock and sweetly refused to accept anything, let alone money, for
any of it.   They are truly giving people.  

Two other people in the town: Romeo and Tekama require note.  Both are males but
dress and live as females, though not together.…. Not unusual in the streets of San
Francisco, but noteworthy enough to catch our attention in this small world of manly men.  
It is a long held Marquesan custom that any family who is blessed by boy children, and
failing to birth a girl, will bring up the last boy child as a daughter.  The boy is dressed and
taught the skills of a woman, though is not necessarily homosexual.  Tekama is a gentle
giant of a person – with great English skills (acquired from years of working in the travel
industry in Australia and the US) he/she has spent many hours in conversation with us,
particularly Henry while GT was away, describing cultural and political scenarios, to help
us better know the Marquesans.  He dresses as a woman, with feminine clothes,
jewellery and handbag and speaks with a gentle voice and manner.  He/she works in the
government offices in Nuku Hiva and on weekends helps mum bake pastries and sells
them for her at the early Saturday market.   A gentle. intelligent  and generous person,
totally comfortable with this odd role, as is everyone else.

It has been interesting to observe the cohabitation of the Marquesan and French cultures
– due to the elections there was much discussion about the role of the French in these
islands.  There is an apparent harmonious interaction on a daily basis (about 20% of the
population here is French national), though a covert resentment of the French by the
Marquesans is still felt.   The Polynesians want Tahiti out of the political power chain, and
are prepared to deal direct with France direct: we will see what the new leader brings.  
The Marquesans (and those who occupy the other Polynesian island chains of the
Australs, Gambiers and Tuamotos) still feel cheated out of their culture and way of life,
forced into a language that is not their own, but there is also a tacit understanding that life
is easy under French rule: the free medical services (which of course they didn’t need
until the European diseases arrived with the ships), heavily subsidized electricity,
vehicles and fuel have brought about near Western standards of living and it is
begrudgingly acknowledged that a French withdrawal would leave the islanders impotent,
suspended between two cultures, but unable to operate fully in their original ways due to
decades of weaning away and ‘softening’ by the Europeans and the trappings of their
lifestyle.  

Our last day in Taiohae Bay saw an invitation, along with the rest of the cruisers, to a
Marquesan Wedding: this was a marriage of two young American cruisers, Dana and
Chris on Ker-Mor, who decided to “tie the knot” island-style.  We went, and what a
spectacle it was – bride and groom bedecked in white flower leis and headbands, the
“priest” or witch-doctor who chanted the ceremony, a small clutch of musicians providing
ekuleles and song, plus dancers who play the male and female dance and chant roles in
the wedding made up the lively scenario.  The couple were swathed in a 12 ft piece of
tapa cloth, which symbolized their union, and there was much applause and merry-
making.  The wedding took place at the resort hotel overlooking the Bay and several
dozen cruisers who had pried themselves out of the t-shirt & shorts uniform, wined and
dined the evening away in their clean but crumpled Sunday best.   Of course, the
departure was true cruiser style, where everyone disrobes waist-down to their underwear
on the beach before walking through the dark volcanic mud to eventually wade knee deep
into the sea to launch the dinghy.  It was a great night!

Our departure from Taiohae Bay in Nuku Hiva was bitter-sweet: we were moving on,
which is in accordance with our plans, but were sorry to say goodbye, both to the locals
and to the cruising boats with whom we’d become good friends.  We took a small step
after yet another wrestling match with the stern anchor, and motored 4 miles west to
Daniel’s Bay.  We were rewarded not only by more majestic, Jurassic-style scenery
which wrapped itself around us, but by the fact we had this stunning anchorage solely to
ourselves.  We launched the dinghy and motored around the rocky point, clinging to the
rocks and entered the river which outflows on the eastern side of Hakatea Bay, to meet
Daniel.  It was adventurous and scenic, and we gaped at the towering escarpments
backing the green palm groves down to the river.  We tied to a palm tree and walked to
Daniel’s house where we received a warm welcome from he and wife Antoinette.   They’
ve been married for 55 years and living in this valley all their lives.  They live a humble but
idyllic existence, in a billion dollar location but without electricity and merely a battery
powered transistor radio for local news and music.  They have 4 teeth between them.  
They share this beautiful valley with 4 other people, a far cry from the thousands who lived
here when it was the royal headquarters of the Nuku Hiva king.  They have 5 adopted
children, 3 girls who live in Tahiti and 2 boys who live on the same island in Taiohae Bay.  
We took them a gift of chocolate and fragrant lotion and they in turn gave us limes and
pampelmousse and filled our jugs from a pure well-spring in their property.  We spent 2
wonderful hours talking and laughing with these gracious people, leafing through their
many visitor books of cruisers and learning more about the Marquesan history.  It was a
privilege to meet them.

We’re sad to leave the Marquesas, this lovely group of islands which has been “home”
now for nearly three months.  We are very much aware that we have had a wonderful gift
bestowed on us, simply by being part of this very beautiful and special place and it will
remain in our hearts forever.

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Click on link to  VIEW PHOTOS FOR  JOURNAL 13