Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marquesas – Monday & Tuesday

After cruising for 2 days to get from Papeete we finally arrived in the Marquesa Islands on Monday 15 October. The days at sea had been rough, cloudy, rainy really not very nice. I went up to the Lotus Spa & had a massage & body wrap. We mainly spent time exploring the ship, eating & relaxing.

We downed anchor at Nuku Hiva on Monday & it was 29C & sunny. We watched the ship anchor out, all around us people were commenting on the beauty of the island. To me it looked a lot like the area around Banks Peninsula except the foliage is obviously different. There is probably a good reason for this sort of similarity & it is because Nuku Hiva is the result of two volcanoes that erupted. The locals make their living mainly by selling copra & noni. A lot of the women supplement their income by making & selling necklaces made of seeds, selling shells, noni juice & tapa hangings to the tourists that mainly come off the cruise ships. The island does have an airport & at the far end of Taiohae Bay there is the best hotel on the island, Keikahaunui Pearl Lodge. Our cruise ship is the first one that has been in for 4 months & they only get about 6 cruise ships a year.

We took the tender ashore & then walked around through the town of Taiohae. The town really isn't all that big in fact we met some fellow tourists & they asked how far it was to the town & we told them they were walking through it. Really the town consisted of a general store, a bar, a cathedral, a market area, a bank, a primary school & a secondary school. That was it & they were all strung out along about 2kms of the shoreline. We walked the full 3.5kms of the shoreline to a lovely beach where it was safe to swim. The Marquesa Islands are different from the Society Islands in that they are not atolls, they don't have a protective reef from the ocean. This means that the swells straight from the ocean roll on to the beaches. This can make these beaches dangerous for swimming. The swell at Nuku Hiva was quite big but the beach at the end of the 3.5km Taiohae Bay was safe & a place where shells & coral could be found. Unfortunately it looked like the beach had been well & truly picked over for shells though. There is a beautiful cathedral ½ way along the stretch, Notre Dame Cathedral of the Marquesas Islands. It is made of stone from the 6 inhabited islands of the Marquesas. Inside the wood work is ornately carved & the roof is very high with a gap between the end of the roof & the walls to let a breeze flow around. Outside there are a couple of stone sculptures, one of the pope & the other of the Madonna & Child. It really was a lovely setting with an ornate arch marking its entrance. Further along the bay we came to Piki Vehine Pae Pae which is also known as Temehea. In this area there were a lot of stone ti'i. Ti'i are basically stone carvings of heads, in other areas of the South Pacific they are known as tiki.

At 12:30 we were back at the pier where we got into a 4WD vehicle for a scenic drive around the island. All the vehicles on the island seem to be either 4WD or mopeds. Unfortunately our driver, Katrin, only spoke French but luckily the English couple who were with us had some very good conversational French skills so we were able to communicate a bit with her. She lives in the village of Taipivai with her husband & one of her daughters. She has nine children the oldest is around 30 & the youngest is 17. Her husband is a fisherman, he catches the fish & she cleans them all & then together they sell them to the restaurants. When the tourists are around her husband will take them out on fishing charters & she drives tourists around the island sightseeing. She gets 30 thousand SP Francs for every 2 ships that come in that she shows people around. She drove us up to near the top of Mt Muake where we could look down over Taiohae Bay & see how small our ship really is in the scale of things. We were then driven down to the small village of Taipivai where we got to see the church. It is in a nicely landscaped area with neatly trimmed hibiscus bushes growing around the front. Like the cathedral the walls don't meet the eaves so that a cool breeze can flow through the church. Inside the wood carvings of the Madonna & Child & of Jesus were carved with more of the facial structure of the Marqueasan people. The carvings were very ornate. From Taipivai we headed along a dirt road to Hooumi. Hooumi is at the end of 3 inlets that make up Controleur Bay. The road ends at a beach that is sandy & has a lot of black coconut husks, coral & shells on it. I was very lucky to find quite a collection of shells so I've picked them up & will see if NZ Customs will let me bring them back into the country. The local women had a market set up where the selling necklaces, wood carvings & shells. They also had fresh coconut, pineapple & other fruit that we could taste. Unfortunately the prices were very expensive & after we got back in the car Katrin asked us if we had bought anything & then why not. We explained that we thought it was expensive & she quite agreed with us & suggested that the people would have been better to have lowered their prices & taken a possible loss rather than charging such high prices. She explained that most locals don't think that way & think that the tourists have so much money that they won't hesitate to spend it. I had seen the most beautifully carved pendant. It was part of an oyster shell, carved into a spiral. Part of the spiral was made out of the outside of the oyster shell & the other part of the spiral was the inside of the shell. Unfortunately at 13,000SPF it was way out of our price range. Scott told me that it was over $NZ200. There really was no way I could think of paying that much for the pendant despite it being so beautiful. We got back into the car & headed back up the hill where we stopped & looked over another inlet of Controleur Bay called Hakapaa Bay. This inlet was one of the bays that was used in the filming of Survivor Marquesas, now I want to watch that program again to see it all put in the place that I saw. After that it was time to head back to port & to catch our tender back to the ship.

We weighed anchor at 5pm & headed off to Hiva Oa. Nuku Hiva is in the Northern Maquesas at around 7 degrees latitude South. Hiva Oa is in the Southern Marquesas and sits at 8 degrees latitude South. We have now been as close to the equator as I have ever been & as close as we will get on this trip. After a cocktail & some late lunch (5pm) we decided to see if one of the specialty restaurants on board had room for us. The 2 specialty restaurants operate on different days & on Monday night it was Sabatini's night. Sabatini is an Italian restaurant that has lovely roman décor. The menu is interesting in that we only had to choose either a soup or salad & then the main course. All the rest which includes antipasti, pizza & pasta gets delived to you & you can choose to either eat it or not. The antipasti included, chargrilled vegetables, mozzeralla & tomatoes, prosciutto & melon, air dried beef & cheese, prawns, sevruga caviar, crab cake, anchovies & NZ green lip mussels. I then got to choose between a salmon, mushroom, ham & pineapple or anchovy pizza slice. I chose the mushroom pizza & Scott choose the salmon pizza. After pizza our choice of soup or salad arrived. I chose a seafood soup that had NZ mussels, prawns & fish in it. Scott had minestrone soup. It was then time for our pasta. We got potato gnocchi, spaghetti with a tomato sauce & cannelloni. By this time I was really starting to feel full. Then finally our main course came out. I had scallops & Scott had prawns in periperi sauce. Unfortunately neither of us could finish our mains but they were both delicious. I don't think the waiter understood that we couldn't fit anything else in because he came out with a tray of 5 desserts for us to choose from. There was icecream, tiramisu, semolina cake, panacotta & one other thing. We decided in the end to share a tiramisu & have an expresso.

This morning we woke up as we were entering the mouth of Tahauku Bay in Hiva Oa. This island also has steep cliffs & is at the mercy of the sea swells & today we were too. The swells at the moment are 2 to 3 metres which means that loading the tenders with passengers can be quite dangerous. This has meant that for the last 4 hours we have been at anchor but not been able to go to shore. We were informed about half an hour ago that the captain believes the conditions will continue like this so we have now weighed anchor & are cruising slowly around the island of Hiva Oa before heading off on an all day trip south to Rangiroa in the Tuamotus group of islands.

It's just past midday & the captain has told us his midday spiel which included how the saying "no room to swing a cat" came about. In the past the navy used to discipline it's crew by whipping the crewman at fault with a whip made of leather but with knots in it. This whip is called a cat of nine tails. So that all the crew realized what they were not allowed to do the whole crew had to watch this flogging & sometimes if there was a full crew loading there wasn't enough room for the whip (cat) to be swung around without lashing the innocent. So the saying not enough room to swing a cat really refers to a whip & not an animal.

It must be time for lunch & a sunbathe by the pool & then I'll connect up to the internet & send this to the blog.

Brent & James I hope you are having a wonderful time with nana. Good luck for your cricket game on Saturday, Brent. Lots of love to you both from me & dad.

Here is the link for Nuku Hiva slide show


Hannah said...

It all sounds so wonderful, and I am really enjoying reading your updates. Hope you have some more nice weather for a few days :-)

Jenny said...

Hi Katrina - I haven't read all of it yet, but what I have sounds so lovely. Anyway, Happy Birthday for "tomorrow" - whenever that might be for you! I hope that you have a great day

PJ said...

Katrina, sounds like a interesting trip so far. I hope you aren't missing the boys to much and you continue to have a great time.

Roo said...

Wow it is all sounding very cool. That was interesting about the 'swing a cat' - I always wondered what that meant.