Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Long Marquesas

Thursday May 27, the south ocean swell in Taichae Bay, the main anchorage of Nuka Hiva, rose so high that one of the dinghies tied up at shore launched into the air and up onto the dock. Another dinghy was swamped by a crashing wave. For the locals, this was a time to jump on their surf boards and ride the eight foot waves.

We had a few last errands: get bread and sweet chocolate eclairs from Joseph the baker, buy meat and eggs at the main store and pick up our propane tank that was being filled with butane from Tahiti Yacht Services. Even though we had joined the tennis club (yes!) tennis in the Marquesas) for a week, I took the swell as a sign that it was time for us to leave the island where author and sailor Herman Melville once lived with cannibals. I asked a Nuka Hivan woman if the water activity was normal and she shook her head, waved her arms and advised us to "get out of the anchorage."

Seconds after her warning, I looked up and saw a boat anchored too close to shore rise four or five feet and then slap down on the waves. It looked for a moment that it hit bottom. I told the kids, "Let's forget the museum and get out of here."

At 1:00 pm, we pulled up our ahcnor and sailed out the harbor, relieved to be away from the gigantic waves. Apparently, the huge swell was not that unusual and there was no need to panic, but it was time for us to head out and sail 500 miles southwest to the Tuomotos. As we hoisted the mailsail, Maya looked at us and exclaimed, "We're not ready to leave the Marquesas."

"Yeah, we dont have enough pomplemouses," chimed Kai. Pomplemouse is the French word for the football sized grapefruits that we've enjoyed every morning since we arrived earlier in the month. The fruit captures the essence of the Marquesas: its thick skin symbolizes the arduous journey to these remote islands. but once you arrive and peel the skin, the sweet delicious fruit makes it unforgettable.

"Well we could veer to starboard for five miles and spend the night at Daniel's Bay," Tim suggested, knowing that altering plans are one of the benefits of cruising, that for the most part we are free to come and go as we please, and if an anchorage isn't suitable, we can easily move.

"Yeah!" the kids shouted happily. So, it was decided, we weren't going to leave yet. Just as we let out our sails and headed towards Daniel's Bay, a pod of pilot whales surfed our bow. Perhaps they were also telling us not to leave. Within an hour we reached the entrance of the Bay with its dramatic steep cliffs towering over both sides. The channel forks into two stubby bays. We turned to the more protected eastern bay, Daniel's Bay which is named after the Marquesan who used to welcome sailors. Though Daniel is no longer alive, we called his Bay home for the night.

With a few hours of daylight left, we drove our dinghy to the small village of Hakaui where about 50 people live, including our new friend Ma'a and his wife Maria, who, when we visited last week, had graciously shown us hot to navigate their pass into the river. Kay and Maya took one final swing on the coconut tree rigged with a rope. They had spent many hours there last Sunday afternoon figuring out how to climb the coconut tree, grab the rope swing, wrap their legs over the know and fly over the water. That afternoon, with the kids swinging on the coconut tree, horses grazing in the background and a Marquesan family picnicking on roast pig seemed to me to capture the Marquesas.

This Thursday afternoon we walked the dirt path looking for pomplemouses and I thought about our stay in the Marquesas. From our first landfall at Hata Hiva where we rested after 17 nights at sea, stretched our legs with numerous hikes, ate poisson cru and goat smothered in cocoanut sauce, to swimming with manta rays in Tahuata, to swimming in Anaho Bay to the archeological site in Haitahu Bay and finally my favorate hike to Hakaui and Vapai Waterfall, the third largest waterfall in the world. That hike ranks among one of the beautiful hikes of my life - filled with lush flowers, dramatic woods, tikis and a bright green path leading us to a cool water pool.

"I'm going to miss the Marquesas" I said, as I placed a tiara flower behind my right ear.

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