Marquesas Islands to Bora Bora

April 27, 2007 - July 9, 2007



Log Entry #33 - Friday, May 4, 2007

Marquesas Islands (Nuku Hiva Island 4/27-5/2).

After checking in for Nuku Hiva Island and making our purchases at Saturday market, we decided to take Talerra around the corner to Hakatea Bay, known to cruisers as Daniel's Bay. Because several points of land overlap, when you are anchored here, you cannot see the ocean. This idyllic anchorage and climb to what is claimed to be the third highest waterfall in the world, proved to be our most picturesque and truly enchanting experience in the Marquesas. It was easy to immediately see why this location had been chosen for the recent "Survivor in the Marquesas" television series. We anchored Saturday afternoon in clean, unpolluted, aqua blue water, surrounded by steep mountainous cliffs, covered with lush jade and hunter green foliage. A palm tree studded, white, sandy beach was at the head of the bay, and the fact that there were just a few boats at anchor left plenty of swinging (on your anchor) room. After visiting with other cruisers, we had an international group of eight (Iceland, Sweden, Australia, USA) organized for a hike to the waterfall the next morning. Taking our dinghies up the mouth of the river emptying into the bay, we made landfall and immediately tried to determine where to begin our hike. There was no clear beginning to a trail. Fortunately we quickly located an occupied home, and the woman living there graciously got us going in the right direction. The valley was wide here, and we could have easily gone astray and not found our way. This first part of our trail was actually a road with a few homes spread out along it. As with the other homes we've seen, these yards were immaculate. Everything was raked as tidy as could possibly be. Growing in the yards were many varieties of colorful tropical flowers and trees heavily laden with ripening fruit. Every blade of grass was perfectly trimmed, and absolutely nothing seemed out of place, not even on the road or in the fields or orchards near the houses. Roosters and hens, and their chicks, hunted and pecked all around us, and a friendly snorting little pig (we named Babe) soon joined our group of six (the couple from Sweden had to cancel at the last minute). We passed the ruins of old villages and very ancient statues. We stopped and listened to a small group gathered and worshiping in a darling, flower adorned church. All the while we were on the lookout for small piles of rocks marking the trail. We crossed shallow streams, some moving so quickly you had to hang on to small trees that had been placed across the stream just for that purpose, and hiked up and up toward the waterfall. Part way there we met up with some of Babe's family, a dad and two sons, who wished to take "Pia" (Babe's real name - ok so pia probably means pig) back home. David was a bit concerned for Pia when the dad grabbed out his machete, but it was just used to split open a coconut to entice Pia to go with them. It seemed Pia would rather have gone on with us. At a point where we were having difficulty figuring out which way to go next, along came a large group consisting of two French families, one of whom had previously made this hike, and we were back on the correct trail again. We first spotted the top of the waterfall while still on the trail (the waterfall is so tall, you cannot see it all at once) as it gracefully and majestically spilled between two crevices at the top of a mountain. We continued on past steep cliffs straight from a Disneyland set, with painted stripes of various shades of brown and gray and green and with rivulets of clear water gently cascading over the top of it all. Soon our trail opened to the valley where the waterfall ended, and it was so intensely beautiful we all were in awe. Two thousand foot high mountainous cliffs surrounded us. Emerald green ground cover and several varieties of wild flowers abounded. I couldn't find words to describe it, but David kept insisting it was a perfect "Jurassic Park" scene. And it was. We were sure a pterodactyl would come swooping down at any second or a brontosaurus would soon be sticking its head around a corner. The actual base of the waterfall was less than dramatic because at this point you could see just a small section. The water was also a milky color and rumored to be filled with eels, and although we had talked to a family who had done some swimming here, which included feeding the eels, we chose not to. After snacking and soaking up the sights we began making our way back home. What a fabulous five and a half hour hike it was!

Log Entry #34 - Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ocean Passage (Marquesas Islands to Tuamotu Archipelago 5/3 - 5/6).

I know that inquiring minds have wanted to know, and that some of you have been waiting for this, so now it is time for my version of Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story." Everything can't be perfect all of the time, not even in paradise, so here goes. As mentioned in the previous log, we arrived at Nuku Hiva on Friday, April 27. This was critical because Saturday market would be the next day and SV Talerra was running dangerously low on fresh fruit and veggies and French baguettes. One of the crew was seriously craving bananas, and the other was in dire need of fresh bread. It seemed the ship's cook was refusing to make bread in the land of French bakeries. There was also a need to use the internet and to call those darling little grandsons and their equally darling parents. Ham radio phone patches had been working well to David's parents, but trying to get an almost 5 or 8 year-old to understand how to say "over" in the right spot was challenging. This was the big island with the "capital" city, ok so maybe just a bit larger village, but still larger. Oh my gosh, were we ever in for a surprise. This village appeared to be smaller than Atuona. There was one very tiny bank, one tiny post office, one tiny hospital, and four tiny grocery stores. The combined square footage of these four stores was barely larger than a 7-11 store in the states. There was one small hardware store a few miles away and up a very steep hill, but it was fairly well stocked for its size. Still there was no clothes wringer to be found. I guess I haven't mentioned that as having been added to my "must find" list. It has become a definite need on Talerra. When I think of the beauty my grandmother used to have; oh to have it now! You didn't hear me mention any laundromats either, did you? There are no such things in the Marquesas. Usually there is just one local woman who takes your laundry home with her and then charges you a small fortune to do it ($10 - $15 per load). Often there is no clothes dryer, and I don't think much outside drying either. Because it rains almost daily, I think the clothes are mostly dried inside her home or you get your laundry back wet to dry yourself. Therefore, no soft towels or sheets. There are also no internet cafes, but they did have wireless internet; so what if it doesn't work quite all of the time or very quickly or if you don't have a booster antenna that is not strong enough for using Skype phone service? I still could get our bank statements, so all was not lost. In our defense, we did try to buy one of these antennas in Mexico and the US when we were home at Christmas, but were unsuccessful. They did sell them at Nuku Hiva, but they were sold out of the type that actually work and/or have all of the parts to make them work. That is a good thing though because it means we will probably be able to buy one in Tahiti. Something they do have quite a few of in the Marquesas, especially on Nuku Hiva, is flying, biting creatures such as mosquitoes and "nonos" which are the same thing as "noseeums" in the states. I was bragging to everyone how mosquitoes don't bite me anymore, but then we hit Nuku Hiva and the nonos discovered me. They are nasty, itchy little bites! Also, we both went to the local hospital to get our free elephantiasis pills, which I guess is carried by mosquitoes, in addition to being able to get it from some little wormy thing in the ground that gets you when you walk around with no shoes. They say you don't need the pills if you are going to be here less than a year, but we want to be on the safe side, and they are trying to get everyone immunized. I'm not trying to make it sound like a big deal, and I know it sounds really creepy when you write it down, but you don't walk around thinking or worrying about it. It's just part of being in the tropics! Besides, these flying creatures were far less bothersome that those in Washington on warm, summer evenings. You just need to have bug repellant on in certain areas, and I didn't because I thought I was bite-proof. I definitely learned my lesson. Let's see, what else did I want to include in my "rest of the story"? You might be wondering why we only stayed for just a little over two weeks. The Marquesas Islands were gorgeous, and the people were wonderful, but we were ok with moving on, especially since we are restricted on the time we can spend in French Polynesia (this is not to slam the French government - we hear it is exceedingly difficult for cruisers from other countries to be able to even obtain cruising visas for the United States). The snorkeling was pretty limited and not nearly as great as it will be in the Tuamotus and Society Islands. There was also mostly no night life there, so no place to congregate with the locals and/or other cruisers. The Marquesans must just socialize at each other's homes because there was no movie theater, no place to see native dancing, and just a few restaurants with limited hours. I think it also has to do with cost. Everything here is very, very, very expensive! Diesel is $6 a gallon, a regular loaf of sliced bread is $5, paper towels are $4, a head of cabbage is $4. We also think people here are very sports oriented. You see the kids (all ages) always playing some sport at school and they are big on racing their outrigger canoes. The teenagers appear to be very fit. We did see a few instances of children and young adults practicing their native dances, but never had an occasion to see an actual performance. The month of July is a big celebration time in all of Polynesia, so I'm sure we will get to see native dancing then, if not before. I think they also have major sports competitions then, so we'll make sure we see some of that too. Another good reason to be leaving now though is there are a lot of boats heading here from the Galapagos. Sounds like this ocean-crossing thing isn't that big of a deal these days. Ok, in the big scheme of things, it is just a fraction of a percent of the people, but it is still lots more people now than it used to be. Anyway, the anchorages are filling up, so we're thinking this way we will be a bit ahead of the crowd. This passage takes just three and a half days, so we will arrive tomorrow. We are also traveling with two other Australian boats, Volare, whom we planned to leave with, and Trius, who just happened to leave at the same time. I don't know about all of this "Ausie" influence. Before we left, we shared in the cost of the purchase of a leg of lamb, and we now have a supply of Vegemite on board (thanks to Volare). This is a thick, salty, black, vegetable paste you spread on crackers or bread. Not to worry, although I really like it, it is not replacing spray butter! And speaking of the Marquesan grocery stores again, not only did they not have spray butter, they also did not have chocolate chips! How do those people survive there?

Log Entry #35 - Friday, May 16, 2007

Tuamotu Archipelago (Manihi Atoll 5/6-5/9, Ahe Atoll 5/10-5/11, Rangiroa Atoll 5/12-5/15).

We had a wonderful ten days at our three anchorages in the Tuamotu Archipelago, part of the groups of islands and atolls making up French Polynesia. For many, many years cruisers would avoid the atolls due to the fact they were not always easily visible and because they were not easy to enter and exit. They are circular coral reef formations with just maybe one or two openings through which boats can enter or exit, and just a slight miscalculation could spell disaster for a boat of any size. Tidal flow, size of the opening, strong currents, and daylight are all critical aspects of making a passage through an entrance to an atoll, but once inside you are rewarded with a normally calm anchorage and always fantastic surroundings. The water was, without a doubt, the highlight of the atolls we visited. We found it to be so many different shades of blue, we decided there must be more words in Polynesian to describe the color blue than we are given in the English language. Everywhere we anchored we could see water in what appeared to be layers of varying shades of aquamarine, azure, and deep turquoise, surrounded by brilliant white sand or crushed coral beaches. Snorkeling was a daily activity and was fabulous! It was like being inside an extravagant, well stocked and perfectly maintained aquarium. The fish were all shapes and sizes with incredible patterns of vibrant, fluorescent pinks, blues, greens and yellows. At Rangiroa one day, a four plus foot moray eel with a huge head and jaw joined us, as well as a five foot reef shark. Two days before, we had five (I only saw four though) four to six foot reef sharks swimming with us. I still can't believe we did it without being afraid, although I must admit the rendezvous with the eel and shark at the same time was a bit creepy as well as exceedingly interesting and thrilling. None of our snorkeling buddies made any attempt to get out of the water! It was amazing! Besides tourism, black pearl farming is a critical part of the economy in the Tuamotus. It is believed that for this reason, the people there have been less than thrilled about having cruising boats in their area. We found this to not be the case at all. All of the people we met were warm, friendly, helpful and genuinely happy to see us there, and helped us tally up one more fantastic, cruising adventure!

Log Entry #36 - Saturday, May 26, 2007
Society Islands (Windward Group - Tahiti 5/17-5/25).

As we entered the pass of the reef surrounding the island of Tahiti, we could hardly believe we were actually about to lay anchor at the most famous island in the South Pacific. It had been just three weeks shy of 36 years that David had come through the very same pass with his family aboard their boat. We had had a great overnight sail from Rangiroa Atoll and were a bit sleep-deprived, but nothing could squelch the excitement we were feeling. We anchored in front of the Marina Maina with several other cruising boats, and that first night celebrated on the marina dock by having a potluck with many cruising buddies. But the Tahiti of today, was not the Tahiti that existed 36 years ago. At that time the population was about 30,000. Now it is about 170,000. The roads were not designed for so much traffic, so renting a car would be much too risky and a scooter would be much too dangerous. Also, all of those people need homes, and there are thousands more tourists using resorts each year, so the beach areas are pretty much taken. Still we had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful city of Papeete and surrounding area using the local transportation system consisting of open-air bench-lined busses. Along with our cruising friends, we visited the Gauguin and Tahiti museums and Venus Point, made famous by Captain Cook's fascination with the planet Venus. We re-provisioned at what seemed to be huge supermarkets, enjoyed diners at the "trucks" in Papeete's palm-tree lined city square, and filled up with duty-free fuel. We had paid over $6 a gallon in the Marquesas Islands, so the $3.20 a gallon diesel in Papeete seemed like a deal. Other prices there were a bit less than other parts of French Polynesia, but the only products that were not expensive were the cheese and baguettes of French bread. Of course I would have been willing to pay just about anything for spray butter, but nooooo, no spray butter or any other form of fake butter was to be found anywhere! No Butter Buds, no Molly McButter, nothing. I couldn't believe it! And to add insult to injury there were no chocolate chips either! That really amazed us! Seriously though, we did have lots of fun in Tahiti, and although it was not the Tahiti David had spent so much time at all those years ago, it was an experience we feel privileged to have had and will never ever forget.

Log Entry #37 - Thursday, May 31, 2007
Society Islands (Windward Group - Moorea 5/26-5/31).

Moorea is just twelve miles from Tahiti, a short ferry ride, so many people commute from there to work in Papeete. It is to Papeete as Bainbridge Island is to Tacoma and Seattle, close to the action of the big city, but much less crowded and much more peaceful. David's Dad had written in his log that Robinson's Cove in Opunohu Bay was "without a doubt the prettiest place in the Society Islands." He had already visited several of the islands, I have not, so I can't say this yet, but I definitely agree that it is an absolutely gorgeous anchorage. The surrounding high volcanic peaks, the swaying palms, and many varieties of colorful tropical flowers make it the classic South Pacific bay. In fact so perfect that it is the location at which much of the movie South Pacific was filmed. It also made it the perfect place to see our first Polynesian dance performance and to rent our first scooters. The dancers and drummers were terrific, as Tamari music and dance usually are. We were with Darrel and Loretta from "CanKata" and Nicholas and Lynn from "Trius," which of course made it even more fun and funny, especially when Nick and David were chosen by the two youngest dancers, about 8 and 10 years old, to dance with them during the show. The guys were equally embarrassed, but went along with it and it gave us all one more thing to tease them about. The scooter riding was great fun! We rode them all day and were able to really see all of Moorea, including a fabulous view of our anchorage and surrounding areas from high on a mountaintop. We decided this will have to be a regular activity on as many islands we visit as possible.


Log Entry #38 - Monday, June 11, 2007
Society Islands (Windward Group - Huahine 6/1-6/11).

We arrived with CanKata and Trius at Fare, the main town on Huahine, the morning of June 1, after a fairly "lumpy" overnight passage from Moorea. The crew of one of our buddy boats is prone to seasickness, so we were especially happy for them when we coasted in to another calm, reef-enclosed lagoon. This is part of the draw of the Society Islands. You have the gorgeous landscape of the green, rugged volcanic mountains, such as you find in the Marquesas Islands, yet you have the calm, reef-enclosed anchorages you find in the Tuamotu Archepelago. After checking out the town and arranging rental of scooters, we motored down to the southern end of the island and anchored at Avea Bay. This anchorage proved to be so relaxing and enjoyable we stayed over a week. We swam, snorkeled, beachcombed, saw local dancers and outrigger racing, but the highlight of our time there was another scooter ride. What a terrific way to see an island and to have more contact with the local people. Huahine is known as a bit of a "rebel" island. It was the last to give in to French control and many of Huahine's citizens would love to be governing themselves. Rumor had it the locals would not be so friendly, but boy was that ever a false rumor. The people on Huahine were not only friendly, they were probably the most friendly locals we had met thus far. No phony, we have to do this because you are a tourist smiles here. They were sweet, genuine, it is really a pleasure to see you, smiles. We also had a most remarkable experience the day we went scooter riding. David's mom had told us a woman they had met at Papeete on their trip there 36 years ago, and who had also lived in their home town of Santa Barbara, now lives on Huahine, and maybe we could find her to say hello. We thought there was minimal chance of that happening, the island isn't that small, but when we stopped at a Huahine cultural center, guess who was there? We couldn't believe it! She was the only person there and was working on organizing exhibits after a major remodel of the center. Of course she asked where we were all from. After David stated he had lived in Santa Barbara, she said she had also. We all immediately asked if her name was Dorothy. It was! And the reunion began. It was great fun and she had excellent information about the island for us. We had not heard of this center and would not have seen it from an anchorage. We gave full credit for this fantastic reunion to our scooter ride and can't wait to rent them again!
* One sad note - Our buddies Nicholas and Lynn on "Trius" had to leave us while here. They have to be back in Australia in August, so have to move much faster than we do. They are fabulous, fun-loving people and we can't wait for a reunion with them in New Zealand or Australia!

Log Entry #39 - Thursday, June 28, 2007
Society Islands (Windward Group - Taha'a & Raiatea 6/11-6/28).

The islands of Taha'a and Raiatea lie within the same coral reef, making it very easy to travel from island to island. As is was, we (CanKata and Talerra) first circumnavigated Taha'a and then went as far around Raiatea as the coral reef would allow. We had a fabulous time on both islands and strongly recommended them to all of our cruising friends traveling behind us. Both are gorgeous islands, as are all of the islands in French Polynesia, but each of these provided a special experience. Of course we snorkeled, swam, and hiked at both, but on Taha'a we experienced the most magnificent snorkeling we have had thus far. It was between two little motus (small islands on a coral reef) with a view of Taha'a on one side and Bora Bora on the other. They call snorkeling spots such as this, aquariums, and this one more than deserved the title. It had the most colorful coral, the widest variety of fish, a multitude of beautiful shells, and the clearest water we had experienced. It also happens to be located next to Le Taha'a Private Island & Spa, with accommodations ranging from over $1000 to $3000 US dollars a night. We were lucky enough to receive a tour by a darling young woman who was especially giggly when she showed us the over-the-water cabana in which Tom Cruise has stayed. We were able to understand why it is a hangout for the rich and famous and that a tour was as close to staying there as we were ever going to get. Raiatea, on the other hand, provided us with our most endearing experiences with the local people. In three different villages we were able to watch singing and dancing rehearsals in preparation for the Heiva, a festival celebrating Polynesian culture, including traditional singing, dancing, and sports competitions. Each was an awesome experience. There were no other tourists, just these very family and community oriented people, who were all exceedingly friendly and warm toward us, and welcomed our presence. It was a privilege to share a bit of their culture with them.

Log Entry #40 - Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Society Islands (Windward Group - Bora Bora 6/28-7/9).

Bora Bora will always be remembered as our departure island from French Polynesia. Oh, the island itself is spectacular with its high volcanic peaks that provide a magnificent and interesting photograph from every angle, brilliant white sandy beaches, and water so clear in places it was as if it wasn't there and yet when you saw its reflection on the underside of a white bird flying overhead, you saw such a perfect shade of aquamarine, you'd swear it was put there by an artist's brush, rather than being a gift of nature. But still it was our last Polynesian island and the island where David had celebrated his 15th birthday all those years ago. It was special visiting the places he had such fun memories of including the Hotel Bora Bora where he and his mom almost had their rental bicycles taken and the Oa Oa Yacht Club (now a restaurant with another name) where the cruisers used to hang out and swap stories, and although David was just fourteen turning fifteen, he fit right in. He must have known then he would be back. Of course the island is not the same now. The roads are paved, not dirt as they were then, and instead of having just a couple resorts, there are now too many to count. Almost every sandy beach on the island and motus on the coral reef surrounding the island is taken by a resort, including the Four Seasons Resort under construction. Cruise ships, which were few and far between then, now anchor in front of the main town a couple of times a week. Now, after all of those years of planning and dreaming, our time in French Polynesia is over. But just as it did for David his first time there, it has also given us many wonderful memories. To be so lucky to have three months there on our own boat is an experience most people will never have. Now we are sailing off to new places, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand! Wow, what an adventure!