First week in Marquesas – Hiva Oa: click on any photo below to go to whole album or click here
Taahuku Bay is where we were anchored when we first arrived on July 13th. The overwhelmingly lush beauty of the islands was hard to take in all at once. The anchorage was tricky as there was some rolling swell and about 5 other boats in a tight skinny bay.
We needed to be careful with Karaka, especially since we only had the forward drive functioning properly on the engine so stopping was well planned as we needed enough time to drop the anchor, let the boat drift to a stop and gently catch the anchor to let it sink in well. We set two anchored so we would not drift into other boats. We eventually made it to shore that day and hitch-hiked into Atuona which was about 2km away from Taahuku Bay.
Maps of Marquesas, French Polynesia
We got a cold beer and/or some bread with butter/cheese. We started interacting with some of the other boaters and heard about their crossing, all with a different story. Everyone had a story to tell and it was interesting hearing how long people took from different places. So many different times and speeds number of days at sea ranged from 18 to 73… us taking 54 days and knowing that some took longer made us feel a little better. We also met two guys who did the crossing from Panama too. Half way broke their self steering device and did 6 hours on and 6 hours off between them for the last 20 some days… made us feel pretty lucky that we hade no self steering mechanism but had 7 people on board only having to do 2 hour watches per person and then have 10 hours off before the next. We also started to meet some of the locals here as we found out that there was a big funeral and pretty much the whole town had attended. The polynesians we interacted with were so friendly often offering us whatever they had: fruit, food, beer, coffee etc; never asking for anything in return. Some however really wanted alcohol, cigarettes, guns(for hunting). Some of us brought some alcohol and cigarettes to sell/trade and it works well with people here but it is also something you have to be careful with because you don’t want to be feeding the town drunks. It was hard to use our legs after so long and by the time we made it back to the boat that first day we were exhausted but it felt great. July 14th was Bastille day a big holiday from France and there was a bunch of activities going on but we ended up working on the boat quite a bit missing out on some of the traditional dances. We eventually made our way to the town centre for some live music and other festivities. Pam, Louis and I met a such an incredibly nice family who kept buying us rounds of beer and food. We had a fun night of dancing and good times. We also met Heretu and Tiva who were playing some music, we started talking with them and invited them to the boat for a pizza night the next day, jammed some music and they told us about a festival in Vaitahu on Tahuata island the following weekend. We all officially checked in together the morning of the Monday the 15th of July. We all kind of took off doing our own separate adventures which was understandable considering we spent so much time together on the boat. I did a few little kayak trips around the Bay near Atuona but the surf was huge and paddling in the big swell and currents was quite intimidating. One evening as it was getting dark I managed to paddle around the nearby rock known as Motu Anakee and was startled by a few sharks who actually spash me pretty good, a little nerve-racking while paddling out on my own but no worries the locals told us it was not the season for sharks in these waters, they were probably black-tipped reef sharks that are more afraid of my big colourful kayak than I could ever be of them. There were quite a few locals who paddled canoes with outriggers. One time I approached one of them and managed to explain to him in my broken French that he should try my sea kayak and I would like to try the outrigger canoe. It was tricky to get the hang of and balance but wow could I ever move fast my local friend seemed to enjoy the kayak and went immediately for the breaking surf swamping the kayak and paddling in back to the boat launch full of water. We spent the week doing some cleaning/fixing of the boat, meeting locals and exchanging for fruits, pretty much just taking it all in. Michaela and I hitch-hiked to the northern part of the island to the town of Hanaiapa we met a great family who picked us up on route and took us into their home and fed us a traditional meal of grilled fish, rice, breadfruit, these sweet potato type bananas, poisson cru (Polynesian name for fish in coconut milk and lime). It was so great to interact with this local family and practice some French too. They gave us a ride down to the beach and hiked to the next bay for a night. It was an amazing hike with breathtaking views the whole way. Hanapaaoa was the name of this small community; the beach was incredible there were four families who lived there. We had bad timing upon arrival because they were loading the body of an old man into an outrigger motor canoe as we arrived. Yet another funeral… We met Gill (dad from family in Hanaiapa) on the beach and he filled us in. But this coconut palm beach was paradise so let the family carry on with their ceremony and went too the far end of the beach to enjoy it. We had a beautiful sunset and evening and hiked out the next day, met a family from Atuona who offered us from fire cooked breadfruit and drove us back to the port and it was one hell of an adventure. We came back just in time, We dragged anchor once or twice from the swell in the bay. Tom wanted to get out soon. Off to Tahuata – Saturday July 20th: We then got the boat ready and were off to Tahuata with Heretu on board. Michaela, Louis and I planned to leave the boat from the north part of Tahuata and paddle the leeward coast down to the town of Vaitahu. The paddle was amazing, I was hoping to get some good shots of Karaka with the GoPro but didn’t work out as well as I wanted to. The shoreline was rugged orange, brown and red cliff with a few really nice sand beaches. There was still lots of big swell for the leeward side of the island, lots of crashing waves into the rocks. We came across a huge blow-hole where the waves we getting pushed into a hole in the rocks as the rise and fall of the swell spat water in and out creating a big geyser of water followed by a little rainbow. It was pretty fun to paddle towards and Louis and I had a blast getting soaked in its spray. Once we rounded the corner and saw Karaka anchored by the town the view was just incredible, lush palm filled valley with a quaint little town near the shore. As we paddled towards the boat, the wind starting increasing in strong gusts. These katabatic winds were created from the funnel of the valley. Heretu left the boat to go stay with his uncle in town. Tom had a crew of local guys on the boat sharing some wine talking trading when we arrived. The rain and wind starting coming in but didn’t last long but we still had to reset the anchor in the middle of the night. We got up eary the next day and made it into town to catch all the festivities. There were master carvers who had all their work out on display, big BBQ’s and loads of people getting ready for the traditional Polynesian dance competition, which was about to begin. The dances accompanied with different songs were groups of people from all the villages on the island of Tahuata. It was a pretty special experience to watch these performances live. We met a bunch of locals and passed the afternoon away. There was also a breadfruit making contest and we got to sample all different types of breadfruit by scooping the goop with our hands onto a plate and then into our mouths. Some interesting flavours, definitely filled my belly. Ended up spending the night on land, Pam and I found a nice little spot up on a hill and just slept out in what we had with us that day. It was fine until about 4am when it started pouring rain. We had no way to go back to the boat and it was a long swim so we took shelter and slept on the pavement under the community centre and eventually someone invited us to their home for breakfast and then gave us a ride back to the boat. Rain continued and wind picked up. We ended up getting blown off anchor that night once again we set a second anchor all was good. We were getting blown around like crazy. The next morning Pam met up with some local guys to get a tattoo and they zipped off in the motor-outrigger canoe to the next town over Hapatoni. Louis and I decided to go for a paddle over their to check it out. The cliffs here were even more breathtaking along with some giant sea caves. We ended up meeting up with Pam and the locals on route their and shared some local homebrew on the water. Once around into Hapatoni Bay the views of the palm filled jungle was just incredible. The local kids went nuts as soon as we paddled in and they kept riding on the kayaks. We met up up with Pam and the guys again who were still fishing and catching crabs. They also had a bunch of goat meat so we all went back to Karaka and had a lovely BBQ that evening on Karaka. Wed July 24th we motored north to Hanamoenoa Bay. We had a few days of heavy rain, took it easy and cleaned the hull. We saw all the same boats here who had pulled into Hiva Oa with us because it was the most secure anchorage with good holding around. Pam and I went for a paddle one day further around the north part of Tahuata to the next beach, got out and walked along the shore to a big sea cave that was a bit too sketchy to paddle into. The evening of July 26th we motored down to Hapatoni and anchored for a few hours, met up with Steve and Elena, got the boat ready, had a good dinner and set sail. Oa Pou So we attempted to go to Fatu Hiva but it was really heavy rain and strong wind from SE we would have had to beat into. With some loose rigging still needing to be fixed on one of the mizzen stays it was too big of a risk to beat into the wind so we turned around a made it in a day and a half to the island of Ua Pou. This island was beautifully rugged and rocky. Huge rock spires dominated the horizon but were always half covered in some clouds. Immediately upon arrival we all set out on our separate adventures. Louis and I paddled from the town we were anchored in the main port of Hakahau around the exposed rugged northern coast to the town of Hakahetau with all the gear to camp the night and explore the archaeology site and waterfall the next day. It was a beautiful but tough paddle in giant exposed water. Some beautiful sea caves. The 6nm paddle took us 2hrs and we pulled up and were immediately offered beers from a bunch of local guys. We sat and chatted in French with these guys as we waited for Steve who was traveling by land on his bike and Pam by foot. We had a nice camp cook out and called it a night. The next morning we went a got some nice baquettes and walked to archaeology site and tried to find waterfall. Apparently Steve and Pam found it but Louis and I had a good adventure following the river but then decided to turn around before getting to the falls but still had an awesome hike through the beautiful river valley. Louis and I made a bunch of trades of wine and cigarettes for fruit and filled our kayaks. We just kept meeting such great people it was hard to leave Hakahetau but we needed to get going before afternoon winds got too strong. It was a good paddle for the most part but our kayaks were so full and I was silly and never put the neoprene hatch cover on my bow storage and the bow kept feeling heavier and heavier and was sinking through the waves. Eventually a squall came up, I had Louis help me pump it out put the cover back on in 20kt+ wind and big swell while off one of the most exposed points of the paddle. We ended up drifting back really far but all was good we faught through the squall that created a tough headwind and made it back to the boat pretty tired but all was good. Nuku Hiva We arrived on July 30th to the main port on the island of Nuku Hiva, Taiohae Bay on the south central part of the island. We had left Ua Pou promptly that morning with hope that we might have been able to make it around the east coast all the way up to Anaho Bay. Winds were from the NE and it was not possible. Tom did not want to beat into the wind under motor because the one of the stays for the mizzenmast was in need of fixing it; pushing into the wind was too big of a risk. We were really hoping to go to Anaho because it was a calm and protected bay and our friend Heretu had a house there. Taiohae was still epically beautiful so we couldn’t really complain. We were lucky to make it there even, we just barely made it sailing as close to the wind as possible. This nice village was the capital of the Marquesas Islands, with most of amenities one would need including free wi-fi. The anchorage was beautiful but a big open bay with lots of swell. As soon as we arrived Elena told Tom she was leaving the boat here. Pam also took off on her own adventure. The plan was to stay here a few days then move 5 miles west to Hakatea/Daniels Bay, a nice sheltered bay to do some work a rest for a while. July 31st: Steve and I hiked/biked to Collet Bay and checked out the route to hike into Hakatea. We heard that there was a rugged horse/hunting trail that led from Taiohae to Hakatea but it wasn’t that easy to find information about it. Some people said the trail was 2 hours others said 12,8,5,4hrs etc. So we knew it was going to be an adventure. Collet Bay was a short 20min hike. At the top of the hill there was one gate that led to Collet and the other led to Hakatea/Daniels Bay. Steve and I also met two nice girls, Nadia from Mayotte and Demitie from France who were working at the fancy Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge. Louis and I met up with them at the port later that day while we watched the fisherman feed clean their catch and throw it to the sharks. We invited them to the boat for dinner and drinks that night. We got along quite well and made plans to meet up again and maybe hike or something. The next day we left for Hakatea with Karaka. Squall came in with strong wind and rain on route but we caught a nice yellowfin tuna. Hakatea or Daniels Bay is epically beautiful with huge cliffs as you approach. The anchorage was nice and protected so a perfect place to do some boat work and relax. I went and paddled to Hakaui, the small village in the connecting bay. It let through a series of rivers and I paddled up each one until I couldn’t paddle any further then went and hiked up towards the waterfall. The village was so colourful and plentiful with fruit trees it was absolutely incredible. The hike to the waterfall was about 3 hours round trip. The hike starts on a road through the fields of fruit trees to a meandering path through narled chestnut trees, through an archaelogical site and then to the canyon where you cross the river several times and get dizzy looking up at the impressive 1000ft high sheer cliffs on either side. The valley feels like the garden of eden as it is covered in lush greenery. The final waterfall was actually not that impressive as you can’t see to much of the actual waterfall. There are one or two better viewpoints on route but the full hike is absolutely worth it. I stayed a few more days and did some boat work like fixing the toilet, cleaning, fixing cabnets, cleaning etc. then I paddled back to Taiohae touched based with Nadia to make a plan to hike back to Hakatea with her on her days off and stay on Karaka. It was about 6nm paddle along very exposed cliffed shoreline and weather can change drastically here. I was lucky and made it smoothly. It was Monday and she wasn’t off until Thursday so I hitched to Typeevae and had an interesting interaction with some locals. First off I pretty much walked all the way up to the lookout over Taiohae before I got a ride that last few hundred metres. Afterwards I got picked up by some locals and driven to Typeevae immediately I got pulled in with some other locals to have a beer and some food. These locals were quite drunk and were getting really close with me trying to offer my more to drink, bon bon (what they like to call marijuana), and food… during this experience I couldn’t help but think of the history of cannibalism in this valley and how they used to fatten up their victims so they are nice and plump when it comes time to eat them. But that realistically that time was long done and these locals were just drunk and maybe a little too friendly. I had one beer with them tried some of their food then moved on. I was tired after the beer but the walking was good and walking I did, I kept walking down the beautiful road with magnificent coconut palm trees everywhere shinning in the perfect late afternoon light. I knew that if I walked far enough I would get to the end of the road at a nice beach to camp on. I arrived just before dark, set up my tent, ate and went to bed. The next morning I waited for the rain to stop before waking up around 8-9am. Immediately once I was all packed up I met these nice road workers who were driving to Hatiheu and would give me a ride. It had just rained significantly so they were on duty to drive the roads and clear any fallen trees of fix up any washed up roads. The road wasn’t too bad and we made it. Stunning lush tropical rainforest and waterfalls all along the route. Hatiheu was such a beautiful lush coconut palm filled valley with giant rock pillars, once again just stunning The hike from here was only a few kilometers into Anaho but it was muddy and buggy. There were more mangos ready to eat than I could possibly handle. I made it into the bay and the skies had cleared and it was beautiful. I asked around to find Luci, the sister of Haretu our friend we had met in Hiva Oa. He had gone on a hunting trip to the nearby island of Eaio but said I could use his place and only needed to find Luci. She was out hunting for goat so I hiked to the next bay over and back. I found lots of garbage here washed up and entertained myself walking the beach looking for treasured but none found… just trash… with lots of chinese writing on it… I made it back to Anaho and enjoyed the beautiful views of the bay. I also met an 18yr old kid named Jacob who invited me to stay with him and cook some dinner. I enjoyed the morning and made my way out of the bay. On my way over the pass I actually ran into the Gendarme that checked us in at Hiva Oa upon our arrival who was on a little tour of the island. I continued on and got invited into some locals house in Hatiheu to feast on some delicious food. I continued on hitch-hiking back to Taiohae and got picked up by the tourguide with the gendarme and his partner. He said I could join the rest of the tour and we could work out a really good price. This was great because I got a detailed tour of some of the archaeological sites on Nuku Hiva. This pit is where the ancient people of Nuku Hiva would keep their victims before they were cooked! We made it back in good time and heard from Nadia that it was all good to stay in a bungalo at the Nuku Hiva Pearl lodge and then hike together into Hakatea the next day. The hike was a great adventure, it offered some of the most spectacular views of the island. We ended up running into Michaela, Pam and her marquesan tattoo artist friend carrying her stuff out. Pam had decided leave the boat and stay on Nuku Hiva. They said it had taken them 4-5 hours with lots of breaks. Nadia and I ended up turning off the main trail at one point as the trail started splitting off in all sorts of different directions. We got sidetracked for about 3 hours, ended up following a trail that just turned into wild horse and goat trails before fading out into nothing. We turned around and bush-wacked up the mountain as direct as possible and eventually found the trail. At this point day light was now running out but we took it slow and carefully with our headlamp and cell phone light. We had a few other tricky trail finding moments near a few hunting camps but ended up making it down into Hakatea and on Karaka after 7-8hrs of hiking 2-3 of those hours being in darkness. The next day I took Nadia out kayaking into the open sea to see if she would be up for paddling back the following day instead of hiking. It was her first time kayaking and the seas were rough so it was a little intimidating to say the least. We then paddled into the village and hiked to the waterfall. We got some plantains, papayas and loads of chili peppers and had a nice feast when we returned to the boat. We got up early the next day and had a great hike all the way back in about 3.5 hours, we even took a detour to go for a swim at Collet Bay. We made it back with plenty of time for Nadia to relax and get to work. I chilled out and went and met some guys on working on a 100ft aluminum boat named Oya. I also met an awesome tattoo artist and made a meeting with him at 3pm the following day to explore options for a tattoo I was interested in getting. The next day I had a hell of a paddle back to Hakatea, weather picked up and a squall came suddenly in and hit me really hard when I was beyond the point of no return. I hung in there and paddled the rest of the way in the big swell and 20kt winds. I was tired but made it no problems I definitely did not feel comfortable paddling in those conditions on my own along such an exposed shoreline. Tom, Michaela and I sailed back to Taiohae and I discovered that there was a small crack in the yellow delta, it bummed me out really bad and realized it must have happened when Louis dropped the kayak in the water while it was full of gear when we left in a rush for an overnight kayak trip in Oa Pou. Anyway I met up with Moana (means same ocean in Marquesan) the tattoo artist and I explained to him the best I could in French what I wanted and he immediately took me aside and drew it in marker on me. I liked it so much that I decided that I wanted to get the tattoo done so we went up to his house in the mountains with a beautiful view and retraced it in permanent ink. It was my first real tattoo experience and it was painful but not too bad, very interesting experience. I ended up trading a bottle of rum and whisky I bought for a really good price in Panama with an extra 2000 francs so it was a pretty good deal for the tattoo. I had thought a lot about this tattoo and I felt really good about it. The top part represents the power and energy of the sun and giving and receiving light and that flows down in the water/waves into connection to the ocean and all its creatures, then down to love, sense of belonging and community with some tiki eyes watching over and protecting. It then flows into travel and exploration connecting water to land and the mountains tailing off back into the waves and the light of the sun. I returned to Karaka and immediately everyone was rushing off for a big goat BBQ so I went and we had quite the feast. So much energy was flowing through me that night. Tom ended up making lots of trades with these kind folks, they were family of Pam’s new boyfriend and they treated us really well. Louis ended up staying with them instead of continuing on with us. I parted ways with Nadia…It was hard to leave Nuku Hiva but we had too keep moving so we could meet Kim in Fakarava Aug 23rd. We left the morning of the 15th and went around to west coast of Nuku Hiva and anchored in nice wild bay. We cleaned the haul here and went for a nice beautiful morning kayak. It was a beautiful shoreline in the lee of the open sea, swell and wind so the paddling was exceptional. I wanted to paddle the whole shoreline it was hard to finally leave but we managed to pull ourselves away the morning of August 16th and we were on course for the Tuamotus!