Written on the 7th July
It’s Thomas’ birthday and we’re on our way to the Taumotu, some five hundred miles away from the Marquesas. I woke Thomas up for his watch at 1am and wished him a happy birthday. He responded by saying that I could’ve been more original because I gave him a watch for his birthday last year. I thought that was quite funny at 1am. And yes, I gave him a dive watch last year for his 50th. Thomas wont have the good fortune that I had of seeing land for my birthday. We are about half way at the moment. We say goodbye to the Marquesas tattoo free, unlike many other cruisers, and filled with lovely memories of the islands, their inhabitants and friendliness of the other sailors. Now everyone is going their own way to their own choice of the many atolls that make up the Taumotu. The Taumotu, the large stretch of atolls, are on the way to the island of Tahiti.
Our final island of the Marquesas was Nuku Hiva, sporting the central administration of the island group. Kevin, the American proprietor of Yachting Services organised our tour with Jocelyn, a local French lady who is married to a Marquesean. She was full of knowledge of the botany, bird life and archaeological history of the island. Jim, Karmin, Caroline and Mark off two other boats joined us. We learned a lot about the sacrifices that took place near the Banyan tree and saw the pits where those who were to be sacrificed, were unceremoniously placed before their fate. Then where their bones were thrown with great ceremony after the feast. So it’s not only artists who become famous after their death. We visited well kept little villages in the valleys and viewing spots high up in the peaks of the mountains. We caught up with Gail and Tony as they anchored in a bay in the north when we were having lunch. Thomas had a mixed seafood platter and I had a salad with breadfruit, taro and rice prepared in a local style. Both meals were delicious.
We moved around the corner to a small bay known as Daniel’s Bay in honour of the man who used to live there and look after the cruisers. This is the spot where you walk to the world’s 3rd tallest single drop waterfall through a jungle filled gorge. The rocky stream meanders through the gorge and evidence of the Marquesas previously large population is scattered throughout in the way of ruins.
All the palm houses were built on rock platforms and these remain for the ghosts of the late 88 000 Marqueseans to dwell upon. The current population of the Marquesean islands is about 7 000. The dramatic drop due to deaths incurred with the arrival of missionaries a hundred and fifty years ago and migration to more populated islands. The waterfall itself seemed to twist around curvaceous rocks after it originates up near the clouds at the top of the steep cliff. A sign in both English and French warns of the risk of rock falls as the overhangs waft precariously above the track. The jungle gives over to a small green meadow running beside the stream. Although snakes and wild beasts aren’t hosted in the Marquesas, the danger of jungle fever from the no no flies and other microscopic midges seems to be the biggest danger. When seeing other cruisers reactions to these horrific little beasts, we appear to have gotten off lightly. The secret is not to scratch. I say this as I just finish reading about the bugs in the Taumotus.
The small number of families living in this bay now are friendly and entrepreneurial about scraping a living from their manicured orchards and abundance of local fare. Some of the other cruisers enjoyed a hearty local meal of shrimps in coconut and local vegetables while we chose to take our picnic along with us on our hike. On the way back from the waterfall we became laden down with plenty of fresh fruit to take to the Taumotus from the family for a reasonable price.
As Thomas and I had paddled over on the kayak to the beach we had to rely on Steph and Robin from the boat ‘Red Witch’ to get us and our produce back to Qi. Thomas paddled over with a bag of ten papple mousse, the huge local grapefruit picked straight from the tree, and a branch of green bananas on the kayak while I took the six giant mangoes, one pineapple, five star fruit and two coconuts back in Red Witch’s dinghy. Plenty of good stuff to keep the scurvy away. more pics