(May 27 to June 19, 2023) French Polynesia (islands and water) is about the size of Europe. There are five major groups of Islands in French Polynesia: the Tuamotu, Society (including Tahiti and Bora Bora Islands), Austral, Gambier Archipelagos, and the Marquesas to which Nuku Hiva Island belongs.
As we checked in the Port Authority in Taiohae Bay in Nuku Hiva, I asked a local, how many boats cross the Pacific departing from the Americas (North, Central, and South). He estimates about 450 to 500 boats yearly. Most of them arrive in the Marquesas because it is the closest landfall from their departure location in the East.
We cleared customs without any issues. We went to the Nuka Hiva Town Hall and paid the garbage tax which was only about 7 USD (750 Polynesia Franc) for our stay. The Town Hall didn’t charge us water tax because we make water on the boat. I was grateful that I could empty our plastic garbage in the dumpster on land. I am not sure how they handle all the garbage: someone told us they bury it in a deep valley. Nuku Hiva is the cleanest Island we’ve ever seen, with no garbage on the streets or the shore.
Since John hurt his shoulder while sailing, we visited Nuku Hiva hospital three times. The medical system is excellent, easy, and inexpensive compared to the USA. You go to the hospital, wait, see the doctor, and pay. John also had a small skin surgery to remove a rice grain-sized skin problem. The island has one pharmacy, and if they don’t have the medication, it is delivered by Air Tahiti from Tahiti in the next day or so. The pharmacy and the hospital are at opposite ends of the town, which is a long walk in hot and humid weather.
The anchorage at Taiohae Bay was rolly but it is a safe harbor. I thanked its existence despite the swells. While anchored, we met other cruisers including a couple who we had met in the Canary Islands in 2017. Over the past 5-6 years, they have been to Greenland, Patagonia, and Antarctica – two brave Swedish souls!
We were recognized by a French couple we had met in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico in 2022. They gave us more information on “Pet Clearance by a Biosecurity Veterinarian from Tahiti”. We waited until the veterinarian arrived. Many boats with pets were informed earlier, so the official visited each boat to examine the pets. One of our cats was cleared, but the other cat will be cleared (allowed to visit land) in September as she has a three day gap between old and new Rabies Vaccine. Her old one expired on February 7th, and the new vaccine was administered on February 10th. We received official email documents from Biosecurity the next day.
Nuku Hiva island offers stunning peaks and valleys. It is the second biggest island in French Polynesia after Tahiti, with around 3000 people living on the island. If something happens in the world, Nuku Hiva can sustain itself with its own resources: breadfruits, mangos, oranges, tangerines, pomelos (big grapefruit-like fruits), bananas, coconuts, star fruits, passion fruits, avocados, goats, chickens, and pigs. The fresh produce market has no vendors, only two cashers. Vendors leave their produce on assigned tables and mark the price on each item. The cashier collects the money and records the sales. It is important to remember which table you picked the item from. I bought quail eggs, green onions, some green leaves, cucumbers, and lots of fruits.
The tourist Information mentioned about a Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 28, 2023) Celebration event scheduled for Saturday, May 27th. We bought two tickets, and it turned out to be a great event! It included a full buffet lunch with local performances, including dancers from other Marquesan islands. The dancers could move their hips at an astonishing speed, maybe around 300 RPM.
The food mostly consisted of a various meat and fish Ceviche. Whenever I visited a restaurant, I ordered a Tuna Sashimi plate: raw tuna on some shredded cabbage with rice, and salad. It came with a sweet and creamy soy sauce-based (?) sauce that was quite tasty. French is an official language on the island. I have completed up to Chapter 10 of Basic French Audio Lessons so far. I am able to ask for directions to the bank and greet people with “Bonjour” but not about the “sauce”.
We took a daily island tour arranged by the tourist office. “Moby-Dick” writer Herman Melville stayed in Nuku Hiva at the end of the 19th century, for a couple of weeks. The French Artist Paul Gauguin stayed in the Marquesas. I always liked his exotic paintings. I found out he was a stockbroker before beginning his career as an artist.
There are three groceries in town. Before leaving Taiohae Bay, I bought some French Brie Cheese, frozen Cordon Bleu, and lots of baguettes.
Our next stop: Daniel’s Bay! Although cruisers refer to it as such, the correct name is Hakaui Bay. Access to Hakaui (Daniel’s) Bay is limited. It would take five hours walking or a horse ride to reach from Taiohae Bay. However, by fast motorboat, it takes about 20 minutes. For us, it took an hour. Hakaui Bay expects to have internet access in September this year.
The bay was calm, so we were finally able to take a deep breath and sleep well at night on the boat. We wanted to hike to the waterfall, so we paid the entrance fee and pre-ordered lunch. The view of many cliffs, with their almost 90-degree angle to the valley, was breathtaking. While hiking through the thick tropical woods, we sprayed ourselves with enough bug repellent. In addition, I wore lightweight long pants and long-sleeve shirts for bug protection. There are 16 people living in this bay and everyone seems to be related, introducing each other as cousins.
At the homestyle restaurant, the man grilled his catch of tuna with herbs for our lunch. His wife prepared deep-fried breadfruits and grilled bananas, all from their backyard and the sea. John said it was the best meal in Nuku Hiva. We ordered fresh juice and soursop fruit for dessert.
After lunch, we bought some fruits and cucumbers at the restaurant. Later, the lady asked about my baggy sun-protection shirts (men’s large size from a fishing tournament in North Carolina). She asked me if I wore something underneath. I wore a sports bra. She thought it would be good for her husband when he goes out fishing. I took my shirts off and gave them to her. In return, she brought more fruits for free even though I said I have enough. It was heavy to carry all the fruits while crossing the stream with incoming tide and hiking back to our dinghy for another 30 minutes. I know fishing is a hard job, and my shirts will be a better fit for his skinny body with no-fat.