Tuesday, April 28, 2015

International Cruising Community descends on Garden of Eden

Another day of memories, and things we will talk about for a while.

We actually made it out on time this morning, heading to the beach for an 8:30 start to our Waterfall hike, letting homeschooling be replaced by "International Culture Day in Tropical Paradise Field Trip". Heather whipped some crepes up for breakfast, and scones for the hike, so you know she was ready to go. We are getting better at prepping for hikes, adding a bit more every time to the critical list; Water, Machete, food, snacks, bug spray, sun tan lotion, first aid kit, toilet paper, backpackers towel, and this time some canvas bags for fruit.

While we pulled up our dinghy on the coral beach, our friends on Seattle-based Apropos did likewise, and we were joined by a great French family we met yesterday (the boat KoanTenn from Brittany), a 63 year young French lady from a neighboring boat (who reminded us all of our Oma with her vigor, energy and zest for life), and Marco, Enrica and Pablo from Selavi, a new family we met from Italy. Ten minutes in to our hike, we also coordinated a connection with a nice French family - Oliver, Marie Noelle and Clotilde from the ultra fast catamaran, Jambon Beurre. (A 59 foot minimalist speed machine that had 8 days of more than 320 nm in a 24 hour period on their crossing- our fastest was about 186 nm) Aside from ourselves and Apropos, all of these families have been cruising for between three and thirteen years- and have tons of great knowledge that they freely share, and very, healthy, positive perspective that is energizing to be around. They also speak multiple languages seamlessly, and thankfully for us, their English is wonderful, and they humor our feeble French attempts.

We had been told the hike was a three hour round trip trek, and we started down a well worn path that connected us with the next bay, and a small village (Hakanui) before we headed up the rapidly narrowing canyon. As we entered this small, small village, that houses one extended family, we were overcome by the beauty and the collection of fruit trees that surrounded us, laden with fruit. We started pointing at Starfruit, Pamplemousse, Bananas, Coconuts, Pomme-se-terre, Guayaba, breadfruit, nonni, and a bunch of others I couldnt recognize. Walking down the wide path, each side was adorned with Hibiscus hedges, and a wide variety of tropical, variegated plants in a multitude of colors, it was absolutely mesmerizing, and us adults kept looking at each other in disbelief. As if not enough, we came to a beautiful, shallow river that was 7 meters across and we easily waded in the clean fresh water, stepping on colorful volcanic rocks, and learning from our elderly french companion about a fresh water snail with spikes on its back. We would cross the river several times, and walked along its lazy edge as we continued through the rest of the village, and started in to the canyon and the tropical jungle.

We were quite a large group, with children ages 5-15, and we made our way up the trail at varying speeds, with conversation varying in languages and topics, as we enjoyed the discovery. The jungle started closing in on us, and then started opening again as we gained elevation, exposing a well marked trail, that included large rocks that had been clearly laid a long time ago. We often forget that the anthropologists estimate that the Marquesas at one point had well over 90,000 inhabitants, and now have less than 6,000 - most lost to foreign introduced diseases. The former large population has left behind many artifacts, and remnants of temples, tikis and other marks of civilization that are still undiscovered, and hidden amongst the jungle. There doesnt seem to be a great desire by the locals to uncover these historic places, and maybe protect them from more visitors.

About half way through the hike that was a) longer, and b) more strenous than I thought, I started feeling a growing sense of pride. Our kids can hike. Even Alina and Amaia were gamely trekking up the trail, in ferns, brush and tall ground cover that was waist high for us adults, and head high for them. We also provided them the finest hiking foot attire one wears here: jangles/flip-flops. Not any real complaints, just onward, through the mud, brush, wading through the streams and clamoring over the rocks. It was very cool to see all the kids do the entire hike- over four hours, by themselves, often leading us from the front, bushwacking and trailblazing.

After and hour and a half, I came upon one set of flip flops, blown out and broken on the side of the path. I recognized them as Olivier's and he must have been walking barefoot from there on. Ten Minutes later, Mykaelas $9.99 flip flops blew out as well- maybe not all jangles are created equal. Rather than using one, she also marched on barefoot, building callouses over the remainder of the hike up and down.

Shortly therafter, the canyon started closing in, as the valley got narrower. The canyon walls shot straight up 1500 feet- dark red and black rock. We came upon a sign that warned of falling rocks in English and French. and we trudged on, hoping we were getting close. The narrow valley was covered in beautiful waist high green groundcover, completely overgrown, and hiding the path and started walking through the creek that zigzagged downhill. It reminded me of my youth in Menzlingen's Kupfersiefental, and I smiled as I watched Alina forging and sliding over creek rocks, and in to blind thickets of greenery, with no idea what lay beyond. We finally found the path again as it bent to the right, and the canyon curved in to a stunning deadend-almost like we had come to the center of a maze. The sun reflected off the canyon walls and to our right a waterfall shot over a lower canyon wall and in to a large pool that was surrounded by boulders and green groundcover. Tristan was already in to the pool and making his way across, and beyond an intermediary rock to where the waterfall fell.

The water was not clear, from the recent rainfall, but it was wonderfully cool, and we waded and swam, with expressions of awe coming in many different languages. The back pool directly under the waterfall was deep, and to its right, was a hidden echo chamber that had its own pool and a 15 meter high ceiling. Hopefully the photos will do it all some justice, but we've realized that they often fail to fully express the breadth and power of these natural wonders. As we snacked on Heather's scones, some Haribo and some Jamaica juice from Mexico- we were graced by several stark white tropical terns, with their long tails, doing slow laps half way up the canyon walls. They are probably my favorite bird so far.

After our snack, and after drying off, our group started dispersing at different rates back down the hill. Alexia and Alina paced us down the hill, with barefoot Mykaela firmly trekking down the trail. Upon entering the "Garden of Eden" and the small huts, we came upon Paul, a local who was starting to clear his property, and welcomed us with a proper "Kaoha-Nui". Paul had a huge smile, and spoke great English, improved by bartending on Bora Bora. He showed us the land he was clearing, and the trees laden with fruit. For 1000 Polynesian Franks ($9.20 US) we loaded up on 9 pamplemousse, some Starfruit, and a stalk of Bananas. While heavy, the beautiful walk next to the river, and back through it made life easier.

Many of the families had plans to leave that night, but the strong effort up the mountain made an afternoon of international beach play for the kids a much more prudent parenting decision. Our kids were invited in by the French and Italian, and after Tristan and Lexi swam with the international crew, Amaia kayaked over by herself, and Alina "Boogie Board Paddled" the 400 feet by herself. Games of "tip over the kayak, giggle and laugh" seem to be a universal phenomenon and language barriers, if there were any, seemed to be broken, as the kids played well past when the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Heather and I joined the parents on the beach and enjoyed hearing their stories, as well as getting their well seasoned advice on things like our "rudder wiggle" that we discovered on the crossing. Marco and Oliver, both with catamarans and rudder bearing experience were very helpful, and Oliver stopped by to look at our rudders, and wiggle them from underneath, before proclaiming them to be "not a worry". Its a very helpful and generous community and hopefully we can return the help some where down the road.

We ended the evening dinghying around and exchanging contact information, before joining Apropos for a nightcap beer. We really hope to run in to many of these people some time soon, but we also know the reality that we are moving at different rates, and its hard to reconnect. Hopefully we can keep in touch, and maybe even welcome some of these folks to Lafayette and California sometime. We are keeping a little book of boat cards and blog addresses, hoping to continue to follow these families that have longer journeys planned than our "short" two years.

We are headed back to Taihoae Bay for one night of fueling, provisioning (the AraNui 3 is due in) and hopefully some Chao Mein or Steak Frites. We are definitely starting to fall behind whatever schedule we might have- but at least its not for a lack of things to do or see. We know there is at least one more "must stop" anchorage on the other side of the island and then we need to start watching for a weather window to the Tuamotus-which will be a 3-4 day sail, and our first lesson in atoll "passes" and coral heads.

Thanks again for all of the support and wonderful emails. Hopefully all is well with all of you! CHRIS

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nuka Hiva Fun... Local Polynesian Dance Performance, waterfalls, and hanging out.

Hello Everyone,

I woke this morning to a view of blue cloudless sky, sun shinning down on a brown colored sandy beach in front of town and a local person running their horse back and forth across it and playing in the water... it's a nice way to wake up and enjoy your cup of coffee...

Well, we left Ua Huka and the beautiful, but rolly anchorage we had. Chris had ended up sleeping in the cockpit with the anchor alarm on because the surf was so big that night and the winds were averaging 15 - 20 knots with 25 - 30 knot gusts... we were afraid we were going to drag our anchor and end up on shore... It would have been a beautiful spot in calm weather, with the boogie boarding waves and great rocks to snorkel around, but we decided not to wait around for calmer weather and to make the 60 mile hike up to Nuka Hiva and decided to go into the main town of Taiohae. When we pulled into Taiohae Bay we realized we had to throw a stern anchor out... the only problem was that half the boats followed this rule and the other half didn't so we had to find a spot that when we put our stern anchor out another boat wouldn't come bumping into us during the night. We were able to anchor right off the pier which was really nice for at night. We went ashore to go and explore the islands and get our bearing on groceries, laundry, wifi, water and beach time. As it turns out all of what we needed was with in walking distance and really close to the pier.

We found Kevin at Nuka Hiva Yacht Services and he is very helpful to all the boaters that come into the bay and need assistance. He is a transplant from LA area and has lived here for several years. He is very helpful and resourceful to help you with what ever you may need. As he was going over the logistics he mentioned that the middle school was holding a fund raiser for the school Saturday night by throwing a Polynesian Dance Dinner.

We bought tickets at $20 a piece and it was money well spent. We all had the best time. When we got to the dinner hall they had reserved a table for Family Circus and our friends on Apropos to sit together.. It was a very small venue because it was only the locals that attended. There were a few of the cruisers that had bought tickets but the primary audience was the locals who all knew each other. It was really fantastic to see the dancers truly dancing for themselves and their friends. It wasn't a typical performance like you see in Hawaii where you have all the dancers who perform every night for the tourists. This was a local performance where the audience was friends and family. All the audience knew the words to the chants, and all the moves to the dances and they were all hollering along with the dancers and cheering them on. It was wonderful and all their smiles were completely contagious as they danced. It was hard not to wiggle in your seat and try to slap your thighs in rhythm of the drums. You really felt part of a small town and part of the local culture and history that they pass along to all their kids as they perform. All the kids were really mesmerized with the performances, especially the performances of the men. They are so loud and dramatic with the Marquesan Head dresses, tattoos, and grass skirts, loud leg slapping and clapping and chanting... It is really fun to watch. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. At the end of the performance there was a dance and the little girls went out and tried to mimic the hula dancers for about an hour. I think the locals were really getting a kick out of watching the little howlie girls dance.. Alina and Amaia looked like they had just stepped out of the 60's and were tossing flowers to the crowd.. and twirling in circles, holding their skirts out. About 30 minutes after the performance ended... the dancers came back out and did another dance for a grandma's birthday celebration, then they sang happy birthday to her in Marquesan, French, and with a final version in La, la, la's .... so everyone could sing together. It is truly nice how they try to make everyone feel welcome and at home in their culture.

As we were leaving we were all out in the parking lot and of course doing the head count since it is pitch black and wanted to make sure we had everyone.... Of course we were shy one child... and no this time it was not Amaia... Little Alina had disappeared and Mykaela and I went back into the hall to have a search for her... She was no where on the dance floor and we didn't find her in the gym anywhere... just as I was starting to panic a little... I looked up and found her out back with all the dancers from the performance. She some how had ended up outside in the back and when I got back there they were all taking pictures with her and trying to hoist her up into their arms to take pictures... It was so precious... they were all speaking to her in French and all she could say was Merci and Bonjour... so she was just looking at them smiling and doing what they said. I was able to snap a picture of two and of course found Tristan in with the hula girls to get a picture, at his resistance, of course. As we were leaving Alina ran back to the girls and gave them a big hug and said au revoir. She said they were her friends and that they had called her backstage to see them, so she went. Thank goodness we are in a community that places so much value on family and children that they rule the roost around the islands... It is so safe here and everyone looks out for each other... especially the children. (cant wait to be able to post some of these pictures!)

Nuka Hiva is a fantastic anchorage and since we have been out of villages and in such remote anchorages for so long... When we got into town and actually had to wait for a car to pass it seemed like a traffic jam and a little over whelming. You forget to look both ways for cars, horses, atv's or motorcycles that may be coming your way. We wondered through town in search for the ice cream of course and it was really funny to watch a few cars go by and then in between the cars a horse galloped by keeping up with the speed of traffic. (all the horse riders we have seen have been riding bareback!) I later found out that this wasn't unusual because I ended up seeing a few horses going through town, along with kids on bikes, people on ATV's, and dirt bikes getting their errands run. It seems to be the case that what ever you have to get you around goes and is fine as long as you are minding the rules... I wonder if Lafayette feels the same way... I can't quite imagine it!

We decided to move anchorages since the stores are all closed and the grocery stores are almost empty on the shelves anyway.. the supply ship will come on this tuesday so there should be more supplies in the stores starting Wednesday. So we headed out to Taioa Bay and are now at 08.57 S and 140.10 W. It is a beautiful bay and for those of you who are Survivor TV Series fans... we are anchored in the bay that they filmed the series at for the Marquesan episodes... We have spent today relaxing, swimming, and playing on the beach... it is an amazing anchorage with steep volcanic cliffs on all sides and a deep valley with a waterfall that we will be visiting tomorrow with a few of the other boats that we have met today while playing in the water. Chris and Tristan and I spent the afternoon playing Gin Rummy and every time I looked up it was so magical to see these tremendous black cliffs that rise straight up from our anchorage to heights of 1500 feet. There are little white birds that fly around them and really stand out from the contrast of the black volcanic rock and the green vegetation. Tomorrow when we go up to the waterfall we will be going with 4 other boats possibly. It is fun because they all have kids and it will be a big multi-cultural group, Italians, French, Americans, Belgians, and Australians... I love to hear all the kids switching languages between other kids and parents. Alexia and Tristan are truly impressed with these boat kids that can speak 3 different languages and they are only 12.

Chris and I have decided to stay here on Nuka Hiva for probably about at least a week. This seems so short.. a few of the boaters that we met today have been cruising this island alone for about 3 weeks to a month... I can see how easy that would be. I wish that we had more time to hang out and do this but unfortunately we are on a schedule with so many amazing places to see that we need to keep moving and discovering... I guess there could be bigger problems and decisions to have.

Hugs and love to all,


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