Plastic in the Pacific Crusade – Part 19 – Marquesas

Taiohae660Welcome to our blog for the Plastic in the Pacific Crusade.  If you missed the earlier editions please go to category file in the footer to go back and read them.  They are listed under Plastic in the Pacific.  Over the coming year we will be writing regularly of our adventures and what we are seeing.  In this article we write about our stay in Nuku Hiva Marquesas.

Having arrived in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva on a wet and rainy evening, we woke to an amazing sight. There are not too many places in the world where you are surrounded by 900m high lush green covered volcanic mountains. Unfortunately due to the rain, the water wasn’t the azure blue we had expected, however nothing could take away from the scenery that our eyes were taking in. Some of the peaks were so rugged, others lined with a row of pine trees, it was simply stunning.

Being a Sunday, there wasn’t a lot we could do. We couldn’t check in till Monday morning but on advice from our agent Kevin from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, we were still able to make it ashore and get some basic provisions to stock up. We had to get ashore before 1100 as the shops would be closed after that. For the first time in the Pacific we actually launched our dinghy. It hadn’t been in the water since Grenada due to having to use water taxi’s in Panama and Galapagos. However our little air cooled Honda 2.3hp outboard fired up first go. We took the dinghy into the dock which is a concrete wall and tied up behind it where all the other dinghies are. The first thing that happens when we land is a white dog comes over wagging his tail. We would later find out this is ‘TimTom’ a dog that has no owner but hangs out at the dock with the cruisers to get a bite to eat. He was a healthy dog, definitely not starving and he would follow us half way to the shops. His name comes because some people had called him Tom and others had called him Tim. Of course, Annika wanted to adopt him immediately!!!

Internet acces660On the dock is a marquee with lots of cruisers sitting at tables on the internet. This was the local ‘bar’ however it was a little different, they didn’t serve alcohol. They did however cook lots of local food and had huge bunches of bananas hanging from the rails of the marquee for anyone to help themselves. A few doors up was a brightly painted yellow and red building, this was the Yacht Services building. We walked past here out towards the main road and came across a heap of stone covered, really nice buildings. This was the local market, however it was closed being a Sunday. We walked down the road and considering the road is about 1.5kms long, it doesn’t take long to get to anything.

The bank was about 300m along and we got out some money. To make the conversion easy, they don’t have cents with the Pacific Franc. However they have added the zero’s so XPF5000 is US$50 give or take a bit. So Annika pulls out XPF5000 not knowing the currency. We were surprised when one blue note pops out. But it would be enough for the day. We walked another 300m and came across two supermarkets. We worked out the money conversion and bought a few items. There was not a lot of fresh food, they said it was usually found in the markets back at the dock.

Dirty girl 660We returned to the boat and then started the task of cleaning her up. I jumped in the water and would spend 2 hours before lunch and another 3 after lunch cleaning the waterline and the green slime that had climbed up our hull. Annika cleaned the deck. We also aired out the boat as the rain had stopped. Everything inside was damp and starting to go mouldy so it would be several days to air, dry and clean the inside. This is the problem with the tropics and long journey’s at sea where you can’t air the boat out much.

On the Monday we met with Kevin from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services. If you are heading for the Marquesas and want to check in using an agent then Kevin is the man to talk to. He made everything simple and offers many other services for the cruising yachtie including laundry, gas refills and repairs. Apart from the services he offers, he’s a really nice guy. Our check in took no more than 30 minutes and we were in the country. Kevin also rents cars and as we had limited time to see the island we decided we would rent a car the next day and drive the island. It was US$130 for the day plus fuel so not cheap until you find out the vehicle you get. We spent the rest of the day shopping, cleaning and doing a little internet work.

Thommo and his Ford660The following morning we headed into to pick up our rental car. It was a 2015 Ford Ranger 4×4. It is a car I love and would love to own one at home. We set off first to the Eastern bays of the island to see if they were worth moving to. We were hoping for clean blue bays however with the rain they were all brown with the run off. It started raining a lot on our drive which made the drive quite interesting. We would end up going through river crossings and with the recent heavy rains, well a normal car would struggle to get over the coconuts on the ground, let along deal with the gravel roads that the rain had washed away the dirt, leaving 4×4 conditions only.

Across the summit and heading to the North Eastern bays was quite a drive. You would come around a corner and see a huge waterfall in the distance or awesome views of the north coast. The road varied between single and 2 lane, gravel and sealed and there was plenty of debris on the road. A lot of rock slides also frequented our path and Kevin had given us the coconut tree warning, ‘don’t stand, park, walk or kiss under coconut trees if possible!’ Coming down the north side towards Hatiheu we come across one of the largest archeological sites on the island. Rocks are everywhere and a huge banyan tree is front and center. This tree is not as old as the site itself where they used to perform human sacrifices and right behind the banyan tree is a pit where they used to hold their sacrifices. The site is huge and unfortunately it was raining so Annika left her camera in the car and we only had the GoPro.

River xrossing660After a while here we went down to the coast and there was a swell rolling in. We’d been told some of the bays on the northern side have white beaches however with the rain and northerly swell, we wouldn’t be able to access these bays. We continued out to a town called Aakapa and the scenery was simply amazing. Coming into the town itself the road was gravel and totally washed out. Coming down the hill there was a grader flattening the road and it needed it. So happy we had the 4×4. The town was pretty and eventually we came to a river crossing that a lady was wading through. She waved us away to say ‘don’t even think about it’ so we stopped and turned around. Heading back up the hill and we needed low 4×4 to get out of the town. We then drove back to Hatiheu and went to the restaurant there that Kevin had recommended. This is where our love affair with breadfruit began, it’s kind of like potato and you can make chips out of it or eat boiled, smoked or steamed. I had a beautiful meal with fish, rice, breadfruit and salad whilst Annika had a rice dish. The breadfruit was made like potato wedges. They were really really nice.

After lunch we drove most of the way back to the south side of the island and found the turn off to go to the North western side which is where the airport is. On such a hilly place, finding a spot to put an airport is a challenge and as we drove over the 1246m summit, the landscape changed drastically. Instead of rain forest we were in pine covered hills and it could have been New Zealand. At the summit we looked out over the ‘Nuku Hiva Grand Canyon.’ Lucky we did this at the first chance, by the second lookout it was clouded out. We drove down the other side and out to the airport. There is nothing out here except the airport. Eventually we would drive home, doing a bulk shop on the way as using the car would be easier than walking. That evening, being Australia Day, we cruised over to the only other Australian boat in the bay Ednbal, a Beneteau 393. Roger and Sasha had been cruising for 10 years and we decided a few drinks with our fellow Aussie’s was the best way to celebrate our countries day. 7 hours later we were back on our boat!!!!

Churtch660The next few days we would use the contacts of Kevin to try and access the school system for our presentation. We were told we had to see the ‘Education Controller’ and get the program approved by him first. So I went to my files and looked over our French lesson only to find out that when it was translated, only the first 7 of 37 pages had actually been done. This was a bit of a drama as I didn’t have long to prepare it, get it translated and presentable to the guy who would hopefully approve the program. So that afternoon I sat and changed the program to make it more relevant to local children. It was still in English. I then spent the afternoon on the internet using Google Translate to change it to French. I know Google Translate can do some funny things so whilst at the ‘unofficial bar’ I asked a guy behind me if he would help. Laurent just happened to be married to a teacher at the secondary school so he helped. One of the amusing translations was when I was writing ‘100,000+ marine creatures die because of plastic suffocation and entanglement each year. This is the whales, seals, turtles and rays.’ Laurent found it quite amusing that I had written something along the lines of whales, turtles, rays and the equivalent of ‘smoking marijuana’!!!!! Probably not appropriate for young children.

Friday morning Kevin would take us up to the education controller and we got the program approved. He loved it as the topic of ocean preservation and keeping our lands clean was part of the year’s theme so it fitted in perfectly. As schools close early on Fridays we wouldn’t be able to find out till Monday when we could visit the schools and Laurent’s wife Marie would tell us Monday as well when we could visit the older children at the secondary school. So for the weekend we decided to go 4nm west to another bay called Daniel’s Bay in Hakaui. It was meant to be an amazing anchorage and you could walk up to a 350m waterfall.

Waterfall660Saturday morning we took off and headed around. We tried to sail but the swell and waves bouncing off the island just made the sails flap wildly and we’d prefer to conserve our rig and sails rather than worry about a short sail. We also could do with some battery charging so we motored most of the way. As we pulled around the point the cliffs rose dramatically out of the water and it was one of the most majestic views you could imagine. In the bay there were just two family’s living and the bay was calm. We dropped anchor, jumped in our dinghy and headed over to the estuary where the walk for the waterfall was. We were told the estuary could be hard to get out of if the tide was low but we didn’t want to walk around from the other bay.

Thankfully we did go the estuary route. It was gorgeous heading up this creek with palm trees leaning out over you. It seriously was amazing. We pulled up at a grassy area where a few horses were eating and pulled the dinghy ashore. We were on the family farm here and other cruisers were filling large plastic containers with drinking water. We headed up the track and came across a younger couple who had a shop. She was offering all sorts of fruits and invited us to a pig lunch the next day. Unfortunately with Annika’s allergies this is not something we can really partake in as we don’t want them to worry about the food too much, they need to keep it traditional for the other guests. We said we would shop on the way back.

The first 10 minutes of the walk is like walking through a tropical fruit garden. Bananas, mangoes, papaya, grapefruit, guava and more were everywhere. We came to our first water crossing and it was knee deep. The water was nice and cold. We continued on our walk which would take nearly 2 hours each way. It was wet in spots, we had several river crossings and all the time the tropical surrounds covered us and these high cliffs rose up into the sky. The view of the waterfall comes about 2/3rds of the way in and then you walk all the way up to the bottom of the waterfall. Sitting at the foot of this waterfall with cliffs rising either side of you for at least 300m, with spray descending from the waterfall and white birds flying around, it was surreal. Well worth the walk.

Eal660On the way back we got to the major river crossing. Kevin had told us about eels in the waters. Annika crossed and thought she saw a prawn but couldn’t find it so jumped out. As she jumped out I see this massive tail. This eel would have been 1.2m long and 10cm thick. It was huge. Very friendly and hung around for us to take photos. We then continued our walk home and back in the family village an old lady stops us and asks if we want bananas. Being hungry we went and joined her and she handed us several bananas which were very yummy. She kept trying to give us more to take home but we didn’t want to carry them and are a little superstitious about bananas on a boat. As commercial skippers, too many times guests had brought bananas on the boat and we would have issues. So we just don’t take the risk. It comes from olden days when bananas would have pesticides on them to stop them going off and this pesticide would make other fresh food go off. However we used to tell the backpackers on our boats it was because when they peeled the banana downstairs and threw the peel out the porthole, that people walking along the deck would slip on the peel and fall overboard!!! Annika gave her XPF100 (US$1) and she said it was way too much. We said no worries and she then went and got some huge avocados and wanted to give us more but we refused to take it.

Back at the younger couples shop we decided to shop up big time. We started with a couple of mangoes. She then asks if we want limes, which we do. Then she asks about pineapples and we say yes so we head off on a walk with a bucket. We actually pull the pineapples straight from the garden, then we try some star fruit and take some of those. Then we get grapefruit and guava and filled our bucket. She tried to give us everything in a plastic bag but we said we would take the bucket to our tender and return it once we have emptied it. No wonder these islanders are so healthy with all this fresh fruit. Who needs preservatives when you can eat straight off the trees.

When we return to the boat we pass a few small manta rays swimming along the shore. I grab a snorkel and even though the visibility is poor at 3m, I manage a few interactions with these manta rays that will stay with me forever. One swims down and turns upside down and sits underneath me as we check each other out. If you don’t know, no two manta’s are alike. They each have unique markings on their bellies and I could see this guys so clearly. He then simply flips over and swims away. It was a magic moment where I feel the manta was thanking me for our efforts of our campaign. I know it sounds strange, however I feel the ocean creatures somehow know what we do for them and thank us often by their simple presence.

Tuna troaler660Monday morning we head back to Taiohae bay to await our schools getting back to us with times for presentations. A cruise ship is in town and Kevin’s shop is really busy. I went in and whilst waiting to speak to Kevin’s wife who was organizing the primary school visit to the principal, I decided to help out a little. Most of the tourists where older American’s and hearing them ask where town was and where the taxi’s were was kind of funny. Considering there is no town and being 1.5kms long, walking was the option, especially if you have been on a cruise ship for a few days. A couple of young guys wanted to know what to do and I told them about the outrigging club, black pearl shop and that just walking town was something good to see, so they just asked where the nearest pub was!!!! They didn’t understand that being in Nuku Hiva was special enough, they wanted jetski’s probably!!!

Returning to the boat that afternoon and we had heard of a boat coming in with an injured passenger. Late in the afternoon this huge fishing boat came in with massive nets on the back of them. On the roof was confirmation that our helicopter sightings from our Pacific crossing had been due to fishing boats. The tuna of the oceans have no hope with these boats. Having helicopters go and find schools of tuna and then having the mothership go to the area and put a net around the entire school, wiping out the lot in one hit, no wonder our stocks of tuna in the world are drying up. Let alone the by catch of this method. And it wasn’t the Asians either, this was American owned and they had a factory in America Samoa we found out. Choosing ‘pole and line’ caught tuna in the shops can put an end to this horrible practice.

School visit2660The next morning we would visit the local primary school principal with Kevin and she arranged for us to visit two classes that morning. Now this was going to be the toughest task we have taken on with our school program. A foreign language with very little English spoken was new to me. Well it was going to be hard until the principal decided she would lead the class. Seeing all my hard work in developing the lesson program over the years for teachers to run themselves was awesome and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way through as she got right into it and kept telling me the kids were very excited. It was a very proud moment. I’ve always spoken the campaign myself as we’ve always taught in English but this proved the campaign worked, even if I wasn’t there. In the afternoon we went to the secondary school and my smile got even bigger. The students were older than our usual audience being 15-18. And they were dudes and dudettes. Some had sunglasses on, some sat with no shoes or shirt, this was a ‘cool school’ But they were very attentive to our lesson and when I told them the fish they were eating had plastic in them, they didn’t believe me until I showed them the map of where the plastic gyres were. As soon as that was shown, one of the guys said he wanted to show this program to everyone on the island to stop them using plastic.

After the main lesson, we had a bit more time so I spoke of the dolphins being slaughtered in Taiji, Japan and how it was funded by dolphin shows. They asked what these dolphin shows were and couldn’t understand why you would capture a dolphin and put it in a pool. They had never heard of this before and it made no sense to them when they could see dolphins in the ocean around their islands every day. If only the rest of the world thought the same.

That evening we had a few people on our boat to say our farewells. Roger and Sasha our fellow Australian’s, Mark and Amanda, a couple from New Zealand and Manfred and Katarina from Germany that we had met walking all shared stories of their cruising adventures. It was a great night and the first time we’d really entertained on the yacht.

The following day we visited another 2 classes at the primary school and this time the teachers had been asked to do some study and run the class themselves. The first teacher was amazing. O.K we didn’t understand a lot but he had charts of the world to add some geography to the lesson and he was always asking the students questions. It was fantastic to watch and I left the two classes very very happy. We had seen our lessons program at work and loved every bit of what we saw. It has inspired us to translate the rest of the lessons into as many languages as possible so everyone can partake in this very important program. If you haven’t seen our program, visit www.OceanCrusaders.org/education and have a look for yourselves. Even older people can learn a lot from this program.

After the school visits we went and shopped and said our goodbyes. We really wanted to get to the Tuamotus as soon as we could as we had to be in Tahiti by the 24th Feb and that left way too short a time to explore what we had been told is one of the most amazing parts of the world. I had researched it and it was the place I was looking forward to seeing on this trip the most. Atolls rising out of the depths, covered in palm trees and white beaches with 100m visibility in the water, that was what I would call paradise. So that afternoon we fueled up and headed off, leaving the magic of the Marquesas behind, but we will return.

In our next edition we sail to Arataki Atoll in the Tuamotus and explore.

Ocean Crusaders are out to change the way people treat our oceans.  Our online education program is free to download at www.OceanCrusaders.org/education where children can learn of the issues our oceans are facing and how they can make a difference.  The Plastic in the Pacific Crusade is about educating the South Pacific Islands, finding out what is happening in these islands and updating our programs.  You can join us in the Pacific and see for yourself what we do.

Ocean Crusaders Plastic in the Pacific Crusade is proudly supported by: Cressi Dive Gear, Gill Marine, Keen Footwear Australia, Barz Optics Sunglasses, Maxsea Navigation Software, Digital Diver Cairns, LED Dive Lights Australia, Boat Names Australia, Predictwind Weather & Sail-world.com

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