Northern Marquesas: Ua Poa and Nuku Hiva
May 1st, 2018
The sail from the north side of Hiva Oa to the north side of Ua Poa took us almost an entire day, leaving early in the morning to avoid any land-based breezes around Hiva Oa. The sail was capped off with a large pod of dolphins swimming around the boat and under our bow for the final two hours as we sailing into Hakahau, one of the three largest villages in the Marquesas. Hakahau seemed different to us right away, specifically because it had so many children and teens! There was obviously a very well established school system in Hakahau, and a boarding school that serviced the rest of the communities around Ua Poa, so kids, teens in particular, and young parents were abundant (not so much in other villages.) Hakahau had one bakery that everyone passed through in the morning, complete with almond croissants, baguettes, and even hard-boiled eggs. The village also had several nice grocery stores, and a canoeing school on the beach.
We read, in many resources, that hiking was the best way to make the most of your time in Ua Poa, so the first full day we were there, we hiked along the winding road from Hakahau to the neighboring village of Hakatehau, 17km of which we mostly walked, but got several pick-ups from locals for short sections. We started early in the morning, and packed lots of water for the adventure. A short hike outside of Hakatehau was our actual destination, a waterfall with a swimming hole, which was an extra 25 minute walk up the valley from the village, and it was worth it! We had the waterfall and pool all to ourselves. It was so peaceful, and so refreshing after the long walk. Thankfully, I didn’t see the resident fresh-water eels swimming up the creek back into the swimming hole until AFTER we swam! Eeek. One eel was an easy two-feet long, speckled with yellow, slithering around in small pools. It looked like a giant, girth-y snake. We’ve heard of these fresh-water, waterfall resident eels, harmless to us, but still shocking to see. It didn’t deter from our peacefully waterfall swim, but it will sure make me wary of slithering creatures next time we go for a dunk!
Back in the village of Hakatehau, we had lunch at a local snack, owned by Pierre. “Snacks” are small restaurants, located inside the homes of residents, often not even marked— just local knowledge. They usually prepare whatever they have available, and in this case, Pierre had rice, egg rolls and fried shrimp. He spoke great English, which was a welcome surprise, and shared his knowledge of Alaska he had attained through the Discovery Channel ;) We were lucky trekkers on the way back, hitching a ride in the back of a truck, starting just five minutes from Pierre’s Snack, all the way back to Hakahau!
Other highlights in Hakahau… We climbed up to the cross above the town valley, and then, after encouraged to do so by a local hiking guide, we trekked our way along the ridge-line, around the valley and back down into the center of town— (got ice cream and juice at the store to celebrate finding our way back into town because the trail wasn’t the easiest to follow), and that night we had a very delicious meal at Pension Pukuee, up on the hill above the anchorage, where we were served baked wahoo, and a scalloped, creamy breadfruit dish. Breadfruit is a staple here— and treated like potatoes, used to create fries, more casserole type dishes and as a base in pancake batter. We have had several on the boat so far, and we’ve been frying slices up in Coconut oil and seasoning for a yummy, filling snack.
The transit to Nuku Hiva was a half-a-day sail in heavy breezes, with reefed sails, into the harbor of Taiohae, the largest town in the Marquesas. Taiohae’s size reminds me of Haines, Alaska, for those Alaskans reading… so that gives you a good idea of how small all these communities are! Taiohae is the only village we have encountered thus far that has really embraced the cruiser community and their needs— meaning, there’s a lot of services offered right at the pier that you can’t find in other Marquesan towns. Laundry and fresh water is available for $$ and a Snack with wifi 24/7 is located just several steps from the dinghy tie-off. There are several local stores, but are pretty well picked over by cruisers and locals… we have yet to find eggs! This has become a joke among cruiser friends. There are millions of chickens running wild all over these islands… and no eggs. I don’t actually think there is a very high demand for them locally because I haven’t seen eggs in local cooking… chicken, yes, but eggs, no. So there’s this hilarious mass search for eggs on Nuku Hiva, it’s a topic of discussion with all the cruisers we meet… “Have you found any eggs?” I wish I had known this is Ua Poa, because I found plenty of eggs at several stores.
My personal highlight in Taiohae, was being invited to an all women’s Polynesian dance/workout class for locals. The teacher was warm and accepting of cruisers, and enjoyed watching our brains and bodies strain as we desperately tried to attempt to circle our hips in a similar fashion as the girls who have been doing these movements their entire lives. The beginning of the class was similar to a Zumba/workout class— lots of music and repetitive motions, and then the second half of the class was learning an actual hula/traditional dance routine. I made it through the class— trying to keep up— and enjoying it thoroughly! Plus, I got a good workout and a cultural experience.
After leaving Taiohae, we moved up to the small village of Hoomi, in Controller’s Bay, where on a walk we were graciously approached by a local who offered us pamplemousse and mangoes. He had the most giant mangoes I have ever seen in my life! He loaded us down with pamplemousse… to the point of us telling him to stop, we couldn’t take anymore fruit! We might have to stop back by before we leave Nuku Hiva, just to load up on produce… as I have heard a small rumor that Tuamotu pearl farmers are so desperate for fruit, that they will trade pearls for pamplemousse!! I hope that’s true!
Around the corner, meaning, the other side of the island, we anchored in Anaho Bay, another favorite of Marquesas cruisers. Anaho was the first place we anchored where we couldn’t see the Pacific Ocean from our boat. The protected anchorage also boast clearer waters— but it was nothing close to Tahuata’s Hanamoenoa, at least for the several days we were there— and especially not enticing for a swim when we saw the many baby black-tipped reef sharks near the shore in shallow water. My theory, if there’s baby sharks on shore… there’s got to be a lot more out in the deeper waters on the edge of the reef. As with most anchorages in the Marquesas, it was very windy, even with the protection. The Tradewinds blew right over the top of the small hill separating Anaho and the ocean.
We did do a great day hike over a saddle, above Anaho and over to the village of Hatiheu. The trail was steep and took us maybe and hour and a half to get over with LOTS of pit-stops for mangoes. The trails was literally covered in small mangoes the majority of the way. Since we were at the beginning of fruit season, many of the mangoes were green, but Clif climbed a couple trees to reach the few mangoes that had reached a perfect golden yellow. They made tasty hiking treats. On the way back, Clif was on a mission to collect as many mangoes as possible, and make a big batch of mango chutney.
A final Marquesan highlight, before we headed back around the island and prepped for departure, we spent one even at the home of a local family on the beach of Anaho, who cooked meals for cruisers. We sat in their outside dining area and were served sashimi tuna marinated in olive oil and capers, bbq pig (with skin and bones), rice, and bread-fruit fries. The chef, or chez, Louisa, spoke some English, so she sat down with us after she cooked and tried to practice… while we asked her all sorts of questions about the Marquesan language. We learned from her how to say "kai kai yo ko,” which means I’m stuffed!
The sail back around the east side of Nuku Hiva was not much of a sail at all. We picked a day with almost no wind, and motored the six hours back to Taiohae to prepare for my Dad’s arrival (our first guest aboard Sedna in the South Pacific). Spent two days in Taiohae provisioning— trying with all my might to find some eggs, cheese, and assorted vegetables. Added some more potatoes and onions to the dwindling stock, and purchased some croissants for breakfast and sandwiches— plain croissants last an amazingly long time in a ziplock!
The day Dad arrived, Clif and I rented a truck and drove the hour and twenty minutes to the airstrip, which was on the opposite end of the islands. After Dad’s arrival, we used the same truck to drive up and down some ridiculously steep switchbacks to see the remainder of the island by car. The grade of the road in certain sections seemed unbelievable— but made more sense why everyone in the Marquesas has a truck, jeep or Range Rover with 4-wheel drive.
The next leg of our season… the Tuamotu, a group of island atolls that separate Marquesas and Tahiti.