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Chocolate, Waterfalls, and Organics in the Marquesas

We spent almost a month in the Marquesas exploring the anchorages on the islands of Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou. Each of the 3 archipelagos in French Polynesia have a different geology. The Marquesas are volcanic islands without fringing reefs. They rise very high out of the water and are quite wet and tropical with lots of dramatic waterfalls. The anchorages are deep (we were anchoring in 35-55 feet) and typically not well protected (read "rolly".) The main bay and town on Nuku Hiva are called Taiohae and both are large by French Polynesian standards.

Taiohae had restaurants, grocery stores, a fruit and vegetable market, and tattoo artists. We spent a couple weeks here in 2 bits, the first with our crew, Dave and Kelli and the second by ourselves and hanging out with the crew on Migration. Shelby got a beautiful tattoo by a local artist to commemorate her becoming a shell back by crossing the equator and to celebrate the long Pacific passage. Another highlight was spending time with the crew on Migration doing yoga and enjoying waffles.

Just a few miles west of Taiohae is a bay called Hakatea and also Daniel’s. The TV show survivor was filmed there too. The attractions here are a hike up a canyon to a waterfall and then a home cooked lunch at one of the villager’s houses. Unfortunately, the waterfall was not flowing because it had not rained for while but it was still a stunningly beautiful canyon and the lunch of seared tuna, breadfruit fries, and pomme cythere slaw was amazing. They even gave us a pamplemousse, a large citrus fruit like a green grapefruit with a thick skin, for the road.

After our second stay in Taiohae, we headed east few miles to Controller bay. Herman Melville spent a year or so here. It was a nice quiet anchorage and we got a lot of rain (read “boat wash”) and we did a few hikes.

The highlight of our time on Nuku Hiva was Anaho Bay on the northeast corner of the island. It is in a beautiful setting and was very very calm while we were there, something very unique in the Marquesas. There are no roads to the small village, just a trail over the pass to the next town, Hatiheu. Everything comes in by way of the trail on pack horses or by boat. In the village there is a school, a chapel, and a pension and restaurant, where we had a very tasty meal under a large tree one night. We had a huge hiking day one day of about 10 miles including the going over the pass twice to Hatiheu. Hatiheu is more substantial village with road links to the rest of Nuku Hiva, a fantastic restaurant, and some extensive archeological sites. It has a nice big bay too, but anchoring there would rocking and rolling all night long, so very few people anchor there. We met new cruisers and reconnected with 3 boats we know from our time in Mexico as well as some new friends we met in Taiohae. There is an organic farmer with a small vegetable garden in the village and a large plot in a nearby bay. We had a blast hanging out with him and his farmer friend and came back with lots of great fresh fruits and vegetables which are in short supply in the Marquesas. The snorkeling was good but not awesome because the water was not so clear. The run off from all the rain tends to reduce the visibility. We are looking forward to the Tuamotu for clear water.

Next stop for us was Hakahetau on Ua Pou, about a 40nm sail away. Getting around the tip of Nuku Hiva was tough with the wind directly ahead of us, but we persevered and tacked our way around and once we cleared the south coast of Nuku Hiva the sea settled and we had a great sail to Ua Pou. The attraction here was a hike to Mannfred’s chocolate making facility and to a waterfall. Mannfred is a character. A German who moved to French Polynesia about 30 years ago and married a Marquesan; he had lots of stories to share with a big bowl of samples of his chocolate. After an hour or so we went back down the trail away to the trail to the waterfall where Mike had a nice freshwater swim.

Two rolly nights in the anchorage were just enough, so we headed down to an uncharted bay called Hikeu that some friends had recommended. It was quiet, secluded, and beautiful.

We needed to provision up a bit before heading to the Tuamotu, so we chose to try Hakahau on Ua Pou, which has an allegedly dodgy anchorage and a good selection of shops instead of sailing the 20nm back to Taiohae which has a verified rolly anchorage and an ok selection of shops. Looking at the boats in anchorage, you would think it terrible uncomfortable but although it was active, it was a more random motion than the relentless side to side rolling of a typical rolly anchorage. We spent 3 nights there relaxing, recovering, shopping, and getting some laundry done. We found Hakahau to be better than Taiohae for provisioning for sure.

We went back to Hikeu to stage for our 425nm, 3-day passage to the Tuamotu.

Our stay in the Marquesas was great. The locals were friendly, the food tasty, we made new friends and reconnected with others and had a great time.

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