Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The soft edges of Nuku Hiva

For the purposes of border control we are now caught in the net of an administrative subset of France known as French Polynesia. It's a huge net with a very very loose weave, covering thousands of square miles of ocean. What it's doing here is another story, and you do wonder. You can't even buy decent bread in the main town of the Marquesas. The baker has shut up shop and where the sub-standard baguettes sold in the general stores come from is anyone's guess. This is a long way from France, believe me.

We found out from other cruisers in Taiohae Bay that the French Polynesian customs patrol boat visits Fatu Hiva once a year. That's what the patrolmen themselves told the cruisers they fined on their visit this year. They took cash only. Those people who had a lot of cash on board paid more than those who had less. Stands to reason? If you make landfall on Fatu Hiva on any other day of this year, it seems that the rules, such as they are, do not and cannot apply. I write this information for those who follow, to use as they wish. Next year may be different. Who knows.

The blog likewise has entered a blurry zone. There is an internet service in the Marquesas, but as I was told by the cheerful young man in the post office, don't come back to me if it doesn't work. He sold me a Vini sim card plus 400 MB of pre-paid credit (their biggest bundle) for 4100 FPF, which is about $A50. I get a green light in my dongle (do you remember those?), but no lift-off beyond that. The first mobile phone tower was built by the Survivor TV series team about 20 years ago, apparently. The network is 2G, and unless you are sitting right beside a wifi hotspot, say the one at Snack Vaivae on the dock, and (let's imagine) drinking a jus de pamplemousse and munching your way through a plate of raw fish marinated in coconut, you're fresh out of luck with the internet in Taiehoe Bay. It's workable, but as I say, it's going to be a bit hit and miss from now on as far as the internet goes.

That's bad news for those of you who love Alex's pictures. As I do. They're either going to come in large dollops, or I'll insert them into the text after the event.

Right now, we're anchored in a bay which defies description - my powers of description, that is. Its entrance, invisible from the sea until we came close to the cliffs, was rough but once inside, the waters are fairly well protected from the swell, which means that this morning I am rested. Taiohae Bay is a splendid wide and safe anchorage, but it is not restful. We're surrounded here by magnficent cliffs on one side, and behind the beach at the head of the bay (Anglo cruisers call it Daniel's Bay, for an old man who once lived here, but its local name is Hakatea) is a verdant valley. There's a 600 m high waterfall up there somewhere, and the cruising guides, scanty as they are on general touristic tips, suggest trekking in to see it. For the beauty, one imagines, because it's a 5 hour round trip. Usual waterfall tips are more practical i.e here's a place you can get water to drink, clean your bodies and wash your clothes in.

We're planning to do the trek tomorrow with some new friends, Marce and Jack (from the American-flagged catamaran Escape Velocity), though vigorous walking per se doesn't drive our agenda as it does some people's. We seem to need the scent of a ruin to draw us into the hills. Nuku Hiva has a few ancient tikis (rustic stone statues) in remote settings but not many. The missionaries saw to that. All of those we've seen thus far, even in the archeological site up behind Hatiheu Bay, have been modern reproductions of the ancient gods, though thanks to the weathering of the ocean climate they look as old as the earth itself. Know the feeling.

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