Raroia and the Covid-19 experience

Will add more pics as and when I have internet access – VERY slow to load here in Raroia at Ngaramoa Village, the only place with an internet access point.

Marquesas to Raroia

We left the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva) on the late afternoon of the 8th March, to take advantage of a favourable weather window for the passage to the Tuomotus, some 450nm to the south south west. It was a good beam reach the whole way and we had a lovely, almost full moon at nights. We made very good progress and had to slow the boat down in order not to get in too early.

We arrived about 07h00 on the 12th March outside the entrance pass and rendezvoused with our friends on Ari B, Carla and Alex, who had left from Ua Pou.

Ari B had entered Raroia before and so led the way. We were around about slack tide but there was still a strong tide coming out through the pass. You can see the standing waves and Ari B ahead of us slewing as she entered the main current. We powered through on high revs and were soon in calm waters.

We went up to the village and obtained a bit of slow internet outside the Post Office and topped up from a very limited and expensive choice of provisions from the small village store (a delightful couple, Charlot and Gerard, who speak good English and are most helpful).

Raroia is an atoll, unlike the spectacular mountainous Marquesas. The atolls are the remainders of what were islands like the Marquesas, now reduced to a fractured rim of reef and sandy islands. It is quite wonderful (after the rolly anchorages of the mountainous islands to the north) to come out of the wind and waves of an ocean into the peaceful, flat quiet of an atoll anchorage. An Oasis in the Ocean.

We went up to the north east anchorage which is very remote and peaceful. Lovely walking and snorkelling.

We had fun gathering land crabs (there is a huge population that we can’t make a dent in). About 6 make a decent meal. There are large Coconut Crabs that emerge at night but we have not taken any of these as they have a much smaller population.

We then heard of the impending Covid-19 restrictions and returned to the village for a quick re-provision and got back to the anchorage just prior to lock down.

 

Inter-Island travel is banned so we are to remain here for the duration. The French Polynesian officials were quick to implement social distancing, travel and other protective measures and it seems to have worked, with relatively few infections and these contained to 3 islands; Raroia remaining free of the virus to date.

There is a total of 6 boats spread widely apart in the anchorage. We and Ari B keep to ourselves as we have been together and healthy for far longer than the quarantine period and we do not know definitively about the others, although we do know two of the boats.

We have had fun ashore on a spit of sand on the edge of the closest island.

I set up my “workshop” there some mornings as I make some wooden Boules out of Marquesan Rosewood. We had our first game recently.

Walking the outer reef bordering the ocean provides for spectacular views, good foraging and a wonderful perspective on how the rim of the atoll protects the interior environment from the great Pacific Ocean.

Liz does her long swims still and has attracted a loyal following of Black Tip sharks that follow her respectfully around the anchorage.

Arib B hosted a birthday party for Liz replete with chocolate birthday cake, crab starter and duck breast mains.

Daily life on the boat continues with its tasks:

Drying Bananas

DSC_0622

Washing and washing up

Making hanging nets for food storage

Reclining in the hammock during the heat of the day

DSC_0685

Repairing and deploying the lobster trap (this was not successful and neither, so far, has walking the reef at night produced results).

DSC_0684

Making and deploying our anti-Bommie defences – firstly a 15 foot flexible three strand rope snubber, to take the load should the chain get snagged on a bommie close to the boat and secondly four 14.5Kg weight load buoyancy buoys, collected from the reef, to keep the chain from snagging on bommies.

Whilst doing repairs with superglue, I did the unusual and read the instructions of superglue bought in a Marquesan store. They were hilarious!!

As usual throughout French Polynesia, sundowners and sunsets are a great time, with stunningly beautiful scenes.

And equally as usual to contrast with this, the underwater scenery is extensive, varied and delightful.

As there is as yet no sign to an end to the Covid-19 restrictions and as we have no need to adopt any risk, we expect to remain in the wonderful location for several more weeks yet.

 

Back in the Marquesas

The month in Cape Town went by in a flash. We arrived back after the long multi-stop flight, having seen some more of Liz’s fmily in NZ, to be greeted by local music at the micro-scale Hiva Oa airport.

P1180063

Work on the boat followed – engine service, bottom paint, new davits for the dingy, replace annodes and various bits and pieces.

Then some gentle cruising around the island until a weather window opened that has us leaving Nuku Hiva for the Atoll of Raroia in the Tuomotus tomorrow afternoon. Should be about a 3-4 day trip. We look forward to totally different scenery – atolls as opposed to volcanic mountain islands.

Ua Pou Revisited

We had a varied sail across fro Tuahatu to Ua Pou – no wind to start and then some spanking beam reach sailing in blustery conditions on the last third. (Ignore the date on the photo, its fixed on the camera now).

Once around the headland, the approach and anchoarge at Hakahau was as good as ever. We had fun watching the kids enjoying their kayak practice after school.

 

This bit of the mountainside reminded us of a Lion’s Head view of Table Mountain:

DSC_0278

We had another very pleasant walk over to the next bay.

Anyone spot Liz in the wave?

Liz bodysurfing (1)

We visited the Pukuee Bar for a well deserved cold one on the way back (and some internet access). Great views over the anchorage.

The Watermaker gave us a Low Pressure warning and stopped working. After much digging and consultation, we dismantled the Booster Pump Switch (having changed filters and done endless other checks) and found that when they assembled the switch, they had put a very poor spot solder on one of the terminals (instead of a male/female connection) and this had just fallen off. Once identified, easy to replace with a good connection and all was well again.

Next we wandered down the coast to Hakaheteu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The anchorage was a bit rolly but had spectacular views.

We had another great walk up to one of the Pinnacles. The Lady with the Goat was born in Hakaheteu, is working in Strasbourg and was visiting family on holiday. She gave us our walking directions and also helpful instructions on how to do a full day walk around all the Pinacles (saving that for our trip back down south later).

Bye Bye Ua Pou for now. We will return later. The poor place is going to be inundated by (according to some) about 3000 people in December for a Music Festival. It doesn’t bear thinking about in this pristine location. We are thankfully away for Caryn’s wedding and will return well afterwards. We are benefitting from enjoying all the music preparations by experiencing all the arts, crafts, music and dancing around the islands (see next post) in a more relaxed manner.

Meanwhile, great memories in our wake …….

FHD0288

Cruising the Marquesas

Been a bit tardy on the blog updates of late but what with lack of internet access and complete adaptation to island time, it just didn’t seem a priority.

We have been slowly cruising around the islands and enjoying the wondeful Marquesan people and their amazing “Hiva” homeland.

Here’s a picture of the layout and location of the Marquesas for orientation ( Emily C. Donaldson (2017): Troubled lands: sovereignty and livelihoods in the Marquesas Islands, International Journal of Environmental Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00207233.2017.1364893)

Marquesas-Map

As you can see, we have just started scratching the potential of French Polynesia, let alone the rest of the Pacific Islands!

Here’s another whistlestop through some of the places we have been chilling in.

ANAHO Bay on Nuku Hiva

There will be more on this special place later as we are going back again but it is such a special anchorage (see pic, tucked around behind a headland with 360 degree protection) and such a pleasurable environment (sandy beaches, walking, forest etc etc).

DSCF6165

 

and of course the snorkelling …..

 

Anse Avaiva Iti

Again special for us as it was our first landfall after the crossing from Panama, so we could not resist another stay.

 

Fatu Hiva

We had a spanking beam reach sail across from Tuahatu to Fatu Hiva (south western most of the islands).

 

There is only really one viable anchorage called Baie Des Vierges (Bay of Virgins) off the village of Hanavave. It used to be called Baie Des Virges (Bay of Penises) before the Missionaries interfered and had it changed. If you really, really squint and stare hard at the picture, you can just sort of imagine a virgin in the rocks.

DSC_0229

Hanavave and its anchorage are really picturesque. If you want to stay incommunicado, anchor on the left of the bay (more sheltered) where the jutting rocks interfere with the Vinispot signal.

 

The other settlement on the island is Omoa. It is an hour and a half kayak down the coast which is a splendid trip, full of hidden inlets, caves and mini-waterfalls. Sorry, no pics as Liz’s waterproof camera proved not eventually …

The other way to get there (yourself) is to hike the only island road. This takes just over four hours at a goodly pace. We thought about hiking back again to save the expense (for a nanosecond) and then settled in for a bayside lunch, cold Hinano beers and a bumpy water taxi (small aluminium boat) ride back.

 

The bay was so rough when we left that they could not use the slipway to launch the boat but dropped it in with a forklift truck instead!!

 

There is also a pleasant forest walk to the Cascades at the head of the valley above Hanavave.

 

The people on Fatu Hiva were just so nice and helpful. We got invited to the Sunday service in the Roman Catholic church. This turned out to be a uniquely Marquesan “sung mass”. There was a great turnout. The service itself was highly participative as regards members of the community leading various parts and readings. There was a small choir together with soprano and tenor ukuleles, a rhythm guitar and a large and emphatic lady on a traditional drum. The voices were great, not only in the choir but in the audience as well, with lots of harmonising. Even the children participated instead of the normal fidgeting or sleeping.

We had several pleasant strolls around the village and visited with a local artisan who carves in shell, stone and wood. Very good carving work (we have seen enough now to have some degree of appreciation of quality). We bought some items but the smaller stuff as it is all so very expensive here (prices are 3X Panama as a rule of thumb).

The lead artisan is supported by his son, who runs the business now. I have got wood carving tools coming to me from Australia. When they get here, we will return to Fatu Hiva as they have agreed to teach me the Marquesan methods of carving.

Hanamoenoe

This is regarded as one of the best anchorages in the Marquesas (good snorkelling, lots of Manta Rays, beautiful beach, no development). We bypassed earlier in our wanderings as there were still quite a few boats in. This time we have had it almost entirely to ourselves with an occasional second boat dropping in.

 

Hiva Oa

Although not our favourite anchorage, we had a very pleasant stay when we went back to visit John and Bev on Dandelion (who have finally resolved their engine problems).

The anchorage was very flat and quiet (by comparison with our previous stay). We had some great walks and met up again with Seth and Ellen on Celeste and John and Becca on Halcyon.

Good kayaking out to the island and swimming with the Manta Rays.

 

Good provisioning done, we were off again …

 

Ua Pou

Very pleasant sail across and spectacular views on approach.

 

Nice time in town with friendly locals and a dance and haka celebration. Pleasant walking around.

Vaitahu

One of my favourite spots. We are the only yacht in the bay again.

FHD0177

The views are great. On our last visit we got a great rainbow shot of Dandelion. There is good snokelling on both sides of the bay, great walks for hours to north and south and a great kayak down to Baie Hanatefau for more good snorkelling.

The church is a work of art, dominated by a beautiful stained glass window that filters in the morning light most beautifully.

There is a micro-archaeology-dig site (covered in) in the south of the bay at what seems to have been a seaside settlement that provided a dune dig. The researchers drew conclusions about the seafaring capabilities of the early Marquesans through the discovery of various artifacts and their distribution elsewhere in Polynesia; in particular, the source (quarry on another island) and distribution (very distant islands) of a precisely identified stone used to make adzes.

Some of the finds from the dig have been preserved and displayed in the local museum.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whilst not detracting at all from the value of the local museums (the Musee Boutique on Nuku Hiva is another worth visiting), it is sad that so much of the Marquesan artifact heritage has been taken away from the Hiva homeland and now resides in foreign, “first world” museums and collections. This systematic deprivation is well documented in “Les Marquisiens: Les Marquisiens et leur art. Ornamentation primitive des mers du sud III. Collections”, by Karl von den Steinen, first published in 1928. A large book (13″X19″), this thoroughly documents a wide range of Marquesan art and artifacts with a commendable but depressing thoroughness in the identification of where these objects now reside. Now there’s a project ……..

Vaitahu was also the adoptive home of Emily Donaldson, from where she was based in conduction ethographic research which you can access here: http://www.emilydonaldson.org/projects.html

This article provides a good insight into her work: http://www.emilydonaldson.org/Donaldson%202017,%20Troubled%20Lands,%20Sovereignty%20and%20Livelihoods%20in%20the%20Marquesas%20Islands.pdf

She also published a Marquesan-French-English Dictionary and Phrase Book, a physical copy of which we have been unable to find – we even boarded the Aranui in foul weather in Vaitahu Bay to source a copy but they did not have any. You can request a digital copy from Emily via her website.