Approaching Nuka Hiva from the south is impressive; the scale of the dark cliffs with the green mountains behind is awesome, even more so with a rainstorm happening in the as yet hidden bay of Taiohoe. Then the clouds parted and a rainbow appeared off the western of the pair of Sentinelle Islands that guard either side of the relatively narrow entrance to deep horseshoe shaped bay. Once inside the bay broadens out before terminating in a wide sweeping low shore dotted with trees and buildings with low chalet style roofs. Behind the green clad jagged volcanic formations rise steeply dwarfing everything they enclose.
Taiohoe is the administrative centre of the Marquesas but is scarcely larger than a sprawling village, the hospital and administrative buildings clustered around the French Administrator’s villa on the eastern edge, the Marquesas College (a boarding school for island teenagers) is over to the west between are scattered a couple of small supermarkets, the cathedral and the islands school. And everywhere you look is green with trees and coconut palms. Tied to a tree on the swathe of grass that lies between the road and the shore you might find the occasional horse grazing. Outside the canoe club building and elsewhere are stacks of traditional canoes with their outriders, most evenings groups of locals take to the water and last Friday there were canoe races from the beach by the old quay. Everyone is friendly, greeting all and sunder with smiles and a bonjour or a bonsoir depending on the time of day.
Several dozen yachts mostly recently arrived across the Pacific though some are local boats lie at anchor gently rocking in the swell which works its way in. On the quayside Kevin of Nuka Hiva Yacht Services is a smiling American who offers all sorts of helpful advice as well as renting cars, offering a laundry service, ice cream and more. This is where 23 year old Herman Melville jumped ship from the terrors of the captain of the whaler Acushnet in 1842. Along with a shipmate he climbed the ridge to the next bay east, Baie du Controlleur in an attempt to not be recaptured and promptly found themselves captives of the cannibal tribe of Typee (spelt Taipivi today).
We arrived after an overnight sail from Tahuata on Monday 18 April along with Enchantress and Chevaldy. Once we’d repaired the leech and re-stitched the foot of the jib a task that took two mornings to complete we idled around completing the laundry, taking several walks ashore to explore the village, made phone calls home and generally relaxed. The other two boats needed to refuel so David, Kevin & Sean spent a few hours trotting back and forth in the dinghies with cans topping up all three boats tanks and jerry cans, making good use of Temptress’ duty free paperwork.
Baguettes can be bought from the bakery or from the shops who also have limited stocks of frozen meat and eggs, there is sometimes a little fruit in the tourist market but little else. Fresh veggies are scarce, the locals grow what they need and get their supplies of carrots, cabbages and onions when the ship comes; judging by the level of the frozen food cabinets that will be sometime soon. Twice a week there is a very early market at 5am when you might get some tomatoes or lettuce if it has not been sold beforehand.