Monday, 18 May 2015

Meghan On Amelie-May 2015

Before I start my blog, I would like to say that yes, I am going to post my blog about our great  Pacific crossing but at the moment, I apologize, I am not able to. To make a long story short, a water glass spilled onto my laptop during rough seas and it doesn't seem to be working. Luckily, I have everything backed up but I can't open my blog on my parents' computer. Again, I really apologize for the mixup and I'm hoping to get that blog posted as soon as possible but I promise you it will come eventually.Anyway,  during the past few weeks, I haven't really spent all my time worrying about my computer because I've had the  wonderful opportunity to enjoy the amazing Marquesas islands. Just so you know, because I got quite confused with it too, the Marquesas, Tuomotos and Tahiti are the three sets of islands in French Polynesia. It's hard for me to believe that we are officially in the South Pacific now!
I do have to say that the Galapagos would have won the first prize for diversity of animals so far on this trip but I'm pretty sure Marquesas is going to score first for amazing landscapes! Not just that but also for over the top nice people.

Every single Marquesan we've met seems to be so special in one way or another. Any village we go to, they welcome us with smiles on their faces and always show us something special ; whether it's playing a song for us on their hand carved ukalele or selling us fresh fruit from their garden. Sometimes, we would bring a soccer ball in to play with the local kids and the children never showed off or laughed like they were better than us (although they were!) but instead they would high five us and make us feel part of the team. We also couldn't believe how clean, garbage wise, every place was (which actually seems to be a tradition of the French islands). The Marquesans know that working together as a team and keeping peace is the key to the ideal world we are looking for!
We have been to five islands (including the one we are at right now) and those islands are:

Fatu Hiva
The island we arrived at after our 19 and a half day crossing across the Pacific. All I can say about it is "WOW!!". Definitely my favourite island in the Marquesas! The view when you come into the anchorage is nothing like you would ever see anywhere else and walking in the tiny, 300 populated village  under the towering mountain of endless green was inexplicable!

One problem though, we didn't have any Francs, the locals didn't accept Euros and there was no bank in that village. There was one obvious, simple solution: don't buy anything until we got to another island which had a bank. But then we realized that the locals wanted to trade their fruit and crafts for our clothes and other goods we didn't need but that they did.
We had run out of fresh fruit on about day 15 of our crossing so we were all for trading our old stuff we were just going to give away for free for good things we wanted that these people didn't need. Our first trade we did was for my old pair of crocs, three coffee mugs and my old old volleyball that leaks a bit, we got about eight big grapefruits, three little fruit called pomelos and two pieces of art painted on breadfruit tree bark! Another trade we did was for some walky-talkies, we got a beautiful carved wooden tiki which are their gods. 

Some of the things we collected to trade with the locals

With the adults, we would normally trade but with the kids, we just stuck to giving. Either than my elastic bracelets, we also gave them shoes, clothes, toys and just because they're kids, little candies! Now, the kids on Fatu Hiva didn't have any stores in their village except a little gas station-like store and the several stores in the other town on the island, Omoa so they have to be quite creative in the activities they do to keep themselves busy. The first time I met the kids, they were swimming in the small stream before dinner while the adults played their daily game of soccer. One of the girls was fishing and when I asked her how she did it, she showed me a piece of palm tree leaf that was tied and made a circle at the end. She said that she would put the tied end underwater and when a fish or shrimp swam through, she would quickly pull it up and grab it. Another girl told me to collect the yellow flowers that were on the ground and fill a plastic bottle full of water so she could make glue. She would crush the flowers, which were sticky inside, with a rock and then add the water to make it even stickier! Another day, we walked past the river when we saw a dead, blown up puffer fish on the shore. The kids immediately rushed over cheering and clapping. Then, one of them took a stick and started wacking it as hard as he could! Then each of them did it until it popped which resulted in the most disgusting smell I have ever smelled but I guess something had to replace the candy for this piñata! 

We also had the chance to go hiking on Fatu Hiva. If it weren't for the piles of rocks that marked the way, we would have surely got lost! The end view was spectacular! We knew we were hiking to a waterfall but I never imagined it would be as tall and beautiful as it was! It looked so much like a movie that the BBC South Pacific video theme song was in my head when I saw it!

One day, when coming back to the boat, we caught sight of big manta rays swimming right at the surface right near the boat so my mom and I jumped on in and came back with memories we will never forget!

Hiva Oa 
Here are some pictures from our car drive around the island of Hiva Oa:

Tahuata (pronounced ta-oo-a-ta)
They say that the Marquesas are not a beach destination and I would definitely say that's right except Tahuata. It was nice to be back in crystal clear water with rich reefs, manta rays everywhere and a beautiful sandy beach perfect for boogie boarding!

The part of Tahuata we went to was completely uninhabited except three people including a man named Steven who we met. When he was younger, he lived in Hiva Oa but decided to leave so he swam away to the part of Tahuata he lives in now which belongs to his grandfather. He ended up arranging a potluck for basically all the cruisers in the bay and caught and cooked a delicious octopus which was extraordinary!

Ua Pou (pronounced wa poo)
After Fatu Hiva, Ua Pou was the most beautiful island in my opinion. I said it looked like a magical fairy kingdom in the clouds! Look in the picture yourself and see if you agree.

Nuku Hiva
Now, we are here on Nuku Hiva, the capital of the Marquesas. 

The first bay we went to was Daniel's Bay. Daniel's Bay is actually just what the cruisers call it but the locals prefer we call it by their native name which unfortunately I don't know. Anyway, there is a river just beyond the bay and since it's too shallow to dinghy in there, my mom and I took the paddle board. It was one of those places where nothing could have been better. If you were to change anything, it would only make it worse. The water was so still it made a perfect mirror, there were herons fishing nearby, as we paddled in, the pine trees (yes, believe it or not there are pine trees here) would brush against our faces, there were little huts in the trees where some locals lived and just to top it off, when we exited, we got the whole view of the mountainous landscape! 

I also found Daniel's Bay a great place to try my first attempt of stand up paddling (normally we just use the paddle board as a kayak) and to do some paddle board surfing near the beach. 

As well as the Fatu Hiva waterfall, we also did a hike to a waterfall from Daniel's Bay. But this time, it wasn't just any waterfall, it was Vaipo: the third largest waterfall in the world! 

Now, we are in the main anchorage in Nuku Hiva, Tabhae, and this is, unfortunately, our last island in the amazing Marquesas but we are looking forward to the beautiful water and spectacular reefs of the Tuamotus! 

Again, hopefully I'll be able to post my April blog soon. 

Bye bye! 

P.S: Excuse the writing at the begining, I can't seem to be able to change the font.

Amelie in Daniel's Bay

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ua Pou

Greetings from UA POU ! (pronounced “Wah-Poo”)

After spending 5 blissful days on Tahuata island, resting up and enjoying a beautiful beach, we pulled up the hook and set a course for Ua island about 80 nmiles away.... having only just arrived,  already we are much impressed with the remarkable scenery:12 basalt pinnacles, which are left over cores from 12 ancient volcanoes...give it an “Out-Of-This-World” look...Meg says it looks like a “fairy kingdom in the clouds”.... I agree it does look a little bit like a kingdom straight out of  a J. R. R. Tolkien novel. 

The sail over to Ua Pou was a real drifter.....(no wind!)......Still, we had fun “racing” against the other 3 family boats who were headed the same way .....we didn’t win but we enjoyed the friendly water battle which we were thrown into as  S/V Miss Behaving swept passed us  (They ambushed us with water balloons- but we were ready to retaliate with our water guns !)

Steven helps to make this a very special Mother’s Day !

Our time on Tahuata was great! The quiet anchorage of Hanamoenoa Bay provided us with much needed break, where we mended our bodies, minds, and an idyllic setting....everyone enjoying some social time on the white sandy beach in the afternoons. There are only 3 inhabitants in this northern anchorage. We met Steven, a lovely young Marquesian who lives alone in his beach hut.  All of the land, (including the beach!) belongs to his grandfather. Steven welcomed us to his land with a warm “Kaoha” (“Hello” in Marquesian), and offered us fresh coconut to eat. 

On Sunday (Mother’s Day), most of the cruisers gathered at Steven’s for a sea food BBQ/Potluck.  On the open fire, sat a cast iron pot with a  5 lb (whole) octopus boiling inside.....and another pot was filled with small red crabs- ready to eat - these were all Steven’s contribution to the meal....On a grill, delicious Marlin and Tuna steaks, brought by our cruising friends ....Since we had not  caught a fish in a while, Mark had made a Jambalaya which everyone enjoyed....others had brought salads, bread.....what a feast !  The kids enjoyed boogie boarding in the breaking waves as the adults swapped stories.....

You’ve probably guessed that Steven is a really special guy.....On our first meeting, I asked him, in French, if it was difficult living alone.  He just looked deeply into my eyes for a long while, then smiled a giant , wise smile.....That’s Steven....A man of few words....but each interaction with him can be quite profound.....At one point he sat down  in the sand, beside Matthew and had a “conversation” with him.....After about 5-10 minutes, Matthew left and  I sat down beside Steven....he immediately and passionately started to tell me about how Matthew had touched him, deeply.....he said: ’ “Your son is VERY powerful! He may not be powerful here (points to his head) or here (points to his heart) but he has tremendous power and knowledge about the world around him...about nature, about things that most people don’t understand....he is amazing....!”  He went on and on about how I needed to be strong and patient with him. He told me to make sure I talk to Matthew often and to tell him how powerful he is....He made me promise that I would shower Matthew with love and understanding, because many people would not understand him and this would make his life difficult....and that Matthew is extremely sensitive to how others perceive him.......Anyways....needless to say that Steven and I had a beautiful and emotion filled exchange that day on the the end he shook my hand and made a loud “Strength’ Call”...(Like the ones world champion weigh lifters use )......and..... I did my best to reply with the same....

As the meal was being prepared, Steven gave each lady present a chance to try to extract the milk from the coconut pulp he has scraped earlier that day.....He wrapped the pulp in fibre from the coconut tree (which acted like a “cheese cloth”) and when squeezed the liquid (coconut milk) poured directly into the pot where he had placed the pieces of cooked octopus.....after each of us had a chance to wring as much milk as we could, he would then walk over, give us a pitiful smile ,shake his head in mock disappointment and then , after his typical loud grunting sound,  proceeded to extract another 10-20 ml.....

Before we left, he gifted each of the ladies with a thick, long “needle-like” pendant ( to make a necklace with). We were all wondering if it was a plant, or a shell or ??? But we simply couldn’t figure it out . The needle was hard, green...but like nothing we’d ever seen before...then Mac, from SV Kookaberra,  solved the enigma for showing us a large sea urchin, from which these needles had come from!  Steven made sure to give me another one.....”especially for your son”, he said. 

Before we left, Steven, who had asked not to take any photos of him... simply asked us to remember him in our hearts and minds (and not in a photo).....and he gave us the gifts so that we would remember him.....I think it’s safe to say that none of us will ever forget really was a special Mothers’ Day ! 

Coming Up

In a couple of days we should arrive to our final port in the Marquesas: The island of  Nuka Hiva, where we will provision and take advantage of the ‘rumoured’ good internet connections, before then leaving for the Tuamotus....on our way towards Tahiti.....

To be Continued...

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Marquesas; Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa

We have been in the Marquesas here in French Polynesia for one week now, and its safe to say that we love it here !

Fatu Hiva's striking coast line

Fatu Hiva Water Fall

FATU HIVA: Trading, Dancing, Good Food and RAYS !

First of all was Fatu Hiva, a breathtaking island far removed from the influences of the modern world, we spent 6 days. As this was our first stop we did not have any French Francs (the currency they use here),  but as I mentioned in our last blog entry, the people of Hanavave, the small village bordering the Bay of Virgins, are not interested in money....they want to TRADE goods with the cruisers. 

So every day I looked like a walking garage sale coming in to the dinghy dock carrying all sorts of knick knacks we had gathered on board. And everyday we were greeted by the same friendly faces and left with our dinghy filled with fresh fruit!  

We became friends with Sopi, his wife Lea and his brother-in-law Jean Baptiste and his wife Iris. Both Sopi and Jean Baptiste carve beautiful wooden ‘Tikis’ which had caught Mark’s eye. Made of ebony or rosewood, these are somewhat expensive art pieces, so clothing and old shoes were not going to be enough to trade.We spent a few days negotiating with Sopi and his wife, until we finally reached an agreement: A pair of Walkie Talkies, a frying pan, an iron (which I did not even know I had on board!), and a pair of men’s shoes were adequate payment....and Mark walked away with a beautiful Tiki and a big smile on his face. 

The Artist , Jean Baptiste, proudly holds his Tiki . 

Sopi and Leah hosted a traditional Marquesian dinner for us and our cruising friends: It consisted of “Poisson Cru”, as well as dishes of porc, chicken and manioc, all bathed in a coconut cream sauce, served over rice.....and some boiled bananas. Since it was a rainy day, we ate in Sopi and Lea’s was very nice and the food was de-li-cious !

One day, our cruising friends and us decided to try to go to the other village, Omoa, which is on the East side of the Island, about 3 n.miles away. A flotilla of 4 dinghies made our way down the coast. On the way there we enjoyed the sight of the strikingly beautiful coast line and many caves and mysterious bays on the way. When we got to Omoa, the swell was impressive and the dinghy dock was not looking very inviting (with metal bars sticking out and waves crashing against we made a decision not to try to land after all....and went back the way we came.....a fun day out just the same !

The arrival of the supply/cruise ship into the bay on Friday was a big event. We found out that it only comes once a month. As well as supplies, it brings about 40 the villagers had a very special day planned for them (and us!) enthusiastic demonstration of their culture, music and dance. What a treat ! 

One day as we were returning to the  boat from a great hike to a waterfall, we spotted giant manta rays swimming right below us….and so Meg and I quickly gathered our snorkelling gear and jumped in after them… first we could not see them anymore, but then, all of a sudden there they were….swimming towards us !!!  I was holding Meg's hand, and had to reassure her at first as these gentle giants  swam directly below us, their wings graceful in the water… absolute thrill for both of us and a life long dream, come true for me !!!

Hiva Oa : Baguettes, Sacred Tikis, and Final Resting Place of Artists....

On Sunday, we got a visit from the local customs officers, and although they were very pleasant and professional, their visit gave us the extra motivation we needed to finally  leave Fatu Hiva and the friends we made there and to get ourselves properly registered into French we headed to Hiva Oa !

We had a blustery sail over (quite fast as it only took us 5 hours to over the 42 n.miles), and arrived before dinner. The anchorage was quite ‘rolly’, so the next day, we set out a stern anchor to stabilize the boat and what a difference that made !  

We have really enjoyed Hiva Oa so far. It’s a much more populated island, with lots of comforts for cruisers who are coming in after a long passage !  The best part of course are the french baguettes, cheese, sausages etc.....What a treat for us to walk into town and finally get to eat all this tasty food !   We rented a car (4 WD Toyota) and drove up and down the island, visiting scared archeological sites and driving along high mountain ridges over looking some breathtaking views below.  

Since we still don’t have very high speed internet, I am not certain how many photos I will be able to post so I will leave you with just a few descriptions that you can hopefully your minds eye....

*A quiet bay with gentle ocean waves drifting in....the beach is covered in polished black volcanic stones and pieces of broken cowrie shells, in the water, a man and his horse are bathing. 

*At the top of a high cliff , a dirt road bends right along its edge, at the very end of this point sits a shack with 20 goats or more huddled inside. Across from this, there is a steep hill with a cross on top, and below the cross, a little alcove, in which a goat has wedged itself into, quite contently. 

*A tropical forrest, no one is hear the call of a rooster, he is close by. There are stones arranged in terraces embedded deep within the smell fermenting fruit all around you, the ground is littered with mangoes, coconuts and other fruit you don’t walk towards a rectangular clearing ...and you start to see faces in the stones.....more and more Tiki faces greet you as you walk up the stone steps. You are standing in an archeological site which is thousands of years old ...scattering of stones surrounded by a wild forrest of palm, banana and tall fruit trees. 

  • A small cemetery, up high on a hill overlooking the vast ocean, the graves are mostly white and simple. You approach one which is more ornate, it rests under a small tree, it has a beautiful polished stone sculpture beside it...and a read the inscription on the stone : Paul Gauguin,-1903...a little further down, another is clearly cherished. There is a pile of little rocks beside it, on each rock are painted words.....beautiful words & lyrics .....the inscription on the stone reads: “Jacques Brel 1929-1978”. 

Love to you all

4 Ms