Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva

Taiohae Bay was a short day sail (about 20 nautical miles) from Ua Pou. All the islands have been beautiful but Nuku Hiva was extra pretty on approach. It was all big rocky cliffs, green jungle, and giant waterfalls. Nuku Hiva is the biggest island in the Marquesas and it's the administrative capital, main shipping port, and so on for the Marquesas. Knowing all this, I assumed that Taiohae to have a bit of that slimy border town feel to it but was pleasantly surprised to find it only marginally less laid back than the other islands we've visited. People here are still friendly but they seem a bit busier and not quite as enthralled with visitors as the people on some of the other islands. Having lived in tourist destination towns myself, I can't say that I blame them. They have a steady enough stream of visitors here that I'm sure the novelty has pretty much worn off.

One of my favorite things about this island is that I've already read about it without really knowing it. In 1842, Herman Melville came here as crew aboard a whaling ship. He and a friend jumped ship right here in Taiohae bay and, with great difficulty, made their way a couple of valleys east and Melville spent a month or more as guest/captive of the indigenous people there. He wrote a more or less factual account in the book 'Typee'. When I first read the book a couple of years ago some differences in the spellings of place names and my lack of familiarity with these islands left me a bit confused as to exactly where all this stuff was taking place. Since arriving here, I've found an electronic version of the book and Christine and I are reading it now on our Kindles. Being here makes the book even more interesting and it's fascinating to see what has and has not changed here in the intervening 170 years.

The first blog worthy thing we did after our arrival here was to go on a hike with some friends from other boats that we hadn't seen since Mexico. We climbed up a trail through the jungle to a rocky overlook near the mouth of the bay. Check out the pictures in the following slide show and be sure to check out the captions. Christine went through the trouble of adding all those in so we wouldn't have to type so much here.

As you can see in the pictures, we also went to church on Sunday. Well, we didn't actually go in (because I had to fix the outboard on the dinghy again so we were late) but we did hang around outside. The church itself was pretty cool. It's built of big stones, many of which show signs of ancient use for tool sharpening and there are a lot of cool wood carvings (that I failed to get good pictures of). One of the sort of curious things that we saw was carvings of the 'Marquasan Cross' on things in the Church. It's a very old symbol from these islands that happens to resemble a swastika. It, of course, has nothing to do with genocide and predates all that nazi business by many hundreds if not thousands of years but it is a bit odd to see it carved into stuff on a church. The singing in the church was beautiful. With very minimal accompaniment from a guitar and a drum, the whole congregation sang hymns in Marquasan that were unlike any I'd ever heard. If all churches had singing like that, there might be a slightly better chance of me signing up for a conversion. ...but a slightly better chance than absolutely no chance at all still isn't anything to get your hopes up about.

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