Published: May 19th 2008May 19th 2008
Canon repair 101
well, it was pretty well stuffed so I had little to lose.....needless to say that was truly the end of it!
PARADISE LOST and REGAINED?…
Just walk away Renee….
CAN YOU BE MORE (S)PACIFIC…
NO MAD NOMAD HERE…
AN ANENOME OF THE PEOPLE?..
Infernal, Internal Thermals…and much, much more!..
Nuku Hiva, now a memory, but something transpired there, it really got to me, I’m still not sure what it was…..more later maybe
Unlike the Galapagos Islands which were basically conventional volcanic islands - you know, cone shaped, sloping lava fields to the sea, calderas, tunnels all that stuff, the Marquisas are far more topographically challenging. (and, as there are English, French and Spanish spellings, even differing names for many of these places, you may notice some inconsistencies !!)
The Marquisas, enormous tortured rock mountains, stratified layers, peaks and rolls, huge cliffs jutting vertically from the water 100’s of feet, high crested peaks to 3,000 feet, constant cloud because of this massive disruption to the warm, wet trade winds. Sometimes the ridges are soft, green furry folds, all smoothness and soothing. At another site the ridge is like a brontosaurus skeleton, sharp plates, stacked in a line, unbelievably jagged. Another ridge shows almost delicate flying buttresses, so fragile, razor sharp and jagged, hundreds of feet high, only feet thick at their
tops, supporting the cathedral ridge. Altho’ most of Nuku Hiva is quite verdant with forest and even jungle almost, there is also a vast desert in the interior, where nothing grows.
There are regular farms with cattle and crops, but goats, pigs and cattle roam throughout the island. The locals go out and hunt what they need and/or sell meat to yachts and the cruise ships. A guy I was talking to told me his brother had just taken 6 goats down to the wharf where the twice-a-month freighter cum cruise ship (200 passengers) was berthed. He gets 30,000 francs for the 6. Bugger, now you’re going to want to know the exchange rate…..I don’t know why but I had a lot of trouble with the rate when we were there. It was almost impossible to find out the actual rate! Even at the bank. And everything was soo expensive I probably didn’t really want to know just how much I was spending. $1 = 73 francs (?) something like that.
Some of the coastal rock formations we are sailing past, random, violent, giant bubbles of tortured rock, flaking layers. I just can’t cope with explaining how this gigantic chunk
back in the galap
of twisted rock was formed. It’s all volcanic.
Almost an apocalyptic snapshot vision of some hell. How a rent in the earth’s crust allowed a burst of the molten core to shoot upward. What ferocious power unleashed and then frozen in time and space. Thousands of feet above the sea bed and further thousands of feet into the air. It is just truly awesome.
These sheer, black, rough rock walls tower over us as we sneak past. They plunge equally vertically down so we can sail quite close in. Endless breakers thrash the base, throwing vast plumes of frothy spume and reminding us that altho’ it is fairly tranquil for us, the swells are strong, relentless, all powerful.
Every little shelf, every nook or cranny, every possible site along the wall has some blade of grass, tuft of weed, any scrap of vegetation that can manage to find a grip. Some bigger clefts have small groves of trees. Extraordinarily resilient and quite bizarre to spot, way, way up high, lost on this fantastic cliff face, patches of grass, trees, sparse bushes clinging to the very rockface.
We sailed up to another bay, still on Nuku Hiva, and almost deserted. This
was one perfect bay and certainly in my top 3! We sailed into the mile+ wide entrance and about 1 mile in tucked around a bluff and found a peaceful anchorage. Golden sandy shoreline, palm fringed beaches and only 2 or 3 habitations. Beyond the palms the land rose steeply up to the central mountains. Like an overgrown medieval castle the vertical central core looks absolutely unscalable, impenetrable, overwhelmingly discouraging to even contemplate climbing. On the upside, this makes the little bay a perfect safe haven, isolated and immune from everything from the land side.
There is a track across the lower ridge to the village (?) in the adjacent bay.
Quite close to our anchorage a reef ran across the bay and along the rocky shore of the bluff we were sheltered behind. I was supposed to stay out of the water for 7 days after the tattoo but by day 6 I couldn’t wait any longer and snorkelled over to the reef.
I have seen quite a few places with lots of fish but I have never seen so many different fish. All the colours, shapes and sizes you could possibly imagine. I don’t think there were actually
even 2 of any one type, there was such a range.
The colours of the fish stood out more than usual due to the dull brown background. Early coral forms were plentiful, and rocky shapes, but consistently of a narrow band of dull brown colours so this riot of exaggerated brilliance stood out like the proverbial. I wonder how this can be. These fish would be perfectly camouflaged in your normal bright coral, great-barry-a-reefer environments but here?
A constantly changing scene of blues, oranges, greens, reds, yellows, fabulously intricate striped patterns, glowing turquoise spots, an absurdly square box fish in criminally garish yellow, every shade of electric blue darts, the usual (dopey parrotfish) suspects altho’ here even they looked pretty cool, and so on and on and on, amazing.
We stayed 4 days and then went back to the first bay to check out. I was becoming more attached to this island, there’s so much more to see and do and I want to stay. Talking with some of the locals it just feels so special here. Other boat people are saying the same thing. Many yachts stay here for months.
One of the yachties explained to me that at
more exraordinary nuka hivan geology!
the ultimate point of reincarnation you come back as a Marquisan. I think he’s right. This is Paradise! There is something strange going on here, it is hard to describe exactly but the combination of the isolation, the topography, the people, the vibe in the air. Nuku Hiva has found it’s mojo. It is peaceful, sublime, magic! Run, ostensibly, by the French, but it looks very much in the hands of the local traditional people and they are having a great time.
I will be back!
Off again, another 3 or 4 day haul to the Tuamotus.
Ah, back to the night shift, thoughts return to food and sex and my 4 - 6 shift includes fabulous sunrises. We sailed for 3 days or so, hard to keep track of time, I believe it’s now May. Next stop, next group of islands, the Tuamotus and another astounding geographic phenomenon. The highest bit of the Tuomotus is about 4 metres above sea level. These are a group of atolls, rings of small coral islands around huge lagoons where once the mountains lay.
Now this has really got me puzzled. The book suggests the evolution - first the volcanic upheaval and
island forms, then the coral reefs grow in a fringe around the island, then the island disappears (this is where they lose me) and only the reefs are left.
Whatever, it’s certainly treacherous for navigating and the Tuomotus chain extends for several hundred miles. Even now ships and yachts get wrecked on a regular basis. We are glued to the GPS video game and also constantly watching out.
We got to Raioa about 5pm with the sun about to set. Altho’ the chain ring of islands appears to have large stretches of open water between the atolls there is actually only one entrance to the lagoon.
Following the very thoughtful and hopefully accurate directions in the book we find the entrance, line up 2 marker poles inside the lagoon and go for it. The current is unfortunately running hard and the water is swirling and roiling. Great choppy waves, a veritable washing machine is throwing us around, suddenly we are 100 metres off the course, both motors roaring we fight back to line up the markers, thru great smooth spots in the whirlpools I can see the bottom, coral, sharp and dangerous. Finally we get thru and into the tranquillity
of the lagoon but still no time to relax as we have to follow the line of markers down to the anchorage. The lagoon is huge. The atolls on the far side are on the horizon and there are coral heads and reefs everywhere.
We parked off the only inhabited atoll. Maybe 60-something people, lots of kids! A little village with houses, a church, a tiny store with not much and a pretty serviceable wharf where copra and oyster shells are loaded onto the 2 x month freighter. Down at the waterfront a dazzlingly white 2 storey building dominates the beach. It’s the school. Looks like only basic primary. The kids go off to Tahiti for further school, like for a whole year at a time.
All the atolls are thickly covered with palms, a fantastically beautiful, classic south-sea-island type scene. Copra, pearl shells and the famous black pearls are the only business here. The people are incredibly friendly but I’m thinking that if you’re stuck out here you’d soon get island fever and therefore any new face is reason for cheer.
Sunday morning and the church bell rings. Later, there’s a bit of commotion and a bloody plane arrives.
Yes, there’s just enough room for an air strip. We went ashore to wander around and it is a very nice, brand new airport. With the little waiting area, a bar even!!, a luggage trolley, fire truck and bituminised car park with 15 spaces (there is one vehicle on the island!) even one disabled park space…unbelievable!
Everyone waves and says ‘bonjour’, the cute kids always cheeky and chatty like all kids, it’s altogether a very laidback lifestyle. Nice enough but doesn’t do it for me like Nuku Hiva.
Time to move on and we weigh anchor with the pink dawn light. At the entrance the tide has already turned and it’s like a river rushing out the narrow break in the coral. We are thrashing thru at 10+ knots, more washing machine chop, the surge of water pushes out into the deep water. The bottom drops away to 2,000m in an instant. These atolls are just propped up but how, I’m still confused, where did the mountain/island go? If it subsided what holds the coral reef up? If it just eroded away why didn’t the reefs go too?
Onward, out of the lagoon and off West again. 3 days
sail to the next group, Tahanoe (?) a deserted atoll on another gigantic fringe reef. With little local tidal knowledge we found the entrance outflowing at 5 knots, swirling currents, ‘washing machine’ chop and great smooth eddies, like whale footprints, thru’ which I could see the coral encumbered bottom. The water, again, crystal clear turquoise with 100’ visibility.
With both motors engaged we plunged thru’ the narrow entrance, scary stuff, visions of coral heads glimpsed thru’ the turbulence.
We had an encouraging dolphin escort for the last mile or 2 and into the lagoon. A pair of bigger and older than previous dolphins were right under the bows, one kept rolling over and swimming with the bow just touching his belly and then I noticed a limpet fish had attached itself to the side of his head, just back from his mouth. I’m not sure if he was trying to scrape it off on the boat or what. Another dolphin joined the party and had 2 sucker fish on its head, just what’s this all about?
We anchored and I swam around the coral heads to the hard coral bank. The atoll was densely covered with palms, some trees and
green grass, extremely picturesque, another classic south sea island.
Next day off again and a bumpy ride out of the lagoon. We struck an awkward tide at the entrance and bucked like a bronco. I was standing at the bow, one moment 4 metres above the water and the next moment plunging down, water bursting up over my ankles, I was hanging on tightly to the gib and fore stays.
Another 2 days at sea. This morning, Friday 8th, my 4am shift started with good winds and Big Red hauling us along at 6 - 7 knots. Then, inevitably, at 5am the wind dropped.
I had been sitting backwards at the helm watching dawn’s crack. A brief glimpse of blood red then the sun disappeared behind the evepresent horizon clouds. I swung back and as the last stars faded I saw some shape beneath the big thunderheads 30 miles directly in front of us. With the glasses I saw it was land. Not just any land, that’s Tahiti, probably the most significant landfall on this voyage! I was ecstatic, cabin fever gone, I wanted to call out as the others were all below and asleep, but held off.
slipped below and poured myself a shot of scotch, sat up on the bow beneath Big Red and enjoyed Tahiti all to myself. M surfaced around 7am and we had another shot. Jim was next at 8 and we did it again.
Frustratingly the wind died down as often happens near land and finally we pulled Big Red down and fired up the motor so as to get to Point Venus before dark. How cool, just beyond the point is Cook’s anchorage, the Point being where he set up his Venus observations some 250 years ago.
Quite a set of islands, the Society Islands. Tahiti is the biggest. Awesome, even after our previous experiences. From the seabed some 3,500m deep the mountain rears up to nearly 2,500m high, I think! 7,228 feet. I believe this is the tallest of all the pacific islands.
From 10 miles out I can see the familiar furry folds, lush green, steeply rising slopes and ridges. Above the greenery a thick, whipped-creamy layer of cloud covers the entire island and it’s only when we get very close that I catch glimpses thru’ the cloud of jagged, misty peaks.
More stuff of dragons, mischief and witchcraft,
the prices weren't retro!
legendary monsters and source of all life, good and evil, from such ancient, dramatic volcanic origins. A place for the gods to exercise their powers, epic battles and all that Tolkienian stuff.. No wonder the original dwellers had such strong belief systems in magic, voodoo etc. Probably made it easier to adapt to christianity. Much more difficult to comprehend the twisted morality of the missionaries but I won’t go on.
I am highly disappointed, I wait at the rail for the canoe loads of dusky, under-dressed maidens of lore but the only girl to be seen paddles past in her outrigger joining the boys for the Friday arvo races. Totally clothed and never a sideways glance at us! Been there, done that. Well, her great, great Grandmother probably did!
With only an hour or so of light left we forewent Cook’s anchorage, broached the fringe coral reef and followed the carefully signposted channel down to the Tahiti Yacht Club which boasts the only like facility in the South Pacific with hot water!! What dat be?
The marina was chockers but we have a mooring bouy adjacent. So much easier to tie up to a bouy than frig around getting the
Call the Guiness book of records! For the first time in 11 months and countless stops this is the first time we haven’t had a beer after tying up. We dusted the last 6 pack at lunchtime today. We needed to celebrate. Everyone is on a high. This iconic place. A most serious achievement to get here and it hasn’t been all that difficult. For 4 people to live for so long in such a relatively confined space we have done remarkably well I feel. The ‘cabin fever’ has rarely manifested.
And we are all on a high, it is exciting stuff.
We have cocktails instead of beers. Still a little pastis left and the last litre of rum.
It feels right to be here and certainly quieter than Papeete. We might move down there on Monday but if we can get all we need here it will be fine.
There’s a reluctance to get ashore, back to the world of traffic, people, rush hours, big stores, police, immigration, pollution, noise, aeroplanes, a constant roaring, crowded chaos. Take me back to Nuku Hiva!
There’s WiFi here so I may be able to get online later.
Charley is baling
here and flies out Monday and as we don’t have replacement crew I’m going to hang in until Fiji, as long as we can get there by end of June. And Gonzalo is coming down in a week or so for 3 weeks so that will be fun.
It’s funny to be actually here after thinking about it so long and for me it is actually full circle as I stopped 3 days here last year on my way to Grenada.
And then to realise it’s only half way across the Pacific!! Jesus wept. But it has been the longer half. From here it’s a short hop to Morea and Bora Bora then 500miles to Cook islands, 800 to Tonga then 500 to Fiji. And then just a little whatever to Oz. (?). Hey, you know not to expect too much detail from me. So it looks like Jim and I will both fly out of Fiji around the end of June.
We took the bus to town (Papeete) for a little Bo Peep and it wasn’t as bad as we’d expected. I think having the first night a little up the coast here was a good idea.
The famed beauty of the local vahines is getting harder to track down and the past 200 years of western diet has brought the pork factor into more than bas relief. However, there are certainly some very chic little numbers getting around, any/all of whom could paddle out to my boat without fear of being turned away. And most of the local belles have a fabulous disregard for underwear…jajaja!
I recognise some familiar sights around Papeete and down at the waterfront we find new marina facilities and only 4 or 5 yachts. We will probably move down there Sunday, it should be cool living right in the city and right across the malecon are several nice bars.
Hey, several days later….parked at the mooring right in downtown Papeete. Yesterday, Monday, was a holiday so we still haven’t done very much. It’s now 6.30am Tuesday and the traffic is buzzing already. Yesterday we went for a drive with a bizarre character we had met the day before or more.. Renee has lived here 33 years and drives for his livelihood altho’ there’s a lot more going on. He is a recently failed candidate for president of Polynesia. His political
one small step....
water taxi Galapagos
planks are - the re-establishment of the kingdom of Tahiti, reimbursement of all the gold and silver and other wealth ripped off by the colonialists and the abolition of the formal ‘vous’ in the language so everyone will be friendlier.
I suggested he might also piss off the god botherers, there are lots of churches here, wreaking their usual havoc, morons, 7th day adventurers every fruitloop evangelista, why can’t they leave it alone? I reckon Jesus was a good man but this don’t look like Jesus to me, likewise where did he say anything about the power tripping vatican and who invented the flaming pope?, and then the totally screwed Spanish catholicism jajaja but you know I won’t go on.
Anyway, Renee was a great guide and drove us all around the island including a short little run across the isthmus and up the hill on Tahiti Iti. Tahiti is made up of 2 volcanic peaks joined by a narrow low-lying isthmus, what a prick of a word is isthmus! the larger bit is Tahiti Nui and the smaller Tahiti Iti. We drove right around Tahiti Nui, Beautiful place, lots of beaches, people out everywhere enjoying the holiday. The people
are really friendly here it’s extraordinary. All thru’ the islands they have been so but here in a city environment it is more striking. Last year I found the frenchness a bit overwhelming but this time everyone I’m meeting is definitely Tahitian first and French last. In fact the debate for independence rages on, the reality is the French government pumps beaucoup bux into the economy.
Much of the countryside is way more reminiscent of Asia. All the previous islands and of course everything Caribbean was so latino but here the villages, the look of the people that familiar, over-ripe smell of rotting vegetation, smoke from coco husk fires, ragamuffin kids, scraggy dogs, chooks and pigs, the whole deal! Very asian.
And lots of new cars, maybe they’re subsidiesd, I dunno. On the skirts of Papeete I saw a 4x4 dealership, on the vacant site next door he’d built a huge pile of volcanic rock and perched several vehicles over it, fantastic.
It was unusually cloudless so we got to see more than usual and even caught a view right into the heart of the interior, the Crown of Tahiti, a jagged circular formation, absolutely the stuff of magic and mystery again. There be dragons! Or pissed off tikis!
And it is really expensive here. I’m still avoiding the conversion because I know it will take much of the fun out of spending when I know just how freaking much I’m going thru’ jajaja…like we go to the bar over the road, have a few beers and sandwiches and 100 bux is dusted! Ouch!
We’ve been working on an index - like for100 bucks you can have either - 60 litres of diesel, 3 bottles of rum, a carton of smokes, 2 slabs of beer, a small tattoo (v small), 4 beers and sandwiches, an hour of taxi or an hour of internet….who said paradise was going to be cheap??
But the bread….omg and all the sandwiches are foot or 2 foot long baguettes, fresh baguettes, I can’t resist going the pig everytime I see them, and there are ready made sangers in all the shops and little street food vendors who’ll knock you up a quickie, matter of fact, I’ve got it now!
And Charley departed last night. Sad times as it’s been great having him onboard both as a sailing companion and also for his invaluable techo skills. And also he left me with a little ipod as mine finally shat itself, well it’s been around the world a few times, all the moto diary, it’s gotta be 5 years old, I might attempt a repair…did you see the photo of the camera? Jajaja
We’ve got a week before Gonzalo gets here but it’s noisy and exy here in town so we well might sail down the coast abit and hole up in some totally unbelievably picturesque little bay. Ha
There’s lots of nautical action here in the port to keep one amused. Right across from us is the monstrous Maltese Falcon a $100 million+ super fantasy yacht, some see it as beautiful, to me it’s tres ugly, the huge aluminium masts are just too fat for the perspective, but it sure is impressive. The masts rotate and the sails pull out from the masts along the spars, fcuking amazing! In front of the falcon is Ice another rich prick’s boat, all lovely dark grey and a pretty cute little chopper on the back deck, poseur! wankeur, I’m jealous all the same! Ha. Ice is so shiny, just above the waterline a seemingly seamless panel, with a slight hiss, eases silently out on its hydraulic arm to reveal the toy shed, jet skis, surf boards, kites, tanks everything.
Then over the back is a Korean spy ship. Almost capsizing under three enormous satellite dishes and innumerable bubbles, aerials, electrotecho whizbangery, and of course all the military/industrial/boffin spymasters are cunningly disguised as tourists! Ha, doesn’t fool anyone!
Then there are the hi-speed cataferries that whip over to Morea and the other islands, freighters oh and there was a mega clipper, just gorgeous, big replica of a clipper, awesome, much have cost a million bucks just for the rigging, a spider’s web/cat’s cradle nightmare. And also the Golden Bear, a Californian traing ship for 400 young wannabe merchant mariners. We had a chat to some of them going to eat last night and they seem to be loving it, hell, why not?
Arrgghh…the flipping wifi is not working this morning so I might toddle uptown and see if I can find a cyber café.
Any photos that get across are courtesy of Jim, Charley and M…….Ta be to dem!!
But then, just one more quick plunge as we're right on the reef, lovely coral and I'm not sure if it's relevant but we are sort of close to Muraroa and/but some of the fish are absolutely weird , wired and wonderful...