Today we arrived in the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, Nuku Hiva. Nuku Hiva was the site for the 4th installment of the popular television show Survivor and has been written of by famed authors and poets including Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The lagoon where we anchored was extraordinarily beautiful. Unlike the other islands where the lagoons were formed by the barrier reefs, Taiohae bay was created by the collapse of a volcanic crater. We will be anchored here for two days, omitting our other Marquesas port due to safety concerns.
We arrived in Nuku Hiva in the afternoon. I spent the morning at the Culinary Center in my second cooking class, learning how to make crepes. I had a fun partner today, Randy. He is traveling with a group of family and friends who were all in the class. His girlfriend is an artist and she was taking advantage of the classes in the Artists’ Loft. Randy has taken cooking classes at home-he recommends the ones that include wine.
Chef Annie learned how to make crepes from Julia Child. However, even a well-trained teacher couldn’t help me with my first two crepes; they were disastrous. A batter change and more experience and I finished the class with several attractive crepes. No matter their beauty, all the crepes I made tasted delicious. We made three different varieties today and Chef Annie also demonstrated a few other options that we got to sample. I left class full again.
In spite of being the largest of the Marquesas Islands, Nuku Hiva has no public transportation. After going ashore on the tender we were dispatched to the islanders’ private 4-wheel drive vehicles for our tour. The arrival greeting at the pier was the best yet with the chanting inhabitants in full native dress-nearly naked bodies and tattoos (the men that is; the women were modestly dressed).
Our driver spoke no English, but Boris conversed with her in French. His command of multiple languages comes in very handy at times. At designated meeting points all the vehicles-each holding 3 or 4 guests-parked and an English-speaking guide addressed the group. Our guide was obviously of Continental French descent, but she wore traditional Marquesas dress and jewelry and spoke warmly of the people.
The scenery was breathtaking with multiple bays with beautiful black sand beaches and lush rocky peaks. There were horses all over the island and we also saw more goats and cattle than found on our other stops. Of all the islands we had visited in French Polynesia, I found Nuku Hiva the most clean. The homes, while simple and modest, were all inviting and decorated with wonderful foliage and flowers. We were treated to tasty taro chips, fruit, and fried bananas prepared by our hosts.
The society is very traditional with the men working and the women managing the home and children. The men also do beautiful wood craving and the women make jewelry in black, white, and red from the native seeds. The island is not set up for large-scale tourism. There is one simple hotel and the restaurants were mostly open air stands along the beaches.
After our tour, we went back to the ship for our reservations in Toscana, the ship’s Italian specialty restaurant. The pasta trio was a wonderful course with a specially designed plate for presentation. Other than the pasta and the bread selection, the rest of my meal was ho hum and Boris agreed. While we had wonderful service and the option to choose your own olive oil and vinegar was a nice touch, Toscana was our least favorite specialty restaurant.
The island dancers had been invited to the ship since we had an unanticipated overnight in Nuku Hiva. We watch them arrive beating their drums via our balcony. We missed the show due to our restaurant reservations, but they replayed it on our stateroom TV.
On the second day, we went ashore to walk along the beach and visit the handicrafts market. Boris got a wonderful carved wood cane and I got a gift for Rocky, a manta ray carved out of wood with a wonderful tail made of bone. The dancers were once again performing near the market. A small child tried to mimic the move of the war dance and his mother added a grass skirt so he could look the part.
We returned to the ship for a late lunch on the terrace of the café on the back of the ship under cloudy skies but with no rain. It was the first time I had ever returned to the ship dry. I love the view of this lagoon.
The Vaipo Waterfall, the highest in French Polynesia and the 4th highest in the world, is located on Nuku Hiva. We were told that after a boat ride to reach the closest point, it was a tough 2-hour hike in and another 2-hour hike back if you wanted to see it. Our young friend Noah, an experienced hiker and a member of Boris’ trivia team, made it in 2½ hours roundtrip. He said it was spectacular. Noah was on what was supposed to be the last tender back to the ship. Scheduled to leave the dock at 5:30 for the less than 10-minute trip to the Marina, we watched the tender pull in with Noah at 6:00. We were going to give him a hard time about being late and making us all wait when we saw another tender head back to shore.
Although the ship was scheduled to leave the lagoon at 6pm (all aboard was 5:30), about 6:15 another tender headed back to shore. Boris got the story later at trivia. (Since the Cruise Director runs the very competitive trivia, it seems the participants always know the pulse of the ship.) A female hiker got lost about 2 pm; she was alone with no cell phone. She wandered for hours and finally found a small home with “two 400-pound men” inside and she paid them $100 to drive her to the pier. The Marina had notified the police who contacted the ship when she was on her way down. The woman rejoined the ship and went back to her cabin and cried for 5 hours. She herself told the guests about her experience when she finally came out for trivia. Drama at sea.