Category Archives: French Polynesia

French Polynesia islands including: Marquesas, Society, Astrolls, Tuamotus, and Gambiers

Matt enjoying a morning SUP

Taravai Rest and Recovery

What a difference an anchorage makes, after 5 nights at sea and having disrupted sleep. We anchored in Baie Onemea in Taravai.  This is where we dropped the hook 10 months ago with our friends on Agape and Halcyon.  There was one other boat here when we arrived, but we were too tired to go somewhere else.  So, we anchored far out of the bay to have a better view of the sunset.

We woke to a beautiful, calm, flat, bay that had a light breeze.  So beautiful and perfect. Taravai is just what we needed after this long passage.

Taravai Mornings

Taravai Mornings

We spent 2.5 days in Baie Onemea.  Mostly catching up on sleep and cleaning.  The boat was a disaster both inside and out.  We had a perfect view of the sunset each night and were surprised to see a very big green flash on our first night.  Of course, we didn’t capture it on camera, but you have to believe me!

Matt captured a few shots of the sunset while I took photos of him.

Sunset Photos Taravai

Sunset Photos Taravai

It looks like Cousin It at the helm, but that is me :0

Cousin It watching the sunset

Cousin It watching the sunset

Taravai Village

On Sunday morning we motored the 5-miles over to the “main village” of Taravai.  I put that in quotes because there are 4 families that live on this island. They have a church and nothing else.  No magasin, post office, cars, or roads.  However, one of the families is super generous!  They host a Sunday Funday each week where they provide the main course and the guests bring the apps, salads, sides, desert, and beverages.  There are games, music and good times.  We celebrated Matt, Rachel, and Becca’s birthday here last May.

On the way over it was impossible to miss the absolute beauty of the island.  It is incredibly lush and green.  Dozens of shades of green can be found covering the hills.  The Gambiers had a particularly wet season so everything is thriving spectacularly.

Taravai Hillside

Taravai Hillside

Taravai is synonymous with Valerie and Herve who live in the main village.  They served up BBQ’d goat which Matt said was amazing.  We met lots of new people and ran into some other cruisers we have not seen since we arrived a year ago.  There are 4 main islands and lots of motus that make up the Gambiers.  At this time, there are only 15 boats in the entire archipelago and 10 of them are at this anchorage for the festivities.  We are early in the season so I am sure more boats will be coming soon. Last year when we arrived, there were 35 boats in the Rikitea anchorage alone!

Several boats left the next day.  By Tuesday, it was just Sugar Shack in front of Valerie and Herve’s place.  Nice, all to ourselves again!  Matt took advantage of the calm days and went on a long SUP ride.

Matt enjoying a morning SUP

Matt enjoying a morning SUP

Taravai was just what we needed after this passage.  It gave us the chance to rest and recover and then to reengage with other cruisers.  

Magsin Celine

Provisioning: Our version of Ralph’s Supermarket

Provisioning, what is it?  You have heard me say a number of times, that we had to provision the boat.  What exactly does that mean?  You, as a landlubber (yes, that is what we call you), can easily walk or hop in your car and go to the nearest Costco, Super Target, Ralph’s or Randalls to pick up your groceries.  You can even pop in a convenience store (7-11) or mini market (gas station) to get basic supplies.  Not to mention the farmer’s market to get fresh goods from growers.  You are after all in the land of plenty.

Here in the islands, we don’t have those luxuries.  I am not complaining, just stating the facts.  Almost every island has a “magasin” which is a type of market or grocery store.  It is similar to a minimarket or 7-11 and about the same size with twice as much stuff packed into the same amount of space.  With the exception of Tahiti, most islands and atolls are limited to what they can store and sell in between deliveries from the supply ships.

Supply Ships

The number and size of these magasins are dependent on the size of the island, the population, and the number of tourists.  Most of the Tuamotu atolls have very small and limited provisions. However, the larger islands like Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa (Marquesas), Mangareva (Gambiers), and Tahiti, Bora Bora (Society) will have more variety.

The supply ship comes from Tahiti and brings provisions to the outer islands.  For example, in Nuku Hiva, the supply ship comes every 2 weeks.  However, we visited during the holidays and we ship was here once in 2.5 months!

Nuku Hiva Magasins

Nuku Hiva is the largest and most populated island in the Marquesas. It has several decent magasins, a produce market, and plenty of fruit bearing trees.  We shop for provisions (food, produce, fruit, veg, beverages) at the local magasins, produce market, and buy direct from locals.  On very rare occasions, we will pick directly from the trees when they appear to be on public property (not on private land).

So, what does a local magasin look like?  Let me tell you, the Nuku Hiva magasins are above average in size and stock. Good for us, for now!  Most have between 3-4 isles, with end caps, frozen area, liquor area, and produce area.

Magasin Celine

This magasin offers hydroponic lettuce which is a rare treat.  It has a super small produce area (see bottom photo in back on red baskets), 2 freezers and plenty of dry goods.

Magasin Celine

Magasin Celine

You might see an entre isle or two of cereal, but here we have a ¼ of an area for cereal.  But, you an see we have Special K.  They do have an entire isle filled with liquor though. 

Typical isle

Typical isle

One thing we leaned very quickly is that liquor is extremely expensive here.  Thank goodness we did not need to purchase any during our year stay.  I took some photos of liquor bottles…an easy conversion is to drop the last two digits.  So, for example the bottle of Baileys is $49, he Jack Daniels is $86, and the Bombay is $79.

Expensive liquor

Expensive liquor

Magasin Kamake

This magasin has its own bakery and supplies other magasins with fresh baguettes.  It is a little more stocked with a different variety of food.  They do have an “organic” or “natural” isle which is intriguing.

Kamake with a natural selection of food

Kamake with a natural selection of food

Their produce area is actually refrigerated (to make them last longer) and they have a few more freezers of meats.

Produce Market

Provisioning runs always include a search for fresh produce.  Nuku Hiva has its own produce market, which is a rare treat!  They are open in the mornings from 0530-1130.  Each day it differs depending on the local deliveries.  The lower left photo is a tasty fruit called pumplemouse which is similar to a grapdefruit.

Produce market

Produce market

Artisan Market

Another wonderful treat is the artisan market. We have only seen an artisan market in a few islands and we have visited well over a hundred throughout French Polynesia!  This is where the local artists showcase and sell their crafts.  It can include hand-carved marlin bone, necklaces, tapa cloth, hand-carved wood statues and oh so much more.

Wood and bone carvings

Wood and bone carvings

Jewelry, honey, carvings

Artisan goods

Artisan goods

In short, provisioning in the islands is a smaller version of shopping in the States.  Less variety and quantity, but what do you expect living in a third world country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?  I’m thinking we are pretty darn blessed.

The economy in the Marquesas is very fragile, but from what we have seen it is still thriving.  Provisioning for locals usually consists of their own fresh produce and fish that they catch.

Other Services

Nuku Hiva is way advanced compared to most places.  They have a very robust recycling program. With all of the provisioning we cruisers do it is nice to know we can recycle our glass, plastic and aluminium.

Recycling Center

Recycling Center

All of the post offices are yellow and look the same.  Most post offices have an ATM (because there are no banks on smaller islands or atolls) and sell the local cell/data sim cards.

Typical post office

Typical post office

There is one jail on the island, which was generally used for ‘short stay’ internments such as the last 3 months of sentences and was also often altogether empty. Lately, however, prisoners can opt to do their full sentence here if they have no family on Tahiti, so the Nuku Hiva jail now has inmates all the time.

Jail in Nuku Hiva

Jail in Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva’s Marae

Most of the islands in French Polynesia have marae created and left behind by the local’s ancestors.  These marae are ancient open air sacred temples where many tikis are located which are personifications of divinities and heroes.  However, some islands have a great number of marae and tikis than others.  Some islands were cultural centers where elders and leaders gathered to hold ceremonies.

The Marquesas reveal their beauty and transport their visitors in a voyage out of time. Discover these treasures at the end of the world !

Nuku Hiva has a several ceremonial areas with many marae located around the grounds.  One of the biggest areas is in the main bay of Taiohae which is where we anchored while we waited for our parts to arrive.  The overall grounds are about the size of a football field.  To the far right is a covered area with a thatched roof being held up by hand-carved tikis.

Marae Grounds

Marae Grounds

In the back and behind the covered area are several large stones waiting to be carved.  I wonder if they are waiting for the next cultural festival?  You can imagine what shapes they may become, for instance the one on the lower right could be a great turtle and the one on the upper left would make a great tiki family.  The center photo probably was a light warning of hazardous waters (shallow and rocky).

Carvings Tell a Story

I wish the marae site had signs explaining their significance.  Unfortunately, there is no literature or information on them.  I do know that each carving tells a story and shares the history and culture of the local population.  The top photo depicts a family, the lower left looks like a warrior and the bottom right their food source, fish.

Marae house, fish, tiki

Marae house, fish, tiki

This little guy is well balanced and has two designs.  One on each side.  I think he is my favorite because he is so unusual.

Love this marae

Love this marae

The warrior tikis protect the bay around this marae. Then I found two bowl type carvings with lots of little tikis around the center bowl.  Super cool, maybe a baptism area?  Ha, no!

More beautiful marae

More beautiful marae

In the corner of the site is a large tiki with a book in its mouth. The book had carvings in Marquesan.

Large marea with bible in mouth

Large marea with bible in mouth

Another large marae was located in the center, on a platform.  It looked like a chief or leader flanked by guards.

Marea of leader

Marea of leader

Despite the amazing beauty of the tikis and marae, many people just walk right on by.  However, many cruisers have stopped to relish in the history.