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