Tag Archives: marquesas

Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou

Legendary Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Our first Marquesan island was Nuku Hiva.  Primarily, because we needed to refuel, reprovision, catch up on internetting, and just relax after our passage.  But our goal was to get to Ua Pou, the island with the legendary pinnacles and the official host of the Marquesan festival that only occurs once every four years.

Marquesan Festival in Ua Pou

Matt and I had been doing recognizance in Nuku Hiva to try to determine how we can attend this once in a lifetime opportunity.  We learned that there are only two small areas where anchoring is allowed for cruisers which will only hold 10 boats each.  And there are issues with both locations.  One has a horrible swell and is known as a “surf spot” and the other is actually located in part of the marine protected area. 

The other bays have anchoring available but there is no way to get from there to the main village.  The island only one main dirt road with only 10 licensed transport drivers.  The main village will have 4 cruise ships (not sure where how they are going to fit into the small bay of Hakahau.  So, at this point we need to head to Ua Pou to scout it out for ourselves.

Passage to Ua Pou from Nuku Hiva

Ua Pou is a short 28nm sail from Nuku Hiva.  Before we pulled up the anchor, Matt spent some time cleaning up the bridle which was covered in muck.  Nuku Hiva has some stuff in the water that dirties our waterline and makes a mess of the anchor chain.  It gave us an idea of what to expect when the chain came up and it was spot on – gross!  The pressure washer was needed to clean off the chain as we pulled her up and stowed her away.  I mean it was disgusting!

With clean (or cleaner) chain, we raised the main with 1 reef and let out the jib with 2 reefs.  We were sailing along at 8-9kts in 18-20kts of wind on a beam reach.  It was a lovely sunny sailing day.  About an hour out of Ua Pou we pulled in a 2nd reef in the main as we were seeing over 20kts of wind and 11kts of boat speed.    We made it to Ua Pou in a little over 4 hours – excellent timing! 

Ducking in and out of Anchorages

We swung into the main anchorage of Hakahau to try to determine the small approved anchoring area.  There were 4 boats already in the harbor and only one of them was in the approved areas (and that was just barely in the corner).  I’d say that half of the area is not safe to anchor in due to the swell.  We also passed by the airport anchorage Baie Aneo but there was no way to get to shore.  The next bay was Hakahetau which had another small approved spot.  When we swung in it was really rolly and we decided not to stay there either.Sugar Shack dropped the hook in Baie de Vaiehu.  There is no village in this bay, just beautiful, colorful mountains.

About Ua Pou

Ua Pou, has a very picturesque geology.  It has been described as having a collection of 12 pointy pinnacles that soar like missiles from the basaltic shield.  They form one of the Marquesas’ most photographed scenes even though they are almost constantly shrouded in swirling mist.  In addition to these massive pillars are a few oasis-like valleys bursting with tropical plants and beaches.

Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Four high basalt pillars are in the center of the island.  These pinnacles are Poumaka at 979m, Matahenua at 1,028m, Pouake at 1,034m and the tallest Mount Oave  at 1,203m.  Oave is the highest elevation in the Marquesas.  They reach high above the surrounding mountains. 

Ua Pou Pinnacles

Ua Pou Pinnacles

Legend of the Pinnacles

Legend has it that Ua Pou symbolizes the entrance pillars to God’s house. Huge basaltic columns reaching the sky and holding the names of legendary warriors: Poutetaunui and Poumaka. In 1888, they inspired poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who mentioned them as “volcanic arrows looking like a church bell tower.”

We are blessed to be visiting during a time when these majestic pinnacles are often standing tall and free of clouds.  From what I understand, this is a rare treat.  Yet, we have seen these giants at least 4-5 times per week since we’ve been here.

As we discussed in the history of the Marquesas’ islands, many inhabitants were ravaged by diseases introduced by European explorers and traders.  However, the Catholic priests on Ua Pou were able to preserve the population by quarantining the native population in the churches whenever visiting ships arrived.  Thereby reducing their exposure to external diseases and making Ua Pou one of the most populous of the Marquesas Islands until the 1980’s.  Today, the population is estimated to be 2,300 inhabitants which is roughly 1/3 the population of Nuka Hiva.

Drone Shots of Sugar Shack at Baie de Vaiehu

Baie de Vaihoe, Ua Pou

Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou

Matt & Christine

Tu Hiva Tiki in Nuku Hiva

Legend has it that god made a “big house” represented by the Marquesan islands.  The largest of them is Nuku Hiva which is the top of the framework.  The tallest peak on the island is well over 4,000’.  Nuku Hiva is the 2nd largest island in French Polynesia and the main island in the Marquesas with a total population of 3k people.

Originally, we were planning on making our way straight to Ua Poa after leaving the Tuamotus.  However, we were in desperate need of provisions and fuel and needed to arrive in a more populated island.  Thus, our arrival to Nuku Hiva.  After all, we had a wonderful, but long stay away from civilization.  For the past 6 weeks we have been off the grid so to speak.  The Fakarava south pass and Tahanea had zero supplies.  Makemo had several magasins but they were mostly empty waiting for the supply ship (which only arrives every 3 weeks). 

Needing a replenishment of fruits, veggies, bread, eggs, and meats, we arrived at the main island of Nuku Hiva.  Sugar Shack was hungry and in need of diesel and gasoline as we had not refueled since Tahiti in early July (4 months prior).  

There are 5 magasins here, some better stocked than others.  Lots of fresh produce including at the veggie market and magasins.  There is also a fish market and fisherman who sell their daily catch each morning (at 0530).  Lots of options!

We know several cruisers here!  Our friends on Maple showed up 24 hours after we did (remember we left Makemo at the same time, but they have a smaller boat that does not point as well as Sugar Shack).  Our friends on Heart and Soul (Dave and Margaret) welcomed us to the baie.  We had not seen them since Valdivia, Chile.  And our friends on Bella (Matias and Ulreka) whom we have not seen since Curacao over 2 years ago are here.  It is amazing to me how small the cruising community is while sailing the vast open waters.

Hike to Baie Colette

We gathered a group of cruisers for a hike to another baie.  There were 12 of us, but we only knew 7 of them (Maple, Heart and Soul, and Bella).  A gent name Williem from Rambler, a couple from Lila (Graham and Janet) were also with us.

Hiking Crew in Nuku Hiva

Hiking Crew in Nuku Hiva

It was a fairly easy hike up a few hills, but it was hot.  We passed a lovely cemetery that was well manicured.

Cemetery in Nuku Hiva

Cemetery in Nuku Hiva

Breathtaking views along the way of the Taiohae Baie where we are anchored.  We are the boat by itself on the far right.

Baie Colette Hike

Baie Colette Hike

We arrived to a beautiful black sand beach and cool waters.  It was great to cool off in the water.  There was a small tiki under a bougainvillea bush too.

Baie Colette Success

Baie Colette Success

Tu Hiva Tiki

Fort Madison was established in 1813.  In 1842 it received military headquarters, barracks, a warehouse, a powder magazine to add to the seven cannon guns.  The French take over the fort in 1842 but then abandon it in 1859.  The Catholic Missionaries take over and turn it into a school and then a hospital.

Fort Madison in Nuku Hiva

Fort Madison in Nuku Hiva

At the fort, overlooking the baie is the Tiki Tuhiva.  It is known to be the highest contemporary sculpture in the Pacific.  It has an iron structure which is completely covered with shotcrete coated with “keetu” (a reddish volcanic tuff used by Marquesan stone carvers.

The woman tiki is 12 meters high and the warrior is 8 meters tall.  It took six months and six people to erect both statues.  The warrior Tuhiva steps forward to master his future with the ancestral strength inherited from “Woman Tiki” the warden of tradition and knowledge.

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Another smaller version of the tiki was found on the Fort grounds as well.

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Celebrating Year Wedding Anniversary – 14 years

Matt and I enjoyed a day at the Keikahanui Pearl Resort to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.  It was a bit of a splurge for us, but we enjoyed every minute.  We enjoyed a very tasty lunch and several bottles of rose while lounging at their pool and using their wifi.  What a great day!

Lunch on our Anniersary

Lunch on our Anniversary

 

We had so much fun hanging out at the pool, drinking rose and enjoying the beautiful day.

Celebrating 14 years together

Celebrating 14 years together

A funny picture of a young boy carrying his chickens around town.

A boy and his chickens

A boy and his chickens

We have been busy here.  

  • Refueled boat (both diesel and gasoline)
  • Filled both dive tanks
  • Topped up propane tanks
  • Did several loads of laundry
  • Water tanks topped off
  • Provisioned the boat
  • Fixed our jib sail
Sail repair

Sail repair

Drone Shots:

Matt took some great shots of the Tu Hiva Tiki with the drone

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Aerial photo of the anchorage and the tiki.

Nuku Hiva Anchorage

Nuku Hiva Anchorage

Sugar Shack siting by herself being unsociable.

Sugar Shack in Nuku Hiva

Sugar Shack in Nuku Hiva

 

Nuku Hiva

The Mountainous Islands of Marquesas

What a change of scenery!  It was so nice to wake up to tall, sweeping mountains against a brilliant blue sky.  Of course, I was still partially asleep being we just set the hook 4 hours earlier.  The mountain sides are not particularly green and lush in Baie Taiohae, but they are pretty.  Welcome to the Marquesas.

Most cruising boats plan to arrive to this archipelago when traveling from Panama and Galapagos.  It is a direct route with typically good winds allowing for an 18-30 day passage.  Number of days depends on the boats, sail trim, and wind obviously.  The cruisers we know that have made this passage tended to complete it in 25-28 days.  The exception was Barry with Adventures of an Old Sea Dog who took over 70 days as a single handler. 

Most of our cruisers friends stopped at the Marquesas first.  We, however, have never been here before.  As you might recall, we arrived in the Gambiers when entering French Polynesia.  So, these beautiful and majestic islands are all new to us!

The Marquesas Archipelago

There are five major islands, but a total of 15 that make up the Marquesas archipelago. The major islands include Nuka Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Pu, Fatu Hiva, and Ua Huka.  The first settlement was in AD 900-1,000 by Polynesians.  It wasn’t until 1526 that it was later “discovered by the Spanish.  Today, over 9,400 inhabitants populate the Marquesas islands.

Marquesas Archipelago

Marquesas Archipelago

The Marquesas suffered a great population decline from endemic diseases carried by Western explorers.  The indigenous people suffered high rates of mortality as they had no immunity to the new diseases.  The population was reduced from 78k inhabitants to about 20k by the middle of the nineteenth century.  By the turn of the 20th century, the population was further reduced to just over 4k.  By 1926, it was a measly 2300 inhabitants. Shortly thereafter, the population took a turn and slowly increased to 8,500 in 2002 and finally to 9,400 in 2017.

In contrast to the other Polynesian islands, the Marquesas are all volcanic and high islands (except Motu One).  With steep volcanic mountains that plunge straight into the ocean.  They are also very dry islands, unlike its sister Polynesian islands that are lush and flowing with tropical vegetation.  View of Baie Taiohae the morning after we arrived.

Mountains of Nuku Hiva

Mountains of Nuku Hiva

The Marquesas’ islands are not surrounded by a protective fringing reef which is another difference between the archipelagos.  Coral is only found in one place in the Marquesas.  Coral is at the top of the island Fatu Huku, a rather strange location. 

Different from the Tuamotus

These islands suffer from frequent drought conditions because of their prevailing easterly winds that spawn from the Humbolt Current.  This has led to historical fluctuations in water supply, which have played a crucial role in the sustainability of human populations in certain sections of the various islands throughout the archipelago.

The islands range in age.  Fatu Hiva is the youngest island at 1.3 million years old and Eiao is the oldest island at 6 million years old. 

The Marquesas islands also known as Henua Enana, land of men has created a race of strong people of immense pride and fascinating culture.  The islands are full of natural wonders including 305 meter (1000’) waterfalls that cascade down volcanic cliffs and towering mountains.