Sunday, July 02, 2006

June 30, Nuku HIva, Marquesas

We are back in the anchorage off the main town on Nuku Hiva after a night in Daniel's Bay, about 5 miles west. It's not many miles but a world apart.

On June 28 two other cruising boats and we rented a 4WD truck and made an excursion around about half of the island. We climbed out of town up a precipitously steep hillside to a ridge with a magnificent view of the bay and the sea beyond. This bay was the site of Herman Melville's escape off a whaler in 1842 when he was 23 years old. he took off across the same ridge to another valley where he spent a glorious month with a tattooed sweet young thing and wrote about his adventures in Typee, his spelling of Taiohae, the bay where we are anchored.

On our land excursion we saw several valleys and bays. In antiquity each valley was a separate chiefdom more or less at constant warfare with their neighbors. If attackers tried to march over a ridge into another valley, they were met by flying stones from slings. If the attack was by sea the weapons of choice were long clubs, some with a large tooth tied at the tip, spears that were shaped to break off after piercing the opponent. Once the fighting was over and there were captives, those unlucky ones had their necks broken with a specially shaped Y-shaped device. After that they were eaten. These Marquisians were and probably still can be pretty fierce.

On June 29th we sailed to Taioa Bay to hike up the valley to a 2000 foot waterfall, the third highest in the world. Cruisers call this bay "Daniel's Bay" after a gentleman who for 60 years welcomed visitors to this compact valley of just a few souls. We found out from one of the residents that Daniel had just passed away last week. Although our informant spoke only a few words of English, it was clear by his expression that the village experienced a great loss.

The hike to the waterfall took us past many raised stone platforms, daises, and walls in the forest, evidence of a very active previous population. the path often used an ancient road about 8 feet wide and very straight. It was raised from the surrounding ground by stone walls on each side and filled in the middle. Besides being straight, the path held a very steady grade, as if heavy objects might have been transported over it. The waterfall seen from afar was most impressive in its height. Arriving at the base, we could see only the bottom thirty feet or so because the rest was hidden in a fold of the mountainside. It was a fascinating four hour hike.

Back in the village we met a man who brought us into his house which consisted of a roof, a raised platform for a bed, and some benches and tables where he stored his tree cutting tools. there were no walls and the floor was dirt. He gave us papayas and we gave him a pair of swim shorts. Many of the houses in the village were of the similar construction making privacy practically unheard of. Each house was surrounded by a garden of fruit trees and flowers. Most were very well tended. Leaves were raked, grass was cut, bushes were trimmed. One man told us life was vary tranquil there. From what we saw that was an understatement.

We are now back in Taiohae Bay where tomorrow morning at 5:00 am there is a fruit and veggie market. We will stock up for our passage to Tahiti by way of the Tuamoto atolls. after the market at 9:00 am is France versus Brazil in a World Cup match. That should draw a crowd.

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