Having received special permission to stop in French Polynesia during the COVID-19 pandemic we made our landfall in Nuku Hiva in the Northern Marquesas. This was a requirement of the department of health to complete a mandatory quarantine period on board. Ideally from a sailing perspective it is nicer to make landfall in the south of the Marquesas and then cruise north – like we did last time we visited these islands in 2006.
I couldn’t really remember Taiohae bay in Nuku Hiva, as we had only spent a night or two here, but the stunning cliffs as we sailed into the deeply indented bay made us feel super excited. Having caught two tuna that morning on the way in we had been pretty busy on our approach, getting that all stored away. We called Nuku Hiva yacht services as soon as we had anchored, as instructed, and were informed that we were in quarantine and to keep our yellow flag flying until such time as we were advised we had been released. As we had arrived on the weekend we didn’t expect a prompt release, so settled into getting Askari all spruced after the passage. We were allowed to receive visitors alongside, but not aboard, and had a steady stream of old and new friends, offering assistance. We were brought everything from croissants, and French cheeses to of course local Hinano beer – we had left Galapagos without a single beer as it was hard to carry from town…..
|Champagne to celebrate arrival|
|A stash of goodies from cruiser friends during our quarantine|
We were released from quarantine by a doctor in Tahiti on the Wednesday evening, and were promptly invited to neighbours Debbie and Stephen on Oyster 53, Amelie for a gin and tonic – how strange it felt to be on another yacht. Quite surreal actually and what we found over the next few days was that sailing into this island paradise was like going back in time to before coronavirus. We met and hugged friends and the first hike with Bev was just incredible – lovely views but the best thing was just to be walking again after so many months. It actually has taken us quite a long time to get the walking muscles back again.
|Beautiful Taiohae Bay|
|With Bev -First Girlfriend hug since March|
|Stretching our legs felt amazing |
|Looking towards the town dock|
|a new tiki overlooking the bay|
The Marquesans are a wonderful, warm and friendly group of people, living in one of the most isolated places on the planet but with everything provided by these islands where, goats, chickens and pigs run wild, the sea is brimming with fish and the fertile lands mean that fruit and vegetables are plentiful. Though in the French social system, a wonderful climate and sitting outside the cyclone zone and this really is paradise – although I know most Marquesan’s still appear to want more autonomy over public spending, they are governed locally, but also from Tahiti and from Paris …..
The islanders are fiercely proud of their culture – despite it having been band by missionaries for so many years. Music, dance, tattoos are part of everyday life – when chatting with a lovely local lady, Collette, we learned there would be dancing for the president of French Polynesia who was in town for Marquesas day and we could watch once we heard the drums…. We arrived a little early and had to sit through some speeches in french but the local school kids kept us entertained and then the famous haka dancers arrived – wow! After the ceremony the kids all garnished the president with handmade bead lays, he had so many it was crazy.
|Dances for the President of French Polynesia|
|Ceremonial grounds on the waterfront|
|Everywhere in Taiohae there's old tiki statues|
After a few days of stocking up and enjoying meals out the swell in the bay got the better of us and we decided to make a run for the north coast and explore. We had a fantastic sail in light winds to Anaho bay, just totally amazingly protected and only a handful of other yachts. The scenery was stunning with high moutains all around and clear water. We dropped anchor and then went to explore in the dinghy and found a group of 6 manta rays – I grabbed my snorkel and hopped in – how amazing to swim with these gentle giants. Ashore we found super friendly locals and learned there was a "restaurant" we could book in for lunch – we of course got straight on that. So next day we took a great hike to the local farm and another bay – the farmers allowed us to pick tomatoes, cucumbers and melons – I needed a bit of help with melons having no idea how to pick a good one. We also got given pamplemouse – virtually free in these islands. We returned to the bay fully loaded ready for lunch a goat curry lunch at chez David’s. We learned that during the lock down, the cruisers in Anaho enjoyed quite a lot of freedom and the friendships were so great that when the yachts were told to go to Taiohae bay the locals refused to let ‘ their cruisers’ go. It was a really special place and we ended up spending over a week there – sharing sundowners and more meals at David’s, we had the local kids on Askari for biscuits and shared beers with the local men. The hike to neighbouring Haiteheu was demanding but oh so worth it.
|View from the window - Anaho Bay|
|lunch at Chez David's|
|Lovely Anaho Bay|
|Holiday time onboard Askari|