1 March 2016 – 9500 steps
Internet Access and Bank in Taiohae
6am Aranui anchors
8am Barges start going to Taipivai Beach
9am Departure from Taipivai Beach in 4WD to Kamuihei Site
9:40am Visit of the Tohua Kamuihei archaeological site in Hatiheu, then visit church, chief Tomb and small museum
12:30pm Lunch in the Restaurant “Chez Yvonne” in Hatiheu with the opening of the Umu – Marquesian earth oven
2:30pm departure in 4WD to Taiohae Village
3:45pm Guided tour of Taiohae Cathedral
5:30pm Return to Aranui
6pm Meeting about the next stop in Ua Pou
9:30pm Aranui Band – Veranda Bar
We woke up early in the morning. It was only 6:30 in the morning but the light was starting to shine through the slight opening in the curtains. I decided to go out and have a peek to see where we were. As I pulled the curtains back I realized that we were in secluded Taipivai Bay with lush green mountains all around us. We were pulling into this small bay but Kirsten and I wanted to see more than the incredible view from our balcony cabin. We wanted to see what was in front of the ship.
So after quickly getting dressed, we headed up to the 9th deck and found the Sky Bar which we had not yet seen. It was a beautiful bar with chairs and glass windows overlooking the freight deck of the ship. It was an incredible view of the entire valley. We asked if it was possible to go up to the bridge where the captain is piloting the ship. While it is normally open to any passenger, it is closed for the 30 minutes prior to and during the time it is being anchored or moored to a dock.
It was not necessary, however, because there is a wrap around deck on the 10th floor that goes from the starboard side to the port side of the ship and wraps around in front of where the captain is piloting the Aranui 5. We watched all of the action below us as smaller boats were lifted off of the freight deck of the ship and lowered into the water. The views from this deck were incredible and gave us a birds eye view of the all that was taking place on the freight deck below.
I decided that it was probably a good time to have breakfast as the first barges to Taipivai Beach would be starting at 8am. It didn’t take long to eat and the buffet breakfast menu was the same as the previous days with plenty of fresh fruit and hot entrees.
We were on the second set of barges to shore. We were close enough that it only took about five minutes from the ship to the black sand beach. Once we arrived at the beach with the front of the boat on the shore, the front of the barge flipped down to give us an angled platform to walk directly from the boat and onto the beach. It was far enough onto the beach that we could just walk onto the sand and up the slope with the help of about eight Aranui staff that were on both sides of each passenger, ready to help them walk up the sand to where 50 to 60 4×4 trucks were waiting for us.
It was strange to see so many trucks on a deserted stretch of beach. Everyone was walking from truck to truck looking for and claiming one along with its driver as their own. After wandering around for a few minutes looking for a truck, we finally found one near the front of the train of vehicles where Kirsten and I could both sit together in the same vehicle.
Our driver’s name was Nicko. He was a young 20 something man who was taking over driving the taxi for his dad who was away on holidays in Papeete. Nicko did not speak English and not very talkative. I asked him a number of questions from time to time but he was a friendly but quiet and shy guy.
Around 9am, the stream of cars started to leave the beach area and we joined in the procession of jeeps toward the Tohua Kamuihei archaeological site in Hatiheu. We quickly realized why we were in 4×4 trucks. The road was a dirt road most of the way and there were lots of ruts making for an adventurous and bumpy ride. We bounced around in the truck and Kirsten, being in the middle back seat was getting a bit car sick. Anyone having issues with motion sickness should definitely be in the front seat or beside a window for a jittery ride like this. The driver wove side to side on the road to miss the biggest of the potholes but it only seemed to make the ride last a bit longer. For a section of road near the village there was some paved roads but then we started to go up a mountain pass that was a simple gravel road again.
We passed by about a dozen skinny wild horses that were grazing on the side of the road as we zigzagged up the mountainside. The occasional house could be seen to the side but mostly there were towering trees as though the road had sliced through the wild jungle.
After climbing the mountain, we started to descend into Hatiheu on a paved road. Our first viewpoint was of the stunning rock pinnacle mountains that stick up like sharp pointed fingers near the shoreline. The road switchbacked down the other side of the mountain and there were about 3 or 4 viewpoints that peered out from the road in between the dense jungle foliage encircling the road. Three men were part way down the mountain with giant weed whackers clearing the brush on the side of the road. Soon the road turned into dirt with big ruts and holes. The road widened and the entourage of 4×4’s started to park to the side as everyone got out at the archaeological site.
Standing around an enormous banyan tree was a group of young Marquesian performers painted in earth tones of orange and dressed in traditional clothing made of leaves, bark and vines. They started to chant and sing as we arrived, “Ho, Ha, Hey. Ho, Ha Hey”, which attracted everyone to gather around them. They performed a number of songs and dances as a few beat on their tall drums. All of this done in front of the most massive tree in the area. A tree that was many years ago found to be an ancient burial site as cannibalized skeletons and sculls were discovered in holes around the base of the tree 50 years earlier.
Kirsten and I slipped away to another area of the archaeological site where some tikis and stone platforms were located. We wandered around with a few others before an English speaking guide came by with 30 others from our cruise group. For the next 45 minutes, we walked together from place to place around the site as she explained the history, culture and significance of not only this site but also the Marquesian people. She also pointed out a variety of petroglyphs that were scattered throughout the site. It was interesting to learn that the Marquesians were such a war friendly people that fought against each other constantly by sending their warriors out to capture people from other tribes.
As we were nearing the last quarter of our tour, we could hear the sound of rain high in the trees. It started to get louder and louder but there still was not much rain falling on us. I ran to our Taxi and put my backpack inside then headed back to our group. The canopy of leaves above us was so dense and large that it seemed to shield us for a time. Then the rain got louder and harder. Drops of rain started to reach us and then we heard a torrential downpour. On the open road it was coming down in buckets and soon the tree canopy started to leak. Too much rain was falling that there was no-where for it to go. We made a dash back for our taxi and had to wait about 5 minutes for the other two passengers to arrive in their raincoats. By now a small creek was running down alongside the road.
Our driver took us into the nearby village as the rain calmed down to a sprinkle before stopping. We arrived at 11:30 which was about an hour earlier than planned. The rain storm had certainly sped up our arrival time. We had lots of time to wander around the village before it would be time to watch them pull out the pig from the earth oven.
It was at this time that I discovered that I had brought the wrong cable to connect my iPad to a remote control unit for my drone. I had planned on pulling out my brand new drone and filming the beautiful harbour and beach with some aerial views. I started to ask a number of the local taxi drivers if they had an iPod charger. After having no luck with that, I went around from table to table at the restaurant, asking my fellow travellers on the Aranui if any of them had brought a charger cable with them. Many of them had cables, but they were all back on the ship.
After an hour of looking and asking people, I was walking by my taxi driver to tell him I had no luck in locating what I needed. This shy Polynesian man said in French to me, “We are calling someone who may be able to help.” He was with another person that was selling jewellery and she was making a phone call to her friend who was the Principal at the local elementary school only 2 minutes away up the mountainside. Within a minute she said, yes she had a cable, we can go up to the school to get it.
My taxi driver drove me and his friend up the hill to the school where the principal was waiting. She handed me the cable while I thanked her for lending me the cord. She, like other local Polynesians, amazed me with her friendliness and willingness to lend something to me without even knowing who I was. Her friend said that she would return the cable and that was good enough for her.
Soon we were back by the seashore with waves crashing over the rocks. While the pig was being removed from the earth oven and dinner started, I sent my drone into the air to survey the beautiful towering mountains around the village. It was overcast with rain clouds covering the mountains around me. The village’s church yard was the perfect open space however to launch the helicopter and gain a view of the surrounding area.
I had a two curious villagers join me and my taxi driver to watch the drone in action. None of them had seen anything like it and they were amazed at the stunning pictures that came from the camera in the sky.
After about 20 minutes, I had to pack everything up and head over to the restaurant Chez Yvonne for my lunch. It was already 1:30 and there would not be anything left if I didn’t grab something to eat. Fortunately, my wife saved me a plate of food and so I was able to eat while desert was being served. It was a traditional meal of goat, fried fish, vegetables, earth oven pork, poi and other traditional foods from the area. Of course raw fish was also on the menu.
Following dinner, everyone had to walk to the far end of the village where our 4×4’s were waiting for us. Some members of our group however were late and so after waiting 10 minutes it started to rain… then it started to dump with a torrential downpour. Finally after another 5 minutes, we saw the other two people that were driving with us. They were two Norwegians and did not speak any English or French. The elderly lady was soaked to the bone as she had left her hat and rain-jacket in the car while her husband had his raincoat on. In the Marquesas Islands, it is always best to have a raincoat with you at all times as the weather can be unpredictable and change at a moments notice.
By the time we were underway again, we were all very tired. Our driver drove back up along the mountain pass we had arrived on before taking a turn toward Taiohae. A river of water flowed down the side of the road.
We were all too tired to stop at the two beautiful viewpoints along the way. Instead we just peered out at them from our car window on the hour long drive. By the time we reached the summit, the rain had stopped and we descended into Taiohae bay with some overcast but dry skies.
As there was a funeral at the local Catholic church, we had to postpone our planned stop for the following week when we are scheduled to return. Instead we stopped at a waterfront site that housed dozens of beautifully carved stone statues. Our guide gave a brief history and explanation of the stone tikis before we got back in our Taxi that would take us to the other side of the harbour.
We had our driver drop us off at the only bank on the island where we were able to easily withdraw some money using our Canadian debit card. We had not yet had an opportunity to get some local currency since arriving and this was the first bank available since Papeete.
Kirsten and I then stopped in to visit some old friends that we had met when we were previously on the island only 3 years previous. It was great to have a short visit and catch up with friends on the island. At 5pm we only had half an hour to get to the pier so we were given a ride to the Aranui which was on a large cement pier to the East of the harbour.
The evening dinner was lively as we sat by two couples that had just returned from Happy Hour on-board the ship. This evening, it was half price drinks at the bar. Following dinner it was off to bed, looking forward to a relaxing night after a busy day that took us overland from one side of the island to the other.