Day 8 – Tahuata (Vaitahu & Beach)

Saturday 5 March 2016 – 4000 steps (Kirsten 7000)

Up at 5:45 to watch the sunrise and approach to Tahuata

8am barges to Vaitahu

9:30am tour of the Catholic Church

10 to 11:30am barges back to the Aranui

12 noon lunch on-board

1:30-4:30pm Barges to and from the beach

5pm dance class – pool deck

6pm meeting about Ua Huka

9pm pareo show

I was woken up by the sliding glass door to our private veranda as it opened at 5:45am. Kirsten was already awake and peering out at the lush green island of Tahuata as it slowly slid by. I came out on deck as we felt the peace and calm of the ocean and this Marquesian island that was peaceful and still.

It had only been 3 years earlier that we ourselves were sailing along these shores on a year long family sailing adventure that we will never forget. Slipping along the coast of this island took us back to our previous visit to these islands.

After a short time, we went up to the 10th level deck that faces forward on the ship. From here we could get a better view of the islands in front of us. No one else was out this early and we rushed to the starboard side of the deck as a pod of dolphins jumped alongside us. A short time later, she spotted flying fish as they skittered across the top of the water. It was a magical morning that felt very peaceful and calm.

Following our traditional breakfast in the dining room, Kirsten and I split up for the morning. She went into the village of Vaitahu while I went with the Aranui’s fishing boat on a three hour fishing excursion. There were four other people with me plus two Aranui staff, one to pilot the boat and the other to help prepare fishing rods and fishing lines. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for being out on the water. Fortunately, there was plenty of shade and open areas on the fishing boat with enough fishing gear for everyone.

We trolled along the coastline for about an hour to the tip of the island of Tahuata. Once along the way, one of the guests that had signed up with me for the fishing trip, hooked a small fish and the boat paused while they reeled in a small tuna.

In the next half hour, not much happened and so we stopped the boat to jig for fish. We must have hit an ideal pocket of fish below because all of a sudden fish seemed to be coming up from everywhere on everyone’s fishing lines. The first was one man that had hooked two fish on his one line that had 3 hooks on it. A rainbow coloured fish and another tuna. As soon as I dropped a line down and reeled the line in, I caught something. I had hooked a 18 inch long red coloured fish on its side and pulled it into the boat. As soon as I did, however, I felt a sharp pain in my finger, I didn’t realize that there was more than one hook on my line and had grabbed onto another barbed hook that sunk itself and inch into the flesh of my finger. I tried yanking it out without any luck while someone else took care of the fish that I had caught. Unfortunately, the barb was in my finger too deep. The pilot of the fishing boat sat next to me and explained what I needed to do. He instructed me to push the end of the barbed hook through a second hold that I would have to make from the inside of my finger and back out again. Once the end of the barbed hood was out, he would be able to cut the barb off of the hook so I could back the rest of the hook out of my finger.

Well, this was probably one of the most painful things ever. It was bad enough having a hook in my finger but the pressure of trying to push the hook back out was a bit much for me. Finally I held out my finger while the boat pilot pushed the hook the rest of the way out for me. He then snipped off the barb before I extracted the rest of the hook back out. At least they had a good first aid kit on-board and so following a bit of antiseptic and iodine, a small bandage was applied to my bruised and purple index finger tip and I was ready for some more fishing.

By the time we were done jigging, we had caught at least a dozen fish. Every single person on the fishing expedition had caught multiple fish, except for me as I was incapacitated for a short while while all of the fish were coming up into the boat.

We motored back up the side of the island at full speed due to being a bit behind scheduled. As we did so, the line on the back cleat of the boat hooked a 3 foot long wahoo that was quickly reeled in. It was a successful fishing trip and although I had to return to the boat with the second injury of my trip so far, it was well worth it.

Following a noon-time lunch, Kirsten took an afternoon nap while I headed to our first real beach stop inside of the Marquesas Archipelago. Beach breaks are not as much of a priority for a freighter cruise as its main objective is to deliver freight and cargo to the local islanders, and the beaches in the main village centres and bays are not generally swimming beaches.

We did, however, have some spare time and so from 1:30 to 4:30 pm, barges were shuttling passengers to and from a nice sandy beach. On this occasion, we stopped at a backup beach due to the weather and currents in the ocean at the much larger beach the ship usually stops at. This beach, however, was beautiful and it had a small vacation homestead of some local residents just inside the shoreline.

The water was so warm, it felt like someone had drawn a nice warm bath for me. The water here was quite shallow and the sun out in full force. The water temperature was certainly much warmer than I had expected. Walking into the water I had been half expecting the initial cold water shock which never came. I tried snorkelling with a mask but the water was too murky and there did not appear to be any fish in this little protected bay.

The local family that stayed here with their boat had someone surfing off in the distance while a young boy was paddling around in a kayak. It felt like the perfect little beach spot.

Once I had enough sun for the day, I headed back to the Aranui, paying no attention to the Marquesian and Tahitian dance class that others had returned for on the Pool Deck at 5pm. Our daily orientation at 6pm, however, was very informative and helped prepare us for the following day’s excursion to Ua Huka.

Before our evening dinner, Kirsten and I sat out on our balcony to enjoy the setting sun. It was a magical picture as we looked at the sailboats in the neighbouring sheltered harbour while the sky drew dim with rays of sunlight shining down on the horizon from behind some puffy clouds.

Our evening dinner was spent with some week-long friends from Eastern Canada and a couple we had not yet met from Australia. Its fun to see who you will be sitting with at each meal. Usually sort of a surprise depending on who ends up sitting next to you.

Our three course meal consisted of a delicious pumpkin soup followed by an entree of potatoes and parrot fish drizzled with the most delicious sauce. The portions are not huge but they were absolutely delicious and topped off with a chocolate tart for desert.

Each day is an adventure on the Aranui with one surprise after another around each corner. Every day we seem to make new friends on-board the ship and have experiences that will be hard to forget.

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Excerpt from Kirsten

As the early morning light broke through the misty clouds, I tumbled out of my comfy bed and onto my balcony. The scene before me again took my breath away. In my jammies, leaning over the railing, I felt like I was drifting, flying across the sea to the slow approaching island before me. As the sun rose and lit up Tahuata, I could imagine the awe the ancient mariners must have felt at the first sight or this green mountainous land. The tops of the mountains seemed to be reaching the clouds. Gathering in grey thundering storm clouds, dumping moisture on the very tip of this land as the sun gently begins washing over the lower jungles.

Norm joined me on the balcony and we decided to go up to the bridge to watch the approach and anchoring of this huge vessel. No one was awake at 5:45 am so it didn’t seem to matter that I was still in my jammies. Looking from the bridge not only gave us a perfect view of our approach but we were also rewarded with a pod of dolphins swimming beside the ship seeming to not just guide us in but to welcome us to their play ground.

The barge to shore was by far the most tricky so far. Our pilot was very experienced and seemed to know just the right second to dock without getting slammed with the huge waves that crashed the quay. After a few failed attempts and even a couple hard bumps, we were finally able to line up the barge and unload people quickly onto the land.

Tahuata welcomed us with big smiles and bouquets of tropical flowers. After only a five minute walk to the village we were led to a covered market area. This island is famous for its bone carvings. We were told on board that we would have the chance to view and buy intricate carvings that would rival the previous island. As I wandered around the tables, my breath was taken away. The local artists did not disappoint. Each tiny bone carved necklace or tiki was intricate and creative. The local carvers were there at the tables to explain the sacred meanings of their art. The carvings were primarily out of cow bone but some were made out of sea shells or oyster mother of pearl. I was searching for a very specific piece for a special friend.

I knew I would recognize the piece when I saw it. I had been searching from island to island for the perfect necklace carving. Finally when I had almost given up, I spotted the exact piece I was meant to buy. With grace and ease the artist explained the meaning behind his work. It fit with my hopes and his young daughter happily wrapped it up in brown paper as I received my change.

I spent a bit of time sitting and listening to the local musicians play as the little girls danced for the tourists. They seemed shy but happy to perform and open to treats that were being passed out by passengers.

Later, I wandered over to the gorgeous catholic church right next to the market. Complete with stained glass windows and hand painted tiles, this stone and wood building was beautiful. Tropical flowers and gardens surround this building that stands out against the deep green mountain in the background.

After a couple of hours, we returned to the dock. We were held up from boarding our barges by the loading process of the island goods onto the barges that would take the copra and limes and other goods to the busy markets in Papeete.