03 Jul Travel Journey 13 | Marquesas & Tahiti
Travel Journey 13 | Marquises & Tahiti
24 april 2019 – 2 juli 2019
When we have dropped our anchor in the bay of Hiva Oa we look out of our eyes. It is as if we are in a tropical Switzerland. High mountains, overgrown with palm trees, rise from a dark blue sea. The scent of rainforest, flowers and ripe fruit reaches our ship from the valley. Time for a walk to the village. Chickens roam along the road, which is dotted every now and then with dozens of overripe mangos. We continue our way to the supermarket with our hands and corners full of mango juice. The short Tahitian course seems unnecessary here, but we soon learn that “la ora na” (pronounced: joranna) means good day. Everyone greets each other here, one more friendly than the other. And there is another thing that strikes us immediately: There is almost no plastic here!
Even after a few days on this island we can conclude that it still exists: pieces in this world without the pollution with plastic. The beaches are full of driftwood washed ashore, carcasses of crabs and jellyfish, but no plastic. The streets are all neat and tidy. It is clear that these people are proud of the beauty of their island and would like to keep it that way.
Tattoos are an important tradition on these islands and almost everyone has one. Often a symbol for the elements wind, water and sun. Normally I don’t have that much with it, but the graceful shapes of the tattoos here also make me hesitate to take one. Some men have their entire face full of ink. Within our culture, this entails certain prejudices that may make it difficult to find a job. Here it seems different. Niels and Bibi have decided to have a tattoo put here. Bibi on her back and Niels on his forearm, both very beautiful. After a long doubt, I don’t think it suits me and I skip.
The next day I go fishing with Wijnand (friend of sailing yacht “Ocean Goose”) and soon we have gathered a nice meal together. We hear from bystanders that ciguatera reigns here. Fish accumulate toxins and when you eat that fish you may experience paralysis, which starts with tingling in your lips. When we go to a few local fishermen with our fish to ask if they are poisonous, they say we can eat them without a problem. The red curry in which we prepare the fish is hot enough to cause tingling lips in each of us, but luckily no one gets sick.
It is getting busier with sailing ships in the bay and a nasty swell across the wind does not make it very comfortable. We have been here for a while now and almost all of us have eaten the duck mussels on our underwater ship. After another solid scrub, we leave for the neighboring island, Ou Pou.
The wind here between the islands behaves strangely. We sail together with the Ocean Goose until suddenly the wind drops. For five hours we are floating around while the Ocean Goose is approaching us. Via the VHF radio they know that they have 18 knots of wind. How is that possible?!
Only the next morning we arrive at Ou Pou. The valley is green with mango, grapefruit, star fruit, papaya and coconut trees. A piece of walking quickly yields bags full of fruit. Here too the streets are very clean and the people are super friendly again.
The water here is a bit dark because of the black sand on the bottom, but it is full of life. When I jump into the water in the morning with my snorkel, I already come across a group of at least ten manta rays after twenty meters. Fantastic how those rays “fly” under water. Niels and Bibi are unfortunately not allowed in the water because of their freshly made tattoo so I cannot share my enthusiasm with them. When I swim a lot further I see 2 dark shadows swim under me. Do I see that well? Two large hammerhead sharks patrol through the water below me. For a moment I hold my breath, but when I see that they are not interested in me, wonder makes way. While I swim back to the boat, a few blacktip reef sharks glide below me. Manta rays, black tip and hammerhead sharks in one dive.
The next island that is planned is Nuku Hiva. It is only a short trip, but on the way we catch a nice tuna. Bibi receives filleting lessons and in the evening we have the tastiest sushi on the table again. The next day we take a hike to the 350 meter high Vaipo waterfall. After a journey full of climbing and climbing through rivers and mud trails we reach the waterfall. However, this is hidden behind a rock and we decide to jump into the pool where the waterfall ends. We swim the last bit until we are under the clatter of the waterfall. Delicious that sweet water. When we have just moved to a rock to get dressed again, we hear a loud splash. A coconut has fallen from the steep mountain at a dangerous speed. A little later another one falls down beside us. Quickly out of here, because this could have turned out quite differently. Later we read that it is strictly forbidden to stand under the waterfall due to falling coconuts and rocks. Well, we knew that!
After Nuku Hiva we make another stop at Ou Pou and then continue to the Tuamotu archipelago. Just before we leave we have an appointment with 2 local boys to do a temporary exchange: they get our stand up paddle (SUP) boards and we both get a piroque, an original Polynesian canoe. A group of spinner dolphins come to play in the bay and enthusiastically jump out in front of the canoe while honoring their name. Awesome! When we are ready to leave, we get a bag full of fruit and say goodbye to our friends.
The journey from Ou Pou to the Tuamotu’s is approximately 480 nautical miles. Where that would be quite a journey for us a year ago, we think that is not so bad now. Distances have taken on a different meaning on the Pacific. The weather is good for us and we have a beautiful sailing trip. We catch a wahoo of more than a meter from which we can eat the entire trip. In less than 4 days we reach the Ahe atoll just before dark. We should actually stay at sea all night to wait until the tide is good, but we don’t see that. The atolls are known for their dangerous shallows and strong tidal currents. The fact that our backup diesel engine has given up the ghost makes it extra exciting for us. Will the electric motor be able to handle the strong currents? Contrary to the advice to go through the pass on “slack” tide (around the highest or lowest water level), we sail into the quiet pass with a stream of 4 knots in the back. No problem.
Only the next morning do we see the beautiful color differences of the water. The turquoise blue water on the inside of the annular atoll and the deep ocean blue on the outside. According to the booklets it is teeming with sharks here and you can see the most beautiful corals under water. Unfortunately, only the first appears to be true. Here too, global warming, and therefore the sea, has taken its toll. Much of the coral has lost its color or is dead. A total of 300 people live on Ahe. The supermarkets are very scarce and there is little to do at the atoll. No matter how beautiful the area may be, it quickly gets boring and after a few days we sail to the next Atoll Rangiroa. We are still trying to organize a clean-up campaign with a primary school, but it turns out to be a spring break. After all, it belongs to France.
Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the world and is known for its beautiful underwater life. This is reflected in the large amount of sailing boats that surround us and the beautiful huts that are built above the water, where you can stay for only 700 dollars a night. The water here is a lot clearer than on Ahe and the underwater life is beautiful. Fish in all colors swim pleasantly through the coral rocks. They are always looking for a hiding place against the dozens of sharks that patrol there. These are mainly white tip and black tip sharks of 1.5-2.5 meters, but on the deeper part I also see a tiger shark of 4 meters swimming past. Unfortunately, he disappeared again as quickly as it appears.
Every morning the water flows hard into the entrance of the atoll. Due to an opposite wind direction this causes considerable waves in the pass. Beautiful conditions for kite surfing during a day with a lot of wind. That I am not the only one who finds these waves inviting is proven by the group of dolphins that come here every day to “surf”. Some jump up to 3 meters high above the waves, a true circus performance.
Then it’s time to go to the next, more civilized, island, Tahiti. Again we have a beautiful sailing trip with a lot of wind. We drop anchor at Tahiti Iti, the peninsula SE of the main island. Tahiti looks like a combination of the two paradises from before. It has the high green mountains like the Marquis and the beautiful blue water of the Tuamotu’s. When we jump into the water with snorkel and flippers, we are treated to an underwater world that we have never seen before. Coral that is as rich as you can see. Different types of colored coral fight for a spot on the busy soil. Only something is missing here. Where are the beautifully colored coral fish as we saw them at Rangiroa?
In the meantime, the spring break for the local school children has ended and we can start working with schools again. With the little bit of French that I speak I make a form with French texts with which I hope to be able to explain what we do with our foundation. With this form under our arm we walk into the nearest school. We meet a super enthusiastic school principal who also speaks perfect English. Environmental education is something that is at its spearheads for the coming year and our project fits in perfectly with that. We arrange for the following day to give lessons in 3 sessions to a total of 6 classes, or while the entire school.
The next morning at 8 am we are in a specially equipped classroom for 50 children with our shredder “De Hulk” and solar oven. The children have been instructed to take a colored piece of plastic from the street on their way to school. Full of excitement about what they have to do with this, they listen to our story and watch a short video about our journey and activities. The emotions are clearly audible in the classroom when showing beaches, strewn with plastic, that we have recently visited and cleaned up with local children. After the presentation everyone enthusiastically runs to “De Hulk” to throw in their found piece of plastic to shred it. We fill the press together and promise the children that the vase that we make will go to Dutch children, who clean up their schoolyard there. The vase that we have brought to the classroom is given a prominent place in the classroom and is provided with a flower. At the end of the morning we gave more than 150 children education about the effects of plastic on nature. Contact details are exchanged so that these classes can maintain contact and exchange photos of clean-up campaigns with schools in the Netherlands. In short: A very successful day.
The next day we just have to walk through the village or we hear “Bibi” being shouted by groups of children from all sides. That name apparently lingers well. It would not surprise me if there are children here with the name Bibi in 20 years time. The accumulated star status of Bieb, however, is short-lived. After 2 days we hoist the sails again and head for the main island, where we can walk around anonymously again.