The Aranui 5 Freighter Cruise
The Aranui blog lets you read about all of the exciting adventures awaiting you on the Aranui, a cargo cruise ship that takes you from Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands, Bora Bora and the Tuamotu atolls in French Polynesia! Find out what happens and what Normand thought of the whole adventure in our Aranui 5 cruise blog.
Aranui Cruise Blog
It was exciting to see the Aranui 5 moored at the pier in downtown Papeete. It had been 8 years since we had taken the Aranui 3 on the same voyage and we were anxious to have a look at the Aranui 5.
By 9 o’clock it looked like everyone was on-board and so I headed to the pool deck where the Marquesian performance took place. A local group that all have jobs in Papeete but are from the Marquesas islands, were decked out in tattoos and traditional clothing. Some of the men were tattooed from head to toe. The men also do all of the drumming for their the traditional dances. They then sing with the ladies with a deep guttural chanting that is so unique to this set of islands. It was the perfect way to start our 14 day journey to the remote islands of the Marquesas.
I stepped onto shore. The one on the boat helped me off by holding one arm while the other on shore was there to help me by supporting the other arm. I really only had to walk of the boat that was moving up and down with the waves as they made is to easy. As we stepped on shore we were each presented with a flower to place over one ear as is a traditional gesture of welcome in Tahiti.
Read the full blog post here.
In the afternoon, there were at least 50 people wanting to take in the Coconut Palms weaving activity. Passengers gathered around the pool deck and were placed in groups of 4 each with a long palm leaf stretched across their laps. The young tour leaders in charge of the activity showed the group how to weave the palm leaves into a tightly woven decoration as the locals of the islands frequently do. I was impressed with how well we all did in the end.
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.
I arrived just as the performance was starting. The harmony of the singers was mesmerizing. We all watched one lady started out the dancing followed by a group of 5 women including two young girls that were probably about 10 years of age and still learning the dances. They kept looking over at the others as they were being mentored on the dance steps while moving their feet and swinging their hips with the others. They also told stories with the slow movement of their hands as they danced.
After the women came the men. There were about 8 men dancing and they were all decked out with bone necklaces, tattoos and war paint. They were not wearing much except for a cloth or grass covering their front and backside. They gave a fierce war cry dance that had even me sweating. It was hot out and they were in the sun beating their thighs and chests as they chanted and danced to the music.
The Le Truck drove us the 10 minutes to the Restaurant Hoa Nui where everyone was headed to for lunch. It was one bay over and through to the far side of Atuona. At this restaurant, a traditional meal was once again served with a few other additions. Barbecue chicken, chicken chow mien, pork, rice, taro, and a variety of other things I didn’t recognize were served before the deserts were served. By this time, however, a majority of the guests had come and gone. Everyone had wanted to visit the Artisan’s handcraft centre, the cemetery where Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin are buried and the Paul Gauguin and Brel museums.
Kirsten and I had other plans.This was the village we had visited 3 years ago when we first arrived in the Marquesas islands after spending 23 non-stop days at sea. At that time, we had departed from San Diego for a year long adventure with our 7 children to arrive on this beautiful little island. We went to the small corner store that was in the centre of town knowing that the owner of the store would be able to tell us how to locate our friend Pifa O’Connor.
I never did make it to the 7am stretching class out on the pool deck in the morning. Instead, I enjoyed the views of the islands on our approach to Fatu Hiva from our balcony on the ship. I was excited to be visiting Fatu Hiva this morning. It is the only island on the itinerary that has no airport. This means that the only visitors they get are by boat.
As we approached the centre which had a basketball court painted on the floor and obviously was the largest building in the village, we could hear the sounds of local Marquesian music being played. Ahead of us were two ladies handing out a welcome flower along with a few singers and musicians that were playing ukulele’s and beating on drums. The sounds of these musicians felt like they were drawing us in like the fabled pied piper.
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.
These botanical gardens were beautiful and had all sorts of local fruits and flowers. We were treated to samples of mandarin oranges, lilikoi, kumquats and litchi nuts. Also in the garden were hibiscus flowers, limes, pamplemousse and a variety of other plants I could not identify without a little bit of assistance. While wandering around, we ran into the man that help establish these gardens 40 years earlier. He explained to us that many years ago he was troubled to hear about so many Marquesian plants disappearing. He wanted to preserve these plants and develop this garden. He had been inspired many years ago by a quote that “you can live off of the food on your land but you cannot eat your money.”
Today was to be our last day on shore in the Marquesas islands and it had us revisiting two of the busiest ports we had been to so far. In these more densely populated cities, locals would come to the Aranui today to drop off fresh produce and freight bound for Rangiroa, Bora Bora and Papeete. It is also an opportunity for some of the locals to board the Aranui to make their way to Bora Bora or Papeete.
Just before lunch, our guest lecturer Tahiarii taught us about the “Human Settlement of Polynesia”. He illustrated the early settlement of the islands, where they are expected to have started from in Raiatea and how these early settlers became incredible navigators of the expansive oceans of the Pacific.
Not only was it a lazy at sea day, but we had an extra half hour of sleep as we had to move our clocks back 30 minutes to adjust from Marquesian to Tahitian time. There were a lot of activities on board the ship with it being a day at sea. With so many small things happening everyone could pick and choose if they want to do some, all, or none of them.
One optional excursion in Rangiroa was Scuba diving for experienced divers. In Bora Bora, there are many more options including Scuba diving for beginners and certified divers, a helicopter tour, a guided tour of the island by Truck (a long wooden open aired and covered local school bus), a two and a half hour swim with stingrays and sharks or a three hour motorized canoe tour that circumnavigates the Bora Bora lagoon. My favourite excursion for Bora Bora is the stingray and shark feeding tour which is incredible on a sunny day.
With the change in the weather, the grey and dark blue water started to change colours. As the sun came out to shine on the shallow water of the inner lagoon, thirty shades of blue and green started to shine on the surface of the water. The lagoon of Rangiroa is truly incredible on a sunny day and reminds me of the typical tropical paradise with beautiful white sand or coral beaches, palm trees and the beautifully coloured water.
The Aranui drops its passengers off on a private stretch of beach where we could snorkel, walk to the neighbouring dive shop or take a shuttle to the local Paul Gauguin pearl farm. Everyone seemed to be doing something different or combining the various activities in a different order.
Like many others on board the Aranui, I was excited to stop in Bora Bora. I was up early in the morning and enjoyed the approach into the narrow pass of Bora Bora from our private balcony before breakfast. Looking at the blue water of the lagoon was beautiful and the small little islet of Motu Tapu with its white sand beaches drifted by as we sailed past.
As I pulled out my camera to take some photos, the older man pulled out his ukulele and started singing the song “Bora Bora” while his son blew a welcome greeting on a conch shell and the other son beat a rhythmic sound on his drum. It was the perfect welcome to the island.
Although I did not continue on to Papeete, Tahiti with the Aranui 5, the final morning does end very early. The Aranui arrives early in the morning at a different location than it departs from in the inner harbour. The Aranui actually returns to the freight quay in Papeete which is on the back side of the harbour.
The Aranui 5 was truly a magical experience that brought us closer to the sights, sounds and smells of the Marquesian people. After two weeks on the Aranui we had a greater appreciation for the customs, cultures and work ethic of these hard working people.