Day 12 – Nuku Hiva Aranui Cruise 2010

Day 12: April 18 – Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou Islands: Taiohae and Hakahau

We returned to two main islands and two main cities that we had already seen before. Our cargo ship, the Aranui 3, returns to the bigger islands where it offloads most of its cargo so that it can collect the large shipping containers that they left behind when we first arrived to those cities. With the cargo ship now mostly empty with the exception of the fruits, copra and noni we were bringing back to Papeete, the ship likes to pick up the containers it will need for the next boatload of items it will bring back to the islands in another few weeks. The Aranui makes 13 trips per year to the Marquesas and they need most every bit of space in its cargo area to transport the goods to the islands.

We first stopped in Taiohae on Nuku Hiva for a short two hour stay. Although a short stop we had enough time to take our oldest four children on shore where a le truc school bus shuttled us into town where I headed to an internet cafe (to update my photos and blog). This was not entirely exciting for our children so when I was done 45 minutes later we walked around the waterfront of the village before stopping for an ice-cream treat at a little corner-store. Taiohae is the most developed city in the Marquesas and was a bustling town by Marquesian standards. Although there will not be any traffic congestion in the near future and horses are still used as a mode of transportation, it is nonetheless a busy little town which had at least a dozen or more sailboats in its harbour. For yaughtees coming across the Pacific Ocean from the Galapagos and Mexico, it is the first port of entry in a month long voyage across the ocean, a place where people tend to spend a bit of time celebrating being back on land again.

We set off around 9:45 in the morning to spend the afternoon on board and arrived around 1:00 PM in the first town we visited of Hakahau in Ua Pou. No sooner had we arrived on the island did Isadore, our taxi driver from eight days earlier, have someone search us out in the dining room. He had come to deliver the promised flower stones our children had so desperately searched for on the beach but not found. He also delivered two CDs of his music. One CD was of him and his two brothers while the other was of him and his two teenage children. It was a pleasant surprise to see him on the boat again delivering the promised items he had offered before. Within no time however this sole taxi driver of the island was off again driving passengers from our ship around the island.

In this little town we took all five of our children on shore to get any last minute souvenirs and presents. We returned to a small little souvenir stand that was above the beach and on the other side of a paved road (behind the beachfront thatched roof souvenir shops). My wife had picked up some reasonably priced souvenirs the week before and so she was happy to return again. Here we found perhaps the most affordable carved necklaces on the islands and even our 4 year old Eli, was happy to finally get a souvenir bone necklace of his own. The lady at the stand was also happy to resize his necklace to fit.

While the children went beachcombing I headed off to the bank to withdraw some money that we would be needing while on the Tuamotu islands. While Rangiroa would have a bank machine, the next island of Tikehau would not and so I needed to get enough cash due to the daily and weekly withdrawal limits on my bank card. The bank was not far away however and so I still had some time to play with my children at the beach and watch my son work on his drawing. He had once again seen the elderly gentleman from France working on drawing a scene of the thatched roof vendor’s area and sat down beside him to work on drawing the same thing. By the time the rest of our family was ready to go Jaeden stayed to work on his picture along this master artist.

By 3:45 PM our ship was leaving the Marquesas islands for the last time. From beside the swimming pool of the Aranui 3 we looked out at the mountain peaks to say goodbye to these awe inspiring islands. Each little corner of its culture and history had taught us about one of the most remote and unique places in the world. It has been a true delight for us to explore these islands together as a family on a cargo cruise vessel. A delightful experience not one of us will forget. With another two days before we arrive in our last stop of Rangiroa of the Tuamotu islands, we will have a bit of time to take it all in before starting the final leg of our French Polynesian adventure, that of the Tuamotu islands.

Written by Norm Schafer, Victoria BC

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