Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
After eight days at sea we sailed toward Taiohae bay on the island of Nuku Hiva on the morning of January 19. The last time we were here, in 2016, it was cloudy & rainy as we approached the island, but today it was beautiful and sunny.
Lots of passengers were out on the front deck as we sailed past some of the mountains & rock formations & the crew were out there too, serving coffee & “Nuku Hiva Rolls,” which tasted remarkably like Panama Canal rolls.
Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesa Islands. It was famous in the 19th century as the island where Herman Melville lived for several months with a village of cannibals, which he turned into his best selling novel Typee. In 2016 we went on a very beautiful tour of the island, which you can see here:
So for this visit we decided to explore Taiohae ourselves on foot. It was a very short tender ride from the ship to the dock, but three tenders went out of commission with engine issues almost immediately so we were not able to get to shore until about noon. We went up to the Lido deck where they were distributing tender tickets, then sat near the pool waiting for them to reach our number. From there we saw some local fellows in canoes following in the wake of the tenders (once they got going again). When they are able to do it correctly the tender wake pulls them along without paddling and this seems to be a popular sport in several of the islands we visited.
We finally made it onto a tender & then to the dock. We were greeted by local musicians & dancers who handed each visitor a flower bud to wear behind an ear. An impromptu market was set up behind the dock, selling everything from produce to t-shirts to wood carvings. Nuku Hiva is famous for its wood carvers; most of the Tiki sculptures for sale everywhere on the Polynesian islands are made here (and so the prices for them are much better here than elsewhere).
On a hill above the dock & clearly visible from the ship is a large tiki style statue of a woman. This is new since our last visit & reportedly very unpopular with the locals. We had to agree with their view, especially after seeing the back of the tiki that has a warrior apparently emerging from the woman.
We began the approximately 2 mile walk from the dock to the end of the road on the other side of the bay. It is a very beautiful walk, with many colorful flowers, mountain views & views across the water. While some of the mountains were green the lower areas were quite dry & the flowers much less lush than last time we were here. We were told there had been no rain for three months. Still, there was a lot of beauty.
About half way across the bay is the Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Unlike any other cathedral we have seen, this one is full of wood carvings covering doors & the pulpit as well as the stations of the cross on the walls. The figures look like Polynesians rather than Europeans (the actual people depicted, of course, were Semites from the Middle East), with other Polynesian touches, such as breadfruit trees instead of olive trees in the garden. The building is constructed of stones brought from each of the Marquesas Islands. Very special.
In front of the cathedral is an arch with two towers, which may be a remnant of an earlier church. Behind the cathedral is a very colorful garden. Two interesting Jewish references. Across the courtyard from the church is a smaller building with carved wood pillars. One of them is Moses with the ten commandments. Interestingly, he is depicted with horns on his head, perhaps derived from Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses in Rome. The horns come from a mistranslation of the Torah, which says Moses had beams of light, rather than horns, emanating from his head when he brought the tablets down. The other is a star of David carved into the inside of one of the doors. We don’t know what the inscription says or what it was intended to represent.
Continuing on, we visited the memorial to Herman Melville, a carved wood pillar. Apparently some French officials were expected to visit in a few days, so workmen were out refurbishing the thatched roof of a platform near the water. Some women were busy weaving palm fronds into mats, presumably as part of this project. Some outrigger canoes were stored near the shore as well. And we walked past a cemetery, with white concrete & stone graves similar to others we have seen in Polynesia.
This is a good place to show you some of the many brightly colored flowers that were all around. Noticeably fewer than in 2016 because of the lack of rain, but still a lot. Most of these flowers are on trees or bushes. As usual, the names of the few we know are in the pop-up captions.
We visited a very tiny museum of Nuku Hivan artifacts at the very end of the road around the bay. It had one small room of artifacts, some of which were many hundreds of years old, and the other room was a gift shop. The owner, Rose, was really friendly and helped explain what we saw. After that we walked up the hill behind the museum to a restaurant highly recommended for its food and its view of the bay. Unfortunately, after we reached the top of the hill, panting in the heat & humidity, we found that it was closed for renovation! Why couldn’t they have put a sign to that effect at the bottom of the hill?
Anyway, after admiring the view from just under the restaurant we walked back down the hill & stopped into the small restaurant in front of the museum. Our friends Peggy & Bill were still with us, the rest of the group having turned back long before. We had Hinano beer, the main Polynesian brand, and Poisson Cru. Made of raw tuna, some salad ingredients & coconut milk, it was quite delicious.
Much refreshed, we made the long walk back across the bay to the tender dock. There were several groups of families at different spots along the bay having picnics & swimming. We did a little shopping at the dock, then boarded the tender for the short ride back to the ship.
We sailed away from Nuku Hiva at sunset. It was a very dramatic sunset, which deserves more than one picture.
So as we sail away from beautiful Nuku Hiva, we will leave you with a couple of towel animals, preparatory to a good night’s sleep.