Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exploring the Marquesas: Nuka Hiva

Note the mixture of décor: both Christian and Polynesian
The grounds of the Catholic
Church were lovely.
Nuka Hiva is the largest and most populated island in the Marquesas archipelagos and the second largest in French Polynesia. I learned that they have two representatives in the government in Tahiti where Hiva Oa only has one. Like the rest of French Polynesia, the Marquesas Islands are under French rule with autonomy, but the Marquesean people have an interest in not being so. They are geographically a long way from Tahiti with little contact there. Like everywhere, some people would like to change the way they are governed.

Looking out through the original entrance to the old church
We found Nuka Hiva to be a very friendly place with people willing to help. For example, I was looking for lettuce (which I finally learned to ask for “salad” to be understood) and a customer at the snack bar where we all hung out gave me a ride in her truck to a market way up the hill so I could buy lettuce! She started to tell me how to get there and then said, “Just come. I will take you!
The design of the church was beautiful as was the use
of stone, wood, and many carvings.

The Catholic Church in Nuka Hiva was one of the most beautiful we have seen. It is relatively new, but built on the sight of the old church. We have so enjoyed visiting the island churches for Sunday Mass to hear the local people sing in their native language. The Church has allowed the people to celebrate their ancient religions within the same walls. There are Christian statues as well as carvings of their religious leaders and animals. All of it is well done and complimentary of the space.
We saw traditional dances. Boy!
Could those girls move their hips!

There was an opportunity to try
our hands at some of the many
crafts and flower arts.
We did not tour the island here. However, the World ARC had arranged for a beautiful day and evening of local culture for us. We participated in making jewelry and woven items made of palm. They greeted us with flower leis and put on a dance exhibition. There were wonderful foods to taste as we watched them prepare breadfruit and coconut in the traditional ways. 
 This was a spread of fruits and coconut made in different
ways. All of this before the traditional meal, too!
The women did the singing and the men did most of
the dancing, except for a young girl who did a
beautiful Bird Dance. She was so fluid and graceful.
And all of that was before dinner! We then went to their community center where we ate the traditional foods and watch a dance performance that was outstanding. I have many video clips that I will try to share when I get enough Internet bandwidth to post them. Unfortunately, they did not brief us on the stories that were being told through dance and singing so we had to guess what it was. It was most enjoyable at any rate.

He was obviously the chief in the story being told through
song and dance, but there was no interpretation for us.
We spent time walking around the village and seeing the Tiki remains. The islanders are working very hard to maintain a connection with their heritage. The government encourages the teaching of the native language along with French. They are preserving archaeological sacred sites throughout the islands.

In Nuka Hiva, there is a park where the stone remains are on display. They have also replicated some of the most important Tiki monuments that are protected on other islands so the people have access to them here.

While in Nuka Hiva, we had a disaster with our dinghy. The fuel dock here is known to be challenging so we had a plan in place to manage the purchase of fuel. Unfortunately, we were unable to execute it in the time we planned since another boat took longer to leave the dock than we expected. As a result, the ever challenging tide got the best of us.

While we were anchored stern-to off the concrete quay, the dinghy was tied to the ladder on the quay. Two of our crew went on the dock to handle lines and sent the pump handle to us via a messenger line. All of that went well and we managed to fuel up in the rough sea. Then suddenly I noticed our dinghy was deflating! There was a big slit across the top of it. Not only did we have to find a way to keep it afloat until we got the motor off, we also needed to find a way to repair it since it is our “car” to get to shore!
A sad day for our dinghy. The repair cost us several
days. As the rest of the fleet moved on, we waited for the
repair to cure. Now it looks like a pirate with a patched eye!
The local people told me later that there are several dinghy tears on that dock every month. That must be why there is a guy there who knows how to repair them! The only problem was that it takes three days for the glue to cure and we had to stay behind when most of our friends in the fleet moved on. This meant we will not have much time in the Tuamotu Islands as everyone else. And we have an appointment in Tahiti for some maintenance work so we need to keep on schedule.

The WARC gathering place or watering hole!
The fleet hung out at the Snack Bar with the red and white awning. Actually, the family who own one of the grocery stores also owns this establishment. The kitchen is somewhat open air and they wash the dishes in the sink outside. The favorite pastime of the fleet is to hang here and use the Internet (which makes it really slow) and drink fresh squeezed fruit juices or beer! And they make the best French fries in a huge wok filled with oil! One night they had a barbeque where they roasted a whole goat on a spit over the open fire.

Another daily pleasure was checking out the catch from the fishermen. One day one of them came in with a large shark's head. Something bigger had eaten the body! After they clean the fish right there on the quay, they throw the trimmings into bay and the sharks attack the mess! It does provide for some entertainment, though. We were warned not to swim in this harbor and now I know why!

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