Lots of words and places in the title! We are in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean (sometimes called a continent in water!), on the largest island of the Marquesas, Nuku Hiva, in its capital city, Taiohae. Nuku Hiva was the filming destination for the fourth season of the reality show, Survivor. The population is about 3,000 people, and the first people to arrive here came from Samoa about 2,000 years ago. Only later did they colonize Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands. Both Robert Louis Stevenson and Herman Melville visited the islands and based books and stories on their experiences in the Marquesas Islands. The islands have a history of cannibalism and fierce tattooed warriors. The Americans arrived in 1813, built a fort, and went to war with the natives. The French took over in 1842, and it remains an overseas territory of France today.
Sailing up to these islands is a magnificent experience, as the mountains just rise up out of the ocean, and you see steep cliffs covered in vegetation. There are no docking facilities for large cruise ships, so our ship dropped anchor in Taiohae Bay, and we were “tendered” to shore by the ship’s lifeboats, also called tenders (seen in the last photo). The village is very peaceful and tropical, with flowers and flowering trees growing everywhere. We were greeted with local music and dancers, as you will see in some of the photos and the first video. Their native greeting included conch shells being blown, drums sounding, and women calling out. It was very moving to have such an unusual greeting and experience their cultural tradition.
Two very thin, slow-moving dogs roamed around the port, but never approached anyone. Hundreds of bananas were hanging by the hands, as well as other tropical fruits. Native statues were everywhere we looked, celebrating their local culture. Views from the top of a small hill near the dock show the inlet, the beaches, and our cruise ship anchored in the bay. As you can see, we also found the Leaning Lamppost of Taiohae! Tattoos are traditional in Polynesia, as historically there was no writing in their culture; tattoos are used to express both identity and personality. Most artistic depictions show figures with tattoos, and can also be seen on the men blowing the horns and the beautiful Woman in Red. Various shirts and blankets with local drawings were for sale.