Day 1,905 of Traveling the World | Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia | April 21, 2023

As we said in our post of the same location when we were here in November 2018 – look at that title! What a mouthful!

Nuku Hiva is the name of the island we visited in the Marquesas, the largest in fact, and as you approach, at once it feels very different from all of the other islands we visited in French Polynesia. No wide, sandy beaches with lazy palm trees throwing some shade. Rather, the Marquesas are a series of volcanic mountains that have dramatically risen from the ocean over millions of years, with any “beach area” minimal at best, and generally black sand due to its volcanic nature. The population here once totaled about 100,000, before western “explorers” appeared and brought western diseases with them. By 1911, the population here was just 3,000. Today, it is a little over 9,000 – nowhere near its high.

We found the village of Taiohae to be little changed since our last visit. There are two small, curving arc-shaped bays with some sand and palm trees on both sides of the port, although nobody was out in the water. The surf was a little rough, and as our tender boat came up to the dock, we were slammed against it by an unexpected surge of water.

Everyone walks up the small hill in town to get pictures from above and to visit the statue, Tiki Tuhiva, on Tu Hiva Hill. She is 35 feet tall, and she rules! A “tiki” isn’t just a figurine you name your bar after. Tiki, according to South Pacific tradition, is the god who created everything. The Marquesans carve everything, and we mean everything. We didn’t pass a rock or large piece of wood that didn’t have a carving on it. Sadly, the Polynesian traditions of body tattoos (denoting class and status), along with carvings, were forbidden by the missionaries that the French sent after they took control in 1842. These cultural customs were lost for many decades. They are now back with a vengeance! While not proponents of tattoos, we were happy to see that the ancient traditions have returned.

Leaving French Polynesia feels bittersweet. We have been in the region since mid-October, and are now heading for Hawaii. It has been such a beautiful place to be for six months! Yes, there are mosquitoes and flies; yes, it is very hot and humid – BUT the gorgeous vistas and crystal waters have been amazing and at times other-worldly. Mike has done more diving than usual, and he ranks two of his recent dives among the best top five ever. After we disembark in early May, the ship and its crew will spend the summer cruising to Alaska – far, far different from the warm, humid islands of French Polynesia.

From atop Tu Hiva Hill is this stunning view of one of the bays and the magnificent orange-flowered Royal Poinciana tree.
From the cruise ship we captured how the island looks as you sail past.
Another view of the volcanic mountains from Tu Hiva Hill, with our cruise ship way, way out there.
Passengers were greeted by the woman on the right, who loudly called out in a traditional welcome. Then the musical group under the canopy played some welcoming songs.
The bay on the opposite side of the first photo, adjacent to the dock.
There were pretty landscaped paths around the port area. The buildings are for selling arts and crafts.
Yes, this is a carved piece of rock.
That carved statue is adjacent to this open-air restaurant, which is typical of most restaurants we saw in French Polynesia. This is about as good as it gets.
A pretty view along the bay. These rocks have carvings on them, of course.
There are lots of boats moored out in the bay.
Two women enjoying the view.
The road along the bay. It was planted with quite a variety of trees, not just palms, as is more typical.
Our cruise ship and the other boats.
We had to circle this to find the face…and the hands!
The gate to the path leading up to Tu Hiva Hill wouldn’t stop anyone – we think it was just an opportunity to fashion one and paint it!
It isn’t quite “carved,” but is a rock that has had “accoutrements” added to it.
The black clouds look ominous. We were lightly sprinkled with a very very very light rain for about 4 minutes on top of the hill, then it stopped. The good thing was, nobody else was up there with us – the rain actually helped us have the site to ourselves.
Another tiki carving on the top of the hill, inside a lovely archway made of natural stones.
…Equal Opportunity Photographers! We show both sides.
Some arts and crafts kiosks in the port – what is that on top of the hill?
…It is Tiki Tuhiva herself! Her navel is hollow, and locals write their longings on a piece of paper, climb up, and place it in her navel for good favor.
On the other side is the Tiki Tuhiva Warrior, but he is only 24 feet tall compared to her 36 feet. Hmmmmm….wonder what that means???
The Warrior has his (carved) staff and his tattoos, and is protected by the larger woman. What more could he need to look ferocious?
This is the view through the warrior’s leg and staff.
One more carved statue as we headed back down. The bright red hose casing is for water.
On the tender boat back to the ship were two barrels of yellowfin tuna that the crew bought from some locals. The people who eat sushi were quite happy.
On sale in the arts and crafts hut – yet more carvings by the locals. They seemed to be doing a good business, as passengers were lined up to purchase them.

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