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.
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