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February 7, 2020
Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

Russell writes…

The remote Marquesan Islands are literally in the middle of nowhere – 932 miles north of Tahiti and 3,107 miles west of California. They mark the entrance into French Polynesia. They also have the strangest time zone we’ve ever seen. Marquesan time is 30 minutes ahead of Hawaii time. Not one hour, but 30 minutes. Go figure.

Gail (who apparently does not sleep at night) took this picture of the moon from our veranda at 3:00 this morning

Today’s port, Nuku Hiva, is the most populated of the Marquesas, but still has fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. It does not have much of a tourist infrastructure. Instead, it is a stopping point for the yachts that sail between the Panama Canal and the Galapagos Islands.

Nuku Hiva is also famous as the place where writer Herman Melville (of Moby Dick fame) jumped ship and hid in the Taipivai Valley for three weeks. He wrote about this in his novel Typee.

Ahead of our arrival here, we received an “important notice” to set expectations properly:

Nevertheless, when we sailed in this morning for a 10:00 am arrival, the scenery in every direction was stunningly gorgeous.

A 40-foot high woman Tiki on a mountain-top greeted us as we sailed in. She is the highest contemporary sculpture anywhere in the Pacific.

There was a single (free) excursion offered today: a three-hour “Taipivai Valley Scenic Drive.” We have mentioned how the free excursions tend to be panoramic tours. Here is the official description:

Drive to Cathedral (approx. 10 min) and stop (approx. 15 min). Proceed to Piki Vehine Sacred Site (approx. 5 min) and stop (approx. 15 min). Proceed to Taihoae View Point (approx. 15 min) and stop (approx. 5 min). Drive to dance festival site Te A’Itua (approx. 15 min) and visit site to enjoy refreshments (approx. 15 min). Drive to Village Church (approx. 5 min) for a photo stop (approx. 5 min). Drive to Hooumi Beach (approx. 10 min) and stop (approx. 15 min). Drive back to the ship (approx. 40 min).

Transportation to shore would be by tender boats, and transportation on the excursion would be by four-passenger SUVs.

We came to Nuku Hiva an hour and a half before our excursion to walk around. We were spooked by returning visitors who told us it was too hot, there was nothing to do, they had cancelled their excursion because of road conditions, etc. We were prepared for the worst, but our actual experience was terrific. The weather was great, without too much heat or humidity. There were no rows of souvenir stores. (We were lucky to find a postcard at the visitor center.) There was an unexploited natural beauty that made us think of what Hawaii must have been like 50 years ago.

Our tender was greeted by these young men. Their tattoos tell the history of the Austronesian people.

Gail had enough time before our excursion to enjoy a local beach

The excursion itself was equally enjoyable. There are no tour buses on the island, so we were part of a caravan of various trucks and SUVs that gather together whenever tourists show up. No one except a single guide spoke any English, so Russell was able to dust off his French and translate for other passengers.

We ended up being on one of the last tenders to return to the ship at 6:00 pm. It is unlikely that we will ever visit this remote location again, but we got to enjoy a beautiful day in paradise.

Our caravan of trucks and SUVs

Piki Vehine Sacred Site

Taihoae View Point (yes, that’s our cruise ship)

Te A’Itua

Near Hooumi Beach (note the horse and chickens)

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