Marquesas Islands - A wild paradise

French Polynesia - Posted On

I dedicate this text to the Marquise des Ecrins.

Marquesas Islands are high islands contrasting with the lagoons more commonly met in the Tuamotu for example. ‘High’ means relatively recent volcanic activity and sharps landscapes chiseled by means of the Nature.

First Tago Mago has reached Iva Oa Island. Next to 19 days off shore I feel quite weird to be back on land. I feel it moving strangely. It is not sea sickness anymore but shore sickness! And Woooo! Walking for more than 10 meters in the same directions is sooo fantastic!

As I am walking down the road, I notice straight how friendly people are. During our whole stay here Marquesas people will offer us fruits, help and their friendship in a very easy and natural way. They remind me closely of the hospitality I benefited in Morocco.

Iva Oa

We are back on the French Territory. Seeing a typical French public phone rises tears up in my eyes. Emotion connects me back to my French world, family, friends, they are so far away…

La Poste, Gendarmerie Nationale, traffic signs on the road, all these little things that makes France a typical country of mine.

A few sailing vessels are settled in the bay with us. I recognize most of them as they passed by Panama of course. Ultreïa is one of them. A bit special to my eyes as I met them first in Capo Verde in November 2008, then Panama and here in the Marquesas at last, one third of the world and 20 months further.

They tell me I have a friend waiting for me at the Post Office. It is Laure, a young French traveler I met in Panama. She is willing to walk around the island. We will go and camp together during the three days of my stay.

Her captain is a horrible man who gave her hard time for the entire 31-days of cruise. As I had hard time as well with Delphine of my crew as well, we felt both relieved to be with each other for a while.

We discover fruits of the Archipelago.

Bread fruit is the most impressive. It is used as bread among the local people. Melon sized, green, hard, you have different ways of cooking it: burnt in the fire, boiled or fried. And it’s simply delicious! Locally named ‘Mei’, we will make a great deal of these bakeries on trees.

At night, two fishermen pass by, say hello, and give us a fish. As we have nothing to cook it, he will come back half an hour later with the fish cooked, with rice and onion please! Yes, they are all a bit like that there…

We also get to discover grapefruits, absolutely nothing to see with what we have back in Europe. Sweet and wonderful, we jump on them when we see a grapefruit tree.

Jean-Pierre, captain’s brother, leaves us here; he goes back to France after having had too much hard time with Delphine. I am not the only one then… I am a bit sad of it, he’s another friend leaving. Life on a boat is also about dealing with personalities. When it comes to a blocking point, some choose to leave.

Tahuata Island and it wonderful anchorage, clearwater made for snorkeling is our next afternoon-stop before cruising to Ua Pou.

That island is the most spectacular-looking one. High peaks dress up really highs and verticals. They are twelve old lava chimney still not eroded by time, a paradise for wild and adventurous climbers.

As soon as we anchor there, three French swimmers come and invite us for partying tonight. We will get to know the Marquesas way of cooking a fat wild pig, some mei, and other typical meal.

In a beautiful afternoon Seb, a French gymnastic teacher will nicely lend me a bike to go together round the island, showing me the wilderness and the pure beauty of the landscapes. We really are in paradise! No tourist activities here pollute their typical way of life. I make a firm comparison with Capo Verde Archipelago that I have loved so much as well.

Nuku Hiva a few hours sailing further, welcome us in the most beautiful anchorage ever seen: Hakatea Bay.

Great cliffs are surrounding us; a deep and vertical canyon leads us to a 350m high waterfall, the 2nd greatest in the world. Alex and Michel, Marquesas people living there, offer me some fruits and their friendship straight away. We talk about a secret valley, part of the canyon, where their people used to hide themselves when they used to be more than 20.000 and they had to suffer an attack from the enemy. Nowadays they are 2000 people on the island. Thanks to the Europeans for that!

As I am swimming in the trouble water, I suddenly feel a terrible pain in my left hand. Fear comes with the pain, I swim quickly away, scream as hell, and look at my hand. When I see how dark blue and white she became, full of black peaks coming out, I scream even louder. Sea Ursine! It’s not lethal but I have heard it’s really painful. Well, I do confirm it! Pain comes even stronger as the poison inflames it all.

On Tago Mago the dinghy is all packed, but Proximity, another sailboat, with Rod and Elisabeth, reacts so promptly that I regret having screamed so loud… In one minute he pulls me out of the water and drives me to Tago Mago. Delphine (yes, Delphine…) will work two hours to try and take these peaks out of my skin. I do not think I had ever experience such a pain before in my life. I nearly pass out a few times. At last the main pain of the poison was gone and we decide to wait for Taiohae and it hospital.

Now that I know about Ursine, I can tell you one thing: avoids them like hell!

Taiohae is the capitol of the Marquesas on Nuku Hiva. It’s a short sail face wind, the first of that kind in my trip.

Isabelle, chief-nurse at the hospital somewhere in her fifties, is THE one person who knows about hiking in the island. She draws me a rebus showing the trail of the edges around the bay. For 7 hours I will be walking alone through deep forest, superb edges above incredible landscapes, trying to find my way here and there, more likely to invent it, seeing absolutely no one but a wild pig and horses. I love it!

Nuku Hiva and it Mount Muake is also the only spot in the Marquesas for paragliding. Temy is the local pilot most known, recently doing tandem flights. They must be 3 or 4 pilots here so he is quite happy to meet me. However I don’t feel the site like being really safe with the Trade Wind blowing strong at that time. I would prefer discover the site on less dangerous conditions. And I don’t want to take any risks as I have promised my captain to be more careful than ever with this.

Next flight opportunity will be in Tahiti then.

As departing the archipelago, I conclude as having felt a strong attraction to the prime wilderness of the region, people, where nature also meets quite closely with what I think I am looking for in my trip around the world. I deeply regret not to stay for a few months.