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Monday, May 5, 2014

Magical Marquesas

Entry formalities into French Polynesia at the lovely island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas were fast, efficient and relatively painless.  The only downside was that non EU sailors must pay a bond, equivalent to a one way airfare home, which causes something of a dilemma because the bond is not necessarily refunded in the currency it’s paid in.  Not wanting a fistful of French Polynesian Francs on the day we exit we paid $90 for a bond exemption letter.  It is annoying to do so when we have full travel insurance with an evacuation clause and can show a healthy bank balance, but that’s the way they roll here.

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It was wonderful to go ashore, find internet and buy fresh baguettes, brie and pain au chocolate.  The anchorage was full of boats we’d met in the Mediterranean, Caribbean or Galapagos so there was a fair bit of socialising – coffee here, drinks there, dinner out – it was absolutely wonderful to catch up with friends after so long at sea.   Finding fresh supplies here can be difficult so when we heard there was an early morning market we made sure the alarm was set for 5am and were ashore not long after.  What joy to find bok choy, aubergines, fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  After a few days we were ready to move on and headed around to Anaho Bay in the north. We’d heard a lot about this bay and it didn’t disappoint – a stunning anchorage with good snorkelling, fantastic hikes and, best of all, dozens of mango trees.   We never tire of fresh mangos.DSC_5667

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In Anaho we had a wonderful pot luck dinner on board Southern Cross with Scotia – both boats had been on our Magellan SSB Net in the Caribbean for many months.  We’d met SC in Panama and again in Galapagos and Fuka Hiva but had to wait until the Marquesas to see the faces behind Scotia’s delightful Scottish accents.  While walking ashore we came across a Bulgarian backpacking couple and, as they were headed for the same spot as us – Hakaui - we gave them a ride.   With no public transport in these islands they’d found getting around difficult, relying on hitch hiking.  It’s nice to share our world with others – and these guys had never sailed before or seen dolphins and we provided both experiences.

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In the Marquesas we seemed to move from one spectacular anchorage to another and so it proved the day we arrived in Hakaui in the south.  The entrance was quite narrow and once inside the bay opened up with sheer and dramatic cliffs on three sides and a beautiful white sandy beach at the head of the bay.  Absolutely stunning.  As we made our way in we watched manta rays in the water ahead of us. 

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The main attraction here was the hike to the 350m Ahuii Waterfall which went through beautifully manicured and lush tropical gardens before reaching river crossings and rough paths. We’d heard the waterfall was dry so didn’t go all the way but it was a fantastic walk with amazing scenery and the bonus of meeting friendly locals along the way who sold us fruit.  We headed back to Bandit with bananas, coconut, papaya, oranges, Tahitian apples, mangos, limes and breadfruit.  They don’t seem to grow many vegetables here but we’ve enough fruit on board to ward off scurvy.

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It would be easy to linger here but we only have a three month visa and there are still many miles to cover and lots more to see.  With good moon and tides we hope to head away to the Tuamoto Islands in the next few days with vivid memories of the magnificent Marquesas etched in our minds.   We’ll stop off at Ua Pou for a night or too en route.  Perhaps the best thing about these wonderful islands is that their remoteness means they are off the beaten track and so few tourists, apart from yachties, get here.  Avery special place.

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