Thursday, June 25, 2015

Swanky Tahiti: Revamped Pearl of the Pacific

Nothing sings “Pearl of the Pacific” more flamboyantly than
a pearl crown. Photographed at Tahiti’s Pearl Museum.
Broken boat parts and a little rampant consumer spending lured us to Tahiti, French Polynesia, population ~ ¼ million.  Plus, the Pape’ete-Mo'orea Pacific Puddle Jump party affordably offered a brilliant quickie Polynesian culture experience, and cruiser reunion.

Our first sunset in Tahiti; heckuva a welcome!
Tahiti’s (covered) open-air market…
traffic” at the tail end of the afternoon.
Honestly, our expectations of Tahiti, particularly Pape’ete, were low.  The normally funny Maartin Troost of Headhunters at my Doorstep was quite disparaging of Tahiti in his moody memoir.  Even Lonely Planet’sTahiti and French Polynesia leads with the disclaimer “…Tahiti isn’t the white sand island of your holiday brochure…” They add capital of French Polynesia’s “Pape’ete is really just a medium-sized town…”

Not just purple – indigo – cooked potatoes and pink pit-roasted
bananas, fresh leeks and green onions, fluorescent orange
fresh turmeric … just a few open-air market ingredients (and
jambons" -- smoked bacon bits from the grocer).
We knew we’d open our wallet and pay to stay in a marina for at least several days to get our long list of Tahiti tasks done.  We usually anchor, which costs us nothing.

We were pleasantly surprised, if not downright tickled. 

Soaring vibrant green mountains.  Healthy coral reefs filled with fish, even in the commercial areas.  Brand spankin’ new everything in Pape ‘ete’s downtown marina with barefoot-worthy docks.  The visitor’s center, and parks on each side of the marina are litter free.  Lovely fragrant island-fresh flower arrangements, bloom-draped ears, and leis.    Out-rigger canoes, joggers, cyclists… Pape’ete practically bursts with fresh energy.  Virtually no one panhandling.  Well lighted streets and boulevards.  Even for ultra-safety “stranger-danger” paranoids like me, it feels safe to wander around after dark.  At every crosswalk, even freeway rush hour cards stop, consistently for pedestrians.  I swear, I will get that on video for a future post.
Pearls most men would prefer to proudly adorn
their trophy wife.  Photographed at
Tahiti’s Pearl Museum.

The palms along the ocean side
boardwalk are so new, they are all
cabled to stabilize their
settling-in process.
Uke trio at Pacific Puddle Jump Pape’ete shindig.
We even stumbled over a last bit of a Heiva performance practice, celebrating traditional Polynesian songs, dance and attire.  Watch for upcoming Polynesian dance video clip posts, too.

Downtown Pape’ete Tahiti marina,
all lit up for the night.
Location Location
We’re currently moored in over 40’ of water here in the heart of downtown Tahiti at the newly redone downtown marina (S17.32.393 W139.34.219) for their opening special of >$20/night. There are still lots of backtracking backtracking goodies coming soon, on Galapagos, Marquesas, and our all-too-brief time in Fakarava, Tuamotus and Mo’orea.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Marquesas: 2 Best Sinfully Delish $2 Treats

Gooey, seriously chocolate brownie-cake sold outside
Kamaki market, Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.  Best place to buy
veggies in town, too.
Even in the remote, sparsely populated islands of the Marquesas, affordable and decadently delish treats are available.  It takes a sharp eye, good timing and a willingness to surrender without hesitation to a little indulgence.

Like kosher household members who sneak bacon when staying at the beach house, or Mormons who imbibe in the occasional sip of caffeine or alcohol when out and about, I relish the once-in-a-while foray away from our normally gluten-free (GF) boat.  Besides, unlike my husband, I do not have celiac’s, though I do believe in general a GF diet is healthier.

Baguettes in 4 foot-long loaves, made fresh daily on the premises.
They sold for just over 50 cents throughout the Marquesas.
While I miss the convenience of food using off-the-shelf flour-based products like sandwiches made from store-bought bread, my non-GF cravings tend toward rarer treats. They’re distinctive, don’t-usually-get-‘em, maybe not even once a year treats … chocolate-iced cream-filled éclairs, bear claws thick with almond paste filling and the more frequent gooey chocolate-y brownies.  Ok, I do admit, most of all I miss crusty tangy sourdough, slathered with butter, served on the side of steamed crab and downed with a crisp, chilled sauvignon blanc. But I digress….

Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa delivered my favorite sinful sweets… even once were there, getting there still took some effort.  Of course, that burned enough calories – or so I told myself – to justify imbibing.

In Taiohae Bay, on Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia, Kamake market was a mere several hundred yards from our boat.  As is often the case, “crow fly” distance is a lousy indicator of actual proximity on foot.  If only the rocky, surf-torn beach with the steep but short embankment just below Kamake’s would support a kayak landing.  Alas, it does not.

Eclairs… tiny, but oh-so-good! $1.25 each at
Hiva Oa’s Naiki market in Atuona.
To get to Kamake’s is 5-minute kayak ride to Taiohae’s “old docks.”  Then it’s another 5 minutes to move past the pile of dinghies, to clamber up the slippery ladder that is angled way from the cement dock wall as if to drop you back into the bay and tie off.  From there it’s a swift 15 or leisurely 30-minute walk to Kamake’s.

If you’re early enough in the morning, there’s a small bakery case outside filled with especially sumptuous treats.  It was my second trip while the bakery case was there.  This time, I was unable to resist the sweet siren “eat me!” call emanating from sizeable gooey brownie cake (flourless chocolate cake?) behind the glass case.  

Ahhhh.  They were the perfect satisfaction for my many-month-long brownie craving, infinitely better than the dry cocoa plywood masquerading as brownies in Panama.

Naiki was the furthest market in Atuona from the Tahioe Bay anchorage,
Hiva Oa.  They also offered the best cheese selection in the Marquesas.
In Hiva Oa, I wasn’t craving éclairs, which simply on not on my radar, generally.  I was simply hungry after my 45-minute or so uphill hoof to Atuona from Tahioe Bay, to the furthest and largest market there, Naiki.  I was looking for something I could eat quickly, and there they were…. Eclairs!

It was years since my last éclair.  And these were so tiny, maybe 5 inches long, and inch and a half, wide.  They were only $1.25, though expensive compared to a 4’ baguette for ~53 cents. 

My kayak on the “shortcut” beach at Tahioe Bay, post provisioning run.
The trailhead leading up to the road was a stone’s throw from this spot.
The éclair was melting in my hand on the way to the register.  I tried to savor it, but wolfed it down as soon as I stepped outside, but not too quickly to notice its delicate crust, and that its generous cream filling was not only the perfect custard-y consistency, and not too sweet, it was also … chocolate!  Yum!

I turned around, went back into Naiki, bought another.  I’m not sure if I ate it any slower….

The next time I was there, I bought another two….

It’s probably a good thing we left Hiva Oa when we did.  I don’t know how many more times I would’ve indulged and deprived some other lucky customer for their fair éclair share.

Guess I’ve caught up on my éclair quota for the next several years.

Taking the Atuona-Tahioe Bay trail down from the road was
more challenging with a load of groceries, and slippery
when the trail got muddy.

Location Location

“Naiki’s” éclairs were inhaled, repeatedly, while we were anchored in Tahauku Bay, Hiva Oa (S9.48.260 W139.01.924), Marquesas, French Polynesia “Kamake’s” chocolate cake was devoured while we were anchored in Taiohae Bay, on Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia (S8.54.856 W140.05.880).  This post was written on the 565 mile, 5 ½ day passage of 24/7 sailing from Nuku Hiva to Fakarava, Tuamotus and posted once we finally got internet in Tahiti.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Marquesas: Bay of Virgins Waterfall Bath

Even the walk along Hanavave’s main road to
Fatu Hiva waterfall was pretty awesome.
Where else besides Fatu Hiva’s gobsmackingly beautiful Hanavave Bay aka “Baie of Virgins” (originally named Bay of Penises – really!) would I find the perfect waterfall bathing pool?  Who cares, when that’s the available option!

One of the more whimsical
Fatu Hiva waterfall trail markers.
Our readings indicated the hike was a mere 45 minutes or so, and that while the water was cold, that after the heat from the hike in, it would be refreshing.  With a broken hot water heater resulting in no hot water showers aboard, I relished a good shampoo and wash at the pool.  Wayne looked forward to enjoying bikinis…. As lovely as the Marquesas are for hiking and sightseeing, its beaches suck for lounging.  The last beach we hung out at with bikinis or less was Contadora, Panama, back in late February and early March – unless you count a brief time on beach crowed in by sea lions in Galapagos in April.

California surfer-type cruiser midway through his jump
into the pools below Fatu Hiva’s falls.
It would’ve been easy to miss the trailhead off the main road – there were no signs for it.  Fortunately, cruisers returning from the hike told us it was the second, less obvious, right hand turn off the main road past town, onto a dirt road marked by a clive (small rocks piled atop each other, a common unofficial trail marking device).  From there it took a sharp eye to catch the next marker where the trail moved from a wide open flat path, turning into a narrow path in a wooded area, which began climbing up.

Local Marquesan demonstrates how
the Fatu Hiva waterfall dive is done.
We hiked in on a Sunday, which meant while we wouldn’t have the pool to ourselves, we’d enjoy an interesting mix of cruisers and locals.

When we first arrived, everyone at the pool was a cruiser.  One brave soul -- a slim 20s-something California surfer-type with a washboard stomach, scaled a waterfall rock face to an outcropping about 30 feet up.  He leapt from there into the pool below, filming his rapid descent with his water camera.

A bit later, a half dozen or so locals turned up, boombox and male bravado and an overabundance of testosterone in full display.

Several guys climbed and jumped from the same precipice as “Mr. California.”*  They then scaled the face opposite the waterfall, jumping in from a much higher point.  Their leaps were preceded by much, hooting, hollering, general hamming and muscle-flexing of their tattooed arms.  They wanted to be sure their audience was attentive and appreciative.

*Video of some of the waterfall jumps will be added to this post at a later point.  Check back!

Graciously, they then offered the ever-eager “Mr. California” locals lessons on pool entry.  He dove from a higher precipice on the same wall he initially leapt from.

No diving, but this Galley Wench is still willing to pose
at Fatu Hiva’s most excellent waterfall pool.
Once upon a time (in my youth), I’d dove from similar ledges into waterfall pools and rivers.  I still bear the chipped front teeth from belly-flopping from one such leap.  Now, thanks to my hard-earned wisdom maturity age and shallow pockets coupled with a lack of medical and dental coverage I opted not to follow suit.

Even without the daredevil antics, the waterfall pool was indeed as refreshing as it was beautiful, a veritable Garden of the Gods waterfall.  I kept wondering if Brooke Shields (“Blue Lagoon”) or Bo Derek (“10”) would appear….

This tiny iridescent fish at Fatu Hiva’s Hanavave waterfall
inspired one of the first underwater photos with
my still relatively new Olympus camera.
The waterfall was so good, I returned the next day. My second time was a much quieter experience with some other cruisers, including a couple who’d missed the trail marker in and initially gave up on finding the waterfall.  No locals.  No dramatic jumps, but still a great place to soak up the spectacular scenery the Marquesas has to offer and get clean at the same time.  And given all our passage-making time on the boat, I like to get in my walkies whenever I can.

FatuHiva waterfall as seen from our 17 km hike
from Omoa back to Hanavave.

I’d hoped for at least one more waterfall swim before leaving the Marquesas, but instead got a bit of a misadventure instead (click here to find out what happened on our way to Vaipo waterfall in Nuku Hiva Marquesas).  I’m hoping Tahiti, Morea or BoraBora will offer a chance to soak in another Garden of the Gods waterfall as nice as the one on Fatu Hiva.

FatuHiva waterfall as seen from our 17 km hike
from Omoa back to Hanavave, zoomed in
from a 60x telephoto lens.

Location Location

When we took these waterfall hikes in May 2015, we were anchored at Fatu Hiva’s Hanavave Bay (S10.57.854 W138.40.053) aka “Bay of Virgins” (originally named Bay of Penises – really!) in Marquesas, French Polynesia.  This post was written on passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus in deference to Keith Blankenship, who chided me about the hairy guy dressed only in a loincloth in a post about the Ara Nui (click here for that post if scantily dressed hairy guys don’t weird you out).  This post will run while take a few days away from Papeete, Tahiti to go to the Pacific Puddle Jump festivities in nearby Moorea, French Polynesia.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tuamotus: Boat Work in Paradise

View from Journey's mast, in Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.
Journey is a Pearson 365 ketch sailboat.  Heckuva view, but I was there for repairs.
100 miles before arriving in the Tuamotus, Wayne heard a "Pop!" and noticed our mizzen mast began swaying.  

Not a good thing. 

He looked up and noticed the cable that is (was) supposed to secure our mizzen mast from our main mast (the triatic stay) was swinging, wildly, loose.  

Apparently, when we pulled our main mast back in Panama, the guy who went up our mast to connect cables after our mast was re-installed, neglected to properly screw in the turnbuckle that holds the cable together.  It disconnected, when Wayne heard that "Pop!" as our triatic stay detached.

He quickly used a couple of lines to set up a temporary support for our mizzen mast.  Doing so held it in place, but meant we were unable to sail our main or mizzen mast, and we crept along on only our smaller, working jib, as we were not about to change sails while underway in some rollicking seas.

We sailed 350 miles with the temporary fix, including through gusts near 30 miles an hour.  Before we leave Tahiti, we'll replace the missing part and I will again play mast monkey to reinstall it.  We will be in a nice, stable marina when I do it.

Location Location
We are currently in Tahiti's Papeete municipal marina (S17.32.380 W149.34.210).  We expect to be here for a bit (apart from 2 days of Pacific Puddle Jump festivities in nearby Moorea) until our triatic stay and a list of other boat maintenance and repairs are complete. The lat/long in the anchorage this was shot in is (S16.31.360 W145.28.419), Fakarava Tuamotus, South Pass area.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Marquesas: Flood & Fire – Too Much Excitement for One Day!

Patty, Wayne and Steve on our first Viapo Falls river crossing.
The deepest point was the rock behind Steve
(the guy without an umbrella).
“Expect three big stream crossings; 30 feet or so across.  They look impassable but the stream’s only about 1 ½ feet,” explained Tom, of s/v Ambler, regarding the hike from Marquesas Nuku Hiva’s Hakaui to Viapo, a waterfall with a 900+ foot free-fall cascade, one cruiser claimed it’s third tallest waterfall in the world.  We hiked a 17 km hike with Tom and his wife Jan on Fatu Hiva (click here for photos of that hike), so we trusted his advice.

The same river crossing point near Hakaui Nuku Hiva as before,
about two hours later.  Note you can’t even see the big rock
that was visible before.

Thus when we reached our first seemingly impossible, substantial stream crossing, as the shortest in our hiking party, I plunged ahead, figuring if I could make it, so could Wayne and Patty and Steve of s/v Armagh.  The stream was opaque with silt, so umbrella in one hand (it was raining), I “felt” my way across with my feet.  It was deep enough to get my shorts soaked, but passable.  Wayne, Steve and Patty followed, with some reluctance. 

Our trail became a stream – it got much deeper, wider and swifter
than this.  This is one of the few shots I could get before
my camera got too fogged.

It was our last full day in the Marquesas, so I really hoped to get in one more waterfall / swimming hole as we’d passed on a few, most notably Hiva Oa’s Hana Menu swimming hole and a pair of waterfalls on Ua Poa.  The Tuamotus, our next stop, are known for their lagoons and beaches, but are desert-dry atolls; fresh water is scarce; forget about waterfalls. 

We turned around a little past this viewpoint; not sure if
it was Viapo Falls.  We were about an hour into the hike.

After spending 20+ years in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), a little rain was hardly a damper.  Besides, we were already wet and it was fresh water for a change.  I’d brought my biodegradable body soap/shampoo, swimsuit, towel and cream rinse and had visions of a good freshwater pool shampoo and bath.  Plus, unlike true native PNWers, I had an umbrella and wasn’t afraid to use it (must be because I was born in California – a trueborn PNW native would never use an umbrella).

This is one of the minor stream crossings on the way back.
It tripled in size by our second crossing of it.

But it kept raining.  And raining.  And raining.  Enough for even a near-native of the PNW to take notice.

Our trail became a stream itself, oozing chocolate-milk brown “water” in a swift flow, as opaque as the stream crossing and typically six inches deep.

Our research indicated the walk to Viapo pool would take 2 ½ hours.  We were an hour into our hike and the rain was nearly unabated and our trail stream continued to build.  We became concerned that first large stream crossing would become impassible, if it wasn’t already.

When we reached the big steam crossing, it had risen several feet in less than two hours, and looked more like am angry torrent than a stream.  This time, none of us felt it wise to attempt crossing.  We began scouting for a better crossing spot, when a group of six other hikers showed up, facing the same predicament.  One of their group was a guide.  He was a tall fellow, and decided to test the crossing, but near halfway across and waist deep* he too suggested finding an alternative crossing.  Meanwhile, the rain abated just enough for the mosquitoes to begin feasting upon us.

*Check back for a video update of that – after a decent stretch of good power and internet.

Not treacherous like Viapo Falls river, but sticky enough to
suck Crocs off your feet if you were unable to sidestep it.
The guide found a slightly less treacherous crossing point, cut some sturdy stick for us to use to brace ourselves, and laid out a plan for crossing. It was dicey, but it worked.  I don’t believe we would’ve made it without his help.  We’d likely have had to wait for the “stream” to fall, however long that would’ve taken.

We were incredibly relieved when at last we returned to our boats, anchored in adjacent Hakatea Bay. 

Later, as I was finishing some passage prep cooking clean-up, Wayne asked, “Do you smell something burning?” 

While I puzzled over it – I knew it wasn’t from my cooking, which was done – Wayne headed to our v-berth bed, where he thought the scent originated.  He opened the anchor locker door, at the foot of v-berth bed to see….

Different point on Viapo Falls river, Nuku Hiva.  Better, but
still marginally passable.  The guide, rear, assists the final hiker
across the slightly shallower but swifter portion of the river.

Wayne figured out it was an electrical short fire and quickly blew it out.**  Whew!  (Sorry – no fire photos – focus was on preserving our sailboat, not “photojournalism”!)

**Watch for a later post on the fire’s cause and fix.

Even though there was almost no smoke or burnt smell, I boiled up some cloves, cinnamon, my usual boat remedy to overcome odor.

“I’ve had more than enough excitement for one day.  I’m ready for a little less adventure,” I told Wayne, who heartily agreed.

Tuamotus-bound, we set sail mid-afternoon the next day.  It was sunny.  “Great day for a waterfall hike,” I kidded Wayne.  We’ll miss the Marquesas lush beauty.  We wish we’d chosen a better day to attempt our Viapo Falls hike.  We won’t miss the rain, silty water, lack of decent beaches and hungry vicious biting mosquitos, nonos a prolific boat-loving wasps.  Watch for a “Marquesas mulligan” post if you’re interested in a single highlights & lowlights roundup of our 6-week Marquesas experience.

See the two waterfalls between the pair of palms?  And the one to
the left of the left palm? Viapo Falls? Not sure.  All these
Nuka Hiva falls were flowing full bore on our way out.
Location Location

We were anchored at Hakatea, aka “Daniel’s Bay” (S8.56.650 W140.09.808) on Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas when we took the Viapo waterfall hike.  That was June 2, 2015; the night of a full moon, when it seems weird weather-related phenomenon abounds.  This post was written on the 565 mile 6-day 24/7 passage begun the next day, to the Tuamotus.  The Tuamotus, like the Marquesas, are still part of French Polynesia, and posted from Papeete,Tahiti (S17.32.380 W149.34.210) municipal marina once we finally! regained internet access.