Dear Readers – I am attempting to add a new category to our website in order to catch you up on some of the activities that we as a family have enjoyed here in the Marquesas since arriving. These are edited letters that I have sent to family and friends during our time here. They include dates and places along with my observations and also responses to letters (emails) that I enjoyed from the various correspondents. I have already posted once in this category but didn’t hear if any of you liked it or if you think these kind of postings are uninteresting. Please let me know your thoughts.
July 13, 2015
Dear Mom and Dad – On Wednesday, the 8th of July, we sailed over to the incredibly picturesque bay of Anaho situated on the northeast corner of Nukuhiva. It’s a bay we intend to bring you two when you visit. We had been intending on making our way to Anaho almost from the day we arrived, as it is an extremely calm protected bay with very few sharks. And true to its reputation, the bay was exquisitely beautiful with clear calm water. Anaho is one of the bays that actually has a a coral reef to snorkel. Sadly, in 1983 during the last El Nino, the shallow waters heated up so intensly that most of the coral died. After more than 20 years, it is starting to rejuvenate, but with this year’s El Nino the possibility of it happening again is all too likely.
We followed close behind our new French cruiser friends, husband Guy, wife Marian, and 9 year old Taeva, an adopted Tahitian boy. They live on Tahiti near Papeete. They are very close friends with Raymonde and Sebastien.
Ever since we arrived in Taiohae, we have been experiencing a gradually increasing leak from the propeller shaft stuffing box as the coils were no longer sufficiently holding back the water. This repair needed to be done in calm waters with no sharks. In Anaho, Eric and Guy succeeded in fixing the leak working tirelessly on it for an entire day. It was imperative to fix before we left the boat unattended to visit Aakapa, where Denis and Chantale live. Guy helped us so much.
From Anaho we hiked over to Hatiheu where Denis fetched us in his truck. Bryce, Trent and Taeva had left two days prior to Denis and Chantale’s house in Aakapa to prepare a special entertainment for us there once we got the leak repaired. The fourteenth of July (France’s Independence Day) is approaching and all the towns and bays of Nuku Hiva have been ramping up their festivities to celebrate. It turns out that Bryce and Trent were encouraged to participate in the “Miss and Mister Aakapa” competition/fashion show along with Chantale’s young visiting nephews, Mathu and Mauna-iki from Bora Bora (Marquesan born, but Tahitian by culture). What a crazy/fun way to kick-off immersion into present-day Marquesan culture. There were special publicity photos taken of each participant out in natural settings, videos, and rehearsals for 2 days in preparation. They each had three outfits to pageant: a native plant costume, a pareo, and then regular nice street clothes. There were several female participants from Aakapa, but besides the foreigners, only one Marquesan Aakapa boy had the courage to be a part. Guess who won the male contest: the blond-haired, pale-skinned, blue-eyed California boys? Not! It was a great time had by all and during the time the boys hung out with those pretty local girls, they chanced to learn a few French phrases along the way! Eric has always claimed that the best way to learn French is by having a French girlfriend.
After the weekend festivities in Aakapa, we yacht families hiked back to Anaho via Hatiheu to return to our boats. Having been to Anaho many times prior, Marian invited me to join her and Guy on a porcelain shell and pencil urchin hunting excursion among the tide pools. She taught me how to harvest the popular shells and urchins with gloves and a long sharp knife. All new to me, I tagged along trying not to fall on the slippery lava. She captured three urchins, which later that evening we got to taste: salty and slippery to the tongue. I’m not entirely certain we are fans, but the shells and pencil spikes are great prizes. I’ll make sure to keep the spikes for mom’s artwork. I think she will have a creative use for them!
That’s the latest news. All is very well. No major infections or injuries. We are all happy to be among the lovely people of these picturesque isles. XOXOXO
September 2, 2015
Hello Darling Denise,
We are doing very well here in the Marquesas on the island of Nuku Hiva in the bay and village of Taiohae. We are so glad to be here in this relatively quiet bay. It is a large protected bay surrounded by the biggest town in the Marquesas. Most towns here are deep inside valleys. Taiohae markets, stores, homes, administrative offices and the hospital mostly border the waterline, making life on the water convenient.
We have enrolled the boys in school here, and while they don’t speak a lot of French yet, they are picking up words and understanding more and more daily. We speak to them in French too, although not often enough. They get mad at us whenever we push the French not understanding the great opportunity they have to improve their speaking skills with us among family. Oh well!
We have just two aluminum boat bikes that we brought with us, which was creating a little challenge for our family of four since walking and biking are our only modes of transportation on land accompanied by occasional hitch-hiking. This past week, some local friends of ours were in Papeete, Tahiti on vacation and they helped us order two kid BMX bikes for the boys and a couple boogie boards, as our cheap ones from Costco are falling apart. This is their birthday month after all. Yesterday, the boat Aranui III from Papeete arrived. Bryce and Trent were beside themselves excited to get their new toys.
This Sunday, my parents are arriving. We are thrilled to have them for three weeks! I pray that my mother will be able to handle spending time on the boat. Our generous Marquesan friends are putting them up in their lovely house which overlooks the bay for a week to recover from the long trip and to help them get used to the climate change. It is definitely warm and humid here. They will need time to acclimate. The following two weeks we plan to sail to nearby Hakaui Bay (otherwise known as Daniel’s Bay) in order to hike the famous waterfall there, head to Anaho to visit one of the most extraordinarily beautiful bays in Nuku Hiva, hit Taipivai for some shell collecting and then head over by land to Aakapa – a more remote bay – where most of our friends live – to tour the farms, chop down coconuts, feed the pigs and enjoy the practically private beach. Lots of fun plans ahead.
Presently, I’m hanging out at “Chez Henri’s,” a local restaurant cafe with the best wifi in town. Lessons on ukele are being taught right next door. They sing in harmony….not perfectly, but it is charming to hear. The view is stunning and we get to know more and more people everyday. When you are acquainted with someone, the usual greeting is kisses on the cheek. Everyone goes around and greets and shakes friends’ hands. It’s heartwarming. And sometimes hard to get work done as it’s the best hangout in town, not to mention it’s the central wharf where all the yachties leave their dinghies when provisioning or visiting on land. We tend to know many of the yachties now who have traveled from Mexico to the Galapagos to the Marquesas. Many of them have already been around the world once! Most yachties are allowed only three months to travel in all of French Polynesia, but the ones here right now applied in the states for a year visa, so many are hanging around the Marquesas islands during the hurricane season, which is already appearing in Tahiti with heavy rains and bad weather. This El Nino year is serious. Tahiti and the society islands could get hit hard – and we’re protected here in the Marquesas islands from hurricanes because the islands are located so close to the equator.
Daily life is working out well here for us. It feels good to have some downtime since the last couple years of preparation were challenging to say the least. Hoping you and Jack are doing very well. Hugs,
September 30, 2015
Mom and Dad,
Hello you two. Yes, we did indeed finally get your satellite text responses letting us know you arrived back home safely, and even received the one from this morning asking about Trent’s birthday celebration. To celebrate Trent, we had a great dinner and evening together. For dinner, Trent indicated before heading to school, that he wanted hash browns and bacon. So Eric and I grated potatoes and I found bacon at one of the stores – hurray! Accompanied by sunny side eggs along with my yummy pineapple upside down cake, he was elated. I had also picked-up some coca-cola sodas, sour candies, mentos and cookies as little sweet presents, so both Trent and Bryce were all smiles, feeling spoiled.
I needed desperately to clean out the fridge and freezer this morning as both were stinking up the boat. The ground beef in the freezer had completely defrosted and leaked out a bloody mess. Yuck! I also washed some laundry yesterday at Raymonde’s and took care of much needed grocery shopping.
We are heading over to the library this afternoon to meet the boys after school to look for some easy children’s French books to read together. The boys have been rather down on the French, thus Eric and I need to pump them up with reading materials that they can tackle and then patiently tutor them along with Stephane, the boys’ French language tutor that they each work with 2 hours per week.
What a great trip home you guys had…broken up into little tour packages in Tahiti and in Waikiki. Thanks for treating Raymonde’s brother Patrick and her boys to dinner. They certainly are handsome young men! And so polite too! I cannot believe all three showed up at the airport with more flowers and bead necklaces for you. Goodness gracious, you must have weighed in an extra five pounds! lol Glad you got a chance to visit the Arizona and Diamond Head in Waikiki.
That was an interesting remark about your impressions seeing Diamond Head: “After appreciating all the incredible views and vistas on Nuku Hiva, the famous view from the Waikiki coastline was anti-climatic.” The last time we were in Waikiki, I was rather disappointed too with all the ugly high rises, heavy traffic and pollution. Yet the surfing at Waikiki beach was truly terrific. On Waikiki, Bryce and Trent had their first experience surfing way back in 2008 when Trent was 4 and Bryce was 6.
Good news to hear that the smelly urchin shells we collected together made their way to Oakland intact and that there were no customs problems with the many things you brought home for us. I’m sure it will be fun unloading all the treasures we found together during your visit here. Already missing you. Love Leslie.