Leaving Nuku Hiva

Saturday was our last night in Nuku Hiva. We cruised back to Taioha’e on Friday and spent two days doing chores to get ready for our passage to the Tuamotus. For me, that meant coming up with easy to reheat dishes using the vegetables on hand (eggplant parmesan and muchos marinated cucumbers). For Dominic, it meant doing the deflate the dinghy dance and raising the new genoa.

While in Anaho, Dom hoisted himself up the mast to inspect the standing rigging and found the jib halyard bow shackle had unthreaded itself during the Pacific crossing. Because the jib was going on 17 years old and looking frayed around the edges anyway, we took the bow shackle replacement as an opportunity to raise our new headsail, a genoa Dominic purchased before we left home. Grateful that we didn’t have to wait weeks and pay hundreds of dollars to have a new sail shipped to the Marquesas, we raised the genoa and furled it; a two person job that produced only a moderate amount of sail flapping and line whipping in the anchorage.

After our labors, we hobby horsed ourselves on over to the brick oven pizza parlor in town (and the only restaurant on the island we hadn’t yet enjoyed) and split a pie, salad, and bottle of pinot noir. Strolling back to the dinghy, we heard drumming and singing coming from the community center and inviting us to explore. Inside, we found ourselves in the midst of a Polynesian dance party.

There were twenty men with loin cloths made from palm fronds and cod pieces made from animal skulls. They ranged in age from 15 to 45 and had varying degrees of tattoos: ample art on the face and neck; geometric prints on thighs, glutes, and torsos; some had inked necklaces and large figures similar to tikis; the younger men had none at all. Their movements seemed like highly rhythmic and choreographed martial arts—lots of kicking, running in place, chanting, squatting, and thigh slapping.

There were about twenty women as well, in hula skirts, black tube tops, and luscious floral head wreaths. They had a dramatic, synchronized entrance and sat in a semicircle singing a call and response pattern. There were two female soloists, two of the youngest members of the group, who danced with floating, lyrical arms over legs that did a bourre on tip-toe. They had fabulous costumes, a skirt, top, and head wreath made of feathers, one red, one white and black.

There was a toddler in street clothes who danced amid it all, miming the movements of the others and absolutely loving it. Our friend Keha from Hakatea won the raffle, and danced to the center of the circle to receive her prize that included a lei to match her head wreath. There was an audience participation portion of the evening, but as I had left both my floral and feather head wreaths at home I was forced to decline (real reason: I was wearing really ugly shoes not fit for an audience, dinghy friendly water sandals).

On Sunday, we sailed away. We were sad to see Nuku Hiva fade into clouds; it had been exactly what we were looking for—beautiful, an easy place to land with an awesome cruising community, plenty of gorgeous bays to explore with minimal sailing, fresh food and a few restaurants. We stayed three weeks, which was a luxurious amount of time to enjoy the island. We met others who had visited multiple Marquesean islands in that time, and we would have loved to visit others, but we had a good weather window to make passage to the Tuamotus and decided to take advantage.

We arrived this morning, Thursday, in Makemo (details on the passage to come), a beautiful islet of sand, palm trees and translucent waters that begged us to spend the afternoon in the water. We complied accordingly.

ps. The picture is one of the aforementioned tikis. We didn’t bring our camera to the dance party, but judging by the number of people who did, a little google search will give you a visual of the action.