Nuku Hiva, One Way to do…

“Very often when lost in admiration at its beauty, I have experienced a pang of regret that a scene so enchanting should be hidden from the world in these remote seas, and seldom meet the eyes of devoted lovers of nature.”

These words were written by  Herman Melville, author of ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Typee’ as he described his experience of  Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and it was the first port of call on a recent Silversea cruise in the South Pacific.

It also required a tender transfer from the ship that was anchored in the bay of the island’s administrative capital, Taioha’e…

From our approach we noted that the coastline of Nuku Hiva is characterised by a rugged and steep coastline, indented occasionally by small bays leading to deep valleys.

Taioha’e Bay is one of the few bays on the southern side of Nuku Hiva…

(Map credit – http://www.frommers.com)

There is no public transport on Nuku Hiva. My wife and I had made a reservation for a full day private tour with one of the island’s tour operators,   http://www.nukuhivatours.com, and were fortunate enough to have, as our driver/guide,  the most affable owner, Kevin Ellis...

It very soon became apparent that an SUV/4WD vehicle is the ideal mode of transport on Nuku Hiva. Indeed, we later learned that any other tours not in such rugged vehicles were rather limited in their itinerary and, as Kevin’s website says…’Houmi please note this is as far as the tour offered by your cruise line takes its guests’.

And here we are overlooking Houmi and Comptroller Bay…

 

*****

 

We next dropped down into the Taipivai Valley for a quick look at the valley’s beachhead…

…with its black volcanic sand, before moving on up the Taipivai valley.

We were given an insight into two of the islands main crops: Breadfruit and Coconuts.

It was breadfruit

…that was the raison d’être for Captain William Bligh’s ill fated HMS Bounty expedition. The idea was originally to transfer breadfruit plants to the Caribbean in order to supplement the food of the plantation slaves.

Coconuts are collected, split open, and the inner meat and shell placed on crude platforms, with railed covers to protect against rains,  to dry in the sun ….

Often, the coconut husks are used to provide heat under the drying platforms…

The dried copra is eventually loaded into burlap sacks, which are then sold and shipped to either Tahiti or directly exported.

We continued our tour heading further up the valley, stopping enroute to take in the view over Hatihue Bay, where we were eventually scheduled to stop for lunch…

…but all the time heading  for the most famous and compelling of Nuku Hiva’s  Marae, Kamuihai

The marae used to be sacred buildings used for ceremonies, dances and human sacrifices. They are usually of a rectangular shape and built in the open air, away from busy places.

This mare is well worth exploring. It has many tikis, petroglyphs carved into huge boulders…

and a pit…

…under an enormous banyan tree…

…into which human sacrifices were restrained prior to their dispatch.

Our excellent visit to Kamuihei Marae had worked up an appetite and Kevin had a special treat in store. We headed back towards Hatihue Bay for lunch at Nuku Hiva’s most celebrated restaurant, Yvonne Katupa’s waterfront Chez Yvonne

Yvonne is something of a legend on Nuku Hiva and, having heard so much about her, I was very pleased to make her acquaintance…

 

Kevin and I enjoyed an excellent seafood lunch with my first taste of Breadfruit…

These are the breadfruit…

…while Barbara had a bracingly good Goat in Coconut dish….

 

The beach in front of Yvonne’s restaurant afforded an excellent view of the distinctive geological formations towering above Hatihue Bay...

..one peak bearing  a statue of the Madonna…

…and closer…

Well fed we continued our drive, taking in some more outstanding views…

…as we headed towards the village of Aakapa, with its small church sitting in the shadows of yet more spectacular rock formations…

Aakapa Bay is mainly surrounded by coconut plantations …

*****

…as seen from the shoreline.

Aakapa Bay was the furthest we were to travel and we were to retrace our drive as far as the Taipivai Valley, where we made a stop at the Taipivai Marae centre…

*****

*****

…before finally returning to Taioha’e for a visit to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Marquesas…

…built with rocks from the six islands of the Marquesas. The woodcarvings inside are a blend of Marquesan art with iconic Christian symbolism, including a beautiful wooden pulpit. Though we were able to look into the Cathedral there was a service in progress and, not for the first time, Solent Richard deemed it inappropriate to take photographs.

One last view across Taioha’e Bay…

…watched over as it is by a number of stone Tiki. Kevin returned us safely to the tender jetty having given us around an 8 hour private tour of an island with stunning scenery and a fascinating history to match.

Thank you very much Kevin. Great tour.

Nuka Hiva is, by its very geographical position,  well off the normal mass cruising track. That’s not to say it is a difficult place to get to. The ancient inhabitants of these islands would have journeyed under very testing conditions and come to believe that these islands were the home of deities: the roof of the gods and Kevin gave us the opportunity to see first hand their triumph.

If you have enjoyed this review of Nuku Hiva and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews (which will shortly include Siem Reap and the Pacific Islands of Tahiti and Moorea) why not join the many other followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page. You will be alerted by email immediately a new post appears.

One response to “Nuku Hiva, One Way to do…

  1. Dear Richard
    thank you for this insight into a really beautiful part of the world.
    Looking forward to your next posts.
    Very best regards
    Camilla & Thomas

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