Weather Helmed

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Weather Helmed

A Visit to Hakatea (“Daniel’s Bay”) (May 13-16)

May 22nd, 2010 · 3 Comments · Cruising with Friends, Fellow Cruisers, French Polynesia, Marquesas, Nuku Hiva, Our Route, shoe-cruising, Shore Excursions

Five miles west of Taiohae Bay, there’s Hakatea, nicknamed Daniel’s Bay because of some European who used to live there.  Although Mike and Hyo of IO had already explored the area, they readily accepted our invitation to ditch their boat in Taiohae and come with us back over to Daniel’s Bay for a weekend.  Daniel’s Bay has two lobes – one you anchor in and the other you walk to to access the trail to Nuku Hiva’s famous waterfall.  The sail to Daniel’s Bay is quite short and poor Matt worked so hard to get the sails up and trimmed, only to reef the main, furl the jib back up and turn on the engine so we could motor into the bay.  The narrow entrance to the bay is hidden, tucked between these massive, steep, intimidating rock walls, so much so that a few boats have inadvertently sailed past it, missing the opening completely.

We pulled into the small anchorage and dropped the hook, noting instantly how much quieter and peaceful it was compared to Taiohae.  The only land structure we could see was a small flat-roofed house, no walls, supported only by large bundles of wood.  There was a thin curl of smoke coming from near the front of the house and Mike and Hyo told us that it was Tangue’s (tong-ay) weekend home.  We met Tangue the next day and he is a kind, tall Marquesan, with coarse shoulder-length black hair that he pulls into a ponytail, except for the shorter layer of his hair which lifts up and waves wildly in the wind, towering over his forehead like a lion’s mane.  He smiles a lot and seems constantly busy, spear-fishing, making copra (dried coconut husks used for shredded coconut and coconut oil), harvesting mangos and pamplemousse, and commuting between Daniel’s Bay and Taiohae.  He had a super cute puppy, it looked sort of like a pit-bull, with different colors of brown stripes marking his fur.  He was appropriately named Eppu which is the Marquesan word for “dirt.”

Our first full day in Daniel’s Bay, we took the dinghy to shore, dragged it up on the beach and asked Tangue if we could take some fruit from his trees.  He smiled and said, “Of course!” and Mike climbed the pamplemousse and mango trees, tossing the fruit down to us, filling our arms with fresh, ripe goodness.  Mike and Matt then went on hunting for coconuts, hacking their way into a fallen palm tree where hundreds of land crabs clattered around anxiously, holding their pinchers up like boxing fists, and scooting recklessly backwards as they sought out the large, deep burrows they had made in the sand.  We took our goods back to the dinghy, invited a young australian cruising couple to join in our lunch, and dug into the fruit.  Literally.  Mike took his machete and cracked open some coconuts, passing them around for us to drink from.  I know there are people out there who love the fresh coconut milk, but BLECH!  Maybe we just got a bad one, but ugh, I thought it was awful.  Warm and sweetish but watery and kind of sour tasting… Ugh.  I took one swig and that was it.  I also didn’t like the coconut meat, which Mike and Hyo eat like potato chips.  No surprise, really, since I don’t generally like coconut anyway, but I was sort of disappointed that I wouldn’t be one of those sitting on the white sand beach sipping from a coconut.

The mangos and pamplemousse, on the other hand, were quite delicious!!  We peeled them with our fingers and soon all of us were a sticky gooey mess.  The beach was littered with our pamplemousse rinds and teeny tiny ghostly white sand crabs skittering amongst our peelings.

We washed our hands in the water and watched as foot-long black-tipped reef sharks swam around our ankles, drifting along with the waves, then twitched their tailfins and disappeared into the surf.

Later, we took the dinghy to the other lobe of the bay, to visit a Marquesan family that Mike and Hyo had met before.  Mai, Maria and their five year old son Tehia live right on the beach, surrounded by mango and banana trees.  We sat and talked with them for a while (yay for knowing some french!) and, at Mike’s request, Mai agreed to take us on a tour of the bay’s banana plantation the next day.

So, the next morning, we went back to Mai’s house and enjoyed coffee, tea and cake before heading out to see the bananas.  There are six varieties of bananas grown on the island and the subtleties between them all are pretty much unnoticeable to us foreigners.  Mai explained the differences to us – colors of the stalks, differences in the density of the banana bunches, differences in the colors and shapes of the bananas… He said some bananas are good for eating raw (like the ones in the grocery store), others are good for cooking (like plantains), and some are good for both.  For my sake, he summed it up:  “If you taste it raw and it tastes bad, then cook it!”

After we left Mai and his family, we continued up the path towards the famed waterfall.  Mike and Hyo had warned us that the waterfall was dry.  Mai said it had been almost five months since they’d had their last good rainfall.  So, we were prepared for the sight to be less impressive.  But, we weren’t prepared for the bugs!! So many bugs on the narrow trail, poor Hyo was eaten alive.  The walk, though, was lovely – the interior of the island is beautiful, lush (but dry) with fruit trees and flowers, the yards of the homes almost manicured, steep, tall mountains rising up on three sides.  There were several areas where large boulders created long rock walls and, in some places, you could tell they were the old foundations for houses.  We passed by a stone tiki, looking forlorn and abandoned as it sat alone amidst the ruins.

The waterfall, though not running, was still an interesting sight.  The path ended at a narrow gorge where rock walls loomed above us, shading the small pool at their base, which was teeming with brownish red crayfish (shrimp).  We also saw one of the resident eels slithering around, probably hoping we would toss him pieces of a baguette, which we hear are their favorite snacks.  We hung out at the pool for a while eating our lunch and a few of us got wet – Mike and Hyo in the pool, me under a squirt of water leaking out of the rock walls.

When we returned to the boat, Matt decided he wanted to have a fire on the beach that night.  Although we were all tired, we had announced our intentions to the anchorage and invited several other cruisers to join us, so we felt obligated to follow through with our plans.  We dug a sand pit on the beach, fighting mosquitos until the Aussies brought their citronella candles, and the guys dragged over dead palm fronds and half-dry sticks.  It took forever to get the fire going, but Matt persisted and eventually we had a roaring fire before us.

And then we realized it was already 85 degrees outside.

As Matt said, a fire on the beach just isn’t the same when you’re in the tropics.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • MOM

    Thanks for the wonderful word pictures. Yeah, coconut is okay. Haven’t tried the milk, but one of these days! Hope you have a great time!!! Love, MOM

  • Ankitha

    Karen! Not only do I like reading about your adventures, but I really enjoy reading your writing! You are great writer, especially your wonderful imagery. Forget the law, become a writer when you get back! 🙂

  • Phil

    Such a pleasure getting to read about your adventures. Karen, your writing flows really well! So descriptive and fun to read. On long drives the girls have been reading your blogs to me while I am driving and I feel like I have been right there drinking beers with you both and walking in the sand.

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