Bonjour Nuku Hiva

12 April 2019
A gentle peace filled my veins and dove into my bones as we turned into Taiohae Bay. Not just because we had successfully crossed the ocean. More so because the sweet land, swaying trees, glowing grasses and rugged rock formations all welcomed us in high definition. For 22 days our senses were attuned to slight changes in our environment, which was fairly uniform except for the shifting sea, her sky, clouds and the occasional bird. Now we had sunbeams highlighting steep valleys covered in furry green trees, bright in spots and at the next rock ripple hidden in shadows. Shiny vertical mineral veins looked like waterfalls, glinting silver in the early evening sun. Homes in various sizes and colors peeked out from lush gardens on the hillside deep in the bay. As we slowly turned the corner we saw more and more anchored boats, around 35. At once I felt excited and nervous, almost like that feeling in your stomach on the first day of a new grade in school, who would we meet?

Six guys methodically rowed a sleek outrigger besides us, it glided through the water like an arrow. They crossed the mouth of the bay behind us, drawing our attention to the sculptural Ua Pou island in the distance. It’s sharp columnar mountains shooting towards the sky. 

Greg slowed Rapture down to a pleasant crawl so we could find our spot amongst these new neighbors. It felt intimate, to wave at people, to know with many we share this experience, of crossing the sea. Like we are all in on the same secret even though we don’t know each other yet. Folks waved back, a man in a full wetsuit puttered back to his boat in a dinghy outfitted with a red dive flag. Catamarans, steel boats, red hulls, orange and blue hulls, long and short, all tucked into the safe calm belly of Taiohae. 

Greg, Susan and Diane expertly set anchor while I started to cook dinner. Auspiciously we settled in next to a monohull named Hanna (my sister’s name minus the final H) and a diy steel monohull that Susan and Greg know from Santa Cruz. Once the hook was set everyone congratulated each other, high fives, laughter. Sweet relief. With no one on watch for the first time in weeks, with the boat at rest, our minds eased. 

A huge tiki woman rock carving sat proudly on a hill, with a tattooed male warrior carved besides her. Drumming on land began as night fell. We all raised glasses of proper red wine and toasted to arriving in French Polynesia. We toasted to the people that helped train us and teach us. We toasted many many toasts, later with passion fruit liqueur. Gentle rain clouds misted us as we sat together around led candlelight. The half moon and Orion poked through the rain. We rolled into bed for our first full night’s sleep. Content.

A few hours into a deep sleep we awoke to torrential rain coming through the hatches. Susan jumped up to close them. She’s always at the ready. In the morning, Rapture’s salt crusted decks had washed clean from the rain, a welcome luxury. We immediately set to work assembling and inflating Velocirapture, our dinghy that ferries us to and from land. LAND. We had to meet with the gendarme (police) before 11:30am to check into the country. After a solid team effort, sweat and at least an hour, Velocirapture was in the water with her custom red chaps on and her outboard engine purring.

“We are actually leaving the boat!” I hollered with unexpected glee as we took off towards the yellow Yacht Services tent and dinghy dock. Local kids played under a plumeria tree laden with fragrant white flowers, many already scattered on the ground like confetti. Adults breakfasted at long picnic tables under blue vinyl tents. I stepped onto land and felt immediately dizzy. So did Diane, so we took a knee as Greg passed up the garbage to us. We plopped down in front of the Yacht Services office to let the dizziness pass while Greg and Susan filled out paperwork with Kevin, the logistics man in Taiohe. After a few pleasantries with fellow cruisers we plunged deep into the world of wifi, returning messages from friends and family, posting pictures. 

Alas, we have to wait on one more official document from Tahiti Crew, so we will meet with the gendarme on Monday. “Just don’t get in any bar fights,” said Kevin, “and you’ll be fine.” Freedom! We explored the small local farmers’ market–all kinds of coconuts, all sizes of banana, yellow and deep purple ube sweet potatoes, banana vinegar, fresh turmeric, chiles, bok choy, squashes, preserved red berries. We walked in the shade along the bay under a huge variety of trees, some dripping with vines, voluptuous pods and bright flowers. Others supported giant breadfruit and glossy green leaves. The soft, yielding, deep red soil cushioned our feet. We took out francs at the bank and sat down for lunch of poisson cru, Hintano beer and fried sliced potatoes. 

Thanks for the proper welcome Nuku Hiva, we are so so very glad to be here.

One thought on “Bonjour Nuku Hiva

  1. Hi Roxy. This is julian from s/Malaika in Nuku’alofa hiva. Saw your note re looking to crew to tuamotos. We leave Wednesday 4/24. Call me at +1 214 649 5986 or email me jnihill@jnihill.com or catch me at pension mave Mai near the dock

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