Nuku Hiva - Taiohae

Category: Ships Log


Time period: Wednesday, June 18th – Monday, June 23rd

We are exploring the island of Nuku Hiva and the capitol of the Marquesas, the town of Taiohae.


A loud whistle pierces the jungle as we squish our way up a muddy trail surrounded by mango, banyan, the odd pamplemousse, and palm trees. “It’s over here!” yells Gary, our Tasmanian guide for this excursion. We are tramping in the jungle just outside the village of Taiohae in search of a restored Marquesan tohua, or meeting place, called Koueva. Gary, who had hitched a ride to the tohua with a local a few days earlier, volunteered to lead anyone willing to show up at 7am to the site which was just a 45 minute walk from the dinghy landing.  Somehow Chris and I managed to wake up in time and make the early departure (we are not early morning people).  Following Gary’s voice, we backtrack a bit and find a gate overgrown with shrubs and grass just to the left of the trail. Five minutes later we break into a huge clearing with several marae (stone platforms) decorated with tikis, surrounded by old banyan and mango trees.  There are several sites such as these on Nuku Hiva; this island has been very active in restoring former meeting and ceremonial sites and populating the sites with tikis carved by contemporary artists.  A couple days later we learned this is due in a large part to a Catholic bishop that lived on Nuku Hiva in the late 70s and early 80s. He, along with some locals, created a cultural association to preserve the Marquesan identity, and this helped bring about a renaissance of Marquesan art and language.  Newly carved stone tikis are everywhere on Nuku Hiva, and most yards sport what we like to call garden tikis.  We were thinking maybe we could start a new movement to populate yards in America with tikis instead of gnomes?

Hiking up a jeep track (before it narrowed to a foot trail) to the tohua Koueva.


The restored tohua Koueva.


Trying to imitate the expression on a donated tiki from Rapa Nui (Easter Island).


A contemporary tiki carved by one of Nuku Hiva's present-day sculptors.

A couple days later Chris and I were walking around the bay when we came across Rose Corser’s Marquesan museum.  Rose and her husband (both Americans) arrived in Nuku Hiva in the 1970s as cruisers and to study Marquesan art and culture. They liked it so much they decided to settle in Taiohae and opened an inn to serve cruisers. Rose’s husband has since passed away, but she still runs the only museum of Marquesan artifacts in the Marquesas, along with a smaller inn.  The museum is great; she has an impressive collection of artifacts lent to her from many of the Marquesan families around the island, along with some gorgeous wood carvings.  And the best part is she is a very knowledgeable scholar of Marquesan history and culture and is willing to tell you as much as you would like to know.


Hanging with Rose Corser in her museum/boutique.


Early Marquesan anchors and fishing sinkers made of stone.


Some beautifully carved wooden spears. Note the two on the right are also paddles; the Marquesans used their paddles to fight as well as row their canoes!


We spent about 5 days in Taiohae and are not really sure where the time went.  Taiohae is the capitol of the Marquesas and has a population of about 1700. The bay at Taiohae is half of a crater that fell into the sea, so it forms a very nice semi-circle backed by the lush green mountains the Marquesas are known for.  The bay is also one of the largest and busiest in the Marquesas; between 30 - 40 boats were anchored there during our stay. It was fun to see some familiar faces from our previous stops in the Marquesas, as well as some boats we’d only heard on the radio nets.  One of the best things about Taiohae is there are several places with fast, free internet. Our favorite spot was a small snack bar/cafe right on the wharf, next to the dinghy landing. You can get a pint of fresh mango blended with ice for 350 francs (about $4) and all the internet you want.  This tended to be the hang out spot for all the cruisers so I think this is where a lot of our time went…


View of Taiohae Bay.


View of Taiohae Bay from our boat. The mountains are just beautiful.


On the weekend there was a tuna (yellowfin) fishing tournament.


After Taiohae we spent some time in two neighboring bays with our sailboat. The first bay is called Controller’s Bay, which leads to the Taipi valley and the village of Taipivai. This area is best known as the place Herman Melville lived for three weeks. The story is in 1842 he and another shipmate jumped the whaling ship they were on when it reached Taiohae Bay; to avoid capture by the ship captain, they hiked over the ridge into the neighboring valley of Taipivai. Melville hurt his leg during the trip and the Taipi tribe brought him back to their village and took care of his leg. Melville and his shipmate were worried they would be eaten by the Taipi tribe though, since they were known cannibals, so after three weeks Melville escaped on another ship that came in (the shipmate actually managed to escape earlier).  A few years later he wrote a book about his experience called Typee.  Today the valley is primarily agricultural and grows a lot of coconut, bananas, papaya, pampelmousse and vegetables. It is a beautiful valley and the village of Taipivai is well kept, with neatly kept yards and lots of flowering shrubs and trees.  There is another restored tohua in the village as well, with more of the contemporary tikis inhabiting it, although no cannibals. :)


Approaching Controller's Bay.


Christian securing our dinghy on the beach at Controller's Bay.


Downtown Taipivai; it is a lovely valley with the river winding through it.


Another restored tohua we found on the edge of town.


After Controller’s Bay, we explored Hakatea Bay, also known as Daniel’s Bay. This is a well-known cruiser stop because Daniel, who used to have a house on the bay, was very kind to cruisers providing them with water and fruit.  Unfortunately Daniel is no longer around, but the bay and the nearby valley are just stunning. Stay tuned for a video postcard Chris is preparing about our time in the bay and a hike to a nearby waterfall!*

**We will likely have to wait for Papeete to load the video, so it may be another week or so...**



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0 #1 David & Michelle 2014-07-02 23:31
Looks beautiful! Sure different than Baja!

We too are enjoying "lush green" places (here in Vancouver and Whistler).

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