This was our feeling when we left that magic place, to the point that we thought about changing our plan and spending the season in there instead of going all the way to New Zealand this year. In the end we told ourselves that life is long and we will come back one day with more time to spend. Hopefully it will not have changed too much.
The Marquesas is the most windward archipielago of French Polynesia. It belongs to France since 1842 and so people speak French as well as Marquesian. It is formed by 10 (of which 6 inhabited) islands of abrupt shape, giant mountains coming out of the sea. Everywhere there are traces of a huge ancient civilization, and many tikis (engraved religious figures) and paepaes (house foundations) can be found in what now is the middle of the nature. Europeans, starting by the Spanish, came and brought sickness and the mission to convert the locals to christianism. Nowadays the mayority of Marquesians are christian and there is a church in every little village.
In two months we only visited two islands: Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou – WHAT!? You missed Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva?? – We didn’t go all the way to the famous bay simply because along this trip we have realized that not having that much time, we prefer to stop in fewer places and stay as long as we can to take the most out of them. We were just so happy in Anaho (Nuku Hiva) that we spent more than month in there, instead of being in a rush to check out every single anchorage in the Marquesas. We will visit Fatu Hiva next time we come.
What I loved about this place is of course the incredibly beautiful landscapes, but above everything I enjoyed the easy contact with the locals, who were happy to share with us a culture that they are very proud of. We started meeting Marquesians from the day we arrived, and they were so welcoming and nice to us that at first we were a little overwhelmed, not knowing how to react or what to give in exchange for their hospitality. Our conclusion after encountering some different people is that they are just proud of being good hosts, and the best way we found to thank them for their hospitality was to invite them to the boat, to cook for them once in a while and to spend time with them just sharing the moment, partying with them or working with them. In the end we made some good friends who it has been difficult to say goodbye to.
We spent a specially good time in Anaho, a well protected bay in the North of Nuku Hiva. A couple we know from Bilbao, Marta and Rafa, lived five months in there on their boat Freya. We just mentioned their names and we were instantly invited for lunch (kai kai) at a local family’s house. From that day they hosted us with open arms. There was also a very good vibe in between the boats at the anchorage. We met Vero and Javi on their boat Lydia (the relationship became intimate when Gaspar blocked the toilet on their boat) and a Californian/French family on their boat Baloo. Inga and Peter also spent some days in the bay and we even had our friends Ben and Margaux onboard for a week. All this made for a very special time in the bay.
The local lifestyle made us think about the complicated profit driven lives we carry out in Europe, and how often we worry about the future, about what is going to happen next. In the places we have been in the Marquesas they carry out a simple life, they live in the present and no one is ever hungry, for they know how to find their food in the nature and if you can’t hunt, fish, or plant vegetables, you will be fully supported by your family or your neighbours. As soon as you get out of the main villages you find completely open houses. Doors and walls are not very popular in here. It is a safe place and sharing is part of the marquesian culture.
The main income of most families comes from making the copra, picking coconuts and getting the “meat” out, letting it dry and stocking it in 25 kg bags, which are sold to the cargo ship that brings them to Tahiti, where many different coconut based products are made.
Marquesians don’t seem to need a lot of money for everyday’s life, but unfortunately many locals love drinking and alcohol and tobacco are two of the few things they spend their earnings on (healthcare and education are covered by the French social care system). Before we left Panama we read that alcohol and cigarettes were good exchange items but having seen how a local friend downed a bottle of rum in less than an hour, I don’t think this is a good idea at all. Instead, I now know that we should have brought fishing gear, knives or machetes, ropes, outdoor gear, diving gear, backpacks. That makes for a much nicer present and will make them happier in the long term.
We left the Marquesas with the boat full of food, including about 75kg of grapefruit, two huge banana regime, salted pig hunted in Anaho and a lot more presents. Most importantly, we left with with the feeling that we had learnt a lot of new interesting things, from how to make coconut milk to how to decorate everything with flowers and plants, how to fish lobster at night or how to ride a horse. Koutau nui Mahei, Teiki, Ludivine, Teaki, Heari, Dani, Arsens, Honore, Rani, David, Tive, Steven, Puhei, Jacob, Puaua, Tarona, Tahia, Kiha, Tapeta, Cristian, Diego, Gabriela, Sigi, Dayana, Moeaki, Alizee, Manuata, Areki, Samuel, Oveil, Aline, Heiau, Muhitupu, and all the others, THANK YOU.
Thank you Jordan, Claire and Javier for taking photos many of which I have used to illustrate this post.