Weather, Food, and My Bad French

Kaoha from the sometimes sunny Marquesas!

So, that turboprop I was worried about was actually remarkably smooth until we came in to land. I never mind coming back to earth but Seven was looking a little anxious as we bounced our way down through the last 1000 feet onto what appeared to be not a tropical island at all but a kind of desert.

The airport at Nuku Hiva is basically an open-air A-frame shed with counter, a couple of benches, a large shelf where you pick up your baggage, and a couple of bathrooms with signs on the doors that said: “Fermé: pas de l’eau.”

“Quite dry here,” I said to the woman was there to pick us up.

“Il pleut de l’autre côté,” she said.

For those of you who do not yet have a complete grasp of the geography, this is where we are:

Marquesas_map-fr.svg

The Marquesas, which are part of French Polynesia, lie northeast of Tahiti about 3 hours by plane. The islands are volcanic in origin and have no fringeing reef and very little coastal plain. Except for the bays, most of the coastline consists of sheer black and reddish cliffs that plunge straight into the sea. The mountains are extremely rugged, at least on Nuku Hiva, and the people live in deep valleys separated from one another by razor-sharp mountain ridges. The valleys each have a different character depending upon which way they face, drier, wetter, brighter, darker. Taipivai, for instance, Melville’s Typee Valley, runs east-west and has longer slanting afternoon (and presumably morning) light, whereas the sun is already high in the sky by the time it reaches the north-south running valleys.

Taiohae, where we have been staying, faces south, and for the first couple of days we had a southerly wind which brought rain, and that meant, in turn, a copious amount of slippery red mud on the roads and pathways. The tropics can be pretty challenging when it’s wet, an there’s something about this place—it’s the hills, I think, and the feeling one has of being closed in—that is daunting even when the rain is not pouring down in sheets.

But then the wind swings round, the sun shines, the water changes color completely—from slate to turquoise—and if you’re smart you rent a car and make the wild drive north to Hatiheu and then walk an hour or so over another ridge to Anaho, which is one of the most beautiful bays I have ever seen.

Here is Matiu on his balcony at our hotel in Taiohae:

Maitu on his deck

Here we are walking through someone’s garden:

Matiu, Dani and me walking

And here is where we ended up:

Anaho Bay

Weather, Food, and My Bad French (cont.)

Packing

ME: “So, we should think a little about packing.”

SEVEN: “Why? I’m just going to take some shorts.”

If you ask me, packing is almost the hardest part. I have been thinking about packing for months now — what to pack, what not to pack. But even before I got down to that there was what to pack it in.

Here is the vision I had ages and ages ago, finally actualized on my aunt’s lawn in South Pasadena, California on the morning of our departure from the US. Everyone carries his own (for anyone who’s curious they are mediums, i.e. pretty small) and they’re a cinch to spot on the baggage carousel.

Do you suppose if I sent a link to LL Bean they’d give me a a turquoise one?

Weather, Food, and My Bad French

Um, we’re not actually sailing…

I should perhaps point out that the beautiful image on the previous page is slightly misleading. I was looking for an image that would suggest Oceania but wouldn’t make the blog look like an ad for Polynesian honeymoon destinations, when I happened upon a painting by my friend Roger Kizik. Roger has been doing a fabulous series of large paintings of books, including “Sailing Illustrated.” (On my wall at home I have another of his book paintings: this one of Haddon and Hornell’s classic, Canoes of Oceania).

kizik small

Unlike me, however, Roger really is a sailor. We, on the other hand, are flying, which, while not as exciting as sailing, is not for the faint-hearted either. More about three three-hour flight to the Marquesas in a turboprop in an upcoming post!

Packing