Land Ho!....yesterday!

Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 10, 2010

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Nuku Hiva

Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Friday, January 22, 2010

I have been lax on the blogging in the last day or so and I apologize...I have become WAY too lazy!  Before I tell you about Nuku Hiva, let me correct a misstatement in my last blog about the Slimy Pollywog to Shellback ceremony. I mistakenly said we had crossed the International Date Line to become Shellbacks, but actually I should have said we crossed the Equator!  Thanks, Michael, for keeping me honest.  Too many rum drinks will do me in!

So, yesterday we reached our first port...the island of Nuku Hiva.  Nuku Hiva is the largest island in the  Marquesas, which, in turn, is the northern most island group in French Polynesia.  The Marquesa islands are rugged volcanic islands with no barrier reef, so the surf crashes against the rocky shoreline. 2600 people live in Nuku Hiva, where they work for the government, the community, the catholic church or school system or for themselves, chopping copra (what the heck is that??) high in the mountains, fishing, raising cattle or other livestock or sculpting items for sale to the tourists.  We dropped anchor in the Taiohae Bay. Taiohae village is the administrative, economic, educational, and health center of the Marquesas Islands.  It is hard to imagine that it is the center of life in the Marquesas because is looks tiny and non-descript.  Some claims to fame....1) author Herman Melville loved the Marquesas and Nuku Hiva inspired two of this novels, Typee and Omoo; 2) recently an edition of the Survivor TV program was based at Nuku Hiva!

We took the tender to the island in the morning around 10 am.  I was perplexed when I looked out the window of the tender and saw several (really buff!) men paddling outrigger kayaks next to the tender.  This happened again on the way back to the boat.  I had no idea what they were doing, but later found out that the local paddlers like to paddle in the wake of the tender boats and spend hours just following the tenders around.  It looked like so much fun...Michael, you would love it!

First order of business was to shop.  There is a nice small market right at the harbor where local men and women sell beautiful jewelry and carvings made of indigenous materials. Once I remembered some rudimentary french (the language spoken in Nuku Hiva), I was able to figure out how much things cost and I bought some beautiful pieces.

We were treated to an island BBQ and dance show further down the bay and it was fun to watch the incredibly beautiful dancers and drummers perform.  Their bodies are spectacular and I particularly enjoyed watching the gorgeous young men dance with very little clothing on below!  I was "volunteered" by the emcee to dance with one of the young men and I made quite the spectacle out of myself doing the bird dance...which looks just like it sounds.  I hopped around on one foot while waving my arms like bird wings, all the while trying to have some sort of rhythm!  Despite my dreams of being a fabulous dancer, I am sure I looked like the geeky, pasty white, middle age american woman that I am next to this beautiful french polynesian demi-god with thighs of steel and amazingly graceful rhythm.  Oh well... nothing like making a fool of oneself to know you are truly living in the present moment.  I did feel really old, however, when the demi-god and I had crouched to the ground in a very low squatting position (all the while pulsing our bums and waiving our arms like birds) and he quietly whispered to me..."Can you get up?"  When I said," of course" and popped up from the long squat he looked quite surprised.  I mus tpause here to give a special shout out to my trainer, Stacey, for making it possible for me to actually get out of the squat position without falling on my derriere in front of hundreds of people!  However, I must admit that the hopping on one foot was exceedingly harder after coming out of the squat and I was thrilled when the dance ended soon thereafter!  At least 10 of the ship's passengers have commented on my "fabulous dancing" and one even printed a photo for me and gave it to me (yes..some passengers even bring their own photo printers on board!).  I heard this morning that my dance was captured on film by the ship's videographer and that, in all likelihood, my antics will be broadcast for all the passengers to view!  Good God!  What have I done?

The BBQ consisted of several pigs that were steamed in pits dug in the earth for what must have been days and indigenous vegetables.  I was so hot that I had absolutely no appetite, so I am embarrassed to say that I did not even taste a single morsel. 

Back on the ship in the afternoon, Mom and I spent the remainder of the afternoon poolside (in the shade) reading and sipping.  Today is a sea day and I have done much of the same, although I did make it to the jogging track and to the gym for the 1st time since I was sick.  It was hotter than hades on the jogging track, even at 7 am, and I only made it 25 minutes before packing it in to sip ice water in the shade.  The remainder of the day until now (it is about 5pm) was spent reading by the pool, with a brief attempt at sunbathing (I felt like I was being par-boiled and quickly retreated to the shade again!).  Tomorrow we reach Papeete in Tahiti, where I think I get to go on a snorkeling adventure.  :)

I am in love with travelling, and, if I did not miss my boys and my friends so much and if I were fabulously wealthy and did not have to earn a living, I would never come home! Until next revoir from French Polynesia.
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Justin on

Copra is the "meat" of a coconut. I've never heard the word used in the United States, unless it was someone with sloppy pronunciation talking about that orange-ish metal.

Justin on

BTW, need I add that your tale of dancing was hilarious and that I wish that I'd been there to witness it?

Michael on

Too funny Mary! You are right. I would be into surfing the waves behind the tender. Enjoy.

Laurie on

So glad you are having fun! It is a beautiful part of the world.

Stefanie on

Hi Mary! So glad to read that you are having a fabulous time! I really enjoy reading your blog and look forward to it!

Anthony on

Hey Mary - it looks like the trip is going quite well! You know I'm checking out the pictures... they look great! Keep 'em coming!

Norde & Kay on

Welcome to the society of the Shellbacks....Don't want to date myself but I went through my initiation in1964 on the aircraft carrier Ranger. The navy does it with gusto. We envy your experiences. Say high to Nancy and whoever else needs a high.

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