Saturday, June 03, 2017

Taiohae (Capital town of) Marquesas on Nuku Hiva

[Kyle]Taiohae is the largest city in the Marquesas and as such, bustled with all of the activity of a vibrant capital. I’m kidding, of course. Taiohae occupies the hills along the beautiful curve of Nuku Hiva’s largest harbor. A twenty-minute walk will get you from one side to the other in a vain search for many of the things the city does not have, like road signs or traffic lights. I guess if you live there and have a car, you know where to stop.

We planned to do some light provisioning, but the main thing we were looking forward to was getting some stuff done on the internet. We bought a data sim card in Atuona, which allows us to have very slow internet on one of our phones (no voice), but we have very little data, so we can’t do anything too serious like look anything up or check our bank balance. We do know we are getting emails and sometimes we can even get a response out, but browsing the news ain’t gonna happen. Only the centers of the bigger villages on an island even have cell service, so most of the time, we’re completely in the dark. Taiohae not only has cell phone towers, but also a few wifi providers, at whom we were ready to gladly throw a few francs to be able to get something done.

Taiohae in mixed weather

We had had a terrible, wet, but mercifully short bash upwind from Hakatea and were glad to enter the relative calm of Taiohae bay. It was actually pretty swelly in there, but it was way nicer than the open sea behind us. We motored past the thirty or so boats laying at anchor and set ours as close as we could to the harbor wall right at the front. Inside were a few small local fishing boats tied bow-to along one wall and the dinghies of all of the anchored cruising boats on the other. Just on the other side of a small parking lot, a handful of shops sat behind two big open-sided circus tents, under which sat a bunch of picnic tables. It was at the biggest of these where a crowd of people sat hunched over their laptops outside Snack Veaki. They would give you the code for their wifi if you would just buy something, which you were going to do because their internet was so slow you were going to be there for hours and you were going to get hungry. Maryanne spent ten hours there the first day and six hours the next getting about an hour’s worth of important stuff done. While she was doing this, I bought cooking gas and diesel, cleaned the boat and then took the dinghy over to stare at her while trying my best not to say, “How much longer?” too often.

It rained a lot! Here is Slater making use of an umbrella in the rain to perservere with the slow internet.
And we had a lot of chores (we finally found the hardware store!)

Snack Veaki has no indoor space, so when it rained, which was ten minutes out of every twenty, people started hiding under tables and stuffing their laptops in their shirts to keep them dry. Maryanne just popped open her umbrella, laid it on the table in the direction of the rain and kept typing, which was mostly waiting to type. Over time, the umbrella was extended with coats and plastic bags, making space for others and making her look like somebody important at some kind of strange, low tech, Third World Mission Control.

There was still loads more we needed to do on the internet, but we just couldn’t take sitting there any longer. With most of the important stuff done, we finally pulled ourselves away to explore the town. Unlike standard walking tours that take you from place to place of cultural or historic interest, ours was directed by our list of stuff we hoped we could find.

Most of our vegetables aboard were coming from cans and we were looking for some nice, crunchy fresh ones to eat. We tried each of the three stores in town, each a little larger than a convenience store, but found little more than a few onions and a couple of cucumbers. We settled for a couple of freshly baked baguettes and more non-perishables to at least give our onboard stores a little more variety. The woman at the register was amused by our haul. Since the stores are on the main road, most Marquesans in town stop by several times a day for an item or two if they need something to supplement the bounties growing in their own yards. Boaters, wearing big sun hats and bringing their own giant backpacks and wheelie carts, always come to clean out the store. She was all smiles as she checked us out and I detected none of the expected irritation from any of the people behind us, each with their three things.

Next we needed to find a hardware store. This was harder because it wasn’t on the waterfront. Because the roads don’t seem to have names, we kept getting directions like, “After the bridge, take a right and go up the hill…”

There are three rivers that run through town to the harbor and thus three bridges. The roads up the hill in between only cross the rivers at the bridge on the bottom, so if you get the wrong one, you’ve just climbed a hill for nothing. We got the wrong one – twice.

The other problem was there were no signs saying, “Hardware Store, This Way ->”, because everybody in town knows where the hardware store is. Better to use that space for another mango tree. They have a point.

We wandered on until Taiohae started noticeably to thin out, thinking we must have somehow missed the store and gone too far. A couple driving by must have noticed the lost looks on our faces and stopped to ask where we were going. When we told them, they said, “Oh, yes, it’s up that road right there.”

We thought that was a driveway. We walked up it until we started to wonder if they had been playing a little joke on the tourists. Were we even in town anymore?

We decided to continue to the next crest and have a look before giving up. When we got there, on the other side around a short bend was a big hardware store. What a strange place to put the town’s main hardware store. We figured it must have started out as somebody’s house. Since people were already leaving their houses to go to the store, there’s no point making the proprietor do it, too. Like most of our shopping here, we found little that was on our list. However, and to my continuing amazement, they had a couple of completely unexpected gems. The most unlikely of which was the exact replacement for our galley’s original sea water tap. It has been need of replacement for a while, but we couldn’t even find one on the internet. In the meantime, we have gradually replaced needed parts with whatever we can find, none of which was ideal, so now we have a Frankenfaucet made mostly of an international contingent of adapters. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me so much that we found a French faucet for our French boat in French Polynesia, but it still really does. Along the way through our list, with increasingly heavy packs, we also managed to see all of the cool tourist sights, including a beautiful reproduction of the original Polynesian Plaza (Pae Pae), complete with longhouses, stone platforms and tikis. Taiohae also has a cathedral. They were having a small mass when we arrived, so we only peeked in, but the surrounding grounds looked like an old English castle covered in tropical verdure. We also went to see their new, giant statue overlooking the harbor, depicting a female tiki and a legendary Marquesan warrior. So, with all of our “City” chores done, it was time to head to the peace and quiet of our last Marquesan island.

Reproduction Tikis and the Catholic cathedral

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