Today, after nine long days at sea, we finally arrived at Nuku Hiva, in French Polynesia. Yeeeeeeeeeey!!!!
The Columbus was anchored in a small bay that looks like it might have been the mouth of a volcano once upon a time. We awoke to the sound of the tender boats being lowered (right outside our cabin window), and headed upstairs for an early breakfast and a good look at our surroundings.
And what a wonderful sight it was. In three directions, mountains rose up steep and dramatic, and in the bay around us were lots of small boats at anchor. The small town of Taiohae was easy to spot some distance away from the ship; a small cluster of low-rooved buildings, and lots of trees. There were a couple of small beaches too, but they would not be our target today; as soon as I set eyes upon the mountains, I knew that we would have to find some way to climb them.
At just gone 8am, while I was finishing off my breakfast, Tracey headed downstairs to the Taverners Bar, where lettered tender tickets were being handed out. Some folks had been queuing for over an hour to try and bag a place on the first tenders, but once the tickets were available it didn’t take long for the queue to subside. Tracey came back clutching two tickets sporting the letter ‘F’.
By 9:30am, we were on land, having taken the fifteen minute tender boat trip to the quayside.
There were the usual touristy gift shops and cafes scattered around the area adjacent to the quayside, a small fruit and veg market and not a lot else. We headed for the tourist information office to ask about hiking trails, and was pointed in the direction of what they call ‘The Gazebo’, a wooden shelter situated on the top of one of the lower ridges.
We followed the road leading out of the village, and running adjacent to the coastline, past a hospital and small ferry terminal, until the road eventually ran out. At this point, a notice board featuring a large map of the area informed us of the trails ahead of us; and highlighted the footpath that would take us up to ‘The Gazebo’, also known as Tehaatiki Viewpoint.
The hot, dusty trail felt quite new and well-maintained, and was easy to follow. It was enclosed along most of its length by acacia trees that all bent in the same curved way, as if deformed by heavy winds or rain – although, it didn’t feel like they have much in the way of rain in these parts. The path rose and fell, and crossed small wooden walkways here and there, bridging shallow ravines, and when the ascent began to turn steeper, well-designed steps appeared.
Eventually, the trail zig-zagged its way up a steep, final ascent that transcended the tree-line and brought us out onto the ridge where ‘The Gazebo’ was situated. The views were indeed extensive; we could see the Columbus way below us in the bay, and across to the mountains rising up from the opposite side of the water. Behind us, the peaks rose even higher, and we both sat there for an hour or more enjoying the view from the shade of the simple shelter, and the light breeze, and I made a few sketches. It was bliss!
Eventually, we turned tail and retraced our steps back along the footpath, towards Taiohae.
Upon our return we headed straight for the nearest bar where we ordered cold beers and a plate of french fries. It was a tad on the expensive side, but hey, we’re visitors and they are an island… you can’t blame them for exploiting us.
Once refreshed, we took a more leisurely walk along the edge of the bay in the opposite direction, towards what appeared to be the village’s centre. Although we were heading roughly towards the church, we only got as far as a small supermarket, where we bought more water, and then started a gentle potter back towards the quayside, where we caught the tender back to the ship.
We were back in time for Afternoon Tea, which was all part of our cunning plan. With the Bistro still being closed for dinner, we decided to top up on sandwiches and biscuits at Afternoon Tea, then eat Hotdogs from the outdoor grill just before it closed at 6pm.
We enjoyed being on land today, and Nuku Hiva didn’t disappoint. The hiking felt good, and the cold beer at the end of it, despite the cost, felt like it had been well-earned.
We have two more sea-days ahead of us, as we head towards our next port-of-call, which is Papeete, on the island of Tahiti.