Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Tranquil Taipivai ….. Feb/Mar 2016

12 Feb–10  Mar 2016: Hooumi to Taipivai, Nuku Hiva – 08 52S 140 02W

Following In Melville's Footsteps

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After our stressful evening of “will the dogs have the goat for dinner?” (if you missed the previous posting you will have to read it for the answer!) we moved a mile or so to the central bay of Taipivai. Taipivai's claim to fame stems from the author Herman Melville who, in July 1842 deserted the Ascushnet, a whaling ship that he was crew on and fled into the jungle.  

P2250113For a few weeks he remained hidden among the Typee natives, rumoured to still be cannibals.  He then jumped on another whaling ship (before they put him in the cooking pot) and headed for Tahiti.  Melville's first book Typee describes his time living ashore here, and his novel Moby Dick was inspired by is time aboard the whaling ships. 

But back to us, we have anchored adjacent to a pocket sized white sand beach, thick green vegetation covers the hillsides, waterfalls plunge down distant cliffs up the valley, a small village lies along the river which flows into the head of the bay, and an abundance of majestic manta rays often feed around Balvenie in the calm waters. P2120025

Provisioning has reached a new level on the challenging scale. There are a couple of small grocery stores with the usual canned and frozen goods but NO fresh produce is available for sale, so I have taken to investigating what trees people have in their gardens, if I see ripe fruit then I knock on their doors, practice my ever improving French and ask if I can buy some. So far we are doing ok, we returned laden down yesterday with pamplemousse, soursop, papayas and guavas.

A World of Waterfalls

With the rains come the waterfalls, they appear from nowhere up the valley, arching over cliff tops and dropping dramatically into the jungle below. P2120033They form streams, who in turn feed into the river which then flows swiftly in to the bay. After the heavy rains abate most of the waterfalls disappear but the run off appears hours later in the bay when we watch the brown waters creep towards Balvenie, for awhile we feel like we are doing a side trip up the Amazon but they don't last long, clean waters return in no time at all.

We did a hike one day up to the main waterfall we can see from the anchorage on the western side of the river.  It was a gentle incline up a four wheel drive track for about an hour and a half, then a quick river traverse, a clamber up a side stream and we were there.  It was a lovely spot, huge boulders lay at the waterfalls base creating inviting pools and presenting an ideal spot for our picnic lunch.  

So we enjoyed a cool dip followed by a buggy lunch stop, unfortunately the mosquitos and nasty nono’s (teeny little bitey bugs) rather liked it there too and they came out to play just as our sandwiches were unwrapped!  P2120042A speedy lunch was consumed and we were on our way out of there, we fared better as moving targets although my final bite count was 62, eekk! (and yes I was covered in bug spray)

On another day we attempted the hike to the “Trois Casades”, in company with Jeff, Katie and their niece Nancy off Mezzaluna who joined us at anchor for a few days.  We had a rather vague map indicating the way to these three waterfalls separated by natural swimming pools on the eastern side of the river.

It was a long and exceptionally hot day with little breeze finding its way up the enclosed valley.  The map was just a little too vague and we didn’t arrive at the correct turnoff from the road until mid afternoon, having already had 3 side trips to the river and a lunch stop!


It was then a 20 minute walk to the small power station, and all that was left was to find the trail to the waterfall, how hard can that be?  We had glimpsed two of them enroute, but do you think we could find any sort of trail …….. it was even more overgrown than the above photos suggest! 

P2240092We tried every direction, we even continued on the dirt road past the hydro station until fallen trees blocked any further progress, eventually we admitted defeat, cooled ourselves in the tiny falls we found and made our weary way back to our boats. 

Turning Our Attention to Tikis 


Next up on the sightseeing list was the small Tikipaeke Site, and it even had a sign on the road, how easy is that!   About a 20 minute hike (or hitchhike) up the road, followed by another 20 minutes up the trail to the ancient tiki site (the 500m more like 900m).P2220058

It was just a small site, but it was in a pleasant setting, the hike up from the road was shady under the trees, and were weren’t too many bugs around, all up a worthwhile outing and good exercise.

P2220055It’s Not All Sightseeing,Truly

As we sit and wait for the waters to cool we are making our way through the ever present “to do list”.  Oil changes and engine maintenance have been completed, the broken Air Breeze Wind Generator has been removed,  further attempts to repair the slight leak in the water tank have been undertaken, underwater anodes have been changed (while manta rays watched) general maintenance continues.P2170049 

All the lockers have been sorted out and the bilges cleaned, not such a fun job but finding 12 bottles of wine tucked away from St Maarten was an unexpected bonus! 

Tom the 8hp Tohatsu Outboard has finally been pensioned off and now sits enjoying retirement on the pushpit.  He’s never quite recovered from being severely beaten up when he was hit by a big steel yacht in Mexico.   P2170047Meanwhile new crew member Toby the 9.8hp who joined Balvenie in St Maarten last year has been commissioned and is slipping into his new role without hiccups.  He is eager to please and seems up for the job.P3010130

The Aranui 5 called in for 4 hours the other morning.  While the landing craft deposited over 100 people on to the beach the freight barge brought much needed supplies to the stores, yes we have onions, potatoes, carrots and chocolate again!  36 pickup trucks lay in waiting for those that had reserved tours and were soon on their way up the valley to explore.  Meanwhile the freight barge returned laden with copra for export and crates of empty beer bottles for refilling!


After the morning sightseeing tour the village ladies prepared a big feast for Aranui 5 passengers, they even had salad!  The Aranui 5 left without them, guess they rendezvoused round in the main harbour of Taioha’e, or did they end up in a huge ancient Typee cooking pot??

Peace & Tranquillity Has Returned to Taipivai, Not to Mention the Rain! 


Friday, 11 March 2016

New Year But Same Place - Nuku Hiva….. Jan/Feb 2016

01 Jan - 12 Feb 2016:  Taioha’e to Hooumi via Ua Pou – 8 53S 140 01W 

Taioha'eComings and Goings

We have had a very quiet start to the New Year, hence the lack of blog updates. The anchorage at Taioha'e filled up daily as many of the boats that had gone down to the festival on Hiva Oa slowly made their way north again.

At one point mid January we peaked at 84 yachts at anchor, its a big bay so there was room to accommodate all, but that was a lot of yachts, considering we got down to 12 mid December while the festival was on.  But the increase in yachts made for more social gatherings, we are slowly educating everyone as to what “pot luck dinners” are, and we are very lucky to have Henri’s Cafe as a welcoming venue for our parties.


PC270073We farewelled the last of the Hawai’i bound boats when Barry and Sylvia on Iolani lifted anchor and sailed off into the drizzle.  The joys of radio technology meant that we stayed in contact with them twice daily, right until their arrival in Radio Bay, Hilo, nearly 2,000 miles away. 

The first of the “Class of 2016” have started arriving in port from points east, 2 from Panama via the Galapagos and one from Ecuador. One boat has already moved on to cruise the Tuamotus and Society Islands of French Polynesia, but most of us are staying put, awaiting the time when the waters cool down enough that cyclones can't form (current water temperature is around 28c just like being in a tepid bath!). Then we will commence the last year of our circumnavigation - come November we should be home in New Zealand waters.P1010102

Food, Glorious Food

Nuku Hiva's population is said to be around 2500 people, so when you add maybe about another 150 unexpected visitors (hungry yachties) it puts a strain on the supply of fresh vegetables. Then along came some heavy rains (unusual at this time of year but caused due to El Nino) which almost washed away the gardens and damaged the crops severely, and the outcome has been almost no fresh vegetables this year.

The few plants that have survived and are producing are reserved for the restaurants (there are only 3!), then the locals, so by the time it gets to the cruisers share there is not much left. Worse still the market opens at 5am, so the “early birds catch the worm”, us latecomers have no hope at all! $10 worth of yellow fin tunaThe Aranui supply ship brings potatoes, onions and carrots but that is all the fresh produce imported here.  The local fishing boats bring in fresh tuna and wahoo almost daily, at 500F ($5US) a kilo its way easier and almost cheaper than fishing ourselves!

So ..... haven't seen a lettuce or tomato this year, bokchoy, green beans and capsicums have made a rare appearance if I get to the market early enough, however scurvy has not yet set in. Avocados are now dripping off the trees although the mangoes have finished as have the pineapples.  The papaya and bananas just keep on keeping on along with pamplemousse, and sour sop and guavas are now coming into season. Green Salads are temporarily a delicacy of the past, frozen vegetables are now the side order of the day! Being creative in the kitchen has taken on a whole new meaning.Taioha'e East Sentinal towards Ua Pou

Anchor Up At Last 

We eventually did move out of Taioha'e on the southern coast of Nuku Hiva, it was time to clean the anchor chain, shake the cobwebs and birds nests out of the sails and check that all systems were still working.  We did a very sporty and salty sail (not quite as per the forecast) south 30 miles to the beautiful island of Ua Pou. There had been a large south-easterly swell building for days with re-enforced trade winds so we hoped to find a more comfortable anchorage at Hakahetau on the north western side of the island, but unfortunately the swell and wind just followed the coast round, anchoring there was not an option.

IMG_20151112_110840We continued down the west coast in relatively flat water and anchored in the scenic remote cove of Vaiehu just south of Cap Punahu. This was the first time in months we had an unobstructed view of the horizon, the skies were clear and we sat back and enjoyed a glorious sunset. The overnight swell was manageable but the surge brought the surf pounding onto the steep sided cliff walls, the acoustics were amazing – surround sound at its best, somewhat unsettling though having natures version of Beethoven's 5th playing all night, so we just stayed one night and left in search of something a little more peaceful.

30 + 33 = 7

We turned north again and reviewed our options, the wind had increased overnight and some wild bullets tore down from the magnificent spires on the summit of Ua Pou. We revisited the town anchorage at Hakahetau but it looked rollier than it had the previous day so quickly dismissed it, our options were dwindling, a return to Nuku Hiva was inevitable.P2220073

The forecast had showed stronger winds than the previous day, but we had never intended on going back across to Nuku Hiva so soon. Aah but our plans as always were written in the sand, so we battened down the hatches and out we went into the big blue very wobbly stuff, with winds gusting 30 knots in front of the beam (of course) we had a speedy but very lively crossing. There is a first time for everything, and this was a first ever for the espresso machine and toaster (both bungyed down) to fly off the galley bench and dangle upside down by their power cords – thankfully they still work or it would have been a real bad day!

So a few hours and 33 miles later we tucked in behind the headland of Controllers Bay, calm water and normality returned to our lives, phew! We anchored in Hooumi Bay, just 7 miles east from Taioha'e where we had left the previous morning, not quite the result we had hoped for but Balvenie and crew came through their unplanned fitness test with flying colours.

Controllers is a large indentation on the south-eastern corner of Nuku Hiva, with 3 bays tucked up at its head. We stayed the first couple of nights in Hooumi which was a scenic spot. Sundowners entertainment was our very own live wildlife documentary, unravelling over nearly two hours of action packed viewing. The cast – 2 hunting dogs and two wild goats. I'll let skipper tell the story .........

Quite a commotion last night. There we were sat in the cockpit having a quiet rum. All of a sudden loud barking and bleating drew our attention to the rock face a short distance from the anchorage .P2100015 A scene of nature at its rawest unfolded as we witnessed two dogs bred to track and kill wild pigs chasing a goat across the rocks above us. The goat, with nowhere else to run and not wanting to end up as ”dog tucker”, plunged into the seething ocean below just as one of the dogs made a mad grab for its hind leg. The red mist came down upon the dog and it didn't let go, so with blind enthusiasm for the kill the dog fell into the waters too.

After serious shrieking, squealing and splashing the goat was never seen again and the dog looked to be a gonna too as he got tossed around in the surge desperately trying to keep his head above water. Was it time for audience participation? Should I take the dinghy and save the dog? Will the dog rip into the dinghy? Will the dog rip into me? His hunting pal barked instructions furiously from the cliffs above, was he too contemplating a rescue or just relaying an escape plan? While I took another sip of rum to think about it the dog miraculously managed to claw himself onto a rock and lay exhausted in a soggy pile. Goat committed to the deep but dog back on terrafirma.

End of story? – oh no, that was only the end of part one.

P2220069Refreshed and invigorated by his dip within a few minutes he was off again and spent the next hour or so stalking another big goat who had found a shallow rock ledge that the dog, no matter how hard he tried, just couldn't claw his way up to. His hunting mate attacked from above but also couldn't get close without sliding down the rock, the goat had nerves of steel and stood his ground. So these three faced off all evening, their noses just three feet apart. The goat knew if he moved he was dog tucker for sure.

Just before dark the dogs withdrew, seemingly tired of the waiting game. The goat, not to be tricked, stood his ground for over 15 minutes until he was sure they had left, but we could still see the dogs, we knew they were still eyeing him up for dinner. The goat eventually deemed it safe to move but didn't get more than 10 metres before the dogs tore back towards him. As darkness engulfed us all, the goat was safely back on his ledge with the 2 dogs threatening either side.P2240081 P2240084

Quietness accompanied the darkness and in the morning the ledge was empty with no signs of the dogs finally getting their dinner!

Survival Of The Fittest & Smartest Still Rules!