After the short transit on Rangiroa (see previous location) we finally arrive on Nuku Hiva, the main island of the Marquesas archipelago. The exploration of this magic and beautiful part of the world called “Henua Enana” (that means “the land of men” in marquesian) can now begin!
The Marquesas were discovered by a Spanish “conquistador” at the end of the 16th century. Alvaro de Mendaña y Neira arrived on these islands in july 1595 and named them “Las Marquesas de Mendoza” in homage to the vice-king of Peru who gave him the possibility to make this expedition in the search of gold or spices…. but as he found nothing of these, he left them and for 2 centuries nobody came back there. It’s only at the end of the 18th century that the English and French navigators came back there to colonize and evangelize the islands and their people. During the 19th century, the contact with western civilization destroyed all traditional culture and almost all marquesian people died from diseases: from around 100000 people in 1800 they were only 2000 left at the beginning of the 20th century! Now the amount of marquesian people grew up again and they’re around 15000 today (half of them living outside the Marquesas), and they try as most as possible to find their culture and roots again.
Well, all this to explain that these islands have really something special, they look wild and savage and there aren’t so many people on them… but it was not always like this!
After this historical introduction, let’s talk about Nuku Hiva: it’s the biggest island of the archipelago and almost 3000 people live there. As soon as we arrived by plane we saw amazing landscapes made of impressing volcanic mountains falling directly into the blue-green ocean. And that’s one thing different from the other Polynesian islands: there’s no Corallian Recife nor lagoon in the Marquesas…
As soon as we arrived in our hotel in Taiohae (the main village) we were breathless: the bay of Taiohae is absolutely stunning. We walked along the beach and were amazed by the beauty of this place.
The place is beautiful, but the people are also very very friendly and welcomed us as if we were good friends and knew each other since a long time. As there are very few tourists there, you’re not seen as a tourist, but as a friend… and we were soon invited to join the baptism party of someone’s young boy, even if we knew nobody there! This party was really a great moment, a lot of typical marquisian food, friendly people, a lot of drinking and everyone taking his guitar or ukulele to make music, sing and dance! For our very first day day, it was really something impressing!
The next day, we decided to explore the island. We rent a 4×4 car (there aren’t so many real roads there, so you need a 4 wheels drive…) and made the whole tour of the island. We felt like explorers discovering the wild side of the island, through some very narrows tracks, middle of nowhere, surrounded by amazing landscapes of mountains and sea… and we met almost nobody during this day, we were alone in the wild and savage land of Nuku Hiva.
At a moment, while driving through a forest, we saw some statues and decided to make a stop. We walked a bit further in the forest and we discovered an amazing place full of statues (or “Tiki’”) and wide esplanades in the middle of the forest. It was the great “pae pae tohua” of Hikokua. This place is similar to the “marae” of Society islands, that means the great religious and sacred place where all the traditional ceremonies found place. The place is dated back to 1250 and is a witness of the rich past culture of Nuku Hiva. And as it is today in the middle of nowhere, in a forest far away from any village, you can presume that in the ancient times there were a lot of more people living in this area… The atmosphere of this sacred place in the forest is really special, you can feel the spirit of ancient culture and beauty of nature reunited in one place.
Well, we had a beautiful day there, but it was already finished. The next day we took the plane to visit the 2nd island of our trip, Hiva Oa……
To be continued….