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Nuku Hiva – Part 1

By Chelsea McBroom

February 23rd, 2014

Yesterday I went grocery shopping in Nuku Hiva with Donald and my new apprentice assistant Maria, crew of the Picton Castle. The day was cloudy but very humid. It’s a very green island like the last we’d visited but seems more populated, having more city lights at night. Scattered fire trees and palm trees could be seen from our anchorage in Taiohae Bay. We took two large empty blue plastic basket woven bags and slathered ourselves in bug spray before hopping into the skiff and motoring over.

As soon as we arrived on the wharf, Henry (whom we hadn’t yet met) called over to us from a small line of shops across from us, telling us about all the fruit he had available, “Mangos! Mangos!” when we asked “Banco? Banco?” hoping to take out some money. We kept following the road up, eventually finding the post office ATM and then heading to the farmers’ market that had been open since 4am so we could buy mango, avocado (HUGE ones, didn’t even recognize them), banana, grapefruit, tomato and lettuce. Thank goodness the young lady there could speak English – she was very helpful, giving us English amounts and writing us receipts.

We had been told that picking from the trees was frowned upon here so we avoided it entirely, but lots of mango and grapefruit could be seen growing and falling along the road. We found it difficult to find Vienna loaves to buy for sandwiches, not knowing where to start, and yet everywhere we looked we saw people eating them – sitting under trees, in a courtyard, or the front step of a building, breaking off pieces to eat with cheese – so we found ourselves motioning long loaves of bread and pretending to eat them until they responded excitedly pointing us in the right direction “Pain! Pain!”. We found and bought about 20 loaves at a small grocery past the closed bank.

After getting groceries and heading back to the ship, my lovely assistant was relieved from her duties to join our watch ashore while I tried to send an email to the office – our satellite communications connection was giving us trouble so I tried the wifi at the café on the wharf but it didn’t seem to like my email account as I was clicking the same buttons or refreshing my browser window over and over. The café is very simple with a small glass counter indoors filled with piles of large tarts made with meringue, peaches and custard, as well as cakes and donuts seemingly made on site. There’s an expansive awning that covers a scattered number of large rectangular plastic tables and chairs. There was a small booth made of plywood where two young girls sat with their laptops and headphones.

Those that sat eating lunch or drinking coffee were locals and those who’d been visiting for long periods of time and conversations were being had across the patio – Henry sat at the back, giving us advice and a couple from Australia spoke to us, asking us about the ship and what our lives were like aboard. I could see the ship from there, anchored amongst the moored yachts and other boats.

Just when I could see some crew aloft on the t’gallant yards, the looming dark clouds that covered the bay could hold it no longer – it began to pour rain. “Who brought this rain?!” One of the local ladies called out smiling. Supposedly the weather had been sunny all week, “It wasn’t raining until you guys got here!” She pointed to us crew who were huddled together at the time (Pania, Alex and Maria) all of whom pointed at me with the blame. “It was her,” they giggled.

The three of them were waiting for their ride – a lady was going to pick them up, take them to her farm and then horseback riding. “The smell of wet horse is worse than wet dog,” said Maria, worried about what she would experience in this weather. The roads by the shore were slick with mud but they were taken up into the mountains of the island where the weather was more moderate and later said it was an amazing time – showing me pictures of the farm covered with wood and greenery and decorated with animal bones hung with saddles and horse riding gear. The rain didn’t last long and I took the opportunity to find more of the starboard watch – walking past a fence dusted with perching colorful finches, kittens napping in the grass, a front yard with wandering bare untethered horses and bushes of small white flowers with a scent I recognize but can’t remember the name of.

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