By Chelsea McBroom
February 25th, 2014
Another beautiful day ashore with no sign of rain and I had a few options as to what I would do for the day. Starboard watch of the Picton Castle could have gone on a bus tour around the island, or Meg, Erin, and Nils, our Master Divers, had signed up to dive for sharks and invited others to snorkel, then Pania and Alex were going to rent a car and go exploring. I decided that renting a car, which worked so well exploring islands off of New Zealand, was the best choice. Pania and I packed our bags in the foc’sle, throwing in a bathing suit just in case, and joined everyone in the first skiff to shore after 8am muster.
Maria, Pania and I went straight to the bank machine to stock up on French Polynesian Francs and then to a little hotel that had a covered patio where they had wifi and in the evening fire baked pizzas. We quickly caught up with those online, drinking bottled water and fresh juice before Alex arrived. We rented our car from there and picked up Gustav at the warf. He was sitting with Lian, Avery and Simon who were waiting for a friend they had met on the island who had offered to take them horseback riding.
Next, to prepare for the day, we went to the little corner store to get things for lunch – the usual fresh bread, cheese, meat and something chocolate. Chocolate was kept in the fridge next to the pop so it wouldn’t melt. The chocolate dipped biscuits Maria bought were dripping within the hour. Armed with just one very simple map that wasn’t to scale, we followed the one road leading up the mountain. The Danes (Maria and Gustav) were both more experienced with manual or stick shift cars so we left it to them to drive around the animals walking in the town and on the windy road in the hills.
We soon reached the other side of the island – a shore lined with ruin-like structures and stone benches. Here we took out our lunch food, found a shaded spot and took a seat on the stones lining the shore’s edge. There seemed to be more wind and the crashing of the waves was loud. Little ants carried whatever bread or Cheeto crumbs we lost on the grass. When we finished I stretched myself on a large flat rock to close my eyes and the others wove leaves into turks heads and crowns. It was quiet and the area seemed deserted except for the loud music coming from a shop down the street. We were told there that if we cared to explore the museum we would be given the key, but we were eager to continue our trip around the island.
Before long the road became bumpy and less travelled. For a while we worried we took a wrong turn (hard to take a wrong turn when there’s only one road, we know, but there were private roads that confused us), Gus maneuvering through the rocks, grass and sometimes puddles of water going uphill. Whenever possible we took a break at a lookout point. We seemed to be the only car on the road and were never passed. Our first lookout had a covered bench overlooking another beautiful shore and we sat there together, giggling and posed like an awkward family photo while Alex’s camera was timed and sitting on the hood of the car.
The next lookout point which seemed to sit atop the mountain, it rolled out and down into the water and had tall manmade stacks of rock or structures lining the red earthed road and further off to the side a scattering of horses grazed. I could smell the mint that was growing around small bushes of yellow and red flowers. The other lookout we found was the most breathtaking – a view of the valley and with the way it expanded before us it looked as if the ocean was the sky. It was cooler here and the trees were more like pine and less tropical. There was a fairly steep decline into the lush green valley from there – of dirt and clay clumps, with a rare pile of grass going down and trees at the bottom. Here Alex and Pania decided to push themselves down like a slide until they lost momentum, and slowly made their way up again. They were grinning and covered in dirt when we climbed back into the car.
Before we knew it, and after convincing ourselves we would reach civilization eventually, a cement highway crossed our path that would either take us to the airport or back to town. We took the road to town, this time Alex getting a chance to improve his manual driving skills and arriving just in time for a swim and a 7pm dinner. That’s a seven hour day! Literally driving all the way around the island! And we were all pleased at the new perspective we had of Nuku Hiva.