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Cruising to Nuku Hiva … A Photographic Journey

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As promised last week, I am going to populate this blog entry with some photographs I took on a recent stop in Nuku Hiva, a rustic island way out in the Pacific Ocean, which is part of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

I’ve set up a gallery at the CruiseMates site.  You can go here:

In it you will find a selection of photographs that will give you a good idea of just how rustic and primitive this place truly is. 

Breadfruit grows freely on trees throughout the island.  The people of the island can live on this stuff, though the taste, from what I understand, is not the best.

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Breadfruit is grown throughout polynesia

The people of Nuku Hiva are a religious sort.  Catholism plays a vital role in their culture today, though pagon religions abounded in the past when they erected stone structures to honor a variety of their pagen gods.  Maraes can be found throughout the island where one can still view the stone structures and tikis of the ancient polynesians.  They had entire communities with stone structures for every conceivable purpose; for housing their religious leaders to serving as gathering places for the entire community.

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ship in harbor

Today one can find a variety of churches, again mostly Catholic, where residents worship sometimes on a daily basis.  On Sundays, the island virtually shuts down as church and community take front and center over the necessity to make a living.  Families will attend church services and then gather at one of their homes to make a day of it — eating, talking, sharing and just enjoying the simple pleasures of being together.  “On the seventh day … ” and all that — really means something to the people of Nuku Hiva.

There is virtually no crime on Nuku Hiva and for that reason the residents do not need to be concerned with such things as securing their belongings.  Horses graze freely along the mountainside, often with their owners not even being in the nearby vicinity.  Houses often have no locks, as home invasions and theft are virtually unheard of on this island.

Flowers of every conceivable color grow here.  They can be found along the roadside, by the seafront, in the quaint little gardens of the homes along the mountain — just about everywhere.

What makes this place so wonderful is how almost primitive it is.  It seems unaffected by modern life, and more importantly modern tourism influences.  It seems like the people of this island far out in the Marquesas chain really don’t care about tourists.  Oh, they will offer them tours and perhaps sell their crafts and other wares to the tourists from the ships that visit here, but they really don’t seem particularly interested in making a living off of them.  It seems they will welcome them to enjoy the island pleasures for a day, but really don’t care one way or the other if the ships stopped coming tomorrow.  And that is precisely what makes Nuku Hiva so refreshing as a place to visit.  It’s not like they want to make a killing off of the tourists.

In fact, they don’t even have much other than seclusion to offer tourists.  There are not a lot of activities on offer that would make this island a hot tourist spot.  You won’t find the clear blue waters and protective lagoons that you will find in places like Moorea and Bora Bora.  You also won’t find first rate hotel and resort facilities.  In fact, Nuku Hiva only has one resort, and even that could probably not be called a luxury property.

For activities, one can dive, or take a 4 x 4 tour.  There is also some fishing and hiking as well.  Beyond that, there is merely the allure of visiting a place where you can truly be secluded.  Your privacy will be ensured here, because few people would be inclined to visit.  For perhaps this reason, Nuku Hiva is a favorite for Hollywood celebrities wanting to get away from it all and truly enjoy their privacy, far away from adoring fans.

When your ship sails into Nuku Hiva, the first thing you see is the jagged mountaintops which were formed years ago by volcanic activity.  If you get the chance to ride up that mountain, you will see a world far removed from anything you’ve probably ever encountered before.  You’ll see simple living, where it doesn’t take much in the way of money to enjoy a life many of us would consider paradise.  You’ll see a way of life where family is everything and everyone pitches in to forge a living, often off the land — fishing for their evening meal and picking breadfruit off the trees, as well as other delicious fruit delicacies to round out that meal.

I guess the way I dream about life on Nuku Hiva is that it is probably what life was like in a lot of other places, such as the South Pacific and Hawaii, many, many years ago before the tourists came and ruined everything.  I think the people of Nuku Hiva are maybe just a bit smarter than those others.  They remain unaffected by us and won’t let that happen.  We can keep our tourism dollars.  They will just continue to enjoy their way of life without our interference.

Maybe that’s actually how it should be, don’t you think?

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