A Marquesan Welcome

The Oyster World Rally Fleet have now arrived in the Pacific with the fleet enjoying a festival in Nuku Hiva, organised in our honour by the people of the Taiohaie and Taipivai valleys.

The welcome commenced on Friday where we were greeted ashore with the traditional Haka dance. A fruit tasting event provided afternoon refreshment of local mango, pamplemousse, papaya and guava, accompanied by delicious dried banana, tapioca cake and banana bread which were all washed down with refreshing homemade lemonade. Stalls were set out and the local handicrafts demonstrated their skills, sold their wares and invited Oyster World Rally participants to turn their hand to some of the the local arts and traditions. New skills were learnt in wood carving, jewellery making, coconut opening, plus we were taught how to cook breadfruit and make delicious PoiPoi.

Entertainment followed by a group of dancers 'The New Generation' whose performance of traditional dances – Rikuhi and Hakamanu was so powerful that many of the audience were moved to tears. More lemonade was enjoyed, then back to the beach where the owners and their crew were treated to a demonstration horse race, then offered the opportunity to participate! An offer bravely accepted by Brendan from Purusha, and Stephen from Amelie who impressed the fleet with their prowess without a saddle. Meanwhile several teams were created for a race around the bay in six-man pirogues.

In the evening the ‘Marquesan Oven’ - a hole in the ground heated by rocks and covered in banana leaves was opened and a feast of local specialities of wild pig, wild goat, roast chicken and baked breadfruit were accompanied by traditional dishes from the sea including fish in coconut milk, raw crab with lime, octopus and grilled fish. Fortunately more dancing provided us with the opportunity to work off the feast.

After a week in the Marquesas we are running out of words to describe the beauty of the islands, and the welcome of its people. Subsequent to over 3,000 miles at sea the towering cliffs of the islands are a feast for the eyes. As you draw a little closer, the smells of the island awaken the senses; the smell of land, after over two weeks at sea is something that is difficult to describe to those who have not experienced it. Sailing into a Marquesan bay, the sight of green after weeks dominated by blue is completely refreshing. At first everything is a blur of green, but as the eyes adjust you can see that it is not one colour, but a thousand shades, and with a complete lack of pollution it almost feels that it is possible to see each individual leaf on every tree. Smells also begin to separate – damp earth, rich vegetation, undertones of wood smoke, and for those lucky enough to make landfall at dawn, the delicious scents of fresh french bread wafting from the bakery at the head of the bay.

Once ashore the friendliness of the people is almost overwhelming; everybody has time to say hello, to ask where you have come from, how long you are staying, and what they can give to you. No walk is over until you are laden with gifts of fruit – kilos of sweet pamplemousse, mangoes, bananas and papaya all add to the ardour of the hike, but are impossible to refuse.

More images are in the A Marquesan Welcome gallery.