Life in Jurassic Park
"Lockdown" – sounds horrid, and for a lot of folk it has been. For those with a “glass half full” perspective it has been a chance to experience something very different and to reflect on what is normal. Here in Nuka Hiva, 6 weeks ago I didn’t know what “zoom” was, never mind experienced the sheer joy of a family quiz across four very challenging time zones, the joy of walking ashore unrestricted for the first time in 6 weeks and what I previously would have dreaded;
– sitting still for 8 weeks, staying in the same place, not having a schedule, nor having a plan. This has however, turned out to be a beautiful experience, and has changed my perspective on cruising and going forward.
On SAORSA we just cannot believe how lucky we have been, yes, on top of a three week passage we were confined to the boat and couldn’t swim or even visit other boats for a few weeks, but we did have access to French baguettes twice a week!
The island never got Covid 19 and after a few weeks we got the OK to go ashore. We were able to walk around freely, which was a sheer joy and our legs felt like those of a new born foal, all wibbly wobbly. Despite the morning deck workouts, a very short jog up the slightest incline left me gasping for breath. After several weeks of lockdown the joy of walking, listening to the birds and seeing the local families splashing about in the water was just awesome.
A routine quickly emerged – 8am breakfast listening to the local radio net followed by a five minute BBC bulletin (good old BBC!), then a few boat chores, maybe a walk, swim or paddle, an episode of game of thrones and then sundowners – over a few weeks this grew into social visits across the fleet and we were able to put faces to the many names we had heard over the radio weeks before.
Ashore I loved absorbing the island. There are only 2,500 inhabitants in Nuka Hiva and Taihaeo Bay (where we are anchored), is the largest village. Being part of the community has been a real privilege. On Sundays different families congregate under a tree on the beach, the older folk on plastic chairs the youngsters playing in the water. They bring along their dogs and usually there are horses grazing along behind them. The families play their guitars and drums softly and every now and again there are hoots of laughter. Sat on the beach, listening to the gentle music, watching the families interact and play in the waves and just chill together has been a Sunday treat that is hard to describe.
The island itself is like having Jurassic park as our playground. There are three lovely walks from the bay – all uphill! You wander in the forest through mango, lime, avocado trees, and many more trees that I have no idea about. Occasionally you stumble across a local Tiki and there are always horses grazing, occasionally goats, chickens and pigs. What is guaranteed is that it is hot and you see a lot, and of course the view – lush green and very mountainous.
We hired a 4 x 4 last Monday, what a hoot. After a morning drive, a picnic and then and hour or two of hiking we discovered a lovely bay at the other side of the island. Having gone one way we google another road route back – google maps said 1.5 hours, great we thought back before dark. Then we realised why you can only hire 4x4 trucks. There are 4x4 roads...with
steep drop offs either side, mud, stone and rock tracks. We got back 3.5 hours later in the dark. The girls often hoping out to guide us past some huge rock or ravine. It was like an episode off top gear – test that truck in Jurrassic park!, always liked Richard Hammond.
Back at the boat, the “to do list” seemed to just grow for a while. The bottom had triffids growing on it, and the propeller had turned into what looked like a tree.
The team jumped into action, joining the growing aquarium around the boat we got Saorsa's bottom scrubbed and sorted, deck caulking done, engine serviced , winches striped, and the sewing machine was put to good use – Karen made a windlass cover, we sorted some minor rips in the bimini and made a chart table seat cover from a lovely hand sewn Mola we got from the San Blas. The winches got a service, the deck got some new caulking, the watermaker also required, and still does require some TLC, but after a lot of elbow grease the boat is looking ship shape. – Thanks team.
The most incredible moments have been the exhilarating time swimming with huge manta rays. Some days they come into the bay to feed and we think they are currently mating. We spend hours in the water with them just watching these huge animals gracefully act out a complex orchestral piece. They, seem friendly, their eating ritual includes doing somersaults, sometimes inches away from you, while another four glide by below in perfect formation. The first time one comes head on and scoots just below you your heart begins to pound – Lesley (a very strong swimmer) leaped onto Karen (our not so strong swimmer), which was very funny, and shall not be forgotten. They are awesome animals – gentle, graceful and skilled, flying close to you but never touching.
The spare parts for the rig are due to arrive next week - we hope! Once the rig is fixed we hope to go for a sail around the Marquesas. Then what? I am not sure. We are hoping the other archipelagos will open up and we can go and explore these wonderful places. If not we will be Tahiti bound. Beyond that it is all a bit fluid but hopefully we will be heading to New Zealand by Oct, - I have a very important wedding to go to! (Christopher my son, to the lovely Rachel), but nothing is certain.
Staying in Nuka Hiva a lot longer than planned has been a real pleasure – maybe taking more time out to absorb the places we visit is a good take-away from lockdown.
Thankfully I have a great crew who have just gone along with the situation, they have got on with making the most of being in a beautiful place, helped keep the boat in tip top form and for me made lockdown a pleasurable and memorable experience. – Thanks Team.
As for me personally, sitting still and soaking up Nuka Hiva has been a real pleasure.