At this moment we have three customs officials sitting in the guest cockpit going over our paperwork with Giamma and Art, a normal situation except that this is Sunday, and initially we were told we would have to wait on board until Monday morning to be processed into the country, but Pitiou saved us, after Art spotted the customs boat here in the harbor, Pitiou and Andrea motored over in the tender, chatted them up in French, and voilà! Merci Pitiou! We are free to go ashore.
We completed our passage yesterday evening, approaching the island of Nuku Hiva at sunset, we enjoyed an incredibly beautiful arrival but it was under darkness that we made our way slowly, carefully into Baie Taiohae, the scent of the island filled our noses: heavy vegetation, smoke from wood cooking fires, and the perfume of thousands of tropical flowers. After setting anchor, the first bottle was opened, followed by a few more as the evening turned to night. Carmen made a beautiful beef roast with potatoes, we had dinner together outside, eating properly at the table for the first time since leaving Galápagos. Then after dinner, a bit of fine rum to complete our arrival celebration with more toasts, lots of hugs and kisses for everyone. We were all exhausted after the passage, but when we awoke this morning, ventured out to take in our surroundings, we realized we had passed through the purgatory that was the Galápagos, and had finally arrived in paradise.
We are anchored in a lovely calm bay surrounded by towering emerald green cliffs, the remains of a huge ancient volcanic caldron. A charming village rings a half-moon shaped bay full of small boats. Families are out and about, some local musicians are playing guitars, strumming and singing traditional folk songs. Local kids race their horses up and down a volcanic black sand beach. We were hardly out of bed this morning, just taking the first coffee when Carmen spotted three large Manta Rays circling the boat, the tips of their long wings piecing the surface as they gently glided by while a pair of tiny white Fairy Terns circled above in the morning sun. Just a short distance away we see the mega-sailing yacht Athos also sitting at anchor, the last time we saw her was back in Palma at the STP Marina, it's funny to be seeing her again way out here.
Once on shore we realize we are all famished. We spot the customs guys sharing a huge spread at a local cafe, they wave us over and tell us this is the place to eat so we grab a table and proceed to order a sampling of every dish they were making that day: roasted goat in coconut curry, crispy chicken in sweet lime sauce, two types of raw fish, stir-fry noodles with vegetables and shrimps, rice and french fries, but no beer on Sunday- what a pity! After our magnificent feast we wandered over to the Internet cafe to get caught up with email, then it's back to the boat for much needed down time.
The highlight of our first shore excursion was a dance and music presentation performed by the local cultural preservation group. The show had been arranged by the crew of Athos to entertain their guests just arriving by plane. Some of the crew saw us eating lunch and recognized Giamma, so they invited us to come over; thank you Athos crew! It was a fantastic display, everyone wore traditional tribal costumes, the women sitting demurely in a circle singing, while the men danced, bare chested, wearing only a head dress and a wreath of leaves around their hips. Covered in traditional tribal tattoos, this being the place where the art of the tattoo was invented, the men chanted while taking on various threatening warrior poses, muscles rippling and dripping in sweat they were indeed quite fierce. My gosh what a day, what a difference, we are truly in another place, a magical place, and we've only just arrived!