Have you been to Nuku Hiva? Nuka whatta? Part of the Marquesas Islands group in the South Pacific, this is not your typical island in French Polynesia. Instead of resorts with over-the-water-bungalows and broad beaches, baby boomers will find a rugged landscape with horses roaming free and a definite off-the-beaten-path feel.
Most baby boomer travelers who come to the northernmost island in the Marquesas arrive by way of cruise ship. Alan and I have visited twice. We were introduced to Nuku Hiva on a Pacific crossing from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. It was our first look at land after seven days at sea. I theorize that cruise ships stop here to give antsy passengers a chance to put their feet on the ground.
We took our itchy feet on a 4X4 exploration tour arranged by the ship. The convoy played follow-the-leader up mountain roads and into deep valleys. We stopped at various lookout points where a barefoot guide delivered his lectures in English tinged with a heavy French accent, the native language in the Marquesas. Our driver spoke no English which allowed us to take in the sounds of the island instead. The three-hour tour wound its way to a small beach before stopping at a pavilion for refreshments of chips and manioc and to view crafts for sale by the residents. Later, Alan and I walked around the small marketplace near the ship admiring intricate woodcarvings and beaded jewelry.
Our second visit to Nuku Hiva took place on the Seven Seas Mariner as we cruised from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles. This time, it would be our last step on land before seven days of ocean cruising. Unfortunately, heavy rains kept us on the ship. We missed a mini Arts Festival meant to simulate the Marquesas Festival of the Arts which occurs once every four years. I’d love to go back for the real thing.
And, on my next visit, I’d like to be sailing on the Paul Gauguin. The French Polynesian itinerary begins in Papetee, Tahiti with stops at several of the Marquesas Islands for a more thorough look at this isolated part of the world.