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vendredi 29 avril 2016

Nuku Hiva, heart of Marquesas

The land of men
Nuku Hiva is the biggest of the Marquesas Islands. After Tahiti, it’s also the second greatest island of French Polynesia.

Majestic, fantastic, dizzying, wild, bucolic... Nuku Hiva is the island of superlatives.

Nuku Hiva, 1500 km northeast of Tahiti, is 330 square kilometers of steep cliffs, impressive basalt needles, lush valleys, waterfalls, rivers, wonderful beaches often inaccessible. But it's also an incredibly beautiful tableland, a staggering canyon, a rocks desert...

Nuku Hiva: a fortified castle lost in the open South Pacific
Nuku Hiva is first and foremost, a history, a culture and a people, still alive.

Nuku Hiva, a young and lovely island
The Marquesas Islands are, geologically speaking, the youngest archipelago of French Polynesia, which explains both the absence of lagoon and the presence of impressive mountains with steep flanks.

The map of an island like no other
Nuku Hiva, the largest of them, is no exception to the rule. It even takes characteristics to extremes.

To get to Nuku Hiva, it's at Terre Déserte, the aptly named, where we land. Covering much of the west coast of the island, overlooking above a few tens meters the ocean, the area is an arid, dry and windswept plateau. On this part of the coast, one village is nestled deep in the Bay of Haahopu.

Terminal of Terre Déserte, aptly named
To reach the main city, Taiohae, you have to cross the island. For this, two possibilities: the 4x4 or helicopter.

Recently, the transverse road is concreted on almost all the route. First step, climb the mountain chain that overlooks Terre Déserte and get over a pass near the highest peak of the island, Mount Tekao, which rises at 1227 m.

From the pass, the descent to the plateau of Toovi
 There, change of scenery: a dizzying descent leads to the plateau of Toovi which hosts the main part of the agriculture and breeding of the island. After the drought of Terre Déserte, the contrast is startling.

Taiohae Bay as it appears
A new mountain pass to cross before the downhill towards the beautiful bay of Taiohae, about two hours drive.

Nuku Hiva and history
The Marquesan name of the Marquesas Islands is "Henua enana", meaning "Land of Men".

Nuku Hiva in ancient times
The first human traces at Nuku Hiva were found on Haatuatua beach by Robert Suggs in 1957. They allow to place the first settlement of the island about 150 years B.C.

Of Polynesian origin, this outsized seafaring people bring with them pigs, dogs, chickens and rats (without their knowing). They also carry coconuts, taro, yams and breadfruit trees.

Life is passing by, quiet and serene, allowing the colonization of the entire island and a substantial increase in population.

The legend of the Marquesas creation by Joseph Kahia
Around 1100 A.D., the population density has reached an excessive level and deadly infighting oppose the different communities of the island.

Part of the population chose exile and it was at this time that the small islands of Motane and Eiao are inhabited.

British Joseph Ingraham accosts the island in 1791, followed two months later by Etienne Marchand takes possession of the island (and of the whole archipelago) on behalf of France.

Despite the violent resistance of some dignitaries, particularly the chief Pakoko who ordered the massacre of five French soldiers, the Marquesan people should ignore its natural pride and grovel to the occupying forces.

French captain Etienne Marchand
 In the early 20th century, it remains at Nuku Hiva less than 400 inhabitants. Its population is decimated by imported diseases, alcohol and a terrible decline in fertility. And Nuku Hiva was very nearly to become again a desert island.

At the 2007 census, they were 2,798 living on the island. This figure ignores the significant diaspora to Tahiti.

Nuku Hiva, an Island with thousand treasures
Of course, this island exhibits sumptuous landscapes. Of course, the waterfall Vaipo (3rd highest in the world with 350 meters) is awash with light. Of course, the wild horses gallop in the mountains, such as cows and goats. Of course, hunting the wild pig is a fabulous hiking...

The impressive waterfall of Vaipo.
But there is also a wealth of archaeological sites, such as marae perfectly restored as Taiohae, or Hatiheu's old village reconstituted...

 Last but not least, there are people. How not to be mesmerized by the nobility of that people which, even today, long before being Polynesian or French, are Marquesan, even in the smallest details of everyday life?

Nuku Hiva, an enchantment...
If you are lucky enough to sympathize with any of the inhabitants of Nuku Hiva and he decides to introduce you to his island, so, you will never forget your stay and retain forever the desire to return to the Land of Men…

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

1 commentaire :

  1. Belles photos! Beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing. :)


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