French Polynesia- Marquesas

By Gerry, Hawaii

Two years ago, I went to the Marquesas (part of French Polynesia-4000 miles south of Hawaii, 1000 miles north of Tahiti). There are about 8 major islands, although none of them are really major and most of them are accessible only by boat. They do have tiny little airplanes and tiny little airports, but only for the rich and famous. I went on the freighter Aranui, out of Papeete. Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.

There I rode a horse descended from Chilean horses that were brought to the island of Ua Huka in 1856 as a gift to a local chieftain. Ua Huka is now called "Horses Island" since the horses outnumber the 500 Marquesan native inhabitants.

The horses are tame, but run wild, and when tourists come, they round up a bunch of them, saddle them with wooden saddles because leather perishes in the tropics, and you get a bruising ride. I even went forewarned and padded my saddle with my beach towel, but it was a few days before...........

And though I am not likely to forget my horse, Pomplemouse (a Tahitian grapefruit), not ever, ever will I forget our trek on Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands. We began at the top of the mountains above Taiohae Bay and the town ot Taiohae. We walked down to the lush Tapivai Valley, in the footsteps of Herman Melville (sans cannibal pursuit) to the valley he described in his book "Typee."

When we got there, the Aranui freighter had come from the town of Taiohae, where we had started, to Taipivai to pick us up. There are no roads around the islands. A boat is the only way to get from one valley to the next. On our boat we had hot showers and laundry service and French Polynesian dinners with French wine.

Take this trip! Fly to Papeete, get on the Aranui, snorkel, scuba if you know how, buy black pearls, ride horses, climb mountains.