Day 15

We were eagerly anticipating land today, but our arrival was pushed back two hours until about noon. The Captain attributed this to our slower speed during the rough sea days.

We attended today’s enrichment lecture “Adak, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586.” Historian Andrew Jampoler discussed what happened to 15 Navy airmen of flight AF 586 that experienced engine problems and had to ditch in the Bering Sea off the coast of Siberia in late October 1978. As a result of his extensive research, Andrew found flight recordings reporting the engine problems and transmitting their position constantly. Rescue efforts were initiated immediately by sea and air but the weather and darkness delayed efforts. Later the next day, a Russian fishing trawler picked up the crew in two life rafts but only ten were alive, three dying of exposure and two never made it into the rafts. He explained the Cold War realities and complications of initiating the rescue efforts through political channels.

At about noontime, we went to the upper deck to a Nuku Hiva arrival party as we entered Taiohae Bay and dropped anchor. Local authorities took about 45 minutes to clear the ship before anyone could leave. We assembled in the theater to get our tender number to go ashore. Regent had already made arrangements for the tour transportation to be rescheduled two hours later because of our later arrival. Our arrival at the pier was greeted by locals in native dress singing and playing Polynesian music, a really fine welcoming touch.

Our excursion ticket number led us to our tour transportation, a caravan of fifteen 4-wheel drive pick-up trucks. Each truck carried 4 guests, so we met Cindy and Bill from Houston, our truck-mates. Our first stop was at a lovely stone and wood Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral, a simple church with beautiful wood-carvings done by natives in the 1950’s. We then headed uphill through many switchbacks to the summit where we saw the surrounding islands and our ship in the harbor, a breathtaking view.

After a brief photo stop, we proceeded to the Taipivai Valley, one of the richest archaeological sites in the Marquesas. Herman Melville hid here when he deserted his ship. His 3-week stay here was the inspiration for his novel, Typee. This landmark was most recently made famous by being the base camp for the TV show, Survivor, in 2001. We continued to the site of Te A’Aitua, a religious ceremonial site, where we were served local fruits, including coconut, papaya, mango, breadfruit chips (actually quite tasty), fried tapioca and fried bananas. We were able to stay here for about a half hour, enough time to snack and take lots of pictures.

From this village, we drove about a half hour back to port. The same vehicles would take the next group of guests through the same sites, ending after dark. We spoke to friends who were on this later excursion and they said they saw everything we did, and only the trip back to port was in the dark. This was the only excursion offered on Nuku Hiva, and everyone who wanted to participate had the chance to do so. Regent did a good job on this. Each caravan had one lead guide who spoke about history and described what we were seeing. The drivers spoke little or no English and only provided transportation to each location where we all got out of the vehicles and listened to our guide. Everyone here speaks French or Tahitian. Our driver said “okay” every time we were supposed to get out. That was the extent of the conversation, but he (Roy) was an excellent driver, navigating the hilly and winding roads with skill. Mac and I checked out a few shops and then caught the return tender to the ship.

It was a hot afternoon and the vehicles were not air-conditioned, so we decided it was time for a swim in our pool. We went to the pool deck, had no trouble finding a lounge at that time, had a drink, and went for a swim for the first time.

We had a table for two last night because we didn’t eat until after 7:30. Mac had tuna steak and I had the filet (oh darn, not again). Everything was delicious as usual. Last night was one of the major shows with the singers and dancers called Tuxedo. It included many numbers from the 1940’s, with period costumes and popular dances of those times. They did a great job, but it was a bit before our time and I was not familiar with much of the music, but a good portion of the assembly was enthralled by it.

Before bed, we went up on deck to check out the night sky. The southern hemisphere constellations can be different from what we see, and some have different seasons, Mac has a star app on his phone and we tried to identify what we were seeing. We will keep trying. Last night, we turned our clocks back the half hour, so that we will still be 5 hours earlier than East Coast time while we are in the Polynesian islands.

Yours in travel

Pat & Mac