crossing nuku hiva to reach the beginning

Crossing Nuku Hiva to reach the beginning

The views from the air were beautiful. When we came here by ship, just over a week ago, it took a day and a half to reach the Marquesas, the most distant archipelago in French Polynesia. Now we would return to the largest island, Nuku Hiva, in a matter of hours.

Before traveling here, I wondered about the exported images I had seen of flower crowns and garlands. It turns out that they are common, but still special, and their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

The airport is on the opposite side of the island from the main town of Taiohae because it’s the only place flat enough for a runway.

Getting into town from the airport brought us high into the forest, which is a mix of endemic and exotic species. People, including the original Polynesians, have been bringing plants and animals to these islands for centuries. New species continue to arrive both accidentally and intentionally. The pine trees, for example, were brought within the last hundred years to begin a timber industry, and they have taken over a larger sector of the island.

Aniata Kimitete was our first point of contact. She explained all of the landforms along the way, and yes, I asked her a zillion questions.

Our first view of Taiohae spoke for itself. We ended up spending a lot of time here, more even than we expected. Over the coming weeks, we would have more leads to follow than we knew what to do with. We would find help in many different forms, and the maps that we looked at to begin planning this journey began coming to life.

We studied the map below at Aniata’s house, where she reunited us with her mother, Debora, a woman who used her stories to teach us about the Marquesas. We sat in her garden, eating mangoes from the tree hanging over our heads, and we discussed a question that comes up over and over in our line of work: What next?

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Photo by Eric Guth

Crossing Nuku Hiva to reach the beginning