My Adventures in Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

by Murielle Blanchard
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I have always been attracted to oceans and boats. The most unusual, the most remote, the better. After three years on a 17 meters trimaran on the Red Sea, a journey on a dhow from Djibouti to Yemen, a fishing trawler down the Indian Ocean, a cruise on a small luxury cruise ship in the Mediterranean and a passage to Cape Horn on an expedition ship, it was time to experience a cargo ship.

So I did. I embarked last November on the Aranui for a cruise from Papeete to the Marquesas Islands. The journey was a double discovery: discovery of the islands themselves and discovery of life on a cargo ship. From the scenery to the people, the culture, the dance, the music, the ship and the crew members, the surprises were endless. The Marquesas Islands are an ecotourist’s dream.

Unlike the other islands in French Polynesia, there are no lagoons or protected coral reefs surrounding the landscape. Instead, steep volcanic mountains plunge straight into the Pacific Ocean. Ridges lay between deep valleys and thriving jungles.

There are many archeological and ceremonial sites including houses, shrines, stone statues, agricultural terraces and burial grounds that testify to the existence of an ancient civilization.

The locals have proudly safeguarded the ancient techniques of tattoo, sculpture and woodcarving. They are also leaders in the revival of the traditional pahu (drum).

Every four years, Nuku Hiva hosts the Marquesas Arts Festival, a celebration of the renowned artistic talent and deeply rooted traditions of these islands.

There is no better way to experience the primitive beauty of these faraway islands than on the cargo freighter, the Aranui. The Aranui has been the lifeline to the Marquesas for nearly forty years.

Islanders are anxiously waiting for the arrival of the Aranui and its passengers. All the crew members, from the seamen to the restaurant staff, to the reception staff and the cabin personnel are a large family and they make sure you are part of the family for two weeks. The warm welcome goes right to your heart. Facilities on board are very comfortable, similar to a regular cruise ship. You even have free laundry service twice during the cruise! It is fascinating to look at the seamen unloading the cargo on each island: spare parts, cars, boats, drinks, construction materials. marquesas6 small They work hard but they always have time to smile and interact with you. As for the islanders, they are happy and proud of their life. They like to laugh, play music, dance and show you around.

Of all my adventures this trip will always remain a memorable one.