January 21, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 16

Day 16 – Jan 20 We arrive at Nuku Hiva. The sky is overcast with temperatures in the mid 80's at daybreak. It rained early in the morning. I watch our approach from the sports deck. Dan is next to me. He was here last year on the world cruise, before that he had never even heard of the island despite a history of 22 or so previous world cruises. One of his first cruises was on a ship built in the early thirties, I can only imagine the elegance of ships from that period.

He is not sure if he should count one of his world cruises or not. About half way through the cruise the ship caught fire, and all the passengers were transferred to another ship going the opposite direction, so he never did actually complete that voyage around the world. Cunard sold the ship and it was completely rebuilt and he sailed on her again years later under a different flag.

All of the Polynesian islands are volcanic in origin. The bay we are positioned in is where the caldera of the volcano collapsed many thousands of years ago. The ships information channel says the water depth under the ship is 1,030 feet. Anchoring is not possible and therefore we are using the ships propulsion and thrusters to keep us stationary.

The French officials are still working to clear the ship, a process that has already taken an hour and a half and is not complete. Probably the Captain anticipated that he should arrive a little early.

My tour doesn't leave for several hours. Basically it will be a drive around part of the island with stops at various locations for pictures and explanations by a guide. There are no tour buses, private vehicles are used for the tour, and at each stop everyone gets out and gathers to hear the one English speaking tour guide. HAL isn't even sure how many vehicles will be available. Some of us have confirmed tickets, others are on "standby" if there are enough vehicles.

The same tender process as before, get a number for the tour vehicle, walk down to deck A when your color or number is called and board the tender for the 10 minute ride to the dock. The dock is barely long enough for one of the tenders. Our cars are waiting nearby. I'm lucky, being the first to arrive at vehicle #3 I get the front seat in the Ford ranger truck with A/C, a luxury many of the vehicles don't have. The temperatures are in the high 90's by the time we leave and the humidity is probably higher. Extreme even for the South Pacific. The rain holds off except for a brief sprinkle which just makes it more humid.

Three ladies traveling together share the back seat. One of them falls climbing in the first time, but fortunately is unhurt. They spend most of the 3 hours talking amongst themselves about previous trips they have taken, who they are dining with tonight and what jewelery they should wear. They seem to care little about the tour.

There are about 16 or 18 vehicles, and we travel in a caravan from stop to stop. At the second stop a gentlemen somehow managed to fall into a 3 or 4 foot deep construction pit. This delays the excursion for about half an hour. Several of the drivers rush to his aid and get him lifted out of the pit. One of the good things HAL does is have a staff member on each tour. She is obviously trained in first aid, and applies a number of bandages, but the bleeding from his arm won't stop. The tour continues without the one guest. Our driver later tells me he was being transported to the local hospital, I'm surprised he wasn't just taken back to the ship. The local hospital is about a 2 hour drive over the island, and is equipped only for basic emergencies as there is a shortage of facilities, equipment, doctors and nurses. Even for childbirth, women are sent to the next nearest hospital in Tahiti, 500 miles away.

The air becomes much more pleasant as we drive to a higher elevation. The driver turns off the air, and opens the windows. We stop beside the road 2000 feet above the bay under some power lines, the guide tells us that half of the electricity on the island comes from hydroelectric generators, and the other half from gas generators on the other side of the island. She asks if there are any questions. One of the passengers asks the guide to tell him about the zip line overhead. I honestly think he wasn't being a smart ass, but just clueless.

The driver speaks little English, but I learn about his family, his three children, and when we drive through the valley he proudly points out his home and the school his children attend about a 100 feet away. The village where he lives has a population of about 400.

At our last stop we sample a number of local fruits including grapefruit, mango, pineapple, and coconut. Our driver points out his 13 year old daughter that is helping sell locally made crafts. Mostly wood carvings and shell jewelery.

Only about 3000 people live on the island. This year they expect 12 cruise ships to stop. A supply ship comes from Tahiti about once a week. The topography is rugged volcanic mountains with lush vegetation. Some of the stone carvings are native to the island, while others have been relocated from Easter Island. I'm glad I stopped and took the tour so now if anyone ever tells me they are coming here I can say "Have a nice time" instead of saying "I wish I were going with you".

I am absolutely soaked from perspiration by the time I return to the ship. I shower and head for the crow's nest for a cold drink. I make happy hour with minutes to spare.

Earlier in the day I had looked at tonight's menu. Nearly every choice is fish or seafood. I decide this is a good night for the buffet instead of the dining room, so do hundreds of other passengers including Dolly. She is there with her escort from the ships staff. I don't know his position, but Dolly is often being escorted by a staff member with several stripes on his jacket. If I had served in the navy maybe I would recognize his rank.

The Lido is packed. I have a bowl of "dutch pea soup", as near as I can tell it is just thick pea soup with carrots and ham. It is excellent as is all of the food I have ordered so far. In the Lido food that should be served hot always is, a basic expectation I have for any food venue.

After dinner I listen to Debby for a hour on my way to the main show for the evening. Pete Neighbour, an English musician transplanted to South Carolina, with the Amsterdam band, plays jazz from the swing era.

Tonight we turn our clocks back another 30 minutes. I am now five hours behind Florida. Tomorrow is another sea day, then on Friday we arrive at our next port, Avatoru, Rangiroa.