Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva – As Special Now as 35 years ago (written after landfall in the Tuamotu Archipelago)
Anaho Bay, on the north shore of Nuku Hiva, is one of the anchorages I remember clearly from my time here 35 years ago. I remembered the beauty of the long narrow entrance to the bay and the slightly wider head of the bay, ringed by white sand beaches and coconut palms, with Marquesan peaks rising overhead. So we planned a stopover there, and after celebrating Kim’s birthday in Hatiheu Bay next door, sailed over to Anaho Bay. How glad I am that we returned and what a great three days we had there. Here are some of the highlights:
The bay is a great anchorage. In addition to its length, at its head it widens up and provides a protected nook with little to no swell – a perfect place to drop the hook. The quiet water made for good sleep and general comfort on board. The coconut groves that ring the bay are unusual in that they come right to the water’s edge, and border the entire shore; in the late afternoon the sun’s rays bring out the brilliance of their green foliage – an almost surreal bright bright green, which made a sharp contrast with the white sand beach and the blue and tourquoise water color. The bay is also unique in that there is no road access – the only way to get there is either by sea or by trail. This is one reason why we saw more horses being used here than any other place in the Marquesas.
The beaches at the head of the bay are inviting and gorgeous. There are three beaches. Two small ones and one larger one. The westernmost beach faces the open ocean and hence receives the modest swell that was running while we were there. Thus it is perfect for bodysurfing, which we enjoyed doing for several hours each of the three days we were there. We had the beach to ourselves (there were only two other boats in the anchorage and less than 10 families reside in Anaho). The only other people we saw was the occasional local person riding horseback on the beachside path that rims the bay (including one with a rifle slung across his saddle, returning from a goat or pig hunting trip). It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for bodysurfing with one’s family than here. Twice Anson tried to kiteboard off the beach, but without success due to the lack of wind. We had hoped that the low saddle over the eastern edge of the anchorage would funnel enough of the trade winds for kiteboarding, but there just wasn’t quite enough.
A rocky outcrop separated a second small beach from this bodysurfing beach, and adjacent to it was the larger beach. The mountain slopes rose steeply from the first two beaches, while a flat and gently sloping plain, no more than 50 to 100 yards in width, provided area for the families who call Anaho home to live and cultivate behind the larger beach. Perhaps due to the lack of road access, perhaps due to the small number of families that reside there, perhaps because of its spectacular beauty, or for some other reason, the bay has a particularly peaceful and tranquil feel to it.
We experienced some of that tranquility our last morning, when Kim and I went ashore to walk along the large beach prior to departing the anchorage. Once ashore, we had the good fortune to meet Diana, a local woman who was walking – as it turned out, to work – with her 15 month old baby boy. Walking to work for her meant walking around the bay to the east side where she was clearing and maintaining her grandfather’s coconut trees. We strolled with her on the path, which wound through the coconut groves. It was like walking through a manicured agroforestry landscape. Closely cropped grass covered most of the ground, giving it almost a golf course feel. In addition to coconut trees, the local residents had planted a variety of fruit trees (banana, lime, breadfruit, among other). Flower gardens were tended here and there, including on historic old stone house platforms. Everywhere were signs of the managed landscape. Recent burn piles dotted the area and the sandy soil under some of the trees even bore the telltale signs of recent raking. As we walked with Diana, she pointed out the various species of trees that had been planted, including, we noticed a recently planted breadfruit tree protected from grazing animals with fencing. We learned that in addition to her baby, she had a 12 year old son who went to school in Taihohae (on the south side of the island) – a steep price to pay for living in remote Anaho. We also learned that her husband works for the municipality in nearby Hatiheu Bay, and that his commute is a half hour horseback ride over the ridge twice a day. After offering us gifts of bananas and breadfruit, Diana turned off the primary footpath towards her grandfather’s place. I remarked to Kim about the grace, warmth and generous hospitality that we had just experienced, and of how one could easily imagine a different, less enthusiastic, response from a local resident whose bay is visited yearly by lots of wealthy, privileged boaters. Diana certainly is a role model for us all. As we ambled back to the dinghy, we passed a shore-side house, in front of which was anchored one of the few, more traditional looking boats with a stout outrigger lashed to its side. I asked the friendly young adults who greeted us out front if they had made a trip to Hatiheu that morning (as I had seen them depart and return in the boat). No, they said, they had gone fishing and had returned with the day’s catch, which they were getting ready to prepare. This interaction is another example of what makes Anaho somewhat unique. Not only has the lack of a road contributed to its isolation from the various influences, economic and otherwise, that roads bring, but the residents here have also not turned toward the presence of yachts in their bay as a source of income to supplement their subsistence activities. No one approached us with the offer of a home-cooked meal, or to see if we were interested in wood carvings or tapa, or to purchase fruit. Instead, the rhythms of life here seem to persist independently of these external forces. I wonder how long these rhythms will continue. Yvonne (see Kim’s prior blog post) described how she and other area residents had fought off efforts from developers in Papeete to develop Anaho as a prime tourist resort bay, complete with multi-story hotels. Will Anaho be as special and unique thirty-five years from now? I hope so.