August 30th-October 5th, 2018: HIGHLIGHTS from our 5 WEEKS in FRENCH POLYNESIA

So we ended up staying 5 weeks in French Polynesia. 5 weeks here is like rushing through Heaven! We could’ve spent a lifetime here, and still had incomprehensably much to explore. 118 inhabited islands and many many more small, uninhabited or deserted ones. Some volcanic, some simply made up of corals and sand. Only 3.500 of solid ground sprinkled out as islands across the SW Pacific across an area of 2,5 million sq km.

To simplify it a bit, the islands can be grouped into the following: The Marquesas Islands (of which we visited two: Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva), the Tuamoto Atolls (of which we visited two: Tahanea and Fakarava), Tahiti and the Society Islands (of which we visited Tahiti, Mo’orea, Ra’iatea, Taha’a and Bora Bora), The Australs and the Gambier Archipelago (none of which we even came close to). We loved all the places we visited. We want more time here. But at the same time sense tells ut that we’ll never be «finished» here anyway. Instead we hope to return one day.

Some favorites from the last 5 weeks:

The Polynesian People. The hospitality and giving nature of the Polynesian people that surprised us, warmed our hearts and inspired us time and time again.

The sense of pride and the hospitality of the villagers in Hakatea Bay on Nuku Hiva (Marquesas) warmed us and was perhaps the first experience that opened up our hearts to French Polynesia. This picture shows a moment along our walk, when we happened to pass by a man picking fruit. As soon as he saw Karen Marie, he stopped what he was doing and went to fetch a horse that was grazing nearby. He then lifted her up on its bare back and let her have a ride. Totally unexpected, and all the more unforgettable and appreciated.
Another of the generous villagers in Hakatea Bay (Nuku Hiva) gave us bananas, mangos, avocados and coconuts to bring to the boat, and even made some coconut water refreshments right on the spot.

The beauty of the Polynesian islands. Exploring uninhabited atolls, coral beaches, picking coconuts right off the tree, snorkeling among corals full of countless colorful small and big fish and even some pretty big (though harmless) sharks, feeding large sting rays from our bare hands, swimming with dolphins, whales and turtles.

Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva. This is the first sight of land that met us after 3 weeks at sea. Needless to say it took our breath away.
Haitiheu Bay on Nuku Hiva (Marquesas).
Taking our dinghy out from the inner (nearly enclosed) bay and village of Hakatea Bay, Nuku Hiva (Marquesas).
Crystal clear water and an atoll all to ourselves – in the lagoon of the uninhabited Tahanea Atoll in the Tuamotos.
Vaitepiha waterfall at the outskirts of the village Tautira on Tahiti.
Audun and Jon Petter having a good walk and talk at sunset on Mo’orea.
Swimming with the rays of Mo’orea – an awesome experience.
The view from Taha’a towards Bora Bora in the distance.

The ancient culture, and the old and newer history of French Polynesia. Awe-inspiring, dramatic, proud (eg. The history of Polynesian voyaging at sea, parallell but still different from our own history of the Viking era in Norway), and unfortunately also at some points sad and repulsive (eg. France’s nuclear test bombing in the Tuamotos that went on in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s).

There are remnants of the past wherever you go on the Marquesian islands. Here: A glimpse of the archeological site in the forests of Hikokua on Nuku Hiva.
A tiki (sacred statue) from the past, placed in Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva. No need to wonder whether this one’s a male or female…

The art and culture of Polynesian tattoos. So different than the European style. And so dense in symbolism and meaning. This was a topic for many a talk both among Vilja’s crew and with Polynesian tattoo artists and locals we met who were «covered in art». The Slungaard Myklebust Family takes their personal piece of this art with them in their lives forever (just wait and see!).

Our encounter with the tattooist Teikivahiani Puhetini (alias Ludo) on Nuku Hiva (Marquesas) started a process, that led to this (see next picture…)
Icon among tattooists; Purotu from Mo’orea – was allowed to interpret and etch Ingrid’s life story and values into Ingrid’s skin forever. (Purotu to the left, skin stretcher and translator Dom to the right.)

Meeting the other long-distance sailors – both young and old – that tend to gather here at this time of year. Some will sail on like us to New Zealand or Australia for the tropical storm season, but most of those we met plan to spend the coming half year exploring the most northern or southern islands of this country, safely outside the tropical storm belt.

Rick, captain on the American sailboat Oceans, let Jon Petter blow his (conch shell) horn. He and his wife were a really nice couple we may meet again next year in Fiji. Time will tell.
The World is so small: Imagine meeting this family in three different countries totally by coincidence! We crossed the Panama Canal with the French catamaran Azyu. Then they came sailing into Shipwreck Harbour on San Cristôbal in Galapagos a couple of days after we arrived. An waddayouknow – now we met them in Nuku Hiva! Finally we had time to sit down and get to know big and small in this very nice family.
Thiago and Kristyna on Good Run – we love your energy & attitude. And thank you for being so good about letting us «steal» the wonderful Sophie from you. 😉
Meeting cruising families feels like a gift; and this awesome one in particular: Luc (French), Sarah (Irish), Kaï (4,5 yrs) and Liam (1,5 yrs).
Karen Marie & Kaï found eachother instantly. Good to have equal buddies to both play a lot and fight a little with.

Our visiting crew:

Brynhild – our friend from Trondheim who crossed the Pacific with us and whom we got to share the joy of accomplishment after three weeks of continuous sail across the Pacific and the first taste of (to us) «new land» during a week together in the Marquesas.

Ingrid & Brynhild share a friendship cheers & «ankerdram» (in English: anchor shot) in celebration of the safe sail.
Brynhild and Karen Marie – or big sister and little sister as we call them!
  • Audun – also our friend from Trondheim who arrived in Tahiti and is joining us all the way to New Zealand. Since he arrived the boat has been transformed into a mix of giggles, philosophy, play, live music and much more.
With Audun’s arrival we have three playful individuals on board; Karen Marie & Jon Petter being the two others.
Two cockadoos!

Sophie a very special young woman whom we briefly met in Galapagos and by the unexpected turn of events ended up sailing with us for 2,5 weeks from the Marquesas to Mo’orea. She made an imprint in our hearts – and on Ingrid’s skin(!) – forever.

Sophie became part of the family the minute she boarded Vilja.
Karen Marie and Sophie enjoying a time-out in the Tuamotos.

And last, but not least: the time and precious moments the three of us – the «core crew members» of Vilja – share on our voyage.

Ingrid, Jon Petter and Karen Marie enjoying the calm and beauty of the Tuamotos.
Ingrid & Karen Marie: We love sailing! Here on our way through the pass leaving the lagoon of the Tahanea Atoll in the Tuamotos.
Karen Marie is getting the hang of handling the dinghy. It’s good to have a proud and patient mentor in Pappa Jon Petter, and a Mommy Ingrid whose motto is «It’s the detours, delays and sidetracks that enrich life.» Karen Marie sees no reason to take the dinghy to shore following a straight line, to put it that way….
Taking in a moment to ourselves on Fakarava in the Tuamotos.
Roaming around on Tahiti.

And now what?!

We are currently 4 crew members on board: Jon Petter, Ingrid & Karen Marie (of course), and also Audun Sødal our friend from Trondheim. Audun arrived in Pape’ete on Tahiti on September 21st, and will sail with us all the way to New Zealand. Our boat is filled with lots of laughter, play, everyday philosophy, live music (piano and guitar) and mere curiosity and appreciation of both the little and big things in life.

So here we go! Next planned stops are two of the Cook Islands; first the island of Aitutaki (360 nm westwards) and then Palmerston Island (another 200 nm northwest). We’ve been granted special permission to stop at the latter, and we hope that weather allows us to drop our anchor there. Time will tell. Now we look forward to the sail that will take us there.

Bon voyage!