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Into French Polynesia III: Churches and Museums of Marquesas


Marquesas is a dramatic, untamed land that must delight yacht-owners filled with communities that enjoy life. It's a place that has not forgotten its history.


It’s a pretty ship, glistening white against a cobalt sky. The rough seas don’t allow easy access to the Marquesas’ volcanic coast, so the crew constantly seems to be touching up the paint. We are watching a particular attempt where the row boats are struggling to attach cables from the ship to the cliffs’ water line to stabilize its passage through what, in Norway, would be called a fjord. The sea might be winning the fight.

Photography by the authors

A passenger chooses this moment to ask a busy crewman, “Will we get a chance to see churches on this island?”

“Mais oui, madame,” he mutters as he hurries off to help the crew in the row boats.

We pass this passenger a few days later. We smile and ask, “Seen enough churches now?

“Yes, outsides and insides,” she replies. “There can’t be any more, surely we’re done!”

You’d think so but there is always yet another with vaulted interiors that show how shipbuilders create magnificent churches.

We’ll see village museums as well, museums that emphasize the islands’ connections with the sea either with carvings of boats or necklaces made from whales’ teeth. Local crafts artists are there, too always ready to show visitors carved wooden bowls or black pearl necklaces and to remind them those items are also available for purchase.

Artisans lay out their paintings for sale while horses graze below the fabled breadfruit. Others come on board to meet passengers who have shown interest in island art patterns from seeing petroglyphs carved in rocks earlier that day.

Some villages are well known for fine artists, some for proud musicians and some because they don’t take themselves seriously and know they look good in a Mickey Mouse hat.


But most of the passengers find items on the islands so precious they are priceless: the Marquesas’ children. They smile shyly at us. We are, for some of them, a diversion. With their families they get to see the action and those “strange people from the .”


And what do the passengers see? A dramatic, untamed land that must be a delight to the yacht people of the world. Communities that enjoy life who work together and play together. A place that has not forgotten its history, its past even as its friend, the freighter, comes with all the advances of the modern world.

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They see heavy goods being delivered while passengers troop through their village on horses backed up by trucks rented by the ship for local excursions. And they get to see the preparations made to return the passengers to the ship when the seas are wildThe Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the NH Academy of Family Practice, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called

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