First of all, a geological note: in French Polinesia, we will meet 3 kinds of islands, all of volcanic origin:
– the “joung” islands, which are still just mountains protruding out of the sea, with little or no coral around them: the Marquesas.
– the “middle aged” islands, where a coral ring has formed around the islands, which have sunk just a little so to leave room for a ring of water between the reef and the island: the Society islands (Tahiti, Moorea, etc.) are like that.
– the “old” islands, where the original mountain has sunk, leaving only the external coral ring and people, if there are any, leave on the coral reef which at places is large enough to create true islands on their own, while at other places the barrier may be just flush with the sea and almost impossible to see if not for the waves crashing on it: folks, these are the Tuamotus, one of the most tricky places to navigate if you don’t want to end up on top of a reef!
So, the Marquesas are indeed mountainous, pretty much so! Basalt pinnacles jutting out of the ground, with a lush, wavy landscape which can comfortably be defined “dramatic”.
The people: typical Polinesian looks, the men look like the strong brother of “The Rock”, just to give an idea (then you see them paddling in their pirogues and understand where they get their muscles!!), often tattooed, both men and women and also in rather extensive ways (no butterfly on an ankle, here!).
Quite attached to their traditions, which they research and maintain with pride: their language, which is different from that of the other islands, the tattos, dances, the archeological sites where they hold annual gatherings, the pirogue races.
Incidentally, “Islands of men” is the Marquesan name of the islands.
Modern world has arrived here, of course: everybody drives SUV’s, although they still love riding on horseback, their pirogues are made in fiberglass and dances are performed by folklore groups who develop their own coreographies and costumes (little is actually known of the old dances, which have been forbidden by missionaries for centuries…).
And, please, do not tell them they are French: they consider themselves Marquesan, and don’t take that all too well!…
If it was not for the high prices (everything here arrives by ship, once every fortnight), this would be paradise on earth!
Well, actually there IS another problem: the swell!! All harbours are open to the ocean (as there is no coral reef) and the swell gets in!
A nice experience, but now it is time to go on: next stop, the Tuamotus!