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The Marquesas islands or "Enua Enata" in the local language, comprise a group of islands that rise up like lush green fortresses against the wide indigo blue of the Pacific Ocean, right next to the equator and some 1,500 kilometres from Tahiti. Of the twelve Marquesas islands, only six are inhabited. The best known are Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Ua Pou. This is an ideal world for sailing, the natural means of transport from one island to another. The Marquesas have very few beaches, so they are alll the more precious! Pigs, goat, sheep and horses roam freely across the spendid landscapes.
The largest of the Marquesas islands belonging to the Northen group, is the keystone of the Great House built be the Gods, of which each island is a part. Its range of mountains is dominated by mount Tekao. The centre comprises the Toovi plateau at an attitude of 800 metres. The height and size of the plateau make it a major agricultural site of the region, used for pasture, fields and forestland. The indented coast with their numerous bays, capes, rocky points and cliffs welcome villages nestling in the bays. Taiohae, the administrative capital and diocese, lies in a sheltered mooring guarded by two rocky sentry islets, the East and West sentinelles.
The largest of the southern islands, Hiva Oa is the roof od the Great House and is the arch rival of Nuku Hiva. The island is shaped like a seahorse and is divided from the south-west to the north-east by a range of mountains. The high peaks of mounts Temetiu and Feani constitute a fortress wall around Atuona. This wrinkled land, whose virginal beauty remains untouched by the 20th century, tells the long and captivating story of Marquesas which can be discovered while strolling between papaya and banana trees and into the secret valleys. Paul Gauguin's island, while retaining her savage characteristics, seduced the painter with her tranquil rythm so that he came to spend the rest of his life in the capital.