Monolith A wonder on life's journey


Marquesan Revival

[Aranui for Cruise Passenger]

On islands as far away as one can get, a once mighty Polynesian culture is returning. Roderick Eime disappears in the Marquesas in search of the original Tiki.

The islanders gathered around the newcomers, gazing curiously at their pale and pocked skin, examining their unusual garments and incomprehensible footwear. The strangers carried long metal objects, books and religious objects the like of which they’d never seen before.

Then, just as a simple dialogue began with hands and gestures, the wrath of God was unleashed. The sharp crack of a dozen muskets tore the peaceful air apart, followed by the gut-wrenching sound of flying metal on bare flesh. Before anyone knew what happened scores of men, women and children lay sprawled on the sand, now running red with their blood.

The year was 1595 and this was the Polynesians’ first encounter with Europeans, their ferocious weapons, pompous manners and short tempers. Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira was one of the elite Spanish navigators then scouring the Pacific in search of more gold and civilizations to plunder in the name of king and God. Despite the reprehensible carnage, there was still time for Mass before they continued their voyage.

Mendaña named the islands Las Marquesas de Mendoça after his patron and uncle, the viceroy of Peru, a name that persists to this day and still serves as an uncomfortable memory of those first meetings.

Alvaro de Mendaña (1541-1595), Spanish discoverer

“Their faces and bodies were marked with representations of fish, and with various other devices, which were painted or wrought into their skins, of a blue colour: they were of good stature, and so well shaped, that in person they had much the advantage of ourselves. They had fine teeth and eyes, and good countenances: their voices were strong; but their manners gentle.” - Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, Spanish navigator, who proceeded to murder two hundred of the Marquesans.

Almost two hundred years later in June 1774, our own Lt. James Cook re-discovered these islands and likewise found the inhabitants friendly, generous and attractive despite being forced to shoot one for theft. He moved on only to be followed by Americans Joseph Ingraham, David Porter, Herman Melville and many unnamed whalers. The stream of idealistic missionaries began at the start of the 19th Century and met considerable resistance, despite the bible-toting interlopers being treated well by their hosts. Racked with disease and bitter infighting, the once strong and healthy population collapsed into chaos and the islands finally fell to the French. By 1870 Les Îles Marquises were firmly established as part of their expanding collectivités d'outre-mer.

To sail into any of these stunning islands today, there is little to remind the visitor that such turmoil ever existed. Quiet villages swept by soothing ocean breezes dot the coastlines of the six inhabited islands, all splendidly isolated from the tribulations of modern life. For many, their only contact is the fortnightly arrival of Aranui 3 with her cargo of food, consumer goods and tourists.

Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM) have supplied the marine lifeline to this far flung archipelago for almost fifty years and have progressively upgraded the service to the point where the 14-day voyage is now marketed as one of the world’s must-do adventure cruises.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, do a quick list check. Visited by an honour roll of the world’s most famous modern and historic explorers, these volcanic islands stick out of the ocean like a dragon’s bottom, with some peaks reaching up to 1200m. Vegetation clings desperately to sheer craggy outcrops cutting up vertically through the dense rainforest matting beneath. Next to that other Polynesian ‘paradise’, Hawai’i, the Marquesas are the most remote inhabited archipelago on Earth.

No romantic tropical island would be complete without a star-studded cast of eclectic artists and musicians. The Marquesas can boast strong connections with authors Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville and Thor Heyerdahl. The troubled French painter Paul Gauguin created some of his masterpieces in the Marquesas, while publicity-exhausted chain-smoking Belgian idol, Jacques Brel sang his last notes on Hiva Oa.

Originally populated by as many as 100,000 thriving Polynesians before European arrival, the islands now maintain a paltry 9,000 having dipped as low as 2,000 in the early 20th Century. The ravaged Marquesan culture, nevertheless, is making a comeback. At each island visited, guests are feted with song, dance and feasting in a way something like the first Europeans may have experienced. Young maidens dance energetically to drum beats after the fashion that sent missionaries scampering for their rosaries.

Intricate and ornate carvings are offered in natural material such as basalt, bone and the much coveted flower stone – a kind of volcanic anomaly that produces tiny starbursts in the metal. Turtle, manta ray, tiki and whale motifs dominate.

One of the most prominent features of the revival is literally in their face. The ancient art of tattooing is enjoying such resurgence that it’s almost impossible to find a Marquesan man without them. And not some hidden scribble either, a Marquesan tattoo is an intricate saga that adorns a man (or woman) that speaks directly of their status. Those examples seen by early explorers would have almost covered the entire body with intricate and highly symbolic patterns. The Aranui’s crew will eagerly display their ancestral insignia.

Rich in vibrant Polynesian culture and history, a 3500 kilometre cruise through these islands will thrill you as it did the early visitors while refreshing your hope that years of cultural vandalism may be slowly repaired.


Cultural Experience
Scenic splendour
Natural beauty


French Polynesia is expensive
Try and travel with a confirmed English-speaking group

Doing it:

Aranui 3 sails year round on a 13-night itinerary with as many port stops at nine islands including Tahiti, Rangiroa and Fakarava.

Activities include cultural displays, hiking, museums, swimming, some diving, Polynesian dance lessons, sightseeing, horse riding and fishing. Most activities and all meals are included in the cruise price. Wine is included with lunch and dinner.

Accommodation is in four classes; 14 suites, 9 deluxe cabins, 63 standard cabins and 18 dormitory berths.

Prices start at AU$7999 for an 18-night package ex-Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane inclusive of pre- and post-cruise accommodation, transfers and economy airfares. Specials are sometimes offered.

Air New Zealand flies regularly to Papeete (PPT) via Auckland (AKL) in fully modernised B767 and B777 aircraft.

Contact: Ultimate Cruising 1300 662 943

Aranui 3

Aranui 3

Vessel: Aranui 3
Cruise Line: Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM)
Star Rating: not rated
Tonnage: 3800 tons
Max Passenger Capacity: 200
Entered Service: 2003

Editor’s Notes

Image Gallery:

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HM Magazine – Vol 13 No 6 – Dec 09


Travel Writing and Travel Photography – from Dreams to Hard Reality

The result of a combined total of more than 200 years of experience in the professions of Travel Writing and Travel Photography, the new Global Travel Writers E-book Travel Writing and Travel Photography - from Dreams to Hard Reality contains material that you just will not find anywhere else.

The twelve contributors to ...this E-book take you through the processes of digging out a story idea; using the services of national tourism offices to arrange "famil" trips and to help research a story; pitching to editors; and much much more. The chapter on “New Media” contains exclusive material and advice on the latest techniques that you can use to enhance your writing’s appeal to editors and, through them, to readers. And because photography is so important, in this E-book we have devoted two comprehensive chapters to travel photography for a digital age.

The E-book Travel Writing and Travel Photography - from Dreams to Hard Reality is priced at just USD 8.95 or AUD 9.95.

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Battle of the Mekong

If you believe the industry hype, river cruising is riding the rocket of small ship and adventure products in a rapidly growing cruise market. I tend to agree. The anecdotal evidence points to more travellers seeking out products away from the traditional sea and coastal routes and looking inland to the great waterways.

Floating Village Mekong

Floating Village Mekong

One of the most famous Asian rivers, the Mekong, is set to stage a great showdown as operators from all over the globe take on locals in their own “warships” in an attempt to outdo each other for market share.

For those who didn’t get an A in geography, the Mekong is the 10th longest river in the world and stretches 4350km through Indochina. Working backwards from the massive delta at the bottom of Vietnam, it cuts a swathe through Cambodia, forms virtually the entire western border of Laos with Thailand and Burma before disappearing onto the Tibetan Plateau through China’s Yunnan Province.

Unfortunately the entire length is not navigable due to modern dams, rapids and shallows and most cruising is reserved to the lower reaches and Cambodia’s Tonle Sap.

“The French had a good crack at it though,” Trevor Lake of Discover Asia reminds me, “but like so many European adventurers, they were hopelessly under-equipped and it really was a comedy of errors.” (Read ‘River Road to China’ by Milton Osborne)

Trevor Lake on the Mekong in Laos

Trevor Lake on the Mekong in Laos

Trevor, by the look of him, has been travelling in Asia since forever and he makes several important observations about choosing a Mekong river cruise.

“With so many vessels and styles to choose from, and new ones launching all the time, travellers really need to discuss their plans with an experienced agent. It’s absolutely imperative that you find the right vessel to match your expectations.”

His company represents all the major cruise lines, many of the tiny ones too, and is one of the handful of agents able to speak independently for all products.

Robert Fletcher of Active Travel is another expert agency operating for over 25 years across the major lines who believes the Mekong cruise market is about to reach a defining moment.

“River cruising is a sound product and will remain so unless the Battle for the Mekong leads to ridiculous discounting and dilution of the concept and quality. I think 'The Battle' is on the brink - either the Mekong cruise market stays as a fairly exclusive experience with relatively high standards or it is reduced to a mass market, low cost, low service exercise with bums in berths as the driving force.”

The major players are:

La Marguerite

La Marguerite

La Marguerite, a brand new 46-cabin luxury cruiser, built locally to luxury standards and decorated to reflect the colonial elegance, although externally she resembles many modern river cruisers. Still some teething issues, but shows great promise.

Heritage Line’s opulent Jayavarman is certainly one of the most anticipated vessels claiming “a marriage of avant-garde French colonial design with enchanting Indochine architecture”. The launch date has been revised from September to November and its itineraries boast Angkor Wat and Mekong Delta explorations.

The well-known Pandaw cruise line operates two vessels, the RV Tonle Pandaw and the RV Mekong Pandaw. While they rate a more modest 3.5 stars, they offer a rustic elegance that is in perfect harmony with the surroundings.

Trevor’s tip however may not suit all types, but challenges how we view river cruising.

“I just adore the Toum Tiou vessels from Compagnie Fluviale du Mekong ( In my opinion they are the perfect way to experience the Mekong, compact, personal and thoroughly authentic. My other favourite would be to take a luxury private sampan – just the two of you – and travel undetected through the floating markets and villages. Brilliant!”

Both Richard and Trevor seem to be saying the same thing: choose carefully, consult an expert and avoid the cheaper alternatives. Meanwhile the ‘battle’ rages.

Active Travel

Discover Asia



2009 Cruise Passenger Magazine Adventure Cruise Guide
2009 Cruise Passenger Magazine Adventure Cruise Guide
Following on from the unqualified success of the first edition of Cruise Passenger Magazine’s Adventure Cruise Guide, the second edition is on newsstands now. Despite the economic gloom mongers, the 2009 edition is larger and more comprehensive than before and covers new destinations, vessels and itineraries.

Besides the new ships, this issue profiles the variety of activities available to small ship and expedition cruisers regardless of whether they want a hard-edged, heroic era experience like the Shackleton Crossing of South Georgia or just a deserted beach somewhere in the Pacific Ocean for a cocktail and massage.

Expedition and adventure cruising is proving to be the new ‘big thing’ in small group, eco-sensitive, responsible travel. If you are looking for an alternative to the crush of humanity in the world’s great metropolises or virtual experiences in crowded theme parks, avoid the queues and really get away from it all aboard one the world’s little ships.

Small ships make a big difference and you’ll find plenty of inspiration in the 2009 Cruise Passenger Magazine Adventure Cruise Guide.

Free with your April edition of Cruise Passenger Magazine. Just $9.95 – PLUS special recession-busting subscription rates inside!

For further information and interview opportunities about the Adventure Cruise Guide, please contact:
Roderick Eime, Contributing Editor, 0418.214.028, or email

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Save Money with Relocation Car Rentals

When you're traveling, the expenses really add up. This is especially true today when it isn't hardly worth going anywhere unless you have access to your own car. Car rentals, however, can get very expensive. To some extent, there's no way to avoid this necessary expense when leaving town.
Relocation car rentals, however, can be a great way to save money on a car rental and still get the transportation you need. Relocation car rentals are incredibly cheap. In fact, if you're lucky, you may find a relocation car rental deal that will allow you to rent your car for nothing but the price of gas.
But how is it done? Isn't this just too good be true? It must be scam, right?
Not so. Relocation car rentals are one way in which car rental companies and dealerships get their cars from one city to another or one car lot to another. For various reasons, these companies need their cars moved.
Ordinarily this would be done with by an employee that the company has to pay to do the job. This can get expensive for them. Renting a relocation car is a way to cut down costs, both for you and the car rental company. You move their car from point A to point B, and they give you a great deal on the cost of the rental. They don't have to hire and employee, and you don't have to pay full price for a car rental. Everyone wins.
This type of car rental has its down sides, however. For one thing, since the car is being moved for business purposes, the business isn't keen on being without their car for too long. Relocation rentals usually have a maximum rental time of two or three days. If your trip is going to be much longer, it may not be right for you. Also, you can't usually book the rental more than a few weeks in advance. You may not get the class of car you want, either. You may be hoping to transport a family of five in your rental, but if all they have is a compact, you're left to take it or leave it.
View the Australian car rental companies that offer this service here - Relocation car hire deals are usually most available during the week to accommodate high weekend demand. If you do have any queries or just want to make sure that what you see is correct, then make sure to contact our friendly customer service team. They can help with all of your car rental queries.
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Luxury lodges, retreats and resorts

Updated October 2008: South Island New Zealand - Select Hotels
Updated November 2008: SLH Blanket Bay
Updated November 2008: Pure Tasmania/Federal Group

Over the past three years, Rod (sometimes with 'Mrs Travel Writer') has visited a wide range of New Zealand's world famous luxury and exclusive lodges.

(see comprehensive spreadsheet)

Names like Huka Lodge, Grasmere and Blanket Bay feature prominently, while Rod has also visited the brand new Select Braemar Lodge at Hanmer Springs and sampled the delights of recently opened Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch.

In Australia, the list grows with visits and stays at Wolgan Valley, El Questro, Arajilla, Spicers Peak, Hidden Vale, Bloomfield Lodge, Lilianfels, Q Station and more.

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