Hiva Oa has proved to be a wonderful introduction to the Marqueses Island group, all apart from the rock and rolly anchorage at Atuona of course! The first run ashore we decided to row rather than attempt mounting the outboard. After a very easy check-in at the Gendarmerie, we explored the small town of Atuona and found two very well stocked supermarkets. It was great to get some fresh produce, long green beans, aubergine and pak choi amongst others. We had heard many rumours about the very high cost of provisions on these islands, so were pleasantly surprised to find many items at a reasonable price, we have shopped in the Cayman Islands afterall.
The town of Atuona is about a ¾ hour walk from the harbour and was so pretty and well-kept, the residents clearly take pride in their beautiful surroundings, so we decided to put up with the uncomfortable anchorage for an extra day so that we could return. That evening under slightly better conditions we decided to mount the outboard. As usual things worsened as we got ready, it was a very nerve racking moment as Joy pitched in the swell and a local motor boat roared past at a critical point. More by luck than judgement mission was accomplished but when we woke the following morning conditions had got worse, an even bigger swell was rolling in and even affecting the boats that were behind the breakwater. With conditions bordering untenable we decided on a very quick second visit into the village and found oranges, mango and tomatoes for sale which made a wonderful addition to our fresh stocks. A very kind resident took pity on us as we made our way back along the road towards the harbour, and gave us a lift back to the dinghy dock. It was touch and go getting the dinghy safely up on the davits in the awkward swell, and with both anchors retrieved we made a very quick exit in search of some better protection.
We wanted to explore the anchorages on the north coast of Hiva Oa, and also this would give us a better sailing angle to get south to Fatu Hiva, so after a couple of days chilling, swimming and snorkelling off a pretty sandy beach on the island of Tahuata just a couple of miles south of Hiva Oa, we set off across the windy Canal de Bordelais inbetween the two islands. Our local forecast had given us 13/17 knots gusting 20/25 and a moderate to rough sea. The channel has a reputation for being a wind acceleration zone and we had a great sail across it to the west coast of Hiva Oa with 30 knots just aft of the beam, made better by a pod of dolphins riding the bow wave. As we rounded the north western tip of Hiva Oa we found the ‘rough’ part of the forecast. A meeting point of two swells as they wrap around both sides of the island created pretty uncomfortable conditions and with wind clocking the compass it was impossible to sail. So we ducked in to a bay called Hana Menu to wait out the conditions. The bay was open to the north, swell lessened a little as it reached inside the bay but the wind continued to gust from every direction making a joggly anchorage. We were pleased to find a better sea state the next day and more consistent wind and tacked our way further along the northern coast to Hana Iapa, a small village with a much calmer and prettier anchorage. It was also nice to be away from the crowds of other boaters, with only 3 or 4 other boats on the entire northern coast.
The village sadly no longer has a store or a school now that a paved road, most of it single file, leads to Atuona and most of the residents have cars or trucks. So now the village is a very quiet narrow road, lined with nice houses with well manicured gardens and a pretty little church on the hillside. Plenty of fruit trees hang heavy with pampelmousse (a very large and sweet grapefruit), mangos, limes, soursop and something that looks like a giant pear. All privately owned of course so nothing we could help ourselves to, even though there were plenty of windfall going to waste.
As I was taking a photo of the church an old guy living next door called us over and welcomed us to the village in a mixture of French and Polynesian. We have found that French is their main language but ‘Taua’ who had lived in Hana Iapa all his life, spoke a mixture of what he called Marquesan and French, although he struggled to understand our version of French. Despite the language barrier we somehow passed the time of day, and he gave us two huge pampelmousse and offered us ‘un café’. We were rather hot and bothered after our walk and in need of some lunch so we graciously declined but he insisted we return the next day. Despite not being quite sure why, we returned anyway to take him some Wahoo as a thank you for the fruit. As we arrived at his house , he was sitting on his porch waiting for us and invited us into his home for a coffee. We discovered that his father was Czechoslovakian and had arrived on Hiva Oa by boat before he was born. As we said our goodbyes he stuffed four more huge pampelmousse from his garden in to our rucksack.
We were also fortunate enough to meet another couple Jeremy and YenYen and their two lovely children Kai and Lia on another English boat in the anchorage, and spent a couple of days exploring with them. After a failed taxi booking due to an apparent landslide, or maybe the realisation it was a public holiday, we were given details of a track that ran around the mountains and led to a white sandy beach in the next bay. Given the impression it was ‘just over the hill in the next bay’ and maybe an hours walk, we set off on the rough goat track with our packed lunch and what we thought was plenty of water. Two and three quarter very hot hours later we finally arrived at the beach, and with two or three houses nestling in the coconut trees behind the sand we sought out a couple of residents and got permission to spend time on the beach and pick some fruit. With no roads to these properties they are extremely isolated. They have goats, pigs, chickens and horses and obviously plenty of fruit. One man decided to demonstrate his mad-man style riding skills and galloped around us on a small pony in a rather intimidating manner as we picked some fresh limes, I was rather glad we had already got permission. I suspect that this is their mode of transport along the goat track to the road at Hana Iapa as there were hoof prints among the goats. We were all pretty worn out when we arrived back at our boats, a cool drink laced with some fresh lime juice and a swim was definitely in order.
The next day a taxi did appear and we all got a lift to the car rental place near the harbour at Atuona, we had all wanted to visit the ‘tiki’ archaeological site at Pua Mau on the north west coast. So after some shopping in Atuona, finding fresh lettuce, ginger, mangoes and all sorts of other goodies, we headed off on the road to the village of Pua Mau. After just a few miles the road turned into an unmade track with just a few short random sections concreted. It was a bumpy but picturesque 2 hour drive to the village, passing numerous cattle and ponies tethered in the shade along the roadside. After arriving in the village and paying the entrance fee at a small snack shop we followed a narrow road into the valley lined with banana, mango and breadfruit trees and arrived at the small archaeological site. It was all very pretty with five ancient tikis (stone statues) under some modern thatched covers and a large pile of rocks where apparently human sacrifices had been made to the gods, but we did all wonder if we were at the right site! Ten minutes was all that was needed, and another twenty to load the back of the truck with some windfall bananas and freshly picked breadfruit. Despite the very misleading description in the guide book, we enjoyed the trip out there to see more of the island, although I came away with much more than just bananas and breadfruit. The notorious ‘no-no flies’ had munched on my deet-covered arms and legs with the odd mosquito bite thrown in for good luck. That evening I gave up counting after itchy-bite number 30, Jez thought the reason for my misfortune was on account of not drinking enough tequila the night before, as he hadn’t a single bite. Hmmm, he may have a point.
From here we will beat our way to the small island of Fatu Hiva, about 50 miles south of Hiva Oa.