05 Jun Atuona, Hiva Oa and Hana Moe Noa, Tuhuata – Friday, 1 June to Tuesday, 5 June 2001
We leave Tuhuata at 1030 and arrive in the tiny, crowded harbor of Atuona on Hiva Oa at 1400. Most boats traveling from Mexico, Panama or the Galapagos Islands make their initial landing in Atuona. There are thirty other boats in the tiny harbor behind the breakwater and we are really happy that we made our intial landfall in Taiohae on Nuka Hiva. We can barely squeeze a space big enough for Starr to anchor. In addition, there is alot of reflected wave action in the harbor and the boat can’t sit still.
Chuck and Carol have to leave the next afternoon, on Saturday, so we go ashore to explore and hurry to do as much as we can fit into the last day. We are offered a ride by an affable Marquesean in a 4×4 pick up truck and ride into the town, about two miles down the road from the anchorage. Thus we meet Peperu Heitaa, our friend and guide to the island of Hiva Oa. He drives Chuck and Carol all about and shows them the sights, while Don and I go to the Gendarmerie to check in.
After finishing the paperwork, Don and I go to meet the priest and ask if we can record the service on Sunday morning. It is a very special Sunday; children from all of the Southern Marquesas Islands will do communion. The Bishop will be in attendance and so will all of the proud parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, etc We learn this from the priest, but I have to talk to him in Spanish as he does not speak English and we do not speak French. He is from the part of France close to Spain, so he speaks excellent Spanish. I can make myself understood with alittle Spanish and alot of pantomine. It is so frustrating to be unable to communicate becaise of our inablity to speak either French or Marquesean. I was pleased, however, that my high school and college Spanish still worked.
We hitch a ride back to the harbor. We look like good people from the back because Don is wearing his t-shirt with the Marquesean cross on the back, given to him by Pere Joseph of Ua Pou When Chuck and Carol return with Peperu, we arrange for him to take Don and I and Rob and Donna on a tour of Hiva Oa on Monday.
Atuona is a very pretty town, the largest in the Marquesas Islands. It is about two miles from the harbor, so it is alittle difficult to get to town from the boat. Sometimes we walked and sometimes we were able to hitch a ride. It is a also a French military post but perhaps is best known as the place where the famous French artist, Gaugin, died. Gaugin lived in Tahiti for a short time, but did most of his work in Hiva Oa. His grave is in the graveyard on the high on the hill overlooking the bay.
We go back into town on Saturday to finish checking in. We needed Chuck and Carol’s airline tickets to check them out of the country. The French authorities are very thorough. A person coming into French Polynesia has to prove that he has the means to leave again. One has to have an airline ticket exiting the country or post of bond equivalent to the cost of an airline ticket. We finish clearing up the paperwork The French love paperwork. Back on Starr we have lunch and sit in the flying bridge visiting with Chuck and Carol until it is time for them to leave for the airport.
On Sunday morning it is pouring. Amazingly enough, Don and I decide to skip church. We have a quiet day and never leave the boat. Rob and Donna take the day off, so we have the boat to ourselves. We eat, sleep and read.
Monday is tour day with Peperu and his wife Sabine, who takes a load from a 110′ sailboat, Rogue. Peperu proves to be an excellent tour guide. He makes numerous stops on the way to the important archeological site on the far side of the island. As it turns out, the village nearest to the archeological site is his home village and everyone there is his relative. Peperu tells good stories. He studied cultural anthropology in Fiji and knows the history of his island. The French don’t come out looking very good in the Marquesean version of its history. Peperu loves the yachts; he calls people who fly in and stay in the hotels and pensions ” tourists” and people on boats are “voyagers”. We liked that distinction. Given the cultural context of the great Polynesian migration in double hulled canoes, it is quite a compliment.
After a wonderful Marquesean lunch at a small restaurant run by his auntie, we start back to the yacht harbor. The afternoon turns into a fruit picking and gathering affair. We pick bananas, limes and avacados. We stop at a friend’s place and gather papaya, both green and ripe, several different types of papaya. It pours down rain again. We arrive back in a downpour, a deluge of rain and are soaked by the time we have dingyed the 300′ to Starr. It was a wonderful, unforgetable day. Another one.
It storms most of the night and we drag anchor. We have been in this harbor for several days with no anchoring problems, but the reflected waves are fierce this night. No one sleeps much but we are safe and ready to leave Hiva Oa. We are out of there by 0800 Tuesday morning, heading back to Hana Moe Noa for one more night before going South to revisit Fatuiva. Even in this safe anchorage we find a heavy surge and our anchor clunks over rocks. At least we are not jammed in with 29 other boats.