Tahuata: Hanamoenoa and Vaitahu
01 April 2009
Although we really enjoyed Hiva Oa, the water in the anchorage at Tahauku bay was dark and impenetrable --- not in any way inviting for swimming or cleaning the bottom of the boat. We were eager to get going. On Tuesday morning, the trip to Hanamoenoa bay on Tahuata island took less than two hours. The winds were very light, so it was motoring all the way --- a huge change from the long passage. On the way through Bordelais Pass, we were accompanied by a school of dolphin, leaping and cavorting about the bow. Tane got some more great shots that we should be able to post when we get to Nuku Hiva. Coming into Hanamoenoa bay, we found ourselves in a school of manta rays, so while I circled in the boat, Tane and Sal went swimming with them. The number of boats in this little bay has ranged from a low of around 10 to a high of 15. A little crowded by some measures, but we're enjoying meeting many new people. Eric and Susan Hiscock, famous cruisers who wrote many books, rated this bay as one of the top three in all of Polynesia, and it is indeed special. The water is very clear, the beach is pure white sand backed by coconut palms, and the green clad mountains soar in the background. There is a great deal of coral on the rocks, and a dazzling parade of colorful reef fish.
We've spent our time visiting, having visitors, snorkeling, walking the beach, kayaking, and just lolling about enjoying the weather and the scenery. It hasn't rained since we've been here, which is in marked contrast to the anchorage just five miles away, where it rained several times each day. During yesterday's snorkeling trip, a lone manta ray circled us repeatedly, and then came in directly so we could see right into its wide mouth. It was accompanied by a remora, a fish with a sucker on top of its head that allows it to attach itself to larger animals like mantas and sharks. It wasn't attached, but swam within an inch of the manta's underside, matching every move.
This morning we took the dinghy a couple of miles up the island to Vaitahu bay, where there's a small settlement. The primary mission was to buy baguettes, but we also came away with a bunch of bananas and 10 huge mangoes. The scenery at Vaitahu is even more spectacular---the mountains are highest just above the village, and they were completely clear of clouds so we were able to see them in their full glory. The village is as clean as Atuona, and the roads very well maintained. Again, people were driving very new vehicles. There are only a few miles of roads, so it seems they must be a status symbol here as well. How they manage to bring the vehicles ashore at the wharf is a mystery---it must be quite a sight to see. The ferry that comes each day definitely isn't large enough to carry a car.
We're now beginning to feel that we're really in Polynesia now. It's certainly living up to advance billing!
Our plan is leave for the island of Ua Huka tomorrow evening. It will be an overnight passage. After a few days there, we'll move the 20 miles to Fatu Hiva which is the main center of the Marquesas islands.