Hane Bay, Ua Huka
04 May 2009
Trip Log: 3768 Nautical Miles.
Our friends Bruce and Marianne on Galivant turned up at Hanamoenoa bay, so naturally we had to have a rollicking evening with them. They announced that they had a 3 liter bottle of tonic water available. Hmm... what on earth could we do with that?
We enjoyed meeting Phillipe, Virginie, and Emma (3 yrs) from the French catamaran Mowgli. Mowgli's featured color is yellow, with a yellow dinghy with yellow engine cover. The outside of each hull is decorated with pictures of animals. They will spend a year or so in Polynesia, then head for Australia where they hope to start a business. Phillipe is quite disgusted with France, saying that the French do nothing but complain without lifting a finger to make changes. Their boat is a 43 foot aluminium catamaran built by ProMeta in the south of France. They sailed with the Iles du Soleil rally from the Canary Islands to Senegal (where they went 150 miles up a river), Cape Verdes, then Brazil. Part of the rally included 1,100 miles on the Amazon, an experience they found fascinating. Another boat in Hanamoenoa, All The Colours, was also on that rally. They're an Australian family who bought their boat, a Beneteau Oceanis 43, in France and spent two years cruising the Mediterranean.
We found Hanamoenoa bay to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable anchorages we've ever been in. The weather was fine the entire time of our visit. The water is very clear, so the snorkeling is wonderful wherever you go. The lovely sand beach was not marred by the presence of no-nos, the biting flies that all of the guide books say ensure that the Marquesas are not a beach destination. The water temperature was in the low 80's, so you could spend hours in the water. There are plenty of interesting places to kayak---on Saturday morning I visited five other sandy bays in a stretch of 2 miles, each with its complement of coconut trees.
Hunting the wild pamplemousse seems to be a common pastime among some of the cruisers. The hunter is armed with a machete and stalks through the bush looking and listening for the elusive prey. The pamplemousse is smaller than the north american moose, with a more compact and rounded body, and generally considered less dangerous. They're probably even less harmful than the coconut, which often kills or maims by pouncing from a tall tree onto the head of an unsuspecting victim. Once the prey is spotted, the machete is used to cut a pole which is used to knock the prey from its perch. Once captured, they struggle little, and seem resigned to their fate on the breakfast table.
On Saturday evening, we said farewell to friends and weighed anchor, bound for Ua Huka (pronounced Wa-hookah). We'd heard that the island is seldom visited but well worth the time. Phillipe told us of Delphine and Maurice, in the village of Hokatu, adjacent to Hane bay. They run a store selling carvings, and provide meals. The guidebooks claim that the carvings available in Hokatu are the best to be found in Polynesia, and are reasonably priced.
As dusk came, we sailed at up to 7 knots along the coast of Hiva Oa, accompanied by dolphins again. The breeze faded at dark and became almost non-existent for a couple of hours, then arose again so that we had a very comfortable passage in 8-10 knot winds, making 4-5 knots. We slowed a little just before dawn so that we would arrive at Hane bay with sufficient light. It's a narrow bay with a dramatic island just at the entrance --- this island is much like the Sugarloaf off Tutukaka in New Zealand, but instead of being way out to see, it's less than 100 meters off the southeastern entrance of the bay. We anchored next to the only other visiting boat in the bay, a huge modern monohull named Rapture. I'd estimate Rapture to be about 90 feet long. We watched the two couples on the boat (which flew a Marshall Islands flag) land on the beach, and they left before we returned from our shore trip, so we didn't get a chance to meet them.
A notable feature of Ua Huka is the fact that it is overrun with wild goats and horses. Much of the vegetation has been stripped from the lower slopes, and you can see and hear the goats as they move about the steep cliffs. Although the trees have been stripped, there is still abundance green ground cover. The island, just like the others we've encountered in the Marquesas, rises to a very high and jungle clad central spine that spends most of its time in the mists.
The dinghy landing here is quite tricky, so we decided to use the kayak instead, making two trips. I managed to land Sal and the dry bag without incident, but Tane and I managed to get sideways to the surf and were dumped unceremoniously. It all has to do with timing (waiting until there is a set of smaller waves) and the dismount (not getting your legs caught under the kayak as it accelerates of a wave just at the shoreline). Oh well! I'm sure we'll master the technique. The problem with the kayak is that you have to raise the skeg and rudder as you come in for final approach, and this makes it turn sideways very easily if you are not perfectly perpendicular to the waves.
We started walking westward towards the arboretum, a managed area that includes plants and trees from all around Polynesia. The views from the high winding coast road are spectacular, with the volcanic rocks and white sand merging into aquamarine then dark blue. After a few minutes, we were picked up by a local couple who took us all the way to the arboretum. We'd thought it would be just around the corner, but it turned out to be several miles. At the arboretum, we saw no other people as we wandered about. There are several buildings, one of which contains a display of the many timbers represented. The walk takes you by an amazing array of plants. At one spot, there is a grove of star fruit trees, and you can pluck and eat the fruit as it otherwise just seems to fall to the ground and rot. Toward the end of the walk, we came upon a large orchard of mostly citrus fruits --- mandarins, oranges, pamplemousse, and many others that were new to us. As we ended our walk, we picked a number of huge purple avocados and several bunches of the small hot chilis that were offered for sale in Hiva Oa.
We started the walk back towards Hane bay. After a mile or two, we came upon the island's airport, a beautifully maintained facility with a large modern car park. There was a single vehicle parked and no sign of people or aircraft. The runway is relatively small, so I imagine only the smallest aircraft land here. Shortly after the airport, we were picked up by another local and driven back to the bay. From there, we walked in the opposite direction towards the village of Hokatu. The road went up steeply around the eastern cliffs of the bay, to a point overlooking the sugarloaf, then descended steeply into the village via a series of switchbacks. From above, we could see that this was the happening place --- people were swimming off the black boulder beach, frolicking in a couple of kayaks, playing boule (bachi? ball in Italy), and gathered in a large canopied area. When we arrived in the village, we discovered the store with the carving was open, so our first task was to visit the place. The carvings are indeed excellent. We bought several manta rays, a multi-colored wooden tiki with an alien head, and Tane scored a wonderful rosewood abstract tiki with an embedded manta ray. The open windows at the beach facing end of the store opened into the canopied area, where a large group of women were playing bingo. The numbers are called out first in Polynesian, then in French. The women used colorful glass tokens on their bingo boards, and, as before on Hiva Oa, no men were participating.
After impoverishing ourselves in the carving store, we asked if there was a place to eat. Delphine led us to another building where we bought meals at 600 cfp per clear plastic tub. On offer was pickled fish in coconut, whole bananas cooked and pickled, roasted breadfruit, chicken, and pork. We all chose the fish, bananas, and breadfruit. This was our first encounter with breadfruit, which is yellow and starchy, with a taste that is roasted, yellow, and starchy! The bananas were excellent. Most of the fish chunks still had portions of skin attached, so you end up with a final chewy bit of skin with each piece. Our request for drinks resulted in the standard green coconuts.
The village, spotlessly clean as usual, is home to not only people but a large number of dogs, pigs, and bantam chickens. As elsewhere in the Marquesas, the people are very friendly a relaxed, and we seem to be the only outsiders. Aside from the carving store, nothing seems geared for tourists but you are made very welcome. The contrast with Latin America couldn't be greater---gone is the frantic hustle and bustle, dust and fumes, and abundant ever-present trash. We thoroughly enjoy being in Latin America, but it's always full-on. Here, we're finding it possible to relax completely. I imagine the story will be quite different in the Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Bora Bora)---the large glossy brochure on yachting in French Polynesia that we received from the agent in Hiva Oa proudly announces that there is an increasing number of superyachts and cruise ships visiting, and all of the boats pictured seem fit for billionaires.
An unusual feature of the places we've visited is the total absence of fishing boats active at sea. There were a few in the harbor at Hiva Oa, but no evidence of them operating at sea. Tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi and billfish are reported to be abundant around the islands. The fish we ate yesterday was the first fresh, local fish we've seen on offer anywhere. I'm not sure whether the reason for no fishing is cultural or whether the food on land (fruit, goats, pigs, chickens) is so plentiful there's no need. Another marked contrast with Latin America.
We've heard from Tom, Sean and Brad on S/V Marlin---they're nearing the end of their crossing and may stop at Ua Huka. So far, they've been on the way four weeks, so I imagine cabin fever is rife. This afternoon we may move to the bay they're planning to stop at so that we can welcome them to the Marquesas. Tom says all of the beers they brought for trading have somehow vanished, so they have no currency. Or so he says.
We'll probably make the 20-30 mile trip to Nuku Hiva on the 6th. We're hoping the swine flu pandemic won't affect Bruce's flight from Auckland to Nuku Hiva.