Pinch us - Tahuata
06 May 2016 | Tahuata, Marquesas Islands
With the passage and our initial recovery behind us, we truly began to rest over the past two weeks! We are beginning to step into the cruising / voyaging life. We're not sure what that means exactly, but we are learning, and the initial messages are: 1. Slow down 2. Slow down 3. Slow down 4. The strategies we formerly used to manage our careers and day-to-day lives don't work in this environment 5. Getting day-to-day chores done is frustrating and takes a very long time. And, 6. Appreciate all there is to learn in the above.
We have been told time and again - do not rush the Marquesas Islands. We are taking note as many boats quickly rush in/out of each anchorage on their way to the next stop. Luckily, because we have our long-stay visas, we are in the enviable position to more fully experience each place we visit. I have pinched myself (and Rob) multiple times in the past two weeks. Adequately describing our time and our soulful experiences on the island of Tahuata could fill many pages. Tahuata is rugged and wild and extraordinarily beautiful - the land, the water, and the 700 Marquesans who make this island their home. The village of Vaihatu is the largest with 600 residents. The villagers welcomed us with opened arms. Their homes are modest and immaculate and their communities are strong. We spent roughly 5 days anchored in Hanamoenoa Bay and another 6 days in Hanatefau Bay, and visited Vaihatu for a day via dinghy.
Arriving in Hanamoenoa Bay is the quintessential tropical image. White sand beach, palm trees - the pictures will knock your socks off. The anchorage is about 30 feet deep, and yes, you can see the bottom. We landed in paradise.
Hanamoenoa Bay is reachable only by boat and is inhabited by one man. We met Steven the first day we swam ashore. We were sitting with our friends John & Diane when we noticed Steven a 100 feet or so behind us. Steven is a 30-years old Marquesan man, with far-away eyes. He lives in Hanamoenoa Bay by himself. He has family on nearby Hiva Oa, but is estranged from them. He has constructed a small house (shed), outdoor table/benches, BBQ pit and rigged up a hose from a nearby spring. Over the days that followed, Steven cracked open coconuts for us - both for coconut meat and water - weaved a basket from palm frons and offered to host a traditional Marquesan meal on Sunday for the 10 or so boats in the anchorage.
That Sunday was one of my "pinch me" days. Our job was to take Steven out to the reef so he could fish - spearfish - for the meal. The idea was that he would show me how to spearfish as well (maybe next trip). He caught 5 small fish and as we made our way to the beach we could see folks gathering. Steven made Poisson cru (fish cooked in coconut milk and lime juice) and a root that is similar to a potato. That, together with the food from the boats made for an amazing meal...using a leaf from a nearby tree as our plate. Here we were, amongst only palm trees, the sand/sea, and 20 fellow cruisers and their families. Beautiful.
Our next "pinch me" experience was a short 3 miles south to Hanetefau Bay and the village of Hapatoni. The village of Hapatoni is adjacent to Hanatafau Bay and has 120 residents - that is, when the older kids are home from school in Tahiti. There were 3 other boats when we anchored in 50 feet - clear to the bottom. Our first morning we were welcomed by Ryan & Nicole on S/V Naoma, whom we felt a immediate connection with and are now happy to call them our friends. They were both beautiful reminders of the wonders of "staying before leaving."
We swam, snorkeled, and.....relaxed! We visited Hapatoni four times during our stay. I was excited to finally have the opportunity to deliver a few of the soccer balls, Frisbees and coloring books we received as gifts at our wedding. Even before we made it into the village with the goods, a local fisherman pulled up alongside Athanor at 7a.m. - avec trois enfants (three children, I'm learning a little French ☺) riding along in the boat. Rob grabbed our fillet knife; the fisherman expertly cut the tuna in ½ (Sashimi baby!); and I ran down below to grab a soccer ball, a Frisbee, and a coloring book.
The next time we visited Hapatoni, it was clear that the word had gotten around about "the people with the toys!" When we arrived on shore, Rob, with a soccer ball under his arm, we were quickly greeted by a gaggle of kids! Two girls and one boy were our personal tour guides through the village. Hotini, age 9, melted both of our hearts, when he pasted himself to Rob's side, holding his hand as we walked through the village. Later, I saw Hotini lying on a pile of wood - Mom right next to him - he was coloring like mad with his glitter crayons and his Curious George coloring book. We were so touched to have other boys his age asking us for coloring books.
In Hapatoni, we also met Cyril, an incredible traditional carver (wood and bone). With Ryan & Nicole, we first visited his home/studio/workshop which sits atop a hill with an incredible view of the bay and looks out to the ocean. They were picking up a couple of carvings. We saw Cyril's work and immediately knew we needed to bring a few pieces home. When we first visited he was working on two manta ray pieces for the Marquesan Art Exhibition. By the time we returned, he had completed them - and we are now proud to own one to remind us of our time here.
Reluctantly, we left Hapatoni Sunday evening for our first overnight sail since we made landfall. We sailed to the island of Nuku Hiva - the "capital" of the Marquesas Islands. There we will finalize our long stay visas, provision, reconnect with other cruisers and prepare for the Tuamotos.
Be well friends. We miss you all.
Susan & Rob