Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
01 September 2012 | Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France and it consists of 4 island groups, Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Marquesas and Austral islands. The plan is to visit Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, Apataki in the Tuamotu and Tahiti in the Society Islands. The Austral Islands are out of our way and we will therefore not visit them.
The four island groups, comprising of 109 islands, spread over an ocean area of 1.5 million square miles. The combined land area of these four groups is a little over 1500 square miles with an overall population of 245000. Approximately 69% live in Tahiti, part of the Society islands.
The islands are high volcanic islands, except the Tuamotu Archipelago. They are composed entirely of low-lying atolls, except one, Makatea, which is a raised atoll. The Marquesas were discovered by the Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana de Neira in 1595. He named them after his benefactor Las Marquesas de Mendoza from Peru. Cook stumbled upon them in 1774.
There are 6 large and 6 smaller islands. The best known of the Marquesas islands is Hiva Oa, it is also the biggest. it is very fertile and a heavily wooded high island, 23 miles long and 10 miles wide. It is renowned as the last home and burial site of Paul Gaugruin, the French painter, and Jacques Brel, the Belgian singer. They attrack a lot of tourists from both France and Belgium. There is an airport and we saw the airplane arriving and departing a few times during our week visit. The Polynesian name for the Marquesas is 'Te Henua Enata', The Land of Men.
White bread and 4x4's are busy taking it's toll, especially with the woman of the island. Most of the woman are overweight, but the men is more healthy. They still perform hard physical work and also row in the afternoon for excercise. Most of them have a very proud stature. The spoken language is French, and only a handful are able to speak English. Even the police officers where we had to check into the country were unable to speak English.
We went on a tour of the island on a 4x4. The trip took us through spectacular scenery, with wild rugged ridges and deep lush valeys. We also visisted Puamau, the site of the biggest 'Tikki' in Polynesia. Tikki's are stone statues, representing the gods or famous chiefs from the past. There were different tribes living on the island and they practiced cannibalism. They ate the members of the opposite tribe if they caught them. There was a prison on site, close to the "braai" area where they burned and eaten humans. There was also a stage where the musicians would perform. The whole village would gather around for the ritual and the feast. According to the tour guide, there were 100 000 poeple on the island before the Europeans got there. They brought virusses, etc and the local people died out to a mere 2000 at early 1900's.
In Hiva Oa we began seeing heavily tattooed bodies, a feature common to the whole Pacific. In the early days tattoos were a sign of status in the community.
We got 2 local guys to scrub the bottom of Ntombi. They had a speargun available in the event that a shark might attack whilst working on the boat. There were a lot of sharks in the water in the bay. It is not advisable to swim.
We attended Gerard's birthday party on Papillon. It was a delightful evening, although we were a bit lost when they spoke French most of the time. The food was very good.
One of the single handed sailors, Pierre, developed infection from a small cut on his leg and landed in hospital for a few days. The Doctor reckon he would have died if he had not gone to hospital when he did. We got a bit scared and stocked up with anti-biotics and disinfectant.
The French bread sticks, baked every morning was devine. We obviously indulged in a few of those per day.
Great excitement when the police came with their guns on board one of the yachts. They held the skipper and the crew for the whole day, fine combing the boat for drugs. The next day they were back with a sniffer dog. The skipper says he does not know why they targeted his boat. Local speculation is that there were police from Papeete and they practiced their skills. We will never know the reason, but the yachties were a bit traumatised as a result. They just spent 10 days sailing without a rudder, was towed into harbour and 2 days later this ordeal. They are also on their way to New Zealand.
Another single handed youngster is also on his way to New Zealand. He left 2 days before us, but will be island hopping until Fiji before he sails down to Opua in New Zealand.
David, from Rancho of the Seas told us about Apataki Carenage which is much cheaper than Papeete, Tahiti for the haulout of Ntombi. Daniel confirmed the above and we decided to book for haulout in this remote atoll. The pictures look very nice on internet. We desperately need to fix the propshaft and will antifoul at the same time.
I am constantly "correcting" myself. I made a remark previously about Tamarind and that I did not like the taste. Well, we enjoyed Tamarind fresh from the tree and it was very nice. They need to be dry (not green) and the sweet/sour taste was delightful.
On Sunday morning a Volvo 60 boat arrived with 8 woman and 4 men on board. They only spent the night before they left for Fatu Hiva. They are also on their way to New Zealand for haul out and preparation for the Sydney to Hobard race next year.
Frant, with his 3 sons and daughter in law, is also planning to sail in the Sydney to Hobard race with his one son. He bought the fast 44 in New York and is sailing it to Australia. It is a good adventure for him and the boys to 'bond'.
The island does not have any facilities for yachties. There are no public toilets or ablusion blocks. There is however an open air shower which is used by the local people. They come in the morning before work to shower and others use it in the evening. We also used the shower when it was available. Next to the shower is a tiled concrete slab that I used to do my washing. We took some water in a see through collapsable water tank and saw that the water was not very clean. Luckily we did not need to fill our water tanks.
There were no fuel available for sale on the island either. You need to order fuel and it will be delivered with the Copra boat. The islanders were not too clear on the frequency of the boat. Some material stated that it visits the island every 2 weeks. We only saw a tuna boat coming in from Tahiti, selling Tuna to willing buyers.
90% of the population on the island are members of the Catholic Church. We enquired about an Adventist church, but they were unable to understand us. The tour guide was of the opinion that there are adventists, but he was unable to tell us where they meet. We therefore spent Sabbath watching DVD's and reading from Great Controversy. Johan shared information about the Illuminate and Freemasonry with Daniel. He also copied some of the DVD's on the subject from us.
We spent 8 days in Hiva Oa before we sufficiently recovered to continue the sail to the Tuomotu Archipelago for the haul out in a very scenic environment.