19 May 2010
Fatu Hiva, island of legendary beauty, far off the beaten track. A place I'd dreamed of going for a very long time.
It lay at the end of a 45 mile beat to windward from Hiva Oa, somewhere in the mist on the horizon, that added to it's shroud of mystery.
We arrived after a long day's sail at dusk, the setting sun behind us. We were approaching the anchorage in the Bay des Vierges, Bay of Virgins. What a spectacular sight. Words and adjectives can hardly do it justice, but until we can post photos, they will have to do. the land rises abruptly from depths over 1500 feet only half a mile offshore to over 3000 feet just a mile inland. A precipitous backbone of a ridge runs through the centre of the island. Near vertical buttresses to the ridge run down into the sea, and deep ravines and coves lie betwen them. The vegetation is so lush that it somehow manages to cling to all these cliff-like slopes. At the head of the bay are high rock pinnacles that might be the gate posts of the island. Seeming to form a barrier to the interior at first, they open up, revealing Shangri-La like valleys beyond.
Finally, we were here!
Next morning we went for a stroll ashore. The village of Hanavave consists of one main street and only two side roads. Fruit trees and fragrant flowers are everywhere. A wonderful peace and calm pervades the village. One might think they were in heaven.
We were strolling down one of the side streets, past a flowery hedge, when a nymph appeared through it.
It was young Eveline, nine years old, asking for 'bon bons' (lollies). We thought she meant bourbon at first and were thinking no way were we going to give this child alcohol. Well what about 'maquillage', make-up? We could supply that. And in exchange, could we have some pamplemouse and oranges, oh and by the way is there a shop, and a bakery? She was quite happy to give us the pamplemouse and oranges, which she just seemed to take from a neighbours tree. No matter that we didn't have the maquillage with us, we could bring it later. Then she found the shopkeeper for us. She would be along soon. While we were waiting outside the shop, Eveline showed us her prowess at marbles.
Next day we returned with Eveline's make-up which she was very happy with, as well as a toy koala.
Many people in the village enquire as to whether we would like fruits. They are in no way pestering though. It is no problem if you don't want anything. The remarkable thing is that it is almost impossible to spend money. They would much rather trade for items that are a bit harder to come by. Clothing, dvd's, shoes, make-up, cooking implements, fishing lures, lengths of rope, snorkelling equipment, souvenirs of far off places even. It feels a little like being Captain Cook, trading colourful beads and shiny mirrors with the natives, but it's actually a lot better than that. We can help them obtain things that are harder to come by and they have a surplus of fruit. It's also a form of recycling, transforming your goods into something else.