Thursday, May 06, 2004

Fatu Hiva through Oa Pou, Marquesas

April 19th - May 6th 2004

We are still pinching ourselves on a daily basis that this is real.  Are we really living on a sailboat in the South Pacific?  How can we possibly capture the wonders of our new lives, be it via journals, film, or video?  Not to say that this rose doesn’t have a few thorns … there are many days when the boat demands our attention, the heat melts us, and the bug bites scar us … cruising involves a lot of work, but the upside is so magnificent that we can only dream about what tomorrow continues to bring.

We wrapped up our visit on Fatu Hiva. We made a few other stops to drop off a hat and t-shirt to a couple of people that had given Chris some fruit on his earlier visit and to say hi again to the Chief (hi was all he got since we no longer had his t-shirt!).  The Chief was carving a beautiful wood hatchet with a bone carved handle.  He told Chris that if we showed up at the Festival in Papeete he would have a carved fishhook for him (Chris had given him a few Dremells earlier for his bone carving work).  We hope to make the festival, so it will be interesting to see if he really makes Chris a bone carving (we have absolutely no expectations).

Atouna, Hiva Oa

Our next stop was Atouna, Hiva Oa, a fairly easy motor-sail from Fatu Hiva.  Unfortunately Chris’s body was going through shock from the fruit feast he had enjoyed over the last two days so he wasn’t feeling so hot.  We spent four days in Atouna.  The anchorage was a few miles from the town, so typically we hitchhiked our way there and back … the natives were terribly friendly and riding in the back of a pick-up truck was as close as we ever got to air conditioning!  The town was cute (though Chris probably wouldn’t use that word), however after Fatu Hiva, there seemed to be just too many cars (how quickly our views change … when did twenty cars become too many???).  Chris was still ill our first day in, so I explored the town with Emerald and returned with fresh baguettes … our soon to be major staple for the months to come!

Oa Pou Photos below

The next day, Chris and I went in together.  We finally checked in, where I was thrilled to get a Marquesas stamp in my passport!  Oddly, we didn’t have to pay a bond.  Yet others did.  We thought we had it figured out, those with visas obtained prior to arrival didn’t have to pay, but the others did … however later on it was rumored that in the second wave of boats, everyone had to pay regardless of visas or no visas.  We are guessing that the bond will catch up with us sooner or later, probably in Tahiti.  Finding a time when the Gendarme (local police) was in to do the check-in was tricky as well … we have yet to figure out just when Siesta starts and ends.  But all in all it went very smooth and sure beat all the walking we had to do in Mexico!  While waiting for the Gendarme office to open we explored the small town; visiting the few shops and stores, and hiking up to the graveyard, where Gauguin (famous artist) is buried.  On the way home we stopped in at Felix’s (the “Fruit guy”).  Talk about fresh fruit … he picks it off the tree right there and then … pomplemousse, avocados as big as grapefruits, mangoes, and some other scary looking things that we weren’t brave enough to try.

Throughout the day, having just studied up some more on my photographer’s field guy, I was snapping pictures left and right, attempting to get creative angles, using the manual aperture settings, and playing with the exposure settings.  I must have taken over thirty; very brilliant I’m sure, photographs.  Only I had forgot to put the media card back in the camera the day before!!!  So much for being the next Ansel Adam!

We also purchased our first veggies since leaving Mexico … never had I so craved a green salad.  That night I made a HUGE salad with all the works; bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, carrots, and lettuce.  Lucky for me Chris bit into his first.  “Hmmm, it’s kind of … spicy.”  Thinking he was talking about the bell peppers (which were small and chili looking rather then the big peppers I’m used to from the states), I replied, “Shoot, I didn’t think they were bell peppers”.  “No, not the peppers, the lettuce”.  “Spicy lettuce?”  Sure enough the lettuce had spicy-ness to it, almost like horseradish.  So much for the traditional green salad!!!

Friday we had our first adventure in laundry-by-hand!  It wasn’t the nightmare I imagined, but it was quite a chore … I will definitely show my appreciation to any future washing machine and dryer I own!  We also walked out to Felix’s to pick up our bananas. When Felix saw us he slapped his forehead - he had forgotten to go cut the bananas.  No problem, he grabbed his machete and Chris, and off they went … into the jungle.  Climbing over and under barbwire fences, and across a stream on top of a fallen palm tree with no hand holds (if you’ve ever seen Chris attempt to balance on a beam like a ballerina you’ll realize how funny that is) to return with a banana stalk that held at LEAST 110 bananas (that was our best guess)!  Of course we all know that green bananas all go at once … just what were Chris and I going to do with all these bananas?  [It took about six banana bread loaves (some with chocolate chips or blueberries for variety), banana cake, banana muffins, banana biscuits, and lots of just plain eating them to get through the stalk, to our amazement we threw out very few!]


Saturday we moved over to Hana Moe Noe on Tahuata (about a one hour sail).  We had pre-planned a little birthday cake gathering with Island Sonata and Emerald for Sunday.  The water was a beautiful clear turquoise and the anchorage uninhabited.  Koncerto (a fifty-foot catamaran) invited six other boats over for a potluck dinner.  We started my birthday celebration a bit early with everyone singing happy birthday to me over candled banana bread.

Sunday, my 30th birthday, was an awesome day.  It started with Chris offering to make me breakfast … before we had a chance Whisper and Emerald stopped by on their way out to dive.  We followed them out to do some snorkeling.  The visibility wasn’t great, but it was still a good time (even with the tiny jelly fish stings!).  Back on the boat, I was in such a good mood that I cooked us breakfast instead.  Chris did a great job entertaining me with a few games of Canasta (although he didn’t let me win).  At 4p.m. we headed over to Island Sonata.  What was supposed to be just a bit of cake and swimming turned into a full out party.  Twelve of us packed onto Island Sonata and enjoyed drinks, an excellent chocolate cake, great singing by M.J. (of Island Sonata), and later on some karaoke! I was given lots of candy and beer (birthday presents), and a beautiful traditional head wreath (or as I called it, crown) from Chris (who had a bit of help from Emerald in decorating it with flowers).  I loved the wreath, and in wearing it was promptly name Princess Tahuata!  I still occasional wear the wreath (or crown) around the boat just for fun (or because I’m weird!).  Knowing my 30th birthday was going to take place either at sea or somewhere in the South Pacific, I had originally been a bit bummed thinking, “who [besides Chris] would I celebrate with?” … I needn’t have worried, it was the best birthday celebration ever and a terrific way to turn 30!

We stayed in the next day keeping things mellow and doing a few chores with breaks to get in a few hands of Canasta.  The following evening Island Sonata held a dinghy raft up next to their boat.  We all joined our dinghy’s or kayaks, tied off to Island Sonata, and chatted the evening away.  When the weather turned, bringing in huge thunderclouds and massive amounts of rain, the party broke up.  A few of us celebrated through the rain, but no longer being tied to Island Sonata began drifting out to sea.  Before getting too far out, we motored back in to tie off to the nearest boat, which just happened to be Billabong.  A few hours later another storm came through, but this time the chill was hard to shake without the sun, so we finally called it a night.  It was at this raft up that we met the first cruisers younger then us (well, younger then me!).  Ben and Lisa from Waking Dream … Lisa was just going to turn 29 the following week … guess I’m no longer the ‘baby’!!!

The next morning was a treat.  I was up in the cockpit reading when Chris comes up and says, “What’s that?” “What’s what?”  Just stern of our boat there were at least six manta rays swimming around.  Chris couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them!  Apparently they were feeding … slowing maneuvering all around Billabong.  I asked Chris if it was safe to swim with them, to which he said yes.  So I threw on my suite and grabbed my snorkeling gear.  Just before getting in I asked “Are you sure they don’t bite? … They look kind of scary!”  Laughing Chris just said, “No, No, hurry ... just get in before the go away.” “Then why aren’t you getting in?”  To this he just laughed … out of either stupidity or faith I jumped in anyway.  A couple of the manta rays were huge, as large as our dinghy.  They basically ignored me, but there were a few moments in the beginning, when they were swimming right at me, that I just wasn’t one hundred percent sure!  Eventually Chris and Peter (from Matura who was anchored next to us and noticed us pointing into the water) joined me in the water.  These animals were so amazingly graceful looking with their gigantic ‘wings’ flapping in the water.  We must have snorkeled with them for at least an hour.  Chris and Peter tried to catch a ride, but they were never quite quick enough.  I braved a single touch on the top of one, but a single slimy fingertip was about as close I got.

We had some friends (Ocean Girl) over for snacks and drinks later on that evening and retired rather early (seems we pretty much fade with the sun).

Hanamenu, Hiva Oa

The next morning (Thursday April 29th) we pulled anchor for a short day sail to the north side of Hiva Oa, Hanamenu.  Shortly after anchoring a huge squall hit and continued throughout the day and into the night.  The next morning we awoke to a mud and tree filled anchorage. I came up into the cockpit to find Chris battling to push off an entire tree that was floating by and entangling itself in first our stern then bow anchor.  With some effort we were able to get it free, luckily without tripping either anchor.  A neighboring boat yelled over that it was like being anchored in the Mississippi!  The rain, wind, and swell made it impossible to leave the boat, and the next day, as the swell continued to pick up, we decided to try the next anchorage up instead.  Our plans changed when we poked out of the anchorage and found strong headwinds coming from the direction we wanted to go.  Rather then beat up, we decided to return to Tahuata with plans on leaving for Oa Pou around 3a.m. the following morning.  The squalls continued through the night, and when 3a.m. hit neither of us had the energy to get up and go.  We opted to stay the day (and relax) and then head out that evening for a night sail.  We enjoyed some great snorkeling, took a brief siesta and lifted anchor around 5p.m.  It was a great night (although winds lightened up and it got a bit rolly) … the moon was full, lighting up the sky, and seas were relatively calm (minus the annoying swell).

Hakahetau Bay, Oa Pou

We hadn’t yet decided which anchorage we were going to stop at on Oa Pou, but learning there were twenty or so boats in the main anchorage, we quickly bypassed it and went for the northwest side instead, landing at Hakahetau Bay.  We made an excellent choice.  Hakahetau Bay and Fatu Hiva turned out to be my two favorite spots in the Marquesas.  The spires and landscapes take my breath away every time I look. Emerald and Billabong were the only two boats in the bay (for awhile anyway).  After naps we went ashore with Rick and Corbie (Emerald).  During our initial tour of the village we met Pasqel.  He spoke excellent English and we were able to learn a lot about the town and some Marquesian history.  Including some history of Marquesas tattoos and their meanings.  We learned that in the “old days” a persons tattoos would tell about their entire life, from what they did, to what they believed, and where they were from.  As a person aged, they would continue to add tattoos, which represented the different trials and phases of their life.  Anyone who met them would instantly know a hundred things about that person.  Pasqel talked us through his armband tattoo, explaining each symbol.  It also became obvious to us why no one goes by their Marquesian name … Pasqel’s name must’ve have been ten words long and taken him a good five minutes to say!!!  He also gave us some information about the different sights around the island, some of which would require a guide to get to.  The “two to three” hour hike up the crest and to the waterfall (via the back way) sounded great, so Pasqel introduced us to Michelle who was a very very handsome Marquesian and also a tour guide.  Corbie and I joked (in private) that we’d have no problem following him!  We arranged to meet the next morning for the walking tour.

The walk took us up along one of the crests, providing breath-taking views.  The trail (if you could call certain parts of it that) was extremely muddy … we had to stop often to knock off the thick layers that accumulated on the bottom of our shoes.  Michelle was a great guide, he claimed he didn’t know English, but his English was terrific!  He stopped often either to make sure we were all keeping up ok, or to point out different trees, plants, fruits, etc.  About two hours into the hike, he mentioned we were about halfway!  The mosquitoes in the forest were bigger than bumblebees and the buzz they created sounded like far off power tools.  It was definitely a difficult, uphill, sweaty, buggy hike, and worth every bit of effort!  Throughout the entire hike we couldn’t take enough pictures, or stop enough times to admire the views!  When we finally hit the waterfall (five hours later) it was wonderful and the cool water was inviting.  Luckily we took the short way back (30 easy minutes downhill)!  Michelle mentioned that we could buy ice cream at one of the houses down the way if we were interested.  “If we were interested?”  We couldn’t get to it fast enough.  The ice cream was sold from a couple’s home … we actually sat in their backyard eating it!  Without a second thought the husband picked a couple of pomplemousse, cut them up, and handing them out to us.  We are still continuously amazed at the friendliness we keep encountering.

On our way back to our boats Rick met a local, Martin, who invited us all (at this point there were now two other boats in the anchorage … Bobulona and Waking Dream) to a potluck BBQ on shore with his family.  After being entertained by the children playing with our kayaks we returned to our boats to clean up and nap before dinner.  Martin and his family put on a huge feast … tons of meat kabobs, rice, bananas, French fries and sausages.  Although Martin spoke some English, his family and children did not, so there was a lot of smiling and hand waving going on in attempts to communicate.  Chris and I found it easier to “talk” with the children through the common language of games!  We played hide-in-seek and taught them duck-duck-goose.  Ben and Chris also got some of the boys into trying one-handed handstands.  Francios (who was crewing on Bobulona) speaks fluent French (being that he is French), and was a great conduit to the wife and cousin of Martin.  Chris and I are continuously bummed that we don’t know French, because it seems that our experiences are greatly enhanced whenever we are around those that do.  Martin also tried to show Corbie a few dancing moves, but it seems no matter how much hip shake she got in there, it just couldn’t compete with the locals!  After the long day of hiking I wasn’t sure how energetic we’d be at the BBQ, but with their huge smiles and endless generosity we couldn’t help but perk up … it was a perfect night to go with a perfect day!

The next day we decided to visit the waterfall again … the short way this time (30 minute, mostly easy hike).  We joined Bobulona and Waking Dream for the hike and again relished in the cool water.  After the waterfall, we spent a few hours playing with the kids (we had promised to bring back the kayaks) and laughing in the sun.  That night we went for a mellow relaxing evening watching a video aboard Waking Dream.  Ready to hit the hay, we went above to discover our dinghy was gone!  At first I thought the current was just pulling it around to the other side of the boat and jokingly said “Oh, too bad our dinghy seems to have disappeared”, but Chris replied, “No, it’s really gone!”  Apparently we didn’t use the best knot when we tied it up, and with the large swells that were coming in the dinghy worked it free.  I am soooo thankful that it was Chris who tied the knot and not me!!!  We borrowed Waking Dream’s two-man kayak to go looking for the dinghy, in hopes that the swell (which was coming in) outdid the wind (which was going out) and we would find the dinghy ashore.  No luck!  Waking Dream inflated their dinghy and Chris and Ben went off into the night in search, but it was a lost cause, we had no way of knowing how long ago the dinghy floated off and in which direction it really went.  The next morning Chris went on a two hour hunt (via kayak), but again, no luck!  We were now dinghy-less.  It’s a lot like not having a car.  Luckily we still have our kayaks and we have another two man inflatable kayak that can hold 750 pounds of gear should we need to lug anything to and fro.  We were also lucky in that Chris didn’t give into my ‘whining’ that evening.  We didn’t want to kayak over to Waking Dream, because we didn’t want to have salt-water wet asses when we went to sit down below.  Since the dinghy was out we decided to row the dinghy over.  I wanted to put the engine on the dinghy, but Chris stuck to his guns and insisted that it wasn’t that far and that we could row.  Because we rowed we still are in possession of our engine!  What we aren’t in possession of however, is the dinghy cover (or chaps) that took me three frustrating days to sew!!!  Life without a dinghy so far hasn’t been too bad.  Most the anchorages are small enough that paddling is ok … plus we’ve been able to hitch a lot of rides.  The biggest inconvenience is that you never have a dry bottom!  We are still debating whether we will try and get a new dinghy in Tahiti or wait until New Zealand.

After Chris’s no-luck search for the dinghy we did a bit of snorkeling.  Visibility wasn’t great, but we did see an octopus.  He was a wonder to watch, as he changed colors to match the surrounding rock he was held up in.  Chris tried to encourage (without hurting or overly scarring) him out, but it was a no-go, we were stuck admiring him from afar.

Our first two and a half weeks were absolutely wonderful.  The generous people, rugged green landscapes, daily adventures, fresh air, bright sun, colorful rainbows, vibrant sunsets, and warm tropical waters were more then we could’ve dreamed for … and to think we still had so much ahead of us to look forward too!

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