Friday, May 24, 2013

The Marquesas

I'm sitting on a balcony at the Pension Vehine overlooking the the anchorage and dramatic hillside of Baie d'Hakahua on the island of Oa Pou in the Marquesas.  I was unable to purchase an internet connection card at the post office as it is the weekend; in addition, the post office will be closed on Monday due to some local holiday. Richard had asked me to check in with the gendarmerie (national police) here in Hakahua and when I was done with that formality I asked about the possibility of internet connections in town given that the post office was closed for an extended time.  The gendarme told me to try the pizza place that we ate at last night and ask the owner if he might let me use his connection at his hotel.  The hospitality of the islanders has been nothing short of remarkable everywhere we have been in the Marquesas.  The owner of the pizza place and hotel set me up on the balcony overlooking the bay with a cold bottle of water and gave me the password to the wifi connection.  Slow, but who cares, I'm in the Marquesas!

Just a small map so you get an idea of how
the islands are laid out.
Our three weeks here have been amazing.  The scenery is truly other worldly with high volcanic peaks covered in lush tropical vegetation, basaltic spires resembling a skyline, crystal clear aquamarine water, coconut palm fringed get the idea.  Thus far we have been on four of the main islands: Hiva Oa (where we checked into the country), Tahuata, Fatu Hiva, and Oa Pou,  We are currently in Oa Pou and are one of two boats in the anchorage; the other boat being our buddies from s/v Kyanos, Ben and Jory.  We met Ben and Jory in Atuona on Hiva Oa and have done some hiking, snorkeling, and hanging out with them along the way.  They arrived here in Hakahua a few days ago and will be heading to Nuku Hiva, our next stop, in the next day or two and Richard and I will be right behind them.

The backdrop at the anchorage in Atuonas, Hiva Oa.
Hiva Oa was our first glimpse of the Marquesas and it didn't disappoint.  The anchorage was full of boats from all over the world; some we had heard on the Pacific Puddle Jumpers' Net, and others we introduced ourselves to over the course of the four days we were anchored there.  The town of Atuona was a thirty minute hike away and offered a post office, a bank, two restaurants, and three little grocery stores, in addition to a few tourist attractions.  We went on a hike with Ben and Jory one day and ended up bailing before we even hit the half way mark.  We were only three days out from being on the boat for 35 days and still hadn't quite gotten our land legs back so hiking was quite the challenge for both Richard and I.  We turned around and heading back the trail head where we waited around for a bit before deciding to head back to the boat.  We had signaled to Ben that we were turning around and when we reached the trail head, I climbed a mango tree and shook a branch which dislodged a bunch of ripe mangoes; some we ate, others we packed to take back to the boat and some were left, with a note, for Ben and Jory. Not a bad hike after all, even if we didn't make it to the top of the ridge with them.

Approaching Baie Vaitah on Isle Tahuata.
After Hiva Oa, it was off to Tahuata, a mere 10 miles away.  We got to sail across the channel separating the two islands and pulled into a anchorage with about five other boats, including Kyanos. It was rumored that you could swim with mantas in Baie Hanamoenoa, though we did not see any mantas while we were there.  While we were in Baie Hanamoenoa, I took advantage of the crystal clear water to scrub the remainder of the gooseneck barnacles off of the boat's waterline and hull.  What a chore that was!  Those suckers cling fast and you have to scrape them off using what looks like a plastic pastry scrapper, in addition to  a scrub brush all the while holding onto a suction cup handle attached to the side of the boat.  Hard work!  But at least it was in a beautiful tropical setting, so I can't complain too loudly.

A school of fish in the surge at Baie Vaitah, Tahuata.
From Hanamoenoa we sailed to Baie Vaitah, a mere couple of miles away and took a walk with the guys from Kyanos into the jungle.  Along the way ate mangoes, drank coconut water fresh from a coconut (I have become quite proficient at cracking these things open to get to the prize...fresh coconut water and meat!), gathered limes, bananas and papayas to take back to our boats.  In the afternoon, Ben , Jory and I snorkeled off of the town pier and saw tons of fish swimming around a coral reef, in addition to a large eel.  Jory even spotted a shark at one point and it was then that we decided to get out of the water.

Rock formations in the anchorage at Fatu Hiva.
Early the next morning, Richard and I raised the anchor and headed south to the island of Fatu Hiva and the fabled Bay of Virgins.  It was originally called the Bay of Penises due to the volcanic spires that rise triumphantly from the ridge behind the bay but thanks to the cleansing foresight of the missionaries that visited these islands (and, luckily for us, the rest of the world!), they renamed the bay so as to save the rest of mankind from the indecent and shameful name of BAY OF PENISES.  As a side note, if any of you don't know me, please be advised that the above rant should be read with the heaviest dose of sarcasm you can muster...those of you that do know me, I'm sure you could audibly hear the sarcasm in your head.  Baie Hanavave will forever be the Bay of Penises in my mind.  Although, truth be told, the spires here were not as phallic looking as the ones we encountered upon entering the anchorage at Baie d'Hakahua on Ua Pou.  

Jory, me, Richard and Ben at the waterfall on Fatu Hiva.
We hiked to a waterfall described in our guide books through a dense wet forest with the crew of Kyanos. Unfortunately, we couldn't go into the pool under the falls due to contamination from wild pigs and horses in the area (not sure what that's about but decided not to risk it; besides, the water had a pronounced algae growth). On our way back to the boat, we ran into other cruisers who had looked for the waterfall but had been unsuccessful. We told them how to reach the falls and they thanked us.  The four of them were on two boats, three of them were French and the fourth was Australian.  We chatted for a while and exchanged future itineraries (which are typically written in sand, as they say) before parting.  The next day, as we were getting ready to do an overnight passage back to the north shore of Hiva Oa, one of the boats in the anchorage appeared to come free of its anchor and several dinghies were seen attaching lines to the runaway boat in an attempt to secure it; not sure where the owners were, possibly on shore.  After dinner, Richard and i raised our anchor and started off on our overnight to Baie Hanaiapa on the north shore of Hiva Oa.

The yacht club on Baie Hanaiapa, Hiva Oa.
The passage was wet.  Every squall within the general area it appears made a bee line for our heading and dumped on us copious amounts of water.  Sometimes I like this, this time I did not.  It seemed cold, and while I know that low 80's is really not cold, it is a relative experience and to me it seemed cold that night so the rain was not really welcomed.  Plus we had to motor the whole way so that was no fun.  When we finally arrived in the morning, we were both tired and decided to lounge around. Richard dinghied me to shore and I walked for a couple of hours along a road that was heading up into the mountains.  Along the way, an elderly gentleman called out and asked if I was coming from a boat to which I replied that i was.  He told me to return in about an hour to his "yacht club".  I looked around and saw his sign and told him that i would return.  When I returned, William Poepoepani told me that he has been inviting cruisers that visit his bay to his house to sign his guest book and asked if I would please sign his book.  He offered me cold water and let me look through the three guestbooks he kept.  I recognized some of the more recent entries as those of boats that had crossed the Pacific with us and penned an entry for Osprey.  On my way out, Mr. Poepoepani offered me several green papayas, watercress and a pamplemousse. To thank him, I gave him a small zip lock bag containing five new barbed fishing hooks which he took and told me he would give to his son who fished the bay to feed his family.  I walked back to the boat satisfied that the hooks would be put to good use.

Osprey anchored off of Baie Hanaiapa, Hiva Oa.
The next day we went to Baie Hanamenu, just a few miles up the coast.  The water here was kind of murky and murky waters make me nervous because you wouldn't be able to see sharks if there were any so no snorkeling here. Instead, Richard and I walked to shore and I took a bath in a fresh water stream near the shore.  It may have been there that I came into contact with something that the next day made my skin break out in a rash.  Lovely.

Our sail from Baie Hanamenu on Hiva Oa to Baie d'Hakahua on Oa Pou couldn't have 
been better.  We had between 15 and 25 knots of wind from the right direction with only a moderate swell so we were able to sail on a nice tack the entire way keeping our speed in the mid to upper 6 knot range most of the way.  When we arrived in the anchorage, we saw that Kyanos was the only other boat in the
Ua Pou "skyline".
anchorage.  After setting both a bow and stern anchor, we dinghied over to their boat, picked up Ben, and went into town for pizza and beers. After dinner, we returned to our boat and chatted until midnight with Ben.  I finally told Ben that I had to dinghy him back to his boat and that Richard and I had to get some sleep as we had gotten up at 5:30 AM to make the crossing from Hiva Oa.  And thus ended another perfect day in paradise.

Next, we leave for Nuku Hiva where I will upload this post and begin my new post of our time in Nuku Hiva.  Stay tuned for photos of my ridiculously AWESOME new tattoo!

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