Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 1) 29.05.08 - 02.06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Tue 10 Jun 2008 22:10

Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 1) 29.05.08 – 02.06.08



Hiva Oa


As we entered the anchorage in the dark, it was a very pleasant surprise to find that daybreak illuminated the beautiful Taahuku Bay. We were all keen to get ashore and see the fecund Island that the artist Paul Gaugin made his final resting place. We were not quite sure what to expect from this pacific paradise with a decidedly French flavour.


After 18 days at sea, legs - some more than others - were severely challenged on the one mile walk from the bay to the village of Atuona, and we arrived hot and in need of cool refreshment. Several of our many books recommended an establishment on the edge of the village called Snack Make Make. The Hinano beer was cool and refreshing, the moules were delicious, the highly praised beef burgers were perfectly good (yet nothing to write home about) but unfortunately the owner was less than friendly and produced a bill to suit; it was clear that the restaurant had undergone a change of management, something later confirmed by the friendly waitresses who were not overly fond of the new proprietor. It was a shocking welcome to Polynesian prices: a shared starter; four burgers; a few beers; a modest number of carafes of wine; and a waffle amounted to over £100. 


Next, a short walk to the Gaugin museum. Containing no originals, instead the walls were covered with a variety of reproductions of Gaugin’s works by local artists. It suffices to say that the quality of the reproductions, and the moral acceptability of the originals, left the crew’s opinion divided. An interesting facet of the museum is a reconstruction of Gaugin’s abode, his Maison du Jouir (House of Pleasure).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            


Strummer, one of the yachts we overtook in crossing the Pacific, was due into the anchorage on Saturday afternoon. Excitement was abound as Strummer was unable to put his engine into forward and he was going to require towing. Jeremy had been in contact with Strummer and had rallied together a number of tenders to act as tugs. In addition to Astra, Adventure (one of Jeremy’s radio chums), Camille, and Aries Tor also sent tenders to assist. A 50 ft catamaran was coming into the anchorage at the same time, oblivious to Strummers plight and the flotilla of dinghies thus necessitated. As the catamaran had a little more pulling power than the dinghies, Ash commandeered the cat’ for towing purposes! Having towed Strummer past the breakwater, the four dinghies took over from the catamaran and manoeuvred the yacht into a suitable position for anchoring.


The same evening we had Adventure over for dinner. Sally made roast beef and all the trimmings (including a very good Yorkshire pudding) and we all had a pleasant time eating a delicious meal and swapping stories and, afterwards, books. Regular book swaps have become a necessity to satisfy Sally’s voracious appetite for reading!


As our leg muscles were slowly coming back to life we set out on a walking trip on a trail into the jungle to see the Tehueto Petroglyphs, some very old stone carvings. We had not gone more than a mile from the boat before the trail started looking quite overgrown and the heavens opened. Stoically, we trudged on. One unmarked bifurcation in the trail followed another, leaving us to guess as to the correct route. Fearing for his electronic equipment (two phones and a GPS) Jeremy took shelter from the drenching downpour and eventually, as the rain showed no sign of abating, he and Sally turned back.


George and Ash, undeterred by a bit of moisture, carried on into the jungle at a jog. Eventually, the trail disappeared into thick, almost impenetrable jungle. Rather than retrace their steps they thought they might have a better chance of finding the correct trail if they were to descend the slope and follow the river back. This proved exciting if not a little treacherous as having got down to the river level there was no easy way back and the jungle either side was so thick that the river itself was the only navigable path. They were making relatively good progress down the river until Ash leapt towards the bank shouting “Snake!” To this day Ash maintains “it was a bloody big snake – there is nothing else it could be” despite the fact that Lonely Planet claims that there are no snakes in French Polynesia!


Eventually they were able to make their way back from the river to the correct trail and found the staggeringly unimpressive lumps of rock known as the Tehueto Petroglyphs. They returned, in the still torrential rain, covered in mud but triumphant!


Something of a leitmotif in the story of our stay in Hiva Oa was our dinghy anchor becoming fouled. On each occasion Ash would be required to dive and fetch the anchor from under the offending rock. Much to his delight, Ash was woken by Jeremy one morning to be told that the anchor was stuck once more and could he kindly go and recover it please. As the aptly named cruise ship, Gaugin, had stopped just outside our bay the dockside was covered with large Americans who were excited to see Ash disappear towards the seabed and return with the anchor. They stopped just short of a round of applause but were very appreciative of the entertainment while they waited to be ferried back to their cruise liner. George went along to film the retrieval and, unbeknownst to Ash, was informed that Ash should be very wary of the bay’s large shark population! One of our books confirms that these were indeed shark-infested waters – Sally insists that she did not discover this until after she had sent Ash swimming.


Having lugged his laptop up to Atuona from the boat, Jeremy was happy to find that he could get internet connection in the local post office. The one problem was that not long after our arrival the post office shut for lunch. Jeremy worked out that the WiFi from the Post Office would be available over the road in Snack Make Make, he would just need to plug his laptop into a power socket. In spite of our charm and orders of Hinano and poison cru the owner remained un-obliging and would not let Jeremy plug in his laptop. Jeremy had to go back to the Post Office in the afternoon to finish his internet business which he almost completed before they threw him out for a second time.


Our last evening in Hiva Oa was spent aboard Strummer who had kindly invited us over for drinks.