“Amoxicillin or Tetracycline?” I ponder, ruffling through the First Aid bag, as the wound on my leg festers. I cut it on a sharp volcanic rock in the ‘swimming’ pool.
It isn’t only the grapefruit that are huge and the mangoes plentiful, so are the bugs and bacteria, life in all its marvellous diversity, and after just one week in Polynesia, i am already rotting.
After meeting Pifa in the woods near the smiling tiki, we decided we would benefit from joining an organised tour with him.
“Get my number off Sandra at Hiva Oa Yacht Services,” he had said.
I wandered up to the Semaphore where Sandra is available from 8:30 to 10 every morning. She gave me Pifa’s number and we chatted about the weather.
Back on Caramor, the international SIM phone didn’t work, neither did my Tesco phone (French Polynesia is technically part of France, so I thought there was a chance) and the satellite phone signal was poor, so I headed for the telephone box on shore. Hard luck, I needed a prepaid card. I set off for the village, gathering mangoes in the rain, on the way.
At the store I bought a prepaid card for the phone box but wasn’t able to get a local SIM card, as they are only available from the post office, which is only open in the mornings.
I found a phone box, dialled the number: “This number is not in use,” an electronic voice told me.
Plan A had failed, I needed a Plan B. From Pifa’s presentation at the smiling tiki, I knew that he is a retained fireman, has a young son and lives somewhere in Atuona. I started asking the people I met in the street if they knew how to get in touch with him. The answer was always the same:
“Of course I know Pifa, no idea what his number is or how to get in touch.”
I thought I might try the fire brigade but was assured there would be nobody there. The best lead was the lady at the Gauguin Museum. She sells cakes at the school every morning and promised me she would tell him we were looking for him when he dropped his lad off the next day.
We waited a day but there was no sign of Pifa. The wind forecast for the next day was perfect for sailing the 40 nautical miles south-east to Fatu Hiva, the ‘first’ of the Marquesas southern group of islands, and everyone’s favourite. We hadn’t stopped there on the way because we would have arrived in the middle of the night and theoretically at least, yachts are expected to sign in with the gendarmerie in Hiva Oa before going to any other island.
Approaching Fatu Hiva
The sail was perfect, at 6 knots all the way on a close reach and we arrived at 3:30 in the Bay of Virgins. This is the name given by the missionaries as they disapproved of the original name ‘Bay of Phalluses’. We dropped anchor. It dragged. We hauled it back in, which was more awkward than usual, as the chain kept catching on the windlass. It seems having the chain re-galvanised in Puerto Montt was perhaps a mistake. On the fourth attempt, the anchor finally caught. Our new neighbours have informed us that most boats struggle to get a clean hold on the sand and rock bottom.
Baie of Virgins anchorage
Rick, a Belgian yachtie and an old timer here (he’s been here a week!) dinghied over. He gave us a few pointers and told us not to miss the Saturday football match as it is the weekly highlight.
The next morning, Denis of Glide called by, not only are him and his wife Pamela also Ocean Cruising Club members, they are Rear Roving Commodores, like us! Out of a grand total of 7 boats, there are 4 Commodores in this anchorage, a case of too many chiefs!
On the way to the football match, we passed a young woman sat looking out to sea.
“Don’t you like football?” We asked.
“I like it, but I’m sick of watching it,” she answered.
A spectacular playing field
The football was good sport, played by lean athletes. The spectators were mostly overweight and smokers.
We stopped at the village store and bought an ice-cream. A few houses down, a lady offered us as many grapefruit as we wanted, and a few ripe bananas. Franco offered payment which she declined. As we were leaving she added as an afterthought ... “but I wouldn’t mind a bottle of wine, if you have any.”
Nice when the sun comes out