Atuona, Hiva Oa
Friday 31st May 2013
Distance run: 50 nmiles
We left Fatu Hiva early on Wednesday morning as the forecast had shown favourable winds for the 45nm passage to Hiva Oa. There was not a breath as we motored out of the bay, but we hoisted the main hopefully, and motored on. Eventually a light breeze wafted the sail, and we unfurled the genoa and switched off the engine. After half an hour of waiting hopefully for the sails to fill properly, we gave up and put the engine back on. And on it stayed until we arrived in the harbour at Atuona on the south of Hiva Oa.
As a south-facing harbour, it is open to the south-easterly swell, and so the boats set not just a bow anchor, but a stern one too, to hold the boat's bow into the swell. This has the effect of minimising roll which happens when the swell hits the boat broadside on and causes it to roll from side to side. Instead the pointed bow breaks through the swell, and although the boat pitches for and aft a little, it is way more comfortable than rolling from side to side!
The anchorage was very crowded, but we found a snug little spot and once the bow anchor was down Rod very kindly came over in his dinghy and took our stern anchor to a suitable spot and dropped it in. Once settled we found out from fellow cruisers where to go to check in, and how to get into town to do so as it was a couple of miles away. This anchorage didn't have a lot going for it really - miles from anywhere, boats VERY close to each other, and very bouncy indeed. We thought it unlikely we would stay long.
Next morning we called up Marie-Jo, a local taxi driver, and she took us into town, first to an ATM to get some local currency, and then to the Gendarmerie where we needed to check into French Polynesia. The formalities were very simple and easy to complete, and the friendly and helpful young gendarme was a breath of fresh air after all the stuffed shirts of latin America. We are all running short of pages in our passports, and we had an amusing time trying to negotiate the smallest space possible for him to place his entry stamp.
Next stop was the Post Office where we needed to buy a stamp and post a copy of our Customs declaration to Pape'ete, the capital of Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia. We also bought a local SIM card as our UK phones will not connect to the FP network VINI. Presumably their prices are so outrageous (90p per text!) that Virgin won't have anything to do with them?
Then, joy of joys, a grocery that sold baguettes AND French pastries! We also found Brie, so guess what was for lunch! (Actually we had to go back and buy another baguette, as half of the first one mysteriously disappeared as we were waiting for the taxi to collect us and take us back to the boat.) We found out why Customs were so keen to bond our beer - the beer here costs £2.50 for a 330ml can! Actually, the prices for everything are about double anywhere else, but it all has a long way to come, so not unexpected. The local fruit is not cheap either though - we were charged over £1 for a pamplemousse.
Today we went back into town to visit the Gauguin museum. He lived for years here in Hiva Oa, and the museum in his memory was interesting and well-presented. After a cultural hour there we had our first meal out in ages at the Make Make restaurant. Mary had read in the Lonely Planet that their burgers were excellent, so we gave them a try. Excellent is probably an overstatement, but they were very nice, if somewhat expensive. As Rod said, don't think about the cost as you'll feel too ill to eat it!
Anyway, it was nice to have a leisurely lunch out, and after a bit more grocery shopping, we made our way back to the boats for a quick snooze before heading off to join Ron and Nancy on 'Always Saturday' for sundowners. It was a pleasant gathering of cruisers, most of whom had first met back in Panama. Most of us will be leaving in the morning, it seems, as a big swell is working its way up to the Marquesas from a storm down south, and this anchorage is not the place to be if it gets any livelier It should be fun as the boats attempt to untangle all the anchor lines and chains!
The main street and grocery store in Atuona, Hiva Oa The town hall.
The local administration offices. The Paul Gauguin Museum.
The Gauguin museum is very well-presented. Gauguin's 'house of pleasure'.
Our first meal out in weeks! Waiting for the taxi back to the harbour.