Hiva Oa

Playing Tourist

We were now ready to see the town. We walked to all of the spots on the tour guide that were located in the heart of the village. We then treated ourselves to lunch at the one and only snack shop in town. There was another restaurant on the outside of town but the prices were advertised to be out of our price range so we opted for the snack shop. We had our first opportunity to really speak French. The menu was in French and no one spoke English. We had long ago decided to not leave the boat without our 'Langenscheidt' foreign language dictionaries. Phill whipped out our French dictionary and proceeded to begin looking up each word on the menu. This was a pretty challenging experience. Many of the words did not exist in our dictionary. We were finally rescued by one of the Gendarmes. He had just come into the snack shop and recognized our dilemma. He offered to help us translate the menu. We pointed to the item in question and asked for the English equivalent. He scratched his head and explained to us that some of the items were written using a mixture of French, Polynesian and Marquisen. What we had pointed to took some work to finally get translated. I took the easy way out. I could translate curry chicken and vegetables so that is what I decided to order. I think curry is a universal word. Phill, however had to pick something more difficult to translate. We finally learned that he was ordering shrimp. Both meals were wonderful. While were having lunch, another cruiser popped into the snack shop and joined us for a coke. We had not previously introduced ourselves to one another but we quickly learned that you need not have reservations introducing yourself to any cruiser in any bay. They were always friendly and ready to offer help if necessary. We introduced ourselves to Bill (Wild Bill) on Kamerra (a 42 foot homebuilt ketch) who was anchored right behind us in the bay. While we were getting to know Bill, another couple came in for lunch. They sat at the table next to us. It is interesting that several conversations can be going on at the same time and all of a sudden they are all one conversation. Everyone is so friendly and just joins in on a conversation without reservation. This happened to be true at lunch that day. We introduced ourselves to the other couple who had sat at the table next to us. They were not cruisers. They had flown into Hiva Oa for one of the stops on their vacation. They were on a seven-week vacation of the French Polynesian islands. These people were so entertaining. We quickly came to know about each of their children, grandchildren and about their long and happy marriage. They were 83 and 75 respectively and enjoying life to its fullest. They have traveled the world and have visited practically every country. They shared a lot of their experiences with us during this lunch.

With full tummies we were ready to tackle the rest of the village. Based on the recommendation of our lunch buddies, we decided to visit the cemetery. We hiked up the road to the cemetery. As we got closer to the top of the hill and near the cemetery, we stopped to look back. We had a beautiful view of the bay where Mouse Pad was anchored and an ideal view of the channel that we had used to enter the bay. One of the first things that we noticed when we entered the channel coming into the bay was the very large white cross near the top of a hill. As it turned out, this cross was near the cemetery where we were standing. Both Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel were buried in this cemetery and the village of Atuona was proud of their association with these equally famous artist and singer. We walked around the cemetery for quite some time before we found the two grave sights that we were most interested in.

Paul Gauguins Grave
Jacques Brills Grave

We visited all three of the local markets that were in the village. We went up and down each isle to compare prices to those that we were use to in the United States. We were very surprised to see that the prices were nearly the same as the states. We saw no bargains except the long thin loaves of French bread. These loaves of bread soon became sacred to us. For Phill they were sacred because he loves bread and butter and consumes more than his share each day. For me, I enjoyed not having to bake bread more than necessary. We visited the one and only hardware store in the village. As we had experienced some bad luck fishing while we were on the passage from Cabo to the Marquises, we needed some heavier fishing line. We decided to buy 90 pound line since we had lost two prized lures and a full reel of 40 pound line during the crossing. There was no way we would loose another reel of line if we were using 90 pound test. The price of the line was about four times as expensive in Hiva Oa as it was in the states. If you plan to do fishing when you are cruising, bring extra line and lures with you. There are no bargains in Hiva Oa.

One thing we noticed immediately upon arrival in Hiva Oa was that there were chickens everywhere. They made a lot of noise and the noise went on 24 hours a day. The chickens roamed the streets. They were sometimes seen entering the markets. Fortunately, they were quickly shooed out. They were quite the topic of discussion among the cruisers since they kept every one awake with the constant noise. We soon learned to tune out the noise, it was not going to stop. On the bright side, there was not going to be a shortage of chicken or eggs in the markets.

The Marquises Islands are also famous for their NoNo flies. They hang out wherever there is fresh water and plant life. With all of the rain and natural rivers running into the bays, the flies are there whether you see them or not. On one of our trips into town we learned of a short cut. If you walked along the beach that circled the anchorage, there was a path that went up the hillside and met the road going into town. This shortcut reduces the trip to town down by about one third. We decided to check it out. The trip was considerably shorter. The next day, however, we paid a dear price for this shortcut. We had been eaten alive by the NoNo flies. The desire to scratch the bites were intense. I tried all of the remedies in the cruising reference books. I did discover that rubbing clear deodorant on the bites caused the itching to subside considerably. You just have to give the deodorant about ten minutes to work. It was either the alcohol in the deodorant or the flies didn't like the smell of the deodorant. Which ever, it worked.

Double hulled sailing canoe

Everyone in the village always greets you and smiles. You soon learn to say bonjour to everyone and try to be first to extend the greeting. We got a kick out of the kids in Atuona. They would try out their English on us. They would not greet you with bonjour. Instead they would greet you with good morning or good afternoon and follow it up with a big smile.

The art of tattoo is part of the Marquisen culture. Practically everyone in the Marquises has some form of tattooing somewhere on their body. The women have their earrings tattooed. The tour guides recommend against having tattooing done unless you bring your own tools for them to use since the local tattooists use razor blades.

We stayed in Atuona for about a week. Before we headed to the next island I had to tackle the mountain of laundry that had accumulated so far. I could hardly wait to do laundry with my yet untested wash board that Phill had gotten for me for Christmas. I had been observing how popular the dinghy dock was each day. It seemed to be the meeting spot for all of the cruisers. The dinghy dock was a concrete landing with places to tie up the dinghy. We had to be careful to monitor the tide as the dinghy would get shoved under the dock at low tide. We chose to put out a dinghy anchor and secure the dinghy away from the dock. The anchorage seemed to suffer a lot of surf and tide activity. Sometimes it was pretty challenging getting in and out of your dinghy. You had to be real quick to jump off and on. No time to think about what to do, just do it. On the dock were two water faucets and a public (somewhat private) shower facility. Everyone seemed to congregate at these water faucets, visit, shower and do laundry off and on all day long. I picked early Sunday morning to do our laundry. Phill dropped me off and turned me loose on our grubby clothes. It took about an hour and a half to scrub out the dirt, rinse each piece and wear my fingernails to nubs. A couple times I had to stop and seek shelter while a rain shower passed over. Maybe I should have just sprinkled the clothes with soap and laid each piece on the ground for mother nature to wash for me. Each day we saw at least one rain shower, sometimes two or three.

The water at the dinghy dock was plentiful. Many of the other cruisers filled their water tanks on board from these faucets. There were some of the cruisers, however, that had serious bouts with a form of stomach flu. It was rumored the water may have been the cause. This was still not confirmed because some of the cruisers that used the water for cooking and drinking did not experience the stomach flu symptoms. We, fortunately, had filled our water tanks using our water maker. We didn't need a supplemental source of water.

During the week that we spent in Atuona, we began to form our new family. We got to know the people on the other boats in the anchorage. We compared notes. Where did you begin the long passage? How long did it take to get here? Did you hit any bad weather? Do you have this or that on your boat? Where are you going from here? Where will you spend the cyclone season? We met so many people that we would spend the next six to twelve months with. Our paths would cross many times as we explored the South Pacific. We learned that we were not alone on the seas while we were making the long passage from Cabo to the Marquises. There were some boats that were no further than 50 to 75 miles away. Unfortunately, we didn't know they were there.

As we prepared to leave Hiva Oa, we nosed around the other cruisers to find out what the best way was for taking on additional fuel. There is a Mobil station right in the bay. You can buy diesel and gasoline. You can tie up, Med. Style, near the station and the attendant will help you with the fuel lines. We learned that the best way to position yourself to take on fuel was to pick up the mooring line and tie it to your bow, get in the dinghy and take two stern lines back to the dock at the station. Once you are secure the attendant will hand the fuel lines down to the person in the dinghy. Mouse Pad was thirsty. She took 152 liters of diesel. The fuel was 80 CPF per liter. They also charge a commission for taking travelers checks. Use CPF currency if possible. It will save you money. This little station also had a great little market. It was well stocked with everything from fresh bread, fresh vegetables, freezers full of meat, etc. and their prices were very competitive. We discovered that all of the markets have deep freezers and keep them stocked with frozen meat, primarily from New Zealand. We picked up a good sized roast and some chicken. We also found butter in a can. This seems to be readily available in the islands. We had looked all over southern California and could not find canned butter so we filled the refrigerator with fresh butter. We decided that a few cans of butter would not be a bad idea so we got them while we were in Atuona. Fresh vegetables are rare at best in the islands. Cabbage is frequently used as a substitute for lettuce. The cost of cabbage, however, is prohibitive. If you really have to have a salad and are willing to pay the price for cabbage, it can be had for 600 CPF per head (small heads). The convenience of this little market impressed me more than I can describe. I didn't have to do that long trek to town to get food. It was right on our doorstep.

We were fueled up and ready to head to our next island. We had decided to go to Ua Pou. It was an overnight trip. We left at about 5:00 PM. Another cruiser, 'Flying Lady', was also going to Ua Pou. We decided to buddy-boat with them. Ua Pou was about 90 miles from Hiva Oa.


NOTE: Comments and suggestions should be sent to Jerry Reese, Council Bluffs, IA.


Created by the Skipper of Mouse Pad.
Copyright © 1995-2005  All rights reserved.Mouse Pad
Revised: 19 September, 2005 .