The Marquesas – Hiva Oa and Tahuata

From Fatu Hiva we had an enjoyable 7 hour sail under genoa to Atuona on Hiva Oa where we checked in to make ourselves legal in French Polynesia.  Hiva Oa is the 2nd largest island and the anchorage so tight that a stern anchor is essential.  Atuona is the main town, 2 miles from the anchorage, and you either walk or hitch a lift.  In our case, having called Sandra on the VHF radio, and given her 16 kgs of laundry, she collected us from the dinghy dock early the next day and drove us to the Gendarmerie!.  Sandra is a charming and efficient young lady who acts as an agent or intermediary for non-European cruisers who have to undergo more complicated and costly clearing in procedures.  After Panama and the Galapagos checking in was a breeze, with an extremely polite young Gendarme from France who had just started his 3 month tour of duty.  The only cost was about 0.25p for the stamp for the paperwork to Tahiti!

Sandra also recommended that for internet we use a nearby pension – Bar Chez Kayser – and arranged for the owner to come to collect us from the Gendarmerie.  Thankfully Alex drives a 4×4 because otherwise the 1 in 3 (or even 2) climb to the hotel would have been impossible.  We were rewarded by a fantastic view overlooking the bay from a shady terrace, excellent wifi and after a cup of coffee decided to stay for lunch.  No wonder the World ARC held a reception here on its way through in 2010.

HIva Oa - Magical view of Atuona

Crews assembled!

We arranged a tour of the island with Marie Jo, who took us and the crews of Sailaway and Wasabi to various tiki sites, and the Vallee Fleurie, a beautiful valley winding down from the mountain top to the Bay of Hanaiapa.

Fishing boat with outrigger

Fragrant gardenia bloom

Unknown exotic bloom

There are numerous tiki sites in the Marquesas, and frequently these are ancient villages, with massive stone sculptures that were used in rituals.  The stone foundations and sculptures are all that is left, but as with Stonehenge, we were wondering how these tribal people were able to drag these massive stones, and then hew them into the shape required.

Tiki site - ruin of chief's house

View of tiki site

Giant tiki site


On our way to the eastern end of the island, we were delayed for an hour while a digger demolished the top of a mountain onto the road below.  We then had a further delay whilst a second digger cleared the massive rocks from the dirt track.  Eventually we arrived at the major tiki site near Puamau Bay, followed by a delicious lunch of local fare at a restaurant within a farm.

Digger delay!

We tried to understand why the only access was by a single dirt track road, with certain sections that seemed to be miles from anywhere laid in concrete, the remainder apart from the run down to Atuona were just tortuous dirt tracks with hairpin bends.  Heaven help anyone who has an accident or a serious illness in one of the remote valleys, the time delay in getting them to hospital in Atuona must prove fatal in many cases.  Marie Jo was a good driver, but her skills as a knowledgeable guide required some honing.

After Janet had left for her long journey back to the UK and we had reprovisioned in one of the two small supermarkets, we prised the stern anchor out of the mud, lifted the bow anchor and had a great sail to the beautiful island of Tahuata.  The bay of Hana Moe Noe didn’t disappoint us. The water was clear and warm, and a sandy seabed provided good holding.  A long beach was fringed with coconut palms and lime trees, a lovely anchorage, especially after crowded, murky, swelly, stern-anchor-a-must Atuona.  We shared the anchorage with only four other yachts, and enjoyed the tranquillity, scenery and snorkelling for a couple of days.

The next stop for us was the Bay of Hanaiapa on the north coast of Hiva Oa, and on the way we met up with our friends on SuAn in Hanamenu Bay.  We had read about “Commodore William”, self-appointed official of the Hanaiapa Yacht Club, in the blog of Stephen and Katherine, the previous owners of Pipistrelle.  From this account we thought that William would be worth visiting, but maybe too much alcohol in the intervening 10 years had dulled his memory!  He had kept a record of all visiting yachts for the last 8 years, and we saw two bound albums of pictures, letters and cards from previous crews and made our own contribution to his records.

We did enjoy walking up the valley, the same Vallee Fleurie that we had visited on our land tour, and met Charles who was delightful, offering us bread, a selection of fruit including coconut, and we were able to pick our own pamplemousses.

Charles (half Czech/half Marquesan) and coconut with amused onlooker!

Vanilla plants growing up coconut 'trellis'

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