The Marquesas – Ua-Pou

We sailed overnight in company with SuAn to Ua-Pou, some 65 nm to the north of Hiva Oa, discovering another stunning island with the most superb mountains surrounding the anchorage.  Here we met our friends Adrian and Jackie on Oceans Dream, who welcomed us with a baguette of freshly baked bread, and very kindly took our stern anchor to help with the anchoring process.  Later that evening they entertained us to a superb meal, where we began to catch up on the last 5 months since they left us in Panamarina, Panama in early January.

We also met up with our German friends on Sailaway and Wasabi, and also met Hilda & Mike on Quicksilver for the first time.  They are from London, but have a mooring on the Hamble.

On Sunday 15th May, we joined Hilda and Mike for the 0800 Communion service at the church in the village.  Imagine a simple large building in the shape of a cross, the interior painted white, but the wall behind the altar clad with large light brown boulders.  At the east and west apexes there are voids between the walls and the roof, allowing one to gaze at the towering basalt mountain columns in the background.  The congregation numbered somewhere around 400, and off to the left there was a choir and instruments, bongo drum, guitar, ukulele.  The pulpit was polished wood carved into the shape of the bow of a clinker built boat, on top of the most magnificent hardwood carving of fish and loaves of bread.  All the carvings including the altar were bedecked with fragrant flowers, and the minister had a white garland of gardenia blooms around his neck.

The pulpit

The drum – accompanying choir, guitar and ukulele

Whilst the language spoken was entirely Marquesan, and therefore we didn’t understand a word, the singing was superb, a beautiful and colourful service to be remembered.

The church

We arranged a tour of the island with Jerome, who with his wife and family owns a small pension ‘Pukue’e’ overlooking the harbour.  Click here for more information about the guesthouse.

The vehicles were 2 4×4’s each carrying 4 passengers, and shared with Adrian & Jackie, Heribert & Hildegard, and Werner & Anna.

Jerome’s skills as a guide need no honing!  He originates from La Rochelle, and his wife, Elisa is Marquesan.  He is probably mid-forties, muscular, ex French military, and has tattooed his body with many Marquesan symbols.  He has studied the Marquesan history, was a fount of knowledge, so the whole day was fascinating.  He also filled in a lot of the gaps of our understanding about Hiva Oa.

Jerome in action

He took us to the ancient village of Maui’a in the south of the island, which had been restored for the 2007 Oa-Pou celebrations, where all the French Polynesian islands were represented in a festival of dancing and traditional lifestyle.  Click here to find out more about The Marquesas Art & Culture Festival.

Here we learnt about the cooking, a tiki that had been carried from Nuku Hiva to Maui’a and gifted to the village; the way the names of the islands had originated, the multitude of different uses of the flower, leaf and wood of the giant hibiscus.  Marquesans had their first tattoo aged 12, and on death only their heads were buried in an area of a cube rock pile called Pai Pai, the rest of their bodies being used for different purposes – food, bones for tools, instruments, etc.  These were after all cannibalistic islands until sometime in the 19th century!

Giant hibiscus flower

Contemporary tiki at festival site

Intricate wood carving at festival site

One of the many buildings

We then returned through Hakahau where we were anchored, and on to the west of the island, past the airport runway which is approached low over the sea, with no room for pilot error because of the mountains at the end of the runway.  We had a delicious paella lunch at Chez Ti.Pier’ro owned by Rose and Pierrot, who supplied the 2nd 4×4, and then were taken to a beautiful waterfall, where the men & Elaine braved the mosquitos and went for a very refreshing swim.  Afterwards we were taken to another site of an ancient village, before returning to our yachts.

Group photo at waterfall

Aranui 3 – Pipistrelle at anchor port aft! It WAS close

The Aranui 3, (for more information see a supply ship from Tahiti also carrying over 100 passengers arrived on our final day, and as it is treated as a festival, we stayed on to enjoy it.  There was a local craft display in a thatched building on the beach, with Marquesan music being played for the duration.  We then went to a local restaurant where we watched a display of traditional Marquesan dancing, similar to the war dance of the Maoris before a rugby international at Twickenham, but the women put on a far more gentle and suggestive display!  The men’s display was definitely warriorlike, and highly entertaining.

We finished our stay in Oa-Pou with a superb ‘team’ dinner of different tuna and goat dishes at Jerome’s restaurant, prepared by his charming wife.  The team comprised our German friends and the two Brits from Pipistrelle as well as three other guests plus the proprietors.  Dialogue was in French and German and English.  Elaine was in her element with the languages and had been translating from French to German to English and back again frequently during our excursions.

Dancing …


….dancing in warrior pose

Singing …

The ambience was superb, the island had provided us with so many remarkable experiences and Ua-Pou will probably be declared the highlight of our visit to the Marquesan islands.

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