We met our agent and cleared into F.P. in the little village of Atuona, on the south shore of Hiva Oa. Couldn't have been easier…one stop at the local gendarmarie (police station), and we're good to go for 3 months of exploration and adventures. All countries who say that the clearing-in process has to be complicated and/or expensive should take a lesson from F.P. It just ain't that tough!
Atuona is a pretty place. Very neat and clean, a few stores selling the essentials, including a terrific hardware store, and a couple of small hostels and hotels. Things are expensive, but if you need it you can likely find it here. Beer is a bit of a shocker, at $2.60 US per can!!! The bay was chocka block with arriving yachts, just finishing their long passage across the Pacific. It felt like Friday Harbor on Labor Day weekend! We stayed for a few days to take care of business, and happily moved on.
The south pacific islands, and French Polynesia in particular, are known for their beautiful traditional tattoo designs. Your Bravo team figured "what could be better souvenirs than a bit of island ink???"
So one of the items of "business" to be attended to at this stop was to check out the local tattoo scene. Turns out there's a very talented artist, Pue, living near the anchorage. One morning, Cindi and Nicole from s/v Bella Star headed over to Pue's outdoor home to get decorated.
(Adam and Aaron, awaiting the effects of the tequila to kick in, were to go a week later, but just learned that Pue was already booked….rain check till we get to Nuka Hiva…update to follow!!!)
Together w/ the crew from Bella Star we hired a local guide and 4wd SUV to give us an all day tour of the island. Great way to get the overview, and see how the locals live both on the coast as well as the interior. Colorful outrigger fishing boats have replaced the panga boats of central and south America.
We visited a couple of the archeological sites on the islands, including that of the largest tiki in French Polynesia.
|Largest tiki, about 8 feet tall|
After a few days at Atuona, we headed out to the neighboring island of Tahuata, just 8 miles to the south. Here we dropped the hook in a sweet little uninhabited bay, Hanamoenoa. Ringed by white sand beach, and the clearest water we'd seen so far (we watched the anchor hit the bottom in a puff of sandy smoke 35' below us), we wound up spending the next several days snorkeling, diving, and doing boat chores (sanding and varnishing had reached the critical point).
Every morning several large manta rays swam around the bay. One day we quickly put on snorkel gear and jumped in the water with with these beautiful, gentle critters. Not at all shy of humans, they seemed to actually enjoy performing for us, swimming graceful cartwheels around their strange visitors from above. Magical indeed….
Yesterday, after learning that our appointment with Hiva Oa tattooist Pue was not to happen, we weighed anchor at 4am under full moon, and headed north for the island of Ua Pou, about 66 miles away. It was one of our best sails of the voyage, with a steady 15 to 25 knot breeze, and we dropped anchor in Hakahau Bay, the capital village of the island before 3. On the way we landed a 4' dorado, adding many tasty dinners to the freezer. The approach to the anchorage bay was spectacular, with large rock spires rising like castles in the mists above the island.
Off to explore Ua Pou…..more to follow!