What a thrilling sight after nearly 3 weeks at sea – the lofty vivid green volcanic mountains of Fatu Hiva rising over 2,000ft straight up out of a vast deep blue sea – clearly visible from the sea even though Sea Cloud is still 25 miles to the East closing the gap rapidly as she romps along in very consistent 18-22 kt ESE trade winds.
After rounding the north cape of Fatu Hiva, great excitement and anticipation dominate the mix of emotions as we approach and prepare to make landfall in the iconic and stunningly beautiful anchorage of Hanavave (Bay of Virgins) on the sheltered west coast. This anchorage is on every yachtie’s bucket list and, while words don’t do it justice, the description of Thor Heyerdahl upon his arrival in 1938 comes close:
“A mighty valley opened before us. It looked completely artificial, like the stage of a theatre, with rows of red side screens jutting into the green palm forests from both sides. These fantastic side curtains were outlined with bizarre profiles against the greenery as if cut from plywood by an artist with a sense of shape and effect, rather than crumbling red tuff moulded by millennia of rain and storms. A row of thatched bamboo sheds was discernible between the palm trunks above the boulder strewn beach.” (Thor Heyerdahl, Green was the Earth on the Seventh Day)
It was so good to launch the dinghy and head for land.
The locals here are so friendly. While trying to identify a new fruit in someone’s garden, the owners, Henri and Anne invited us inside to look at their beautiful tapa and woodcarvings. They have made a pair of beautiful carved paddles which they will take to the large Artisan festival to be held in Tahiti at the end of June. They offered us fresh fruit, which we could pick up after our walk to the waterfall. On our return they had a bag of pamplemousse (the largest grapefruit we had ever seen, limes, mangoes and a huge hand of bananas, then lent us their wheelbarrow to get the load back to our dinghy!
They did not want money, but were happy to take some perfume, notebooks and pens in return. The kids using our dinghy as a pool toy smilingly helped us load the dinghy so we could head back to Sea Cloud.
We celebrated our arrival with Moet and Fois gras on the Norwegian yacht, Alutia. It was great to finally meet Birgitte and Olav, who had left Santa Cruz 30minutes after us, and arrived in Hanavave an hour before us. Ian and Olav had twice daily conversations on SSB radio as we were never more than 50 miles apart the whole way.
The magnificent scenery is at its absolute best at sunset when the colours of the setting sun reflect off the craggy rocks surrounding the bay and valley.
Sunday church is an important part of community life. Listening to the beautiful singing while looking through the windows at the craggy peaks beyond was a magical experience.
Simon, a local woodcarver took a few of us in his boat to Omoa the larger village on the island. Although the town is only about 20minutes by boat, it is a 17km walk over the island’s central mountain spine. The coastline was very dramatic. The landing in the small harbour easy in comparison to earlier times where landing on the beach amongst the crashing waves was the only choice.
Fatu Hiva is famous for both woodcarving and Tapa, paintings done on the beaten bark of local trees. We were able to view many of these artists at work in Omoa.
After a pleasant 45mile sail north, we anchored outside the breakwater in Atuona, Hiva Oa. Fortunately the seas were calm so this notoriously swelly anchorage was quite pleasant, and we haven’t had to bother with stern anchors which are necessary inside the harbour.
The town, a good half hour walk from the anchorage has small museums for its most famous residents, Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel.
We rented a car to explore the spectacular mountainous island, The main road which runs along the spine of the island has beautiful views down to the coast.
With the help of Monique and Dick, we managed to find the smiling tiki hidden amongst the coconut palms and dense forest. The archeological site of Iipona has very large impressive tikis.
The white sandy beach and crystal clear blue water of Hanamoenoa bay on Tahuata island was the perfect spot to chill and to clean Sea Cloud’s dirty hull and remove the green beard growing along her waterline.
Nuku Hiva, is the largest island of the Marquesas. The huge anchorage at Taiohae, in a collapsed ancient volcano is very beautiful. The hub of the town is the dock where groups of yachties gather outside of Nuku Hiva Yacht services or the adjacent cafe – catching up on emails and enjoying local poisson cru and listening to the guitar players who gather there in the early evening. A group of us took a guided tour, great for learning about the history and archaeology of the island and hearing about life in the Marquesas.
Atuona Bay, on the north side of Nuku Hiva has been described as one of the most beautiful bays in the Marquesas. It certainly is a spectacular anchorage with palm fringed white sandy beaches, framed by a backdrop of huge mountains. The locals are very friendly. A group of 11 of us were treated to a BBQ goat dinner under the coconut palms listening to the locals playing guitar and singing.
The walk across the saddle to the adjacent bay was challenging, but the beautiful view over the anchorage was well worth it.
Back in Tahohaie Bay its been a very social time catching up with friends, trying Marquesan dancing, provisioning and preparing for our time in the Tuamotus. Internet has been tricky here, but will be even more so once we venture further west, well at least until we reach Tahiti in a few months time.