Hiva Oa, Tahauku Bay - 22-25 April

It's always nice to have friends helping in difficult situations - & few cruisers enjoy anchoring bow & stern - especially true of me as a singlehander in a crowded anchorage - so it was great to have help both after entering (from 'Jade') & on leaving (from 'Wyntersea').
Atuona, the nearby village where I checked in was accessed by dinghying in to the nearby dock and then hitching a 10 minute lift, both there and back, from one of the passing locals who invariably were happy to give a lift (no buses around here!) & chat on the way (good French practice).
It's fame lies with Paul Gauguin, who lived the last few years of his life here, and Jacques Brel, a well-known Belgian singer, who similarly settled here & died early, after illness. Both of their remains lie in the cemetery high above the village, with great views over to seaward.
There is a museum dedicated to Gauguin in a beautiful building constructed in local fashion of wood, plaited palm leaves & thatching - very cool and full of copies of his paintings, giving a good overview of his life and artistic development. Nearby is a replica of the house he had built in the village and where he ended his days.
Espace Jaques Brel houses the small aeroplane he introduced to bring medical/dental and other help to Hiva Oa from Tahiti (in the 1950's) in the days when all French aid seem to go solely to that island, and the other islands were largely ignored. It also gives an overview of the songwriter's life, with his songs played in the background - an excellent test of my very rusty French since nothing was in English! His was the era of Gilbert Becaud, etc.
The whole area is green and full of flowering trees & bushes, with high peaks as a backdrop. The President of French Polynesia was visiting the Cultural Centre the day I was there - lots of food was being prepared & 3 piglets were about to be spit-roasted in his honour... I was interested to see the men's tattoos - commonly as decoration around their neck & shoulders (just as women might wear a broad, intricate, bead necklace), as well as on their faces, arms and torso. Most of the women daily
wear a fresh flower on their ear & I've also seen many wearing a headband of woven flowers, again as an everyday adornment.
I enjoyed my first fresh French baguette, straight out of the village baker's oven, and wandered around the local store - everything is ridiculously expensive, so I was pleased not to need much, mainly looking for fresh tomatoes etc.
In the anchorage, as elsewhere since arriving in the Marquesas, I was struck by the large number of European boats (many from the Panama Canal via the Galapagos Islands) and the small number of the U.S. boats I'd become used to seeing.
I dinghied to shore with some empty jerry cans to get a little diesel from the nearby fuel station, ready for leaving for Ua Pou, making good use of my fold-up 'cart' on the return journey to the dock... the first of many such refuellings in the Pacific, I'm thinking!

Written by : Mike

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