A real Pacific Island that has a quaint charm, Atuona Bay (Traitors Bay) is our port of entry to the Marquesas and after the customs formalities and a well earned beer we are invited to a local restaurant for a meal with the other early ARC arrivals. After our first night of uninterrupted sleep we were woken at 6am by the sound of anchor chain as the new day brought in more of the fleet who had decided to wait until first light to enter the crowded bay. The atmosphere is very humid and a beautiful sunrise casts shadows on Mt Temetin that stands guard over the Bay. The top of the mountain is covered in cloud and within a few minutes a heavy rain shower produces a stunning rainbow on the mountain side.
After a few on board chores we took a slow walk around the bay to the main town of Atuona. The roads were busy with a shuttle of vans and lorries ferrying goods from the Taporo IX , the supply boat that visits the island once a month.
The shops are sparse and two supermarkets that supply the population have been restocked but still contain less than a local UK village store. Prices on the island are very expensive but with the amount of miles produce has to be transported to reach these shores it is hardly surprising.
Atuona is the last resting place of French artist Paul Gaugin and Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel. The Gaugin museum displays copies of his art and various memorabilia. Both these citizens are buried in the cemetery above the town.
It was our intention to hire bikes and explore the island, we had not seen other than small children anybody on bikes and with most of the roads on a 25% incline and very little flat surface I could understand why. Suddenly big heavy mountain bikes in this temperature and humidity have lost their appeal so a day long tour with a guide in a local taxi allowed us to explore the rest of the island.
For the full day tour our driver guide Marie Jo turned up in a 4WD Tyota pickup and with the four of us on board we set off with three other vehicles to explore the island. The heritage sites we visited had mostly Tikis ( small effigies) and Petroglyphs and were thought to be over 500 years old. The trip was on a mix of concrete and stoned surfaces and meandered along narrow single track cliff edge roads with sheer drops below. With gradients between 25 and 40% it was testing for both vehicle and passengers. We climbed to 3000 ft and the dropped down to sea level several times to reach secluded beaches and valleys. Wild goats are prevalent and ideally suited to this terrain and chickens walk the island as a common site with no natural predators like foxes to bother them.
We walked through several small hamlets of a dozen or more small shacks, all appeared to have immaculate gardens and crops of vanilla, bananas, coconut, pamplemousse ( a cross between orange and grapefruit), breadfruit and mangos.
The guided tour provided a good insight into Polynesian culture and stunning views of a beautiful island that remains untouched by Western commercial values.