After a few days in Hiva Oa we are off to visit a couple of islands to the south. Tahuata is only 8km to the south and we anchored in Hanamoenoa Bay on the north-west coast. Eric Hiscock rated it as one of three most beautiful anchorages in Polynesia and it is easy to see why. It is sheltered from the predominant south easterly wind and swell and its golden sand beach is lined with cocoanut palms against steep hills behind. The water is crystal clear and our anchor is clearly visible 3m below the boat.
The island has only 500 inhabitants and was first visited in 1595 by the Spanish navigator Mendana. In 1842 the Island signed a treaty of annexation with France with whom it still enjoys ties today.
Thirty five miles south of Hiva Oa lies Fatu Hiva and a first impression is of a very tall steep-sided island and with peaks in the clouds it is easy to understand why this has more rainfall than the other Marquesa islands.
Our anchorage at Baie Hanavave on the north-west coast was originally named “ Bay des Verges” which translates as Bay of the Phalli because of the rocky pillars but the story goes that missionaries disapproved so inserted an “i” making it Bay des Vierges which translates to Bay of Virgins.
Fortuitously we had arrived just in time for an evening supper arranged by the local tourism officer. Alcohol is not available for sale on the island so we were asked to discreetly bring our own and several of the other boats had been approached by locals to see if they had any wine to trade.
Following the meal we were entertained by an impromptu Polynesian dance display at which we were encouraged to participate, I was advised not to give up the day job for a career in dancing.
One of the must see items of the island is the waterfall so team Brizo resembling Amazon explorers took to the jungle. The trek out through the village was lined with shacks, walls constructed of wood and clad with timber, corrugated metal or anything that was to hand and painted in bright colours. The locals all take a great pride in their gardens and the constant sound of strimmers signals the effort being put in, the very humid conditions mean you can almost see the plants growing before your eyes. Every house seems to sport a 4WD Toyota pickup truck that takes pride of place next to their shack and is probably their biggest single investment.
An hours uphill walk through woodland, over rocks and fording the river gave access to a rock pool at the bottom of a 200ft deluge of water. We were the only visitors there and had the place to ourselves. The walk back down was considerably easier although the mid day sun now into the high 80’s and with high humidity made walking tiring. We called into a shack selling local wood carvings and jewellery and after a bit of retail therapy the waters of the bay provided a welcome relief from the heat.
The following morning the plan was a hike to the top of the adjacent hills overlooking the bay but as the wind increased the cloud descended to cover the peaks and the rain started. With temperatures still in the mid 80’s it is not cold but the tracks become very muddy and slippery so a day of relaxation and catchup on the boat. A spectacular sunset which gave us a brief view of the green flash, a visual phenomenon that I had never seen before
Over the next couple of days a slow sail back to Hiva Oa to contemplate our return from paradise to the UK.