Friday, August 9, 2013

Settling into Marquesan Life

It has already been a week since Mark and I arrived in Baie Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, and we have been enjoying our time here tremendously. A lot of time is spent in our cockpit, just enjoying the view and the nice weather, and getting to meet the locals. It is great to be able to take salt water showers and to eat outside again, devouring good food. We love good food! When we have time and the right moods, cooking is one of our favorite pastimes. We've been making bread, cakes, chocolate cookies and potato chips (a time consuming, but successful first), on top of preparing some delicious fish dinners with the big tuna we caught before we arrived – fried tuna, sushi, tuna egg rolls, breaded tuna, tuna pasta sauce, tuna burgers, tuna salad. Now, it's time to catch another one!

Every evening we have a sundowner, a mixed drink with some fresh juice of local fruits we obtain ashore (lemons, oranges or pamplemousse) and some quickly diminishing rum. Soon, we have to start making our own alcoholic drinks as well. We have a homemade snack and our drinks while the sun sets. And what a sunset it is, every day. Since Irie is faced east, towards the indented valley, the western horizon is visible and vivid with colors, sometimes reflected onto the impressive landscape around us. This is life!

One day, Mark and I went to see a tall and spectacular waterfall in the area. It is an easy, relatively short and great hike, if you know where to go. We didn't and we didn't bother to ask any of the friendly people around. So, we followed the first dirt road we found and spent about an hour climbing hills and following trails that dead-ended. The environment was pretty and the sun hot. After a second attempt, following the main road up, towards Omoa, the only other town, we rested to catch our breath and have a sip of water. That's when we saw the waterfall along a steep cliff, in the direction we came from. After this "vision", it was easier to get on track and finally find the 300 feet (100 m) high, narrow stream of thundering water. We had the magical and tropical place to ourselves and the water was great for a refreshing and invigorating swim. Pictures will have to wait until we have "real" internet again.

Yesterday, we took the dinghy to the capital of Fatu Hiva. The three mile trip along the south coast of Fatu Hiva took about an hour. The sea was pretty calm, thanks to settled weather and little wind. The swell bouncing off the steep cliffs onshore, created some choppy areas. Omoa is not much bigger than Hanavave, set up the same way: one long paved road with houses spread out along the sides and a cute church. The biggest village store – one with real aisles you could browse! - had more items than we have seen in a long time and the second store had fresh baguettes. We hiked up a hill to see an ancient petroglyph of a fish (dorado) and met the friendly head of the tourist board and pension owner Lionel. He invited us to join him and his crew next week to a newly developed (and hard to reach) trail in the picturesque wilderness of Fatu Hiva, they will work on. It promises to be another unique expedition.

Other than the couple of excursions and straightening Irie out a bit, we have made some local friends, who gave us fruit and shared stories. My knowledge of French is improving and really coming in handy. We managed to trade some goods we bought for that purpose in Panama for nice souvenirs (wooden tikis and tapa cloth), without spending a franc, or better, thousands of francs. It is an interesting and entertaining tradition to exchange items that they can use (and are impossible to find or immensely expensive here) for artwork that we like. Desired items are make-up (lipstick and especially nail polish), small bottles of perfume (very popular!), reading glasses, cleaning supplies, colored pens, handbags, and shackles or other boat parts for the fishermen. The number one thing men ask for is spirits like whiskey and rum, or wine. Not only do we not have a lot on board (anymore), but we really do not want to encourage the indigenous people to drink. We have seen the results of that and it isn't pretty. It is also one of the reasons why some communities do not like to have visiting yachts, or cruisers, in their waters.

To our surprise the anchorage has been comfortable and for the first time in months, we might stay until we actually want to leave, instead of being chased off by the weather. While we basically had the place to ourselves for a few days, more and more sailboats are turning up, this being one of the most amazing and beautiful anchorages in French Polynesia. Birds chirp in the jungle and forests, while white specs dot the steep cliffs, sometimes accompanied by a bleating sound of the goats. The main thing that is not working out for us right now is our – until now – reliable sat phone. We have a problem with the email service, which is very unfortunate. For four days, we have not been able to receive or send emails, or retrieve weather forecasts. It is hard to deal with this problem, without having internet, but we hope to be in touch again soon…

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