Hazed by the locals of Atuona

We made land fall in the Marquesas Islands. Hiva Oa to be exact. The village of Atuona to be even more exact as it is the only location we can check in to the country of French Polynesia. This means it is also the only place for everyone else who is making their way across the Pacific, and you would be surprised just how many boaters make the jump each year.

Hiva Oa is a 3000+ foot high rock in the middle of the ocean. It’s 10 by 25 kilometer mass is mostly covered in a tropical jungle of green, and more green. It has no marina for us cruisers, instead we are left to anchor in the very small, very unprotected, and very rolling bay that the town of Atuona overlooks some two-mile walk away. The only thing directly on land is a fuel station – which has no fuel dock – a mini-market, and a mini-chandlery. Everything else, from groceries to the immigration offices, are those two miles away… up hill. Still, not a soul complains as it is first fuel/groceries seen in a month or more and could be the last we see for another 3 months. At least we got what we got.

The cramped bay was brimming with other sailboats when we arrived. I’ve never seen so many boats so crammed in together. There was no room at all for boats to swing on anchor, so there was no way we were going to fit in there too. We opted to anchor outside of the bay, which is even more exposed to the rolling seas of the Pacific Ocean. Still, at least it was less so than what we had been through for the past 26 days, and we were just happy to be able to anchor and relax, which lasted for only a day.

When the boat is a rockin…

First order of business, the following morning, was to get to town to check into the country. We had planned on taking a taxi, but as it turned out the single taxi in the area could not take us. We tried some hitch hiking, but all the locals politely informed us they would be taking the fork ahead – the only fork on the island – away from town. This being communicated by hand gestures without stopping but was understood. After about a mile of unsuccessful attempts at thumbing it, we had just accepted that we would walk into town. It was at this time that I realized that I was wearing my deck shoes, which offer nothing in terms of arch support. This is my own fault of course. I know how Kerri likes to trick me into a “short stroll” (aka, long unannounced walks), especially when I am under dressed for the occasion (if she reads this she will surely protest, but allow me to prove my point right now: 5 miles barefoot, Alert Canada, 2 miles for a burger). Nevertheless, we did end up getting a ride for the last quarter mile or so and did all our check in paperwork. We were now officially in French Polynesia!

The walk into town was beautiful, and how sweet it was to have firm land under our feet again. The road we took wrapped us around the bay we had just anchored in, up the hill towards the towering cloud-toupee-wearing Mount Temetiu to our west, and into the village itself which provided us with a haul of groceries and some local currency. Now that our backpacks were full, we had to walk all the way back to Meriwether, which we did without assistance this time. And this began what is now a two week pain in my arches that has yet to cease. Ugh.

We stayed for three days only, one of which included me hauling all six of our empty jerry cans to shore, up to the fuel station to be filled – while I ate an ice-cream sandwich – and then hauling them all back to the dinghy, Meriwether, and into the fuel tank. That was it for me right there. I would do no more that day. That was only phase one of a planned two phase refueling process. Luckily for me the fuel station closed for a holiday weekend within seconds of my arrival on phase one. I thank the heavens that I didn’t have to do it again, and that we were able to get the 30 gallons of diesel when we did. It would be three and a half more days before fuel could be gotten if I had waited just 60 more seconds. Precious, precious time that could not go wasted. We are now on a 90-day clock to see and get out of French Polynesia.

Our final day we got to visit the local food truck that sometimes opens on some weekend days, for some hours in the evening. Much like Alaska, businesses tend to operate on extremely shifty schedules. What is posted on Google may as well be ignored. What is posted on the actual business must be taken with a grain of salt at best. So, on our final evening as we were enjoying a couple  sundowners in the cockpit, we saw lights on and people gathering and jumped at the opportunity for someone else to cook us a meal.

It was at this point that we had to rely heavily on Kerri’s high school French. It was easy enough. without any need for French. to order the food from the menu of four options, but once we realized our failure to also get any sort of liquids to wash down the steak and potatoes I sent Kerri back to the counter to get one of those tall bottles of iced water I was seeing on other people’s tables. She leaned on her public school French lessons and asked for a bottle of water. This was met by a scrunchy puzzled face by the considerable lady behind the counter. Kerri asked again. Same response. Finally Kerri was asked by the cashier, “do you want a potato?”. After the fact Kerri looked it up. She was using the correct wording! We have come to the conclusion that we had just been hazed by the locals, passed the test, and will now be accepted as one of them.

You can see just how dirty Meriwether got crossing an ocean. The bottom is worse.

Mount Temetiu

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1 Response

  1. Rob says:

    Nice pictures! Have a great 90 days folks.

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