Day 5 – Ua Pou (Hakahau)

2 March 2016 – 11,000 steps

Internet Access and Bank in Hakahau

8am barges to pier (due to construction on the new pier)

8:30 am – 22 minute hike up (rather than 40 for slow hikers), hot, humid day in Ua Pou and needed water

10:30 am food samples at local Handicraft & Cultural Centre

11:30am Welcome dances on “Te ava Tuu” site

12 noon – Lunch at Chez TATA Rosalie (Buffet)

1pm – Internet at the Library

3pm Back on board

4:30 pm – Lecture with Didier Benatar “The first Contacts” – Lounge Deck 5

5pm skip Polynesian Dance Class

6pm Meeting to talk about the next stop at Hiva Oa

9pm Too tired for the Jacques Brel Movie

Kirsten and I felt that after eating so well on the Aranui, we needed to get some exercise. In the morning, there was an opportunity to go on a “40 minute” hike to the top of the mountain overlooking the harbour. We enjoyed an early breakfast and were entertained by locals of Ua Pou that sang, drummed and danced in the dining room as we enjoyed our first meal of the day. Following breakfast we caught one of the first barges to shore at 8am. In Ua Pou, the main dock was being rebuilt and so we could not just walk off of the ship as we had done on a previous trip to this island. Instead, the Aranui crew had to shuttle people back and forth the 200 feet from the boat to the temporary dock. The starboard side of the Aranui was up against the pier but only freight and cargo was being unloaded on that side.

Once on shore, we joined the rest of the hikers that were starting to climb the criss cross path up the mountainside. The fist quarter of the hike was up a paved road which passed by a small two room Pension (B&B) with beautiful gardens of purple and pink shrubs along the roadside. As the road switched back it turned into a rugged 4×4 track with an uneven hiking surface. Fortunately, it was still early enough in the morning that the shrubs and trees to the side of the trail, provided occasional sections of shade in the hot sun.

We stopped frequently for sips of water and wished we had brought more than one small bottle of water for each of us. The sun was quickly getting hotter. We continued up the mountain to an viewpoint that overlooked the neighbouring bay. As we climbed higher, we reached a stone shrine enclave in the hillside which was where processions of locals could gather for special religious occasions. It was just below the final 300 feet of the ascent up to the tall cross on the hill. We continued on up this last little steep path that was wide enough for only one person. All in all, it took us about 22 minutes to make the climb to the top.

From the top was a beautiful view of the valleys all around. We could see valleys and mountains in all directions from this vantage point. With a fair group of people gathering, however, there was not enough room for me to launch my drone to get some photographs. I had to go back down to the clearing by the shrine and from there I was able to get some great footage of the mountains, ocean and valley.

On the way down, it was getting extremely hot and I was glad we had not waited until any later in the day to make the hike. A number of Aranui passengers started to gather at the restaurant of the pension for a cool drink near the end of the hike down.

Because of how hot it was, Kirsten and I headed back to the ship to get some more water and to cool down in the comfortable air conditioning. Being that Ua Pou is so hot and there are lots of blacktop / concrete surfaces to walk on by the pier, one could get heat stroke if not careful. Kirsten stayed on the ship for lunch and sat with a fit 82 year old passenger that fainted and had to be treated for a short time at the Pension restaurant due to heat stroke on the way back from the hike.

I didn’t stay on the ship for long, however. I caught the last boat to shore before lunch at 11am. I walked along the road into the small village passing by a school and small shopping plaza consisting of shops for Air Tahiti, the only bank on the island, the electricity company and post office. Continuing down the main street I passed the city hall and arrived at the artisans craft centre. Artists were displaying their wood and stone carvings, jewellery, and other handicrafts. One man was also doing a presentation in French on the Marquesian people. Outside, there was a large gathering place with a large roof over an circular concrete slab. The sides were all open as large posts held up the roof. This was the local cultural centre and in this area, locals had come to provide samples of the local fruits and foods that are being grown on this island. I couldn’t resist tasting my favourite, Pamplemousse. A sweet tropical fruit similar to a yellow grapefruit.

I didn’t have much time here as down the street at 11:30, there was to be a Marquesian welcome dance at the “Te ava Tuu” site. It was a raised grass stage on a stone platform with cut open logs set in the audience area as bench seats. I arrived just as the performance was starting. The harmony of the singers was mesmerizing. We all watched one lady started out the dancing followed by a group of 5 women including two young girls that were probably about 10 years of age and still learning the dances. They kept looking over at the others as they were being mentored on the dance steps while moving their feet and swinging their hips with the others. They also told stories with the slow movement of their hands as they danced.

After the women came the men. There were about 8 men dancing and they were all decked out with bone necklaces, tattoos and war paint. They were not wearing much except for a cloth or grass covering their front and backside. They gave a fierce war cry dance that had even me sweating. It was hot out and they were in the sun beating their thighs and chests as they chanted and danced to the music.

Following the performance, we were directed 5 minutes down the street to a restaurant called Chez TATA Rosalie. It is the restaurant of a local lady who prepares a variety of traditional food combined with a few other dishes. Our group was all seated in the restaurant shortly after noontime and had worked up an appetite in the hot sun. I asked one of the guides about the weather and he mentioned that Ua Pou is always much hotter than the other Marquesian islands. Fortunately, we had located ourselves next to the buffet table and in front of an overhead fan to blow some cool air on us.

We enjoyed a buffet dinner of rice, poi, cooked bananas, vegetables with beef as well as shrimp. For desert, we were surprised with some nice cold yellow and pink watermelon. It was deliciously crisp and cold. The perfect fruit to end the meal with.

Anxious to get connected to the internet, I headed to the library in town that was at the cultural centre. Here they have a free wifi connection for library patrons. As it was closed from noon until 2:30pm, I had to ask one of the local boys that were outside on their phone what the login code was. They were more than accommodating in giving me the password. I spent the next two hours checking email messages and chatting through skype. The connection was very slow however with all of the cruise passengers and locals that were gathered around to all try to connect at the same time.

It was a 10 minute walk along the hot pavement back to the meeting point of the ship. I was anxious to get out of the sun and back into my cabin for a short rest.

After a short break I couldn’t miss out on the next lecture by a man that was also our guide when we cruised with the Aranui 3, 7 years earlier. Didier Benatar lives on Ua Poe and joins the cruise for 8 days until the Aranui returns back to his island. Starting at 4:30 pm, Didier gave a well rehearsed presentation on “The first Contacts” in the Lounge on Deck 5. It was obvious that he knew the subject well as he has been presenting historical and cultural lectures to Aranui passengers for over 20 years. He spoke about the first contacts of Europeans, Americans, sailors and missionaries in the Marquesas from the 1700’s until now.

While other passengers took part in a Polynesian dance class at 5pm, the lecture continued. At 6pm, we headed to the conference room where we received an orientation on the following days activities on Hiva Oa.

For dinner, we met up with the same lively two couples as the day before. It was another fish dinner and so I requested chicken instead. As it turned out, our server still gave me the fish dinner before a different server came by and brought me the chicken version. So I ended up having two meals for dinner. The bright purple taro was absolutely not only a beautiful addition to the plate, but also delicious.

I was so busy writing in the evening that I missed out on watching the Jacques Brel documentary in French that was playing in the dining room at 9pm.