Day 6 – Hiva Oa (Puamau & Atuona)

3 March 2016 – 6600 steps

Internet Access and Bank in Atuona

Laundry in morning

6am Breakfast

7am Barges to Puamau (5 minute drive by Jeep to Te I’Ipona Site

8:30am Back to Aranui

11:30am Snack in Restaurant

12:45 trucks to Restaurant Hoa Nui

Visit with Pifa at waterfront, Cemetery, 2 Pensions, Waterfront

5:00 on-board

6pm meeting about Fatu-Hiva

Don’t touch tikis or walk on platforms, path slippery, mosquitoes. Hikers good shoes bottle of water, hat/cap

It was our earliest morning so far on our Aranui trip. They opened up the dining room half an hour earlier at 6am so that passengers would be able to start disembarking at 7am. We also had to have our laundry outside our cabin door by 8am so that someone could collect it, wash, dry and fold it for us before we returned back to the ship in the evening. It sure is incredible to have your laundry set out in the morning and then come back after the afternoon excursion to find in all washed, dried and folded. Especially with such a long cruise in a tropical paradise where one tends to perspire a lot. It sure makes packing for such a cruise much easier knowing I don’t have to have two weeks worth of clothes packed and ready to go, knowing I will have three different days of laundry service.

I was up at 5:30am anyways to watch the captain anchor the vessel in the Puamau bay of Hiva Oa. It was a small bay with towering mountains on three sides. I had a great birds-eye view from the Sky Bar as the cranes on the ship lowered the barges and freight decks into the water. To the East side of the bay, there was a concrete dock. The same dock that was soon to be used for both freight as well as the passenger drop off point. We had a very quick breakfast before going shortly after 7am to the 4th deck to board the barge. The gangway was lowered with its 30 steps down to the water level below.

The seas were slightly rougher today than on previous days. As we boarded the barge, it was bobbing up and down alongside the gangway. Fortunately, there was a sailor on the barge and at the bottom of the gangway there to help each person manoeuvre onto the passenger barge. Following a 4 minute ride to the pier, we had to repeat the same procedure. The day before, I had been advised to wear water shoes as this particular landing was potentially a wet one. Here, there was an even greater difference as waves would push the boat up and down alongside the pier which itself would not move up and down with the waves like the Aranui. There was a 3 foot difference between stepping off the barge when at the bottom of a wave verses the top of a wave. So, depending on the timing for your turn to get off, you may be lucky to step onto the bottom step of the pier as a flood of water rushed onto it, or you may be lucky enough to simply step off much higher up for a dry landing.

After disembarking, we walked past dozens of people and trucks that had arrived at the pier to pick up their supplies for the coming month. I could see everything from toilet paper to desks and food coming off and lots of fruits such as Pamplemouse and limes going on.

We walked up the hill past the bulldozer moving supplies from the edge of the pier and dozen pickup trucks. Within a few minutes we reached a designated place where about ten 4×4 trucks were shuttling people back and forth, 4 people at a time, to the “Te I’lpona” UNESCO protected archaeological site. It was a short drive on a paved road that curved around the bay until it turned to climb a steep hill just inland from the waterfront.

By the time we arrived, there were probably about half of the other cruise passengers there already. Being that it is a small one acre archaeological site, it did seem a little bit crowded, but the 4 guides did a great job of conducting their lectures a fair distance away from the large uniquely red rock tiki and the six fingered tiki (similar to six fingered tikis found in Easter Island). By doing this, we could all easily hear what our guide had to say about the archaeologists that excavated this area decades ago. We could also take photographs of the various tikis while the lectures were taking place, without lots of people wandering around in the photos.

After the lectures, each of us guests had an opportunity to wander around a little bit more and take photographs before getting into one of the waiting 4×4’s. We returned back to the ship the same way we came. By this time however, the dock was buzzing with activity. More villagers seem to have arrived to pick up their goods from the monthly supplies brought by the Aranui.

By 8:30am, we were some of the first guests back on the Aranui and this continued until 9:45 when the last of our fellow passengers were on-board After that however, the cranes were still lifting and moving the barges and boats onto the freight deck. At one point, one of the barges with a man harnessed onto it, smashed into the side of the boat 2 or 3 times before being dropped back into the water. It did not appear to be easy to move an object from the water as the main boat we were on and its crane was swinging back and forth and up and down in the waves.

Nothing really was happening for the next couple of hours as the Captain of the Aranui 5 was repositioning the vessel to the other side of Hiva Oa to Atuona. It was a great opportunity for me to catch up on some of my writing and just relax until the next stop.

The dining room searched some sandwiches for a late morning snack due to us having such an early breakfast and not having lunch until after 1pm. Lunch was to be on shore and so snacks were provided to keep everyone well fed until a little bit later.

At 12:30, a large group of passengers were watching as we pulled into the Atuona harbour. As we came in, we could see about a dozen sting rays playing off to the starboard side of the vessel. They were easily visible from our 8th deck balcony as they flipped around just under the surface of the water occasionally showing the white underside of their belly. Once the Aranui 5 was parallel to the dock and about 250 feet away, They sent out two boats to bring lines (ropes) to shore and tie up the Aranui to some very large cleats. They then slowly pulled the Aranui in to shore. Because of the narrow bay, there was no other way for the Aranui to get up against the dock. There certainly was no room to turn around without hitting one of the 20 sailboats anchored in the harbour.

On the pier, there were two old red and white “Le Truck” school buses waiting for us. We stepped into one and had to be extremely careful no to hit our heads on the ceiling. These school buses were obviously not made for adults. There was even a sign inside saying “Children and one Teacher” as the maximum. At least 70 percent of the people getting onto the bus still conked their head on the ceiling despite the warning as they were coming up the steps.

The Le Truck drove us the 10 minutes to the Restaurant Hoa Nui where everyone was headed to for lunch. It was one bay over and through to the far side of Atuona. At this restaurant, a traditional meal was once again served with a few other additions. Barbecue chicken, chicken chow mien, pork, rice, taro, and a variety of other things I didn’t recognize were served before the deserts were served. By this time, however, a majority of the guests had come and gone. Everyone had wanted to visit the Artisan’s handcraft centre, the cemetery where Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin are buried and the Paul Gauguin and Brel museums.

Kirsten and I had other plans. This was the village we had visited 3 years ago when we first arrived in the Marquesas islands after spending 23 non-stop days at sea. At that time, we had departed from San Diego for a year long adventure with our 7 children to arrive on this beautiful little island. We went to the small corner store that was in the centre of town knowing that the owner of the store would be able to tell us how to locate our friend Pifa O’Connor.

Sure enough, they were outside the front of the store, selling lunches to raise money for an upcoming trip that 33 of the locals were making to New Zealand. And as luck would have it, one of Pifa’s sisters were there with the store owner selling lunches. Within a few minutes, they finally located their cell phone and made a phone call to our friend who had no idea that we were going to show up on his little island, 3 years after meeting him for the first time.

It just so happened that it was Pifa’s day off of work this week as a tour guide. Had we arrived a day later, he would have been taking a small group of people over to Tahuata by boat and we would have missed him. As luck would have it, he was able to come straight over to the store to meet us.

For the next few hours, Pifa took us from one place to the next to talk together and film some of the popular sites on the island. We took my drone first to a playing field where we were able to send the drone out over the beach to a nearby island. We also went up to the mountain top Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin cemetery to do some aerial filming around the lush green valley and all of the way back to where the Aranui was moored. It was a fun afternoon to reconnect with old friends and 5:30 pm came much too early, the time that everyone needed to be back on-board.

Before our 7:30 dinner time, Kirsten and I attended the 6pm orientation discussing the morning stop in Fatu-Hiva. One of my most favourite scenic sites of the Marquesas. For some reason, dinner time today seemed to be a bustle of noise. I had a hard time hearing the people seated next to me. It seemed like some people were loud and then the others at the neighbouring table had to speak louder so they could be heard. This snowballed into a very noisy and boisterous room of people all dining and talking at the same time.

The evening ended with the Aranui Band in the Veranda Bar on deck 6 at 9:30 in the evening. With most guests needing to be up early in the morning, the crowd was fairly light but the 50 or so people that were there enjoyed some lively music courtesy of the Aranui crew. The band consisted of people from all areas of the vessel. As we were still moored to the dock, the captain was there, while two of the guides, a 35 year veteran Aranui seaman, the activities coordinators and a few others from the ship were strumming guitars, ukulele’s and beating on drums. It was a fun evening with many listening in while having drinks while others joining in to dance the night away.