Day 7 – Fatu Hiva (Omoa to Hanavave)

Friday 4 March 2016 – 10,000 steps (Kirsten 30,000)

Internet Access Omoa Tourism Office

7am stretching class

8am to 8:40am barges to Omoa

10 minute walk to handicraft centre, tapa demonstration and Umu he (flower bouquet)

10am hikers meet in front of the church

10:30am barges back to ship for non-hikers

12 noon Lunch

2pm Barges to Hanavave

3pm Making ani and aeu pipi show, followed by Polynesian dances

4:30pm Last barge to go back on board

5pm meeting about Tahuata

5:30pm musical happy hour at the bar with sunset light on the Virgins Bay

9pm Beach Party – Pool Deck

I never did make it to the 7am stretching class out on the pool deck in the morning. Instead, I enjoyed the views of the islands on our approach to Fatu Hiva from our balcony on the ship. I noticed that each balcony has a connecting door to the balcony adjacent. I was told that if you have family or friends in an adjacent room, you can request to have the door unlocked at the beginning of the cruise.

We enjoyed a typical breakfast this morning and requested that the cook prepare a hot omelette for each of us. While we were able to enjoy a variety of breakfast foods from the buffet which seem to be the same every day (except for changes in the fresh fruit), it is great to be able to special order eggs. We simply request an omelette when we pick our breakfast table, and then as we are selecting the other breakfast foods from the buffet, someone is preparing it for us.

I was excited to be visiting Fatu Hiva this morning. It is the only island on the itinerary that has no airport. This means that the only visitors they get are by boat. I found out that other than the 17 Aranui sailings each year, only 3 other cruise ships visit this island on 6 different dates collectively. As a result, they work hard to cater to their guests.

Starting at 8:00am, barges started to shuttle passengers to the shore of Omoa. We were anchored just inside of the bay and within 10 minutes our barge had brought us past all of the local fishing boats to the sheltered pier. It was a dry landing and so tennis shoes were all that we needed as we disembarked.

We took our time walking from the pier in to the centre of the village taking pictures along the way. The road that curved along the harbour turned into the main village road that went perpendicular to the bay. Along this main street were small humble homes, a grocery store and a catholic church with large wood carvings. We followed the steady stream of people from our boat that showed us the way to go to the local community centre. As we turned onto a side street flowering trees were on both sides of the street as well as a copra drying structure.

As we approached the centre which had a basketball court painted on the floor and obviously was the largest building in the village, we could hear the sounds of local Marquesian music being played. Ahead of us were two ladies handing out a welcome flower along with a few singers and musicians that were playing ukulele’s and beating on drums. The sounds of these musicians felt like they were drawing us in like the fabled pied piper.

Inside the cultural centre were about 20 local vendors that had produced a variety of handicrafts to sell. Being that there are very few opportunities to earn an income. Many of the villagers had been working hard to create souvenirs for us tourist to take home with us. Not only were there bone, shell and stone carved items and jewellery, black pearl necklaces and monoi oil but unique to this island in the Marquesas was the fact that they still pound their own tapa and were selling a variety of designs stencilled onto it. There were hundreds of different pieces of tapa with pictures of everything from tattooed Marquesian chiefs to a map of French Polynesia. Each piece of tapa was a beautiful work of art that was handmade just as their clothing was made for the past few hundred years in these islands.

After giving us some time to purchase items at this handicraft centre, we were directed to a small trail behind the building that led into the back yard of one of the local residents. Here there were three ladies that each gave a similar demonstration with one of the ships guides. One guide translated the demonstration into French, the other in German while ours translated into English. We all gathered around in a park like setting as the lady showed how they would peel the bark off of a thick tree branch with a sharp stick to create pieces of tapa. After pulling off the bark and separating the inner bark from the outer bark, she pounded it with her hard flat stick until the bark stretched wider and wider. She then folded the bark over and over again as she pounded it until it became bigger and bigger. The bark became a soft cloth-like material that at one point, she was able to wring water from it as someone

would wring out water from a facecloth. Once done she opened up the tapa to show a large, soft sheet of cloth that had previously only been the inner bark from a tree branch.

Of course today these locals no longer make their clothes out of tapa bark but rather choose to import clothing made out of softer cotton or other materials. It was great to see the ancient Marquesian traditions being preserved even in today’s modern world where such things may not be necessary. It was also wonderful to see that by turning this tapa into souvenirs, us tourists could support not only the local economy but also the preservation of ancient traditions.

Following this presentation, our guide translated a second demonstration by this local lady of the community that illustrated how local women of the village would make decorative hair pieces. They would wrap sandalwood and flowers in a large plant leaf and combine this beautifully decorative piece

into a natural aroma that was designed to attract men to the lady wearing it in her hair. This flower bouquet was known as the “umu hei”.

I admittedly cut my attention short of the demonstration due to the fact that I had neglected to put on insect repellent before coming to the village and I could see some nono’s in this garden-like setting. That and the fact that Kirsten had to meet at the village church with all of the other people that were planning on hiking over to the adjacent village.

As I had done the hike on a previous trip while Kirsten stayed with our children on the Aranui 3, she wanted to take a turn on this 17 km hike over the mountain to the adjacent village. I dropped her off with the other hikers, making sure she had plenty of water. I had already drunk half of her water bottle while wandering around the village in the heat of the morning and wanted to make sure that she had what she needed for the long hike in the heat of the day.

While Kirsten started her five hour hike that ascended 650 metres over the mountains to the village of Hanavave, I took my time leisurely walking around while waiting for the Aranui to take me there by sea in the afternoon. It gave me some time to take some video footage of the village and beautiful bay. The local boys of the village all gathered around me as I launched my drone camera into the air to take photographs and videos of the local landscape.

I was probably one of the last cruise passengers on the last 11:30am barge back to the Aranui. It was sweltering hot and I was having way too much fun showing the locals aerial views of their village.

There was only one lunch seating at 12 noon today that was interrupted by a fire drill for the kitchen staff. It resulted in the delay of our main course as the servers stayed with us to serve our meal while the cooks had to run and participate in the fire drill.

We slowly made our way to the village of Hanavave, Fatu Hiva during lunch. By the time dinner had been served, I could see one of my most favourite sights coming into view, Virgin’s Bay. I excused myself from the table of people I had been dining with as I really did want to see our approach into this tiny little bay with its towering pillars that stood like giant natural tikis against a backdrop of lush green vegetation.

The bay was filled with about 8 sailboats of varying sizes and we had to motor past them in the passenger barges that took us to shore. By the time I arrived just after 2pm, the first loads of cargo brought by the Aranui had already arrived and were sitting on the pier. Local residents had come to pick up the goods that they had ordered while other local residents were at the entrance to the village and lining the main street with their locally made souvenirs. There were even some local children that had placed a nice cloth on a rock wall and were seated behind it like it was their table to sell their wares.

Music seemed to fill the air as multiple performers down the street were playing and singing as if to beacon weary travellers to them. I could imagine what it was like a hundred years ago as I walked down the street of this old village. I was waiting in anticipation of Kirsten to arrive from her ten mile hike but even after a locally performed musical and dance presentation on a large lawn area in the centre of the village, I did not see her come.

I started to hike to the valley in the back corner of the village to where other hikers had now been arriving from. Around 3:30pm, I could see Kirsten off in the distance. She had made the 17 kilometres and was tired, a bit sore and exhausted. She told me how the first 2 hours of the hike was gruelling as they had ascended the 650 metres in elevation. Fortunately, the Aranui staff had driven up the road with a local person to provide water and a lunch for the 20 hikers that had made the trek. The most rewarding part of the hike was the last 2 hours as they looked over the valley of Hanavave and descended down the steep road into this second little village of the island.

Kirsten was too exhausted and late to be able to enjoy the dance presentations by the local villagers and so we simply headed over to the dock to wait for the next barge back to the ship. She had forgotten to put sunscreen on the backs of her legs and so they were a bit red and blistering from the heat of the sun over the past 4 and a half hours.

I had about an hour from the time we got onto the ship at 4pm before the 5pm meeting explaining our next stop on the island of Tahutata the following morning. I was very late however as I just couldn’t get enough of the views of this idyllic bay. I received permission from the captain of the ship to send out my drone camera from the top level of the ship. It was the perfect flat area to send up my drone on a large vessel that was shifting in the water while anchored at the stern. The colours of the hillside in front of us changed hues as the sun started to dip in the sky that evening until everything started to darken for the night.

The 5:30pm musical happy hour at the Pool Deck bar got underway as the sun started to set. The setting sun was perfectly located with the stadium of deck levels facing the sun and overlooking the pool. Following dinner at 9pm was a Beach Party on the pool deck, but I was much too tired to participate. It was another long hot day, one that I will not soon forget.