Wednesday, 29 May 2013

ups and downs on the south island

Approaching Fatu Hiva
At first, Fatu Hiva didn't seem to want us there. The Hanavave harbour certainly looked welcoming, with its dramatic spires and green lushness, but anchoring was another story. The bay is small. A narrow shelf near shore is all there is. The shallows are strewn with rock and once off the shelf - the bay is deep, very deep.

Straight up
We tried to squeeze in near shore, but our anchor wouldn't set. The water wasn't clear, and patches of sand seemed scarce. We ended up anchoring just off the shelf to avoid playing bumper boats in the crowded bay. The steep seaward slope made us uncomfortable because we knew that strong katabatic winds blow through this anchorage at night. When you are anchored on such a sharp incline, there is the strong possibility you'll drag out to sea in those conditions. I obsessively checked our position throughout the night, but we didn't budge in spite of having 25 metres (and more) under our keel. Another boat was less fortunate and there was a fair bit of drama. Luckily no boats were damaged. That boat re-anchored in what we began to refer to as the "pit of despair". The next morning we moved into their old spot, next to our friends Anne-Marie and Chris (and crew) on SV Starship, whom we hadn't seen since last December. It was a happy reunion, and Nyon finally made herself at home near the cliffs.

When you are not worried about your anchor, your boat, or other people's boats - Fatu Hiva takesyour breath away. This place was once called "La Baie des Verges" (The Bay of Penises) in light of its phallic landscape, but horrified missionaries quickly changed it to "La Baie des Vierges." By adding an "i", it became the Bay of Virgins. We couldn't help ourselves. We called it by its original monicker. It just seemed right, in a juvenile sort of way.

Rick and Chris (SV Starship), taking a breather
No matter the name and the obvious jokes that ensued, this place was magical. And gruelling. With our friend Chris (SV Starship), we walked from Hanavave to Omoa, the other village on the island. A long, steep climb rewarded us with incredible beauty. We loved all 17 km of that beauty - but I'll admit it, by the third offer of a ride, we saw the last 2 kilometres from the bed of a pick-up truck.

View of the anchorage from up high
(And we were still climbing)

So many photo ops

Learning how to be cool Marquesan style
In Omoa, we found cold drinks at the village store and were soon surrounded by the children of Omoa. The guys watched bemused as I entered into lively introductions with the kids around me. We quickly moved on to serious topics, like how I got my nose pierced. Eventually, we waved goodbye, while shouting English, French, and Marquesan farewells. The guys and I walked to the dock and hopped into the Starship dinghy left behind by Jonathan, their crew who did the hike in reverse. It's only 3 and a half nautical miles to the other village by water - a short ride to that cold beer waiting at the other end.

Some of my new friends

Fatu Hiva is a place you need to climb into, to feel its charms. My favourite hike was to the waterfall. The waterfall was a tall, thin sheet of water that fell down a rocky cliff with a small pool at the bottom. The trail to get there is when I basked in Fatu Hiva's embrace. Rick and I both loved this hike and the refreshing pool. When we returned to a Hanavave overrun with tourists from the Aranui, (a delivery/cruise ship), we quickly made our escape to Nyon after viewing some traditional dancing and drumming. Hanavave had become a tourist trap and we missed its more casual vibe.
The next day, the village was back to normal. Normal on a Sunday afternoon is boys and men playing football (soccer) on the quay, and small clusters of villagers gossiping in the shade of trees. Some of the sailors organized a football game with the villagers later in the day. We missed it, but I was told by the SV Orion crew that the villagers ran circles around the sailors.

Understated, yet pretty fall

A refreshing dip
We stayed here longer than planned, but we didn't mind. We were happy to meet a few "young" boats here. There is a greater age range among the sailors in the South Pacific than there is in Mexico. Many countries are also represented out here, among them: Sweden, France, Canada, U.S.A., Britain, Mexico, Italy, Denmark, and of course, New Zealand and Australia... It's been fun to meet such a variety of sailors.

In time, we headed north once again, but that's for another post.

UPDATE: There is a shift in the air, once we pick up our latest forecast, we'll know if we can leave later today or tomorrow for the Tuamotus.

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