Ua Pau adventures.
Having enjoyed Nuku-Hiva’s Anaho bay for a week, we sailed back to Taiohae bay to celebrate Jaime’s birthday with a beach BBQ of fresh fish, music and dancing. The crew of La Vie baked Jaime a cake and bought him a machete for opening coconuts and general purpose hacking away in the jungle. The next morning after a bit of shopping at the early morning (5AM) market, we sailed for Hakahau bay on the island of Ua Pau (wah-poe) which turned into a picture-perfect daysail. Ua Pa has the most amazing geological rock formations with incredibly sheer 4000’ rock spires towering over the bay making this what has to be one of the most beautiful harbors on the planet. The residents of Ua Pau are super friendly (a trait I hypothesis is associated with a lack of tourism) and surprisingly there are more and better stocked shops here than on Nuka-Hiva. We get pretty excited about shopping and thoroughly scour each shop looking for items we wish we would have bought in Mexico. One particular success here in Ua Pau was the discovery of powdered sugar, one of the key ingredients for making frosting for cakes for some upcoming birthdays. Another great discovery was one shop that sells soft serve ice cream. Without exception each and every cruiser made a daily pilgrimage to enjoy the soft serve ice cream, which is an amazing treat in the tropical heat. The ice cream was so popular in fact, that we ran the machine dry about five days before the supply ship is scheduled to return.
Ua Pau has about 2000 residents and most of those are concentrated in the main village of Hakahau with the other three or four villages sparsely populated. Kitty, Karl and Scott hiked/hitchhiked to the end of the road on the West side of the island to the village of Hohoi about 20km to the south one day and today are heading out on the other road hoping to reach the end of the road on the West side of the island. On their return form Hohoi they produced an entire bunch of bananas, so we each eat tons of bananas every day trying to finish them before they go bad. It’s funny to see an entire bunch of bananas hanging from the back of a sailboat but necessary to keep the bugs out of the boat. A few days ago Julie and I hiked/hitchhiked to the West as well and were lucky to get a ride for the first 13km and then walked 8km only meeting a horse laden with copra going the opposite direction. Traffic on the island is sparse, and any passing vehicle is sure to stop and offer a ride which is welcome in the afternoon heat. Getting 21km away from the boat, which was the maximum we were willing to walk back in the absence of a ride, we were lucky to catch a ride back to Hakahau in the island’s ambulance. The only feature that differentiated this particular Land Rover from the others on the island was a cross painted on the door. As we rode the 50 minutes in the back of the ambulance getting jarred, rattled and bumped around, I was thinking that a ride in the ambulance would only be slightly better than say, walking the same distance with a broken leg. This ride served as a good reminder to not do anything stupid that would welcome injuries.
Other activities that keep us entertained here in the bay include snorkeling expeditions via the dinghy and short hikes to the neighboring bays, swimming and jumping off the pier with 40 or 50 local kids, and ultimate Frisbee on the beach. Every week or so we wash sheets and shorts and try to haul water out to the boat occasionally… it’s a tough life. I probably curse myself by saying so, but nothing on the boat is broken, so unlike so many of the other skippers, I too get to play instead of working on boat projects. So basically, we just hang out with the international group of cruisers whom at the moment consist of Dutch, Swiss, German, Turkish, French Canadian, English and a few Americans and dream up fun things to do. Lucky for us, the international language is English. I must say it’s quite humbling to only speak one language when all the other cruisers speak at least two languages and the basics for many other languages. French has proven difficult, and we aren’t learning too much beyond the basics.
Yesterday was a big soccer match between the islands of Nuku-Hiva and Ua Pau, and it seemed the whole town was in attendance. Families and church groups set up tents selling all sorts of tasty desserts, fresh fruits and interestingly, French fries are very popular. Ping pong is also popular here so we bought paddles and ended up spending most of the day playing ping pong on the outdoor concrete tables. The local kids are really good and find amazing humor in kicking our butts.
This morning we went to the Catholic church and enjoyed the beautiful singing in both Marquesan and French, as well as the colorful outfits with nearly everyone adorned with flowers in their hair. Later today we’ve agreed with the head teacher of the school to have a ping pong tournament with the school kids. The island’s school is here in Hakahau and the families in the other villages send their children here to live in dormitories which seem from the outside to be almost a prison as the kids are tightly controlled and seemingly locked down most of the time. Every time we pass the school the kids yell greetings out the windows and are excited for the ping pong tournament. Mandatory school goes up to the 9th grade and then if you have the desire and the money, you are sent to Tahiti for three years to finish up your education. Jobs outside of the heavily socialized government services seem nearly nonexistent, and we wonder how you survive if you don’t run one of the five stores or have a government job. It’s my understanding that these French Territories cost France exorbitant amounts of money annually, as there is almost zero tourism, no exports aside from Copra (processed into coconut oil) and Nani fruit (processed into designer health drinks for the U.S.). In what seems an impossible genetic anomaly, women outnumber men 3 to 1 here on Ua Pau, and Ua Pau is frequently visited by men from other islands in the Marquesas seeking wives to take back to their islands.
Tomorrow night we are planning to set sail for Hiva Oa (eva-o-ahh) to check in to the Southern island group before heading to Tahuata and Fatu-Hiva for our last week or so in the Marquesas and then off to the Tuamotu’s.
S/V La Vie
Ua Pau, Marquesas Islands
South 9 degrees 21.54 minutes
West 140 degrees 2.88 minutes