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Sunday, August 09, 2009

At rest in Hiva Oa

I was in such a hurry to write about everything that had been keeping us busy that I completely forgot to describe our surroundings. Of course it's absolutely stunning! I'm sure all you have to do is Google Fatu Hiva and you'll see pictures. We haven't been to Kauai in years but it reminds us of the Na Pali coast there. Green, green, green, and steep cliffs with deep gorges. It was always a shock to look up from the boat at the anchorage in Hana Vave and see the gorgeous rock formations and the cliff sides which are kept well manicured by dozens of free range goats. I don't think we've woken up to the sound of goats bleating since Agua Verde in Baja. There was a beautiful "window" between the rocks of a view way back into a golden colored valley well beyond the village. From the boat we could see the soccer field, the one room health center, and the rip-rap breakwater protecting the concrete wharf and launch ramp. The rest of the village is set up along both sides of a road which parallels a small river leading up a hill and into the valley.

The houses are surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers, and you see pamplemousse (like an oversized grapefruit), bananas, mango (the trees were loaded with unripe fruit) and citron (they get yellow like lemons, but they're exactly like Mexican limes) everywhere. Curiously we didn't notice any breadfruit trees until we went to Omoa where they were plentiful. No-ni bushes are cultivated as a crop (the fruit is harvested for some medicinal purpose), and we saw (and smelled) coconut being dried on racks for export as copra. I also saw a few bushes with cute baby pineapples the size of pears growing on them.

Our friends on Matajusi (the first two letters of his four children's names) instructed us about all the meat eating opportunities that were available to us. Silvio traded with the locals for a leg of goat and a leg of pig. They also fished for fresh-water shrimp at the waterfall using a large piece of fabric. They lured the shrimp on top of the fabric with coconut meat and then scooped them out of the water. Finally, Silvio bought a live rooster off of some kids who'd been hanging around during the tiki trading session with John (which as it turns out might have been stolen property since another group of kids told us it didn't belong to the kids who sold it). He carried it back to the boat in a plastic grocery bag where it was dispatched, plucked, gutted, and put into the dinner pot. We declined their invitation to dinner, not so much because we didn't want to eat rooster, but more because dinner didn't get started until well after 8 PM. I always find it interesting that most cruisers are so into the hunter gatherer thing because, other than catching the occasional fish, we're perfectly happy with the food we've stocked on the boat, and are practically vegetarians without all the soy and tofu!

As John wrote, we had a fabulous sail from Fatu Hiva to Hiva Oa in spite of having to leave in such a hurry. We motored the first hour and then had a great breeze and a lot of favorable current to get here before sunset. There are only four other cruising boats in the anchorage, including Gabian, who came the same day as us from Fatu Hiva, and Wind Weaver, who we last saw in the Galapagos. The unknown boats are the only ones with stern anchors out. The swell hasn't been too bad, but John finally put the rocker stopper out today to help cut down the roll a bit. Since technically we're in "quarantine" until we get checked in with Immigration and the rest of the officials, we've confined ourselves to the boat and only make short trips to the wharf area to do laundry and take showers. There's an easy stone and mud launch ramp by the outrigger canoe club that we use to wheel the dinghy out of the water. There's an open shower right there, and across from the "visitor's center" (which is rarely open according to our friends) is an enclosed shower with a tiled outdoor counter with a faucet (for fish cleaning?) with plenty of (only slight muddy) fresh running water where we've done two buckets of laundry each day. We shower on shore because the water in the anchorage is a little muddy looking, and because it's nice to get under lots of free fresh water when we have the chance!

Tomorrow we'll take care of the business of checking in and see what the town has to offer. This is still a small place with only a couple of thousand people so we're not looking for much in the way of entertainment or shopping. I'm looking forward to trying the local bread and maybe some cheese. We aren't in love with eating pamplemousse yet (I was expecting something like a sweet grapefruit, but they're like big mild lemons) - maybe we just haven't gotten a really good one. Once we get checked in and do some internet, weather permitting, we'll probably take off for a prettier place, though this has been a nice opportunity to sit tight and catch our breath.

Linda and John