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Monday, August 10, 2009

Atuona, Hiva Oa

This morning, after learning that a taxi for four people would cost 300CFP per person, we made the 45 minute walk into town from the anchorage with Eric and Daphne from Wind Weaver. They stopped at the post office to do some internet while we went straight to the gendarmerie to complete our check-in formalities. We gave the English speaking policeman copies of our bond exemption letters from Latitude 38 and filled out two forms, and he gave us back the original Customs Declaration form for us to mail to Tahiti. No money changed hands and John is still shaking his head at how simple and completely painless it was. We owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Turpin of Latitude 38 and Michel Alcon, Director of the Tahiti Yacht Club, for arranging the bond exemption for all pre-registered Puddle Jump boats. This saved us the huge headache of setting aside funds (up to $2,000 per person) to cover the normal cost of airfare back to your home country in the event that the French need to kick you out of Polynesia. We are now officially in the country and have only to show our copy of the Customs Declaration form to the local gendarme at each island we visit.

Then we were off to the bank to get some CFPs to pay for the stamp to mail the form. The ATM issued my 10,000 CFP withdrawal in one 10,000 CFP note and when we went inside the bank to change it to smaller denominations there was a huge long line with no telling where it began or ended (people were just lining the walls). So we headed off to the magasins (tiendas) in the off chance that they would break our big bill on a small purchase. We carefully selected two 454 g. tins of New Zealand butter (223 CFP ea.), two 1 Kg. boxes of flour (136 CFP ea.), two chocolate croissants (130 CFP ea.), two chocolate beignets (145 CFP ea.), and two 29" baguettes (64 CFP ea.). The clerk rang it all up and didn't bat an eye when I handed him the 10,000 note! That would never happen in Latin America. We met up with again with Eric and Daphne who said, oh, that wasn't the biggest store with the most selection, so we decided to try breaking another big bill which John had pulled from the ATM. This time we bought garlic and packets of crackers and cookies for a grand total of 1,274 CFP, and the clerk broke another 10,000 CFP note. This is a great country!

By this time we were starving and after scarfing down the croissants and beignets, they were so good I had to go back and get more for tomorrow's breakfast. Then we stopped at one of the vegetable trucks we'd passed on the street and finally hit sticker shock. 1,400 CFP for two cabbages, six tomatoes, and six green peppers. We don't know what the breakdown was so maybe there's something we'll have to avoid (the tomatoes?) next time. And forget about buying fruit anywhere - they all have it growing on trees in their yards.

Our last stop was the post office to buy the stamp to mail the Customs form to Papeete but, it being a Monday, there was another huge long indeterminate line. Since we were loaded down with purchases we decided to return tomorrow to complete that chore and do some sightseeing. The walk back to the anchorage seemed much longer with all the stuff we were carrying in shopping bags. Not having planned to do so much shopping we hadn't brought a backpack with us. And apparently there's a new rule/law that either prohibits picking up hitchhikers and/or carrying people in the bed of a truck, because no one stopped to offer us a ride in either direction. By the time we got back to the boat we were so hungry that we ate an entire baguette with two of our new tomatoes and some cheese!

I've been very impressed by how well dressed the locals are. I noticed in Fatu Hiva that the men and boys were mostly wearing nice board shorts, and some of the women dancers were wearing expensive looking workout tops. I don't feel we stand out here like we did in Latin America where there is so much extreme poverty. Except for the kids asking for candy and pens in Hana Vave we haven't been approached by anyone asking for anything, even out on the boat which is especially nice. And we are still loving the warm days and cool nights. Last night we had a good boat wash and even collected a few liters of rain water. So far we haven't been bothered by any bugs other than the orange wasps that like to explore the boat, but even Ziggy knows to stay away from those now.

Linda and John