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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hapatoni, Tahuata

Not wanting to crash the Aranui 3 BBQ lunch at Hapatoni, we ate our own lunch on Nakia and then took the dinghy to the concrete quay (where there is no fresh water faucet). In spite of the slippery launch ramp we pulled the dinghy out of the water, but for subsequent visits we brought a stern line and tied it off to the quay. We were pleased to find tables of handicrafts lined up along the road in front of the BBQ site. The work here is quite different, with not only wood carving but also bone, and combinations of wood and sword fish bills. They are also noted for combination wood and stone carvings, but we saw none of these on display. The work is all very similar, but one young man's items stood out from the rest and we asked his name and the location of his house in order to pay him a visit the next day. We took a short walk down the road to visit the small church and the archeological site above the cemetery. I enjoyed gawking at the tourists since we don't see many other Westerner's with all the cruiser's being out ahead of us.

We are actually anchored in a smaller lobe of the bay to the north of Hapatoni called Hanatefau, just off a small shack above the beach. We dropped in 50' on a sandy bottom and other than a couple of wickedly gusty first nights, we're enjoying this anchorage. It's the first place we haven't had to put out the rocker stopper, and we're the only ones here (all the inhabited houses are down in the village about half a mile away). When we first got in the water to snorkel it seemed very boring until we found the big rock. This proved very interesting with many fish and urchins. John always goes in for a closer look than I do and when he finally figured out where to look for cowries, we started seeing them everywhere. It's like an Easter egg hunt and makes things more interesting. He's only been able to find one empty shell intact (at Hanamoenoa), and we still can't bring ourselves to take a live one. I spotted a small octopus, but only because I saw it free swimming before it plastered itself against the rock and became nearly invisible. Yesterday John pointed out a stone fish glued under a ledge, looking just like part of the rock. He reminded me to be very careful where I put my hands if I want to hold on to the rock anywhere (As if! I try to make a point of not touching anything!). Minutes later he motioned me over to see our first ever lion fish, one of the most poisonous spiny reef fish. Boy, that got my adrenalin going. It too was hiding under a ledge, but when we made a later pass of the area it had swum out, still against the rock, and was in its head down, spines pointed out towards us, defense posture. It clearly didn't like us being in the area and we were happy to leave it alone. We continue to be surprised by new and colorful reef fish, and there's even a small sea turtle popping up in the anchorage occasionally.

We visited the village Monday morning with all our trading gear to look for our favorite carver. But it turned out he was away at the other village for the day so we were out of luck. There were two older men carving small, decorative, wood paddles outside and we stopped to admire their work. We decided to take another look at other people's work and were shown various items, but we still didn't see anything that we had to have. As beautifully executed as the work is here, personally I prefer the more colorful crafts of Mexico and South America. But we're staying here for awhile so we may have another opportunity to find something we like.

Yesterday morning we took a three hour round trip hike on the rocky dirt road between Hapatoni and Vaitahu. We got as far as a ridge to the north of our anchorage from which we could see the descent down into the valley to Vaitahu. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs and we enjoyed looking at all the trees and plants, and a very few birds (including wild chickens). For this shore excursion we took the dinghy to the boulder beach and set it out with a stern anchor. We thought it was going to be a difficult landing but somehow everything went well and no one got soaked or hurt, which always makes for a successful trip.

The geocities web site is shutting down soon so we're not sure our location link is still working. If is it is still coming up, I made a mistake in the last blog and entered our current location instead of the anchorage at Vaitahu.

Linda and John