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Friday, August 14, 2009

Out of Atuona

We finally extricated ourselves from the bright lights and fresh baguettes of Hiva Oa today by making a short hop (10 nm) to an anchorage on neighboring Ile Tahuata. We're now at an unoccupied (except for our friends on Wind Weaver) small bay with a steep white sand beach backed by palm trees, a barbed wire fence, and a blue sign with "Propriete Prive - Tabu" (I can't type the accents over the "e"s) in white letters at the entrance to the buildings. It will take a walk on the beach to see exactly what the buildings are for, but they look a little primitive through the binoculars. The water is a beautiful blue green, and John could see the anchor lay over on the sand in 25'. I can't wait to go snorkeling. There's a nice breeze blowing and a little swell rolling in, but not enough to put out the rocker stopper yet.

On Tuesday we made a follow up trip into town to fax our paperwork for the new main sail to FedEx in Papeete. We were shocked that the cost of a four page fax was 980 CFP when it only cost around 475 CFP to airmail a CD to an address in Australia. We made the obligatory visit to the Gauguin and Brel grave sites in the local cemetery, but balked at the 600 CFP per person charge to enter the Gauguin exhibit at the Cultural Center (plus another 500 CFP to see the Brel exhibit) in town. Instead we spent our francs on brie, baguettes, beignets, and croissants and had a picnic lunch in the big square (tohua). We walked back to the short-cut trail down to the beach where we'd left the dinghy this time, making the walk into town half as long as it is to leave from the wharf.

We met Ed and Neela on the catamaran Quixotic and exchanged happy hours first on their boat Tuesday and then on Nakia Wednesday evening. We agreed to share a half day rental of a four-wheel drive Suzuki Samurai ($80 USD) on Thursday to visit the Iipona ti'i (tiki) site at Puamau, a two hour road trip which puts both Lombard St. and the Hana Highway to shame. Most of the road is unpaved switchbacks with several ongoing improvement projects (including a snazzy European style cement roundabout). Ed gave us an E ticket ride with lots of stops for pictures, and we really enjoyed the open air experience of the Samurai. With the top off the back seat I could look up at the amazing trees and smell the change from tropical jungle to pine forest as we gained altitude. By 2 PM when we arrived in Puamau the magasin was closed but four ladies were playing cards at the snack shop where we stopped for a Coke and to ask directions. We payed our 300 CFP per person entrance fee and continued on up the road to the site.

This was our first visit to an archeological site and it's sure to have spoiled us for others since, according to our Lonely Planet guide, this is one of the finest to be found "in the Marquesas, if not all of French Polynesia." It was multi-levels of grass and stone with a grouping of the five most important figures on the top platforms. The landscaping surrounding the site and in between the levels was lovely and we took many pictures which will eventually make it on to our Picasa link. Puamau also boasts a big sandy beach and is another charming village, all the more so for being in such a remote location.

We made it back to Atuona with time to spare on the car rental and decided to take the turn into the Tehueto Petroglyph site. This turned out to be an overgrown jungle version of a "road" including muddy spots and green plants brushing the sides of the car. After passing a house with a barking dog, we came to a fork in the road and took the direction with the most recent tire tracks visible (left), but finally called it quits before having to cross some seriously deep water. The papaya trees along the way were loaded with fruit but we resisted temptation, and headed back out to the paved road to get home before sunset.

Linda and John