Listen, I like a white sand beach as much as anyone else, but I was starting to worry that we were never going to leave this place. When Andrew and Leslie swam to shore to have a picnic on the beach with a group of new friends, I considered dragging my anchor to inspire migration. I had not yet hatched my plan when they returned, cleaned up ship and raised anchor. We headed out to sea for a full moon sail to the most populated island in the Marquesas: Nuku Hiva. Andrew couldn’t sleep, and Leslie couldn’t stay awake. We arrived in Taihaoe Bay with the morning sun. Andrew and Leslie set to work building a number contraptions: the forward sun shade, the flopper stopper (a gadget designed to stop me from rolling back and forth in the waves), and of course, Grin. This time, they even installed the outboard motor. Maybe we can shake this ridiculous reputation as the “Rowersons.” The sun breaks through the clouds and causes the sheer green cliffside to glow with a silver sheen. We can hear native drumming ashore, and the town looks promising. Andrew is fairly certain he can find a beer over there. Everything is set up and they are ready to go exploring. Andrew hops into Grin and tries to start the outboard. Andrew pulls and pulls and pulls on the cord, but each time, the outboard just spins and grinds to a halt. The humidity and sweat pouring from Andrew’s face begins to puddle in Grin’s bilge; Andew’s shirt is soaked through. Grin rocks erratically in the swell, knocking Andrew to and fro. The engine has not been started for three months, and it has traveled over 6000 miles in salt water spray. I know how it is. Sometimes, you just need some love. I settled into my post passage nap, figuring Andrew will have Grin fired up in no time. But three hours later, Grin had been renamed “The Boat of Punishment” and Andrew remained at work. Leslie stands in my cockpit with Andrew’s tool bag, and a look of concern. Grin bounces and heaves on his painter line about ten feet from my stern. “Pass me my carburetor spray,” Andrew demands. Leslie hunts down the carburetor spray, pulls Grin closer, and hands over the spray; “Pass me my hammer,” hunt, pull, hand over. This continues on for at least another hour. All of us were beginning to lose hope; we are going to be the Rowersons again after all. Then, with a puff of exhaust and a stutter, the outboard motor fired up. Cheers of “Hazzahhh!” echoed across the bay, and everyone was instantly in a better mood. Leslie tossed two giant bags of garbage to Andrew, and jumped into Grin to head to shore. I watch as they zoom, then “sputter-sputter,” then zoom, then “sputter-sputter.” I don’t know about Grin. He seems a little eccentric.
Ostrika and her crew cleared out of Puamau early the next morning to head to Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva is a windward island of the Marquesas and is the most frequently photographed bay in the Marquesas. Some boats sneak in to see it before they legally clear into the Marquesas through Hiva Oa. I am a rule follower, so we didn’t sneak in. We figured we could sail the thirty miles windward if we wanted to, legally, after we check in. But, as Ostrika headed off to do just that, we looked at our charts and it seemed like a long, rough sail. Winds were predicted at 25 – 30 knots directly out of the Fatu Hiva’s direction. Is it really worth it? All of these bays are gorgeous; should we beat up Sonrisa and ourselves trying to sail upwind to another gorgeous bay just because it is photographed in sailing magazines? We decide instead to head back toward Tahuata, Hiva Oa’s neighboring Island. We sail downwind in the lee of Hiva Oa, covering in one day the same path that took us four days to sail up wind. The wind lightened up as we neared the point of Hiva Oa, so we decided to stop for the afternoon/night in Hanamenu Bay. We stayed in this bay the first night we left Atuona, but we did not do any exploring. This time, Andrew and I unfolded Grin and rowed ashore. There, we found a little village but no people. The buildings are boarded up, but there are various items around that seem to indicate people use the buildings every now and then: fresh paint cans, bottles, clothing on laundry lines. It’s weird, maybe they are weekend homes? I would be creeped out, but the guidebooks all said this is what we would find, and everything was fine the first night we stayed here. We walk down a little path and into the jungle where we find breadfruit trees, lime trees and mango trees. It’s not mango season, but a few perfectly ripe mangos have fallen off the trees and are just lying on the ground waiting to rot. Their skin is red, fading to pink, orange, and then yellow, just like a sunset. We wipe them off and bite in. The juice dribbles out of the fruit, warm from lying in the sun. Sweet and floral, these are easily the most delicious mangos I have ever tasted. We follow the sound of a burbling waterfall to find a fresh water pool doused in sunshine and surrounded by breadfruit trees, coconut palms, and flowers. We put our feet in. The water is crisp and cold, a stark contrast to the humidity in the air. Andrew plays with a curious crawfish until he gets pinched, then he searches for a fresh coconut on the ground. I am eaten alive by noseums (pronounced “no-see-‘ems), these tiny bugs pack a punch. Even my thick layer of Off bug cream is doing nothing to dissuade them, and now I am itchy. Back aboard Sonrisa, the solitude is complete. There are no other people, boats, or even birds around. There is nothing but the sound of waves crashing on the beach, a clear sky and cool air. This anchorage made for a perfect night’s sleep. The next morning, we upped anchor early to make our next landfall at Hanamoenua on Tahuata. We have heard rumor that this bay is a perfect white sand beach, with water that is clear and safe for swimming. The wind is perfect, and we have a quick sail around the point of Hiva Oa. When we clear the point, the wind comes up and up and up! 20 knots, 25 knots, 30 knots, 35 knots. We are bouncing along at 6.5 knots of boat speed, triple reefed (main sail as short as it goes), and the little jib for our front sail. A wave hits Sonrisa’s port (left) side and leaps into the air. As if in slow motion, Andrew and I both watch helplessly, pinned down in our beanbags by the rush of water. In an instant, the wave fills the cockpit and the scuppers drain it back into sea. Andrew and I are soaked. Everything on deck is salty and wet. Luckily, all our hatches were locked down, and Sonrisa was dry as a bone below. We shorten the jib further using the roller furling, and just about the time we calm down from our dousing, we hear an explosion. Out of the corner of my eye I see boat parts flying downwind into the sea spray. “What was that?!” Andrew yells above the din of wind and waves. I look up from where I saw pieces flying. Our wind generator fan is destroyed, with only one blade left swooping in the gusts. We have extra blades, but the explosion took the nose cone with it. We do not have an extra nose cone. Hopefully, it is just for decoration? Lordy! This was just supposed to be an easy little day sail from one anchorage to another. “I wonder if Ostrika made it to Fatu Hiva all right?” Just as I say it, Andrew spots Ostrika on the AIS pulling into the same anchorage we are headed toward. They get settled, then hail us on VHF. We ask them if the anchorage is calm and protected as planned. The anchorage is on the lee
Source: Tahuata Bound
As soon as the anchors were down and we were all satisfied that Sonrisa and Ostrika would stay put, Patrick and Paula pick us up in their dinghy. We head toward the beach, but stop and hover just behind the breaking waves. Searching for a good place to land, we consider the possibility of turning sideways and being rolled by a crashing wave. Landing a dinghy on the beach is not easy with crashing waves, and sometimes, it’s just down right impossible. We are loaded with four gallon bottles of gasoline for Mario, four people and a heavy outboard motor, all of which will be doused in salt water and strewn upon the beach upon a single misstep. Patrick makes the wise choice, turns about and heads to the sketchy looking dinghy dock on the other side of the bay. We arrive, unload the fuel and people onto the dock. Patrick throws out a stern anchor to keep the dinghy from knocking into the rough rock wall of the dock, and we begin our hike to town. Soon, we come upon a group of seven young men on the beach. They inquire as to our purpose in Puamau, and when Patrick explains we are going to visit Mario, they all hoot and holler “Mario! Woo, lucky Mario!” Pointing at Andrew and Patrick they say “You can go see Mario, but these two (pointing to Paula and me) have to stay here!” They laugh, and high five each other. Two break away and introduce themselves as Ben and Neil. We shake their hands and repeat “Ben and Neil” pronouncing Neil as one would typically pronounce Neil, with the long “E”. Neil shakes his head, “No, no, it’s Nail” he said with a long “A”. I repeat “Nail”, but then he says: “No, no it’s Nell” he said, with a flat “e”. I repeat Nell, then we go through the series of three again, each time with him saying “no, no, no.” Eventually, I just give up and say: “Ohhh, I got it!” even though I didn’t really get it, “Enchante!” (Pleased to meet you in French.) He smiles and falls in step with us. He insists on taking the bottles of gasoline, because he is “very fit.” He carries forward up the road lifting the bottles in either hand like he is doing bicep curls. I see “N-E-I-L” tattooed in large letters on the back of his forearm. There, that explains things. Ben and Neil-Nail-Nell escort us to Mario’s yard, where there are a few more people gathered around a boombox playing what sounds like peppy, dance club music with an island beat. Neil-Nail-Nell asks me if I like dancing to music like this. I agree it sounds like good dance music. Mario emerges from his house with abig smile. He greets Paula and I with the french “kiss-kiss” on our cheeks then shakes Andrew and Patrick’s hands. “I am so happy you all returned! Today is a special day. Would you like to try whale steaks?” Apparently, that morning eight sperm whales (“Cachaloe” in French) beached themselves and died. This phenomena is rare; the last time it happened here was ten years ago. There isn’t anything the locals can do to help the whales. So, the locals cut out as much meat as they can reasonably store or eat, and then bury the whales on the beach. Mario was excited to cook up his set of steaks and share them with us. Mario set to work cutting up the steaks. I asked him if there was anything I could do to help. He placed a butcher’s cleaver and eight cloves of garlic on top of a round slice of wood. He instructed me to mince the garlic cloves, and so I did. In Mario’s open air home/kitchen, on top of a cutting board that was nothing more than a slice of a coconut tree, I minced garlic while Mario and I chatted. It was just like being at home in my kitchen, preparing dinner for party guests. Soon, Mario looks over at my minced garlic, and he smiles a large smile. “Impeccable!” he says. “You must cook for Andrew?” I’m not sure what he expected, but my mincing skills seem to be up to snuff. I scoop the garlic off the cutting board with the knife and slide the pieces into his bowl. He adds soy sauce and olive oil, whisks it together, then lets it sit. He pours oyster sauce over the bright red, lean whale meat and instructs me to mix the oyster sauce into the whale using my hands. I stick my hands into the pan and turn the meat over in the sauce, making sure everything is evenly covered. Mario pours a little of the garlic/soy sauce mixture on top. We leave the whale to sit and marinate for a couple of hours. Everyone sits around the boombox smoking hand rolled cigarettes and trying to communicate alternately using the Marquesan, French and/or English words they know. Neil-Nail-Nell, Ben and another friend of a similar age are entranced by my “exotic blue eyes.” They ask me how old I am and when I tell the 34, they smile. I ask them how old they are, and they tell me 24. They want to know if I have any single sisters who will eat whale, too. They are shy and sp
Source: The Dinner Whale
After our long day of rowing, we wake up feeling sufficiently provisioned and fueled for at least a few weeks. I give the internet one last try, but it still won’t work. I am also very tired of rowing. Our plan is to hit several anchorages on our way back to Puamau (where Mario lives) to see about that pig hunt. We hang our bananas from the stern arch, weigh anchor, and say a loving goodbye to Atuona. The wind is up, and we have a brisk sail through pass between Hiva Oa and its next door island, Tahuata. For the first time, Andrew and I feel like we are “cruising”. Hanamenu Bay is our first anchorage destination chosen purely for exploration. Previously, all our destinations were “on the route,” chosen because they take us further along our path. This first anchorage is on the leeward (dry) side of the island; we set our anchor between large black cliffs covered in golden vegetation. A black sand beach is nestled at the furthest point inside the anchorage, with a handful of abandoned huts. Our friends on Ostrika invite us over for sundowner cocktails. The next morning, we up anchor early for a 10 mile, upwind sail to the next anchorage: Hanaipai. We can’t help but fire up some Stevie Miller Band and set our sails for maximum speed. We have to catch Patrick and Paula in their 55 foot Oyster! The waves are not too large, and the wind is piping at 20-25 knots. We set our jib, a small corner of our genoa and a triple reefed main sail. This set maximizes our ability to point high without being blown sideways and heel over too much. I hand steer so we can maximize our speed on the wind shifts — and just for fun. I start our tack at about 60 degrees off the wind, build speed, then use that speed to climb higher into the wind (and point more directly at our destination) until we start to lose speed. Then, I fall off again to gather speed. We successfully keep an average of 6 knots and keep up with our bigger/faster friends. We pass by a running waterfall and sheer cliffs as we enter a lush, green anchorage with brilliant blue water. Sonrisa lets down her anchor with salt spray in her hair and a big smile on her face. The next day, we set sail again for another quick upwind beat, this time, to an anchorage with clear water and a white sand beach. Finally, water that is safe for swimming. We swim over to the beach, explore a bit, and snorkel with some colorful fish. Andrew scrapes off the green slime and small animals that are growing on Sonrisa’s hull above her antifouling paint. She is relieved to be looking pretty again. We invite Ostrika’s crew over for dinner. I prepare a small hen served in sauce made with bacon, shallots, carrots, celery seed, saffron, and green olives served over brown rice, and Andrew experiments with a bread pudding for dessert. We serve the hen with a Chardonnay from our shakedown run to Santa Barbara in April 2015, and the bread pudding with a bottle of Dolce we bought on a trip to Napa Valley with Katrina Harris and Jamie White in 2012. Today, we are the version ourselves we like best: enjoying nature, cooking for friends, and sailing. We wait out a storm for a second day in this anchorage, safely tucked away. It rains so much that we gather enough fresh water to clean Sonrisa’s decks, do a large load of laundry (now how to dry?), and take two fresh water showers. Otherwise, Sonrisa bobbed safely in place on her anchor. Andrew swims despite the rain. Everything is wet, so may as well go swimming. I stay below, process pictures, and look longingly at the pretty beach just outside our window. I’m try to cling to my dry status as best I can, but sweat is the other option inside Sonrisa with her hatches closed. When the sun clears the next day, we romp forward on another upwind leg to Puamau. All in all, it took us four days to cover twenty five miles around the island and end up back at the same place we reached in two hours via vehicle just a few days ago. We took the “scenic route.”
There are some excellent pictures, which you can see by clicking the link above this line.
“Hey! Aren’t you the rowers?” Having been anchored in Atuona Bay for five days now, we are gaining a reputation amongst the cruisers. We are the “Rowers”. Each morning, we hop into Grin, grab our oars and get started. We don’t have anyone beating a drum or crying “Row! Row! Row!” but maybe we should. We paddle twenty minutes to the dock, and tie up for the day to explore. We repeat the process in reverse to go back to Sonrisa each night. Sometimes, we need to return to the boat mid-day to change clothes, deliver groceries, or otherwise sort ourselves out. This means that we paddle out and back, out and back, twenty minutes each way. By the end of each row, my shoulders and back are burning like mad; at the end of each day they feel like heavy rubber. One would think that if we wanted to be the “rowers” we would position Sonrisa as close the dinghy landing as possible. No. In addition to being the “rowers” we are also “l’ultimo velero” or “the last sailboat.” At every anchorage since the start of this voyage, we have anchored at the very back. In the Galapagos, whenever we jumped on a water taxi we would request they take us to “l’ultimo velero” and they would groan. We would typically tip them a little extra. As we slowly row through the anchorage, cruisers stick their heads out of their boats to see what is going on. Two retired guys from Washington State actually call across the water: “Hey! We are wondering: Don’t you have an outboard?” We explain that we do, and that it is working just fine. “Well, ok, why don’t you park your boat closer to land?” This is such a good question! And the only reason I can identify is that we are lazy. You see, when we first arrived at Atuona, the anchorage was full of boats. Over the course of the week, many boats have left and we had plenty of opportunity to up our anchor and move closer to land. Each time we saw a new opening, though, we would ponder the move and decide Sonrisa is comfy right where she is. Her anchor is nicely settled into place, and if the weather suddenly shifted we have an easy escape. No one else wants to lay their anchor down on top of ours, so we guarantee Sonrisa will not be tangled. We are also too lazy to put on the outboard. After at least one commute if not two via oar, I would declare that we should put the motor on. But, in the evenings, we were so tired from all the rowing that we didn’t feel like putting the motor on. The next morning, we were fresh and rowing didn’t seem as bad as the process of dangling the motor down from its hoist and wrestling it onto the back of the dinghy in the waves. This series of decisions became really silly on our last day in Atuona. The fuel barge had refilled the tanks at the gas station, so now they could provide us with diesel to feed Sonrisa. There is no fueling dock, though, so we have to fill up by carrying our three jerry cans back and forth between Sonrisa and the gas station. This is a team effort. I hold two funnels stacked on top of each other while Andrew tips the heavy 5 gallon jerry jug just enough to get the fuel flowing into my funnels. Sonrisa’s filling port is on her stern, starboard side, nestled between her pretty teak toe rail and the cockpit combing where her primary winch sits. It’s a little bit awkward to access with jerry jugs, and there is no good place for Andrew or I to really sit or perch. Andrew generally puts one foot on her side deck, one foot in her cockpit and sits on top of the staysail winch. I also put one foot on her side deck and press my knee against the lifelines and her blue splash skirt to push them out of the way. I try to sit on her combing, but the only place available has a cleat that pokes me in the butt. I sit there anyway. Andrew must tip the jerry jug forward with finesse to prevent the fuel from “glugging” and splashing. But finesse is not so easy when Sonrisa is pitching and rolling in the waves. I end up doused in diesel. It takes about ten minutes to drain a five gallon jug, so after thirty minutes of draining and another ten minutes to shift the three jugs around, our jerry jugs are empty and ready for a refill. We place the empty jugs into Grin, row twenty minutes to the gas station, throw out the stern anchor, tie Grin up, carry the jugs to the gas pumps, and wait for the attendant to fill them up. Once the jugs are full, they weigh approximately forty pounds each. We pay, lug the jugs back to Grin, row Grin and her additional one hundred twenty pounds of fuel back to Sonrisa, hoist the jugs onto Sonrisa’s deck, tie Grin up to Sonrisa, and repeat the process of emptying the jerry jugs again. Luckily, we only used half of Sonrisa’s fuel tank on our trip across the Pacific. We only had to repeat thi
Source: The Rowersons
“God meant for man to meet and talk together. Only mountains are to stay separate.” Mario My hard work obtaining the rental car yesterday paid off in spades today. We were rewarded with one of those life experiences we will never forget. We gathered up our new cruising friends – Patrick and Paula on Ostrika – and piled into our four wheel drive, manual transmission, Toyota, Diesel Truck. We heard the dirt road to Puamau is narrow and steep with switchbacks on the edge of a cliff. Given that my manual transmission skills are more well practiced than Andrew’s, I am elected as helmsman. This suits me just fine, as I am a control-freak and somewhat fearful of heights. It’s best that I take the helm. The road swoops and turns along the edges of the island, paved at first. We enjoy views of the ocean and tropical vegetation. As we climb higher, the ridge line changes to windswept grasses and, oddly enough, pine trees. Apparently, one of the French people who moved here years ago missed their pine trees, and decided to plant them on the tropical island. It is very odd to see pine trees mixed with palm trees. The road becomes more and more narrow. When another car approaches, we are forced to pull far along the side of the hill to allow them to pass by. Soon, we are driving in places where the road is only one car width wide and on either side is a cliff that drops straight to the ocean. There are no guard rails here, not even a warning sign. Presumably the locals figure you are smart enough to know how to stay on the road, and if not, well the world had no use for you anyway. How many tourists have been lost to this cliff, I wonder? We follow the road up and down. In many of the valleys we pass through tiny villages with a handful of brightly painted houses, bananas drying on a line, dogs resting in the shade and goats and chickens roaming freely. We can see evidence of honey production, but each time we stop to ask if we can buy honey and fruit there is none available for one reason or another. As we arrive in Puamau a man on a horse gallops toward us, waving and smiling. I stop. “Is he waving at us?” We all look, but there is no one else around. I am stopped in the middle of the road, so I creep forward a bit, and he waves more frantically. I stop again. He arrives at the window. “Bonjour! Vous etes avec tres hommes Francais?” Are we with the three French guys? No. What three French guys? Luckily, Patrick from Switzerland is fluent in French. The man on the horse and Patrick have a conversation that I cannot follow with my significantly more humble French. Patrick explains to us that the man (Mario) has three French-men living with him for the week and he thought maybe we were coming to see them. They are up in the hills gathering coconuts. We tell Mario that we do not know the French men, and that we are traveling here to see the famous Tiki. Mario’s eyes brighten. He offers to take us there. We will stop at his house to get lime water for the coconut-gathering-Frenchmen, then we will go to the Tiki. The plan sounds reasonable enough. We also ask if Mario knows where we can buy some fruit, and his eyes brighten even further. “No, NO!” Mario speaks a million miles per hour, and I cannot understand until Patrick translates: “He says he will not let us buy any fruit. He will give us fruit from his land, because he loves his land and he would love to give us fruit.” Ok, that works, too. Mario turns his horse (Spirit) around and taps him lightly on the behind with a little stick. Spirit romps away, and I follow in the truck. We climb up a little hill and turn left into a driveway. Mario waves me forward until I am parked not in the driveway, but on his grass directly in front of his house. Mario jumps down from Spirit and quickly makes his way into his kitchen. He returns with a bottle of lime water and a little silver bowl filled with fish and coconut milk: Poisson cru. He offers it to us and indicates that we should pick some fish out with our hands. “You first,” Paula says. Mario picks some out for himself, eats. We all pick some out and eat. I am hoping I do not die. I taste salt, garlic, fish and creamy, sweet coconut milk. The coconut milk is thick and flavorful, not at all like the stuff from a can. It is delicious. He passes around the lime water, and we all take a taste from the same bottle. I do not know these people! But I did get updated hepatitis shots, so I will probably be ok? Mario takes us around to the back of his yard to show us his own Tiki. Tiki are stone carvings of spirits or gods. Mario explains that his Grandfather owned this land, then his father, and now him. The Tiki lives with the land, and so now this is Mario’s Tiki to care for. The Tiki rests cheerfully beneath a tropical tree, looki
Source: A Drive to Puamau, Hiva Oa
Atuona, Marquisas Islands – My Kingdom For A Rental Car By the morning of day four on Hiva Oa, my sweaty F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out) induced panic reached epic proportions. I tried to relax in Sonrisa’s cockpit with a cup of coffee, but it was to no avail. My throat is tight, my breath short, and my feet are itchy. We have got to get going! You see, once again, the administrative aspects of managing the boat, feeding ourselves and trying to deal with internet have delayed our explorations. How are we supposed to adequately explore 10+ Islands in the Marquesan Island Group, the 70+ Islands of the Tuamotus and reach Papeete, Tahiti by June 24? That is less than one month away, and we are already on Day 4 of only one bay! Just to get from Sonrisa to town takes about an hour given the row and the walk. I am failing. I feel like a failure. I’m not doing this right! After hyperventilating into my brown paper bag, I collect my wits and set a plan for the day. We must find a rental car, so we can traverse the two-hour drive to the other end of the island and see the largest Tiki in all the Pacific Islands (except for Easter Island). Once the rental car is reserved for tomorrow, we will hike to see the petroglyphs that are close to town. Easy enough, right? I have money, the Atuonans have rental cars, this should be a simple transaction. We row the 20 minutes into shore and begin our search at a warehouse we pass on the walk into town. We arrive at 9:30 a.m., and a sign, front and center advertises Atuona Rental Cars. Perfect. We enter the parking lot and look around, but it is desolate. Not a soul in sight. Locks on three doors seem to indicate it is closed right now. “No matter,” we figure, “we will just do our hike to see the petroglyphs and return right before lunch. Someone is bound to be here by then. We walk further up the road and find the trailhead to the petroglyphs. Andrew twitters with excitement as we commence our first jungle hike. He hums the theme song to Indiana Jones. The double track road slowly devolves into mud, crosses a river, and starts onto a footpath overgrown by moss, banana trees, coconut palms, flowers, and plants with leaves so large they could serve as an umbrella. The jungle shade is a welcome reprieve on this hot sunny day, but my feet itch as the mud slurps between my toes. Soon, our path is blocked by a small group of cows. In the US, I have no qualms about walking past our docile, slow cows. Here, though, the cows all have sharp, pointy horns. I imagine them taking chase, head bowed to stab me in the gut, as I wave my red hankie like a conquistador. No, no, I’d rather wait for them to move from the trail. In the meantime, I can observe the pretty jungle. Andrew was not so patient. He repeatedly cajoled them to “MOOOoooo-ve,” but they refused. Eventually, he decided to clamber through vines, tree-fall, thickly growing plants, and spiderwebs to make his way around the cows. I followed. Where is your machete when you need one? Luckily, our path is well marked with jungle rock carins just like on trails at home. I enjoy the familiar touch. At last, we arrive at the petroglyphs carved by ancient Polynesians. We have no idea what they depict or say, but it’s easy to imagine men wearing bone carved into jewelry hammering away at the rock. Upon returning to the road, we try the rental car place again. 11:30 p.m. Now, there is a dog resting by the door, but still no one else there. The sign has a telephone number, but we don’t have a phone. Furthermore, wouldn’t we be calling this building where no one is available? Puzzling, we hike the hill toward our agent, Sandra’s, office. Maybe she can guide us. But, Sandra is not there either. Instead, we meet a fellow cruiser who is using the wifi. He indicates that there is another rental car company at the top of a very steep hill, just after the hotel. Ok, we will try that. We grab a quick lunch at the gas station: baguette, Roquefort blue cheese, and a cold, crisp apple. We note beautiful fresh tuna fillets in a fridge, $5, for purchase at a gas station. We know what is for dinner tonight. Next, we hike up and up and up. And indeed, we find what we are looking for! A group of goats stand beneath a sign reading “ATUONA RENTAL CAR,” just to the left of a driveway. We walk to the house/building at the bottom and find a woman tending to her yard. “Bonjour!” I greet her, “Je voudrai louer un voiture pour demain?” She cocks her head to the side and scowls as if she doesn’t understand. I pantomime me holding on and driving a steering wheel and repeat: “louer, rent?” She scowls again, “Oui, oui, je compris, mais je n’ai pas les voitures ici.” So, she understood my question, but she doesn’t have any cars here. Now, I scowl, puzzling. Wh
Note from Steve: PressThis has changed. Now you get this, instead of a link. So, in the future, this is the format you’ll see from Odd Godfrey.
As we approached the lush green cliffside of Atuona, the bay wrapped Sonrisa in a warm tropical embrace. Sonrisa offered her cheek and received the traditional welcome from her old French friend: “kiss-kiss.” The scent of flowers tickled all of our noses like a sweet perfume. We have arrived after 21 days and 20 hours at sea. We ensure the hook is firmly set, unfold Grin and set to rowing. The anchorage was crowded and we like to reserve an easy escape, so once again we were furthest boat from the dock landing. Row, row, row. We find a spot to land, and step up on the dock. Picking our way up the cement and stone stairway, the land swayed back and forth beneath our feet. “Isn’t this stuff supposed to be stationary?” I ask, my legs and feet confused by the sensation of terra firma. A gas station is the only hint of civilization anywhere near the dock. The rest of town is situated approximately two miles away. We start our walk, and soon we are followed by two young boys (approx. 12 years old) donning flipflops, swim shorts, T-shirts and a “NIKE” backpack. They walk directly behind us, not two feet away. We greet them: “Bonjour,” and they continue to walk directly behind us. Soon, one is picked up by a passing car, and the second one continued to walk. We let him pass us, figuring we are slow and he would like to get by, but he hung back with us. He walked along, stopping at an overlook here or observing a beautiful hibiscus flower there. He didn’t speak a word to us, but played upbeat Polynesian music over his iPhone speaker. Starving, we broke off at the first restaurant and went our separate ways. As we sat at the table, we realized he as giving us a tour! Sorry that I didn’t try out my rusty, broken French with our tour guide, we turned our attention to fresh vegetables. There must be some here somewhere. We read down the menu and select a salad with cheese and a salad with ham, respectiely. It arrives, and it is as satisfying as we hoped: a large pile of fresh lettuce, cabbage, carrots and green peppers, surrounded by a halo of tomatoes and topped with cheese/ham. It was served with a light, tangy dijon vinaigrette, and a bowl of fresh baguette slices. After 22 days at sea with only the food you can carry with you, a fresh pile of cabbage is mana from heaven. As we eat lunch, we see waterfalls begin high atop the lush green cliffs. We are surrounded by flowers and fruit growing wild, everywhere. You can smell the sweetness of rain in the air. The town of 1500 people is small, manicured, clean and friendly. The influence of French and Polynesian cultures blend harmoniously. As you arrive in town, the first thing you see is a large white cross sitting high atop the hillside. The roads and social centers are lined with stone and wood carvings of Polynesian Tikis. Food served at the three restaurants in town include crepes, baguette sandwiches, steak and frites and also goat with coconut milk, poisson cru (raw fish “cooked” in lime juice and coconut milk), and various pig based dishes. Two languages are spoken interchangeably: French and Marquesan. Locals wear flowers in their hair like an American might wear a baseball cap. You hear live drum beats, ukulele-like guitar sounds and singing floating from back yards, schools, patios and military barracks. Sometimes these are solo performances, but most often, they are groups of family/friends gathered together for some music. Locals could be found enjoying the beach, fishing from the marina dock, or soaking in one of many beautiful views. This place is not too shabby. On Saturday morning, our agent Sandra takes us to the Gendarmerie to check into the country. With that bit of business finished, we explored the grocery stores to replenish our dwindling boat stock. All sorts of strange things come in cans here: Pate, butter, cheese. We find some tasty looking meat (both frozen and fresh) including bacon, salami, cornish game hens, sausage, and steaks from New Zealand, rubbed with Herbs de Provence. We load up the backpack, finagle a “taxi” ride (i.e. some guy standing in line at the grocery store that the cashier knew), and row ourselves back out to Sonrisa. We will have to do a few more loads like this. Having learned our lesson from Isabela, we hit the ATM and withdraw cash in bite sized chunks each day. We have heard that the Tuamotus have no ATMs, only operate on a cash basis, and are very expensive. So, we have to plan ahead again. No matter, the good ATM is the only places in town graced with air conditioning. It’s a momentary respite from the sun and humidity. With money, food and land legs replenished, we were ready to do some serious exploring! For dinner, we followed a wave of locals out to the pier. A food truck, and a number of small plastic tab
Source: Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas