We anchored fore and aft in the little harbour of Atuona and were amazed the next day when a very little boat arrived from South America after 55 days at sea crewed by a very tired looking young couple and an equally tired boat!
We hired a 4 WD drive hilux to explore the island for 2 days managing to drive on every available road as there are not that many! Atuona where Baringo was anchored is on the south of the island so we headed north to the small villages in the bays of the north coast. The roads were mainly concrete but not always so Malcolm took on the task of driver and the 4WD drive was certainly essential. The views were dramatic and the small villages very peaceful and pretty the people still residing without any of the clutter of the modern world. Mangos, bananas, bread fruit (uru) oranges and limes were falling off the laden trees but it was surprisingly difficult to find anyone selling them. There was surprisingly little cultivation although the volcanic soil looks very fertile. We found the well known smiling Tiki buried in the forest and two ancient archeological sites. The first at Lipona near Puamao the first bay we anchored in and another on the south coast the following day Tohua Upeke near Taaoa. They are mainly a series of stone platforms with Tiki statues often under a banyan tree and were formerly places of religious significance but they are still used for festivals of music and dance.
We paid homage to Paul Gauguin and the singer Jacques Brell who are both buried in Hiva Oa. There is also an excellent museum with good reproductions of all his paintings done while in French Polynesia.
We visited the small airport and enjoyed the two restaurants on the islands , it is certainly not generously sprinkled with watering holes! The local food is fish and goat but one restaurant cooked rather excellent pizzas. We finished provisioning visiting all the available supermarkets in the town before we returned the car. That was easy but getting the provisions to the boat in the dinghy from the only usable landing steps was a different story but we succeeded without losing anything to the sea.
We sailed about 10 nm to this adjacent island and anchored in the most glorious bay with a beach of golden sand with only one inhabitant but a few other yachts. The water was crystal clear so snorkeling and swimming were a delight.
John ascended the mast to tighten one of the intermediate shrouds but in the calm sheltered bay it was no problem. We had a good supply of fresh food (and wine) so the days passed very pleasantly. But curiosity won and we moved the next bay Vaitahu which had a small village but we were greeted by fierce 45-50kt katabatic winds to anchor in so rather regretted the move especially as we had to anchor twice to get good holding.
We had a rough first night but the next day the wind settled and we were able to go ashore and explore. There was a beautiful church with impressive stained glass windows, they are usually the focal point of the villages and all the houses and gardens seemed well cared for making strolling around very pleasant.
This was the next island about 45 nm to the SE so we sailed overnight unfortunately into the wind but this was unavoidable. We again arrived the next morning to a welcome of 50 kts headwind trying to get into the small bay Hanaveve better known as the Bay of Virgins. Apparently the original name was the Bay of Verges which means bay of penises in french because of the shape of rocks but this was not to the liking of the missionaries at the time so a redeeming “i” was added or so the story goes ! Anyway it certainly lived up to its original name.
Not long before our arrival there was a snap and the big jenny started to fall slowly as the webbing at the top had frayed after the prolonged use on the crossing with lots of furling and unfurling.
The motor took us into this unusually scenic anchorage so the repairs would have to wait for another day. Again the small village was peaceful and seemed from a different era and the locals although polite are not interested in visitors so there is no pestering. We did the 4 hour hike to the main town Omoa over the hills luckily getting a lift back in a local “tinny” giving a great close up view of the amazing coast line. The walk was quite steep so both ways would have been rather more than needed.
Sadly a dismasted yacht has been abandoned in the bay by its american skipper who left two years before so the vessel was taking up valuable space in the small bay and would eventually sink fouling the anchorage or blow out to sea and become a navigation hazard. We had slightly restless nights with the strong katabatic winds racing down the steep slopes which surrounded the bay .
Hiva Oa ..north coast
We sailed overnight again back to Hiva Oa and had quick stop on the return in Atuona for provisions and the internet neither totally satisfactory but improved by a very good lunch. We then sailed around the west coast and along the north coast to Hanaipa a bay we had explored by car and decided it was beautiful enough to anchor in. Once along the north coast it was a beat into the strong easterly wind but the iron sail did not let us down. We were still without the big jenny but for that trip it was not a big problem although we had to sail downwind to get around the west coast but managed with the reefed main alone as there were 30kts of breeze. At one point we gybed around the famous Aranui 3 which is a 117m supply ship that travels from Tahiti around all the polynesia islands including the Marquesas. It is interesting as the front half looks like a regular cargo ship and the aft like a crusie ship. It is a popular 17 day trip for the passengers.
The trade winds are stronger at this time of the year but most of the yachts have gone through to get to New Zealand so the compensation is that we often have the anchorages to ourselves. We walked to the idyllic next door bay Hanatekuua with golden sands ,turquoise sea and deserted apart from a few villagers, not a parasol in sight. The path is the only land access a 90 minute walk from Hanaipa for which they use horses.
We had much quieter nights here as the surrounding slopes were not as steep .