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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008 - Hiva Oa

Today is Friday. The anchorage at Hiva Oa is getting rougher by the day, something to do with the full moon coming. Sitting on the back deck watching the sun set and the waves crashing violently to the rocky shore reminds us of a famous lighthouse picture. The sound is unbelievable and when the surf slams the shore it shoots some 40 - 50 ft. up into the air. Spectacular to watch, but no so comfortable when sitting on your boat while it swishes this way and that, or when trying to dinghy to shore.
We love sitting out at night watching the stars; we can see the Big Dipper in the northern sky, and the Southern Cross in the southern sky. When the moon is not too bright the Milky Way is so clear! We have watched dozens of falling/shooting stars flash across the night sky, and feel privileged to be graced with this opportunity. We remain among the minority as nationalities go, and of the 15 + boats anchored here we are the only Americans that we know of. Going to shore is more taxing here
than at any previous anchorages. Although we use a stern anchor on the dinghy when going to the concrete dock, the poor thing just takes a beating when the tide is coming or going. We have heard that this bay has a large shark population so we really don't want to lose our footing! We are heading to town to stock up on fresh veggies and some groceries before our expedition to the tiki gardens. By the way, we bought eggs yesterday for over $6.00/doz! You just can't think about the prices or you
will go insane. We haven't spent any money in over a month, so we can live with it. This island, as do the rest, depends upon the supply ship that arrives once a month for most of their goods. They do bake fresh baguettes daily which are available at several spots, including the gas station up by the dock.

By 9:00 AM we were stocked and ready for the drive. The first part was so beautiful! It looked as though God had just scooped up handfuls of every type of vegetation and flowering seed and threw it down on this island during its creation. Along the drive we saw ferns mixed with palms, mixed with moss, mixed with pine trees, hibiscus, bougainvilleas, exotic flowers as you would see in Hawaii, cactus, and so on. There were goats, horses and chickens all about. The road went from pavement to dirt
to near solid rocks as we wound up and down, navigating hairpin turns, and was very narrow much like the road to Hana, in Maui. As we passed through to the northern, (leeward) side of the island, the terrain became more rocky, dusty and steep. At times, my heart beat wildly and nearly right out of my chest as Frank negotiated some of the curves while the road angled sharply downward, and we would lose traction. I kept thinking that "treacherous" was too kind a word for this road. We passed several
beautiful bays that just glimmered in the sunlight with hues that we cannot describe, and which took my mind off of the sputtering of my heart! We finally hit a paved road as we made the last skidding turn when we neared the village of Iipona in Puamao bay. We saw the copa drying sheds and began looking for the restaurant, Marie Antoinette. They only cook for the number of guests who have reserved a spot, and they only open if they have patrons booked. It is very small - only 4 long tables.
Ours was set and waiting for us, laden with a standard Marquesan feast. We do not know what some of the food was. These folks spoke no English, but the waiter oinked to tell us one dish was pig (probably wild), and made bleating goat noises to tell us another was goat (these also run wild around the island), there was some raw fish marinated in lime & coconut milk with onion and cabbage much like ceviche , a plate of rice, something that we think was breadfruit cottage fries, bananas cooked two
different ways and something made from coconut that was the size of a small sausage patty, but sweet. Everything was tasty and the meats were covered in delicious sauces, however, we found that they just cook the animal whole and then chop it up bone and all so we had to take care when eating the meat. Behind the restaurant was the gravesite of a descendant of the queen, with two tikis marking the tomb. We took pictures and then went to the ruins. They lay amidst beautiful gardens and are amazingly
well preserved. The area had four nearly intact large tiki statues plus one suspended as though in flight amid a sanctuary, terraces and alters. Some were used for prayer and some for human and animal sacrifices. One had a good petroglyph on the corner. We walked around, took pictures, posed with tikis and then headed back for the 2 hour hair pulling, gnashing of teeth drive back to the bay.

Upon arrival at the bay we found that the surge was getting worse and our stern anchor had let loose leaving our boat in peril of being slammed up onto shore. We hurriedly secured her, returned the rental car and took 4 hour turns at anchor watch. Had it not been such a beautiful night I might have minded, but I enjoyed my watch until the grinding started. I looked at the depth gage and saw that we only had a 1.5 ft. clearance. I could not tell whether our anchor was rubbing rocks on the bottom
or if Destiny's hull was scraping. At first light we shot right out of there, headed for Tahuata Island just a few miles away.

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