Friday 8th April
Baie Hanamoenoa, we seem to have found the South Pacific we have all this time imagined in our heads. We are anchored in a bay on the North East coast of the island of Tahuata, the only thing that is difficult here is the pronunciation of our location, it is idyllic and the sea is calm. The sun is just rising above the steep hills, casting it’s magic across the bay, the land turns a lush green and the water a bright turquoise. The swell gently rocks the boat and the only noise are the waves breaking on the beach and crashing on the cliffs that form each side of the bay. A small turtle pops his head above the surface nearby, a pod of dolphins swim past out at sea and a pair of white tailed tropic birds guard their nest in the cliffs.
We sailed the short hop from Hiva Oa on Tuesday and after the soil rich water of the anchorage there, it is nice to beable to swim off the boat again. The water is clear and a warm 31 degrees, it envelopes you in a silky caress while being still cool enough to give you respite from the tropical heat. However this is “not a holiday” and before we can rest there are jobs to be done. On arriving in the Marquesas we were shocked to discover that during the crossing we had grown a positive zoo of algae and tiny creatures on our waterline. The three of us, armed with scrapers and brushes, spent a good couple of hours scrubbing the hull to remove, the best we could, of the surprisingly stubborn growth.
With the hull clean the next morning we headed into the beach. The surf pounding onto the sand looked a bit strong to land the dingy so we anchored 100 or so meters off and swam in. The steep beach of golden sand, black rocks and palm trees was picture perfect.
As we walked along the shoreline we discovered there were two shacks nestling in amongst the trees at the back of the beach. The first was a Copra drying shed, Copra is the name for the white meat inside older coconuts, it is laid out to dry in racks and then transported to Tahiti where it is pressed to produce coconut oil. Sale of Copra is the main source of income for the islands and groves of coconut trees can be seen lining the head of every available bay and up amongst the undergrowth covering the coastal hills.
The second was a ramshackle affair belonging to the only resident of the valley, Steven. Steven is a young guy and possibly the most laid back person we have ever met, no hard sell here, just a ka-o-ha (hello) and as you approach, the offer of one of the small sweet bananas they grow here. In a land so abundant he lives on the fruit from his trees and the fish he goes out each night to catch. We sit on the makeshift bench in the shade of the trees, drink the coconut water he offers us and chat. His English is excellent, learnt from cruisers that have gone before us, he must have heard our tale a hundred times before but happily listens anyway and then slowly, he produces items he has for sale. We refuse the offer of a spear fishing trip to catch our supper but buy a pretty string of beads made from coloured seeds and a large bag full of limes, he throws in some green beans and a dozen bananas.
Pleased with our purchases it dawns on us that we now have the problem of getting it all back to the dingy. Kicking on my back I manage to hold it above the water and reach the boat with the bag just a little damp, we set about making some lime lemonade.
Ian leaves us on Monday and the plan is, later today, to sail back to Hiva Oa and anchor in a northern cove so he can see a little more of the Marquesas before he goes. Rick and I however may well return to this lovely place as we explore more of the islands.