On the basis that our next island group, the Tuamotus, are about as remote as you can be in the world and the shopping is near non existent, we have headed back to Hiva Oa to load up. We also need to have decent internet to do some catching up on blog posts, book flights and research vehicles for New Zealand. We timed our visit to coincide with Bastille Day celebrations. Unfortunately with the UK euro vote and its effect on the US Dollar which the French Polynesian currency to tied to, we have returned to civilisation after our lovely time at Tahuata to find everything is now 15% more expensive than it was a month ago.
Bugger. Well done, Middle England.
It was a bit of a blast back through the acceleration zone that is between Tahuata and Hiva Oa but we timed it just about right. We had a slow passage but in flat water as we went through at the tail end of the tide. We arrived at Atuana to find some boats we recognised, most importantly Mary Ann II, who we had last seen a couple of months ago in the Galapagos. We had a quiet night with John, Julia and Murphy catching up with the gossip and to congratulate John in the completion of his circumnavigation whilst he was on route to the Marquesas. An achievement I’d love to emulate one day.
Once we went in to check up on what activities were planned, we got a bit of a surprise. We seem to have landed in the Polynesian equivalent of Scotland. French “occupation” of the Marquesas is a subject that is growing in importance to the islanders. Since the French restarted nuclear tests briefly in the 1990’s, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the perceived offhand approach to control of the island groups. When the tests restarted without consultation, ordered by Jacque Chirac, the Polynesians rioted. The period is best remembered for the troubles on Tahiti but there was trouble on a lot of the islands and a nationalistic sentiment has been maintained here. Although the French eventually backed down, mainly due to the international condemnation of what they were doing, the damage, locally, was done. Whilst most islands do celebrate “Bastille Day” (Fatu Hiva, 35 miles to the S, parties for three days), here on Hiva Oa, they have decided they don’t want to anymore. What they have done this year is have a nationalistic parade to celebrate Marquesian culture a week before 14 Jul, a gala day with no reference to anything historically French on the day (no National Anthem and definitely no French flags) and then another kids parade, a week or so later. There seems to be a large proportion of the population here wanting full independence.
The dancing was great with teams from several nearby villages joining in the fun. Once the dancing finished and the prizes were handed out, the Mayor tried to hold court with the normal politicians “I love the sound of my own voice” chat but the experienced crowd was already moving towards the food tents. I suspect a lot of locals had been attracted to the day’s activities by the promise of free food and drinks which there were in great abundance! We got stuck in too.
We attacked the supermarket here to stock up on essentials and some nice to haves to carry with us into the Tuamotus. We lucked out as well as both the Airenui (the half container ship, half cruise liner we saw in Ua Poa – see that blog entry for a photo) and the normal delivery ship, the Taporo IX, have called in the last week, meaning for once the island is very well stocked.
We shared the cost of a big 4×4 (10000XFP a day) with John and Julie and went exploring. We decided to visit the NE corner of the island where one of the best preserved archaeological sites is. The drive up was long. Only 30 miles but it took over 2 hrs. The roads are rough but reasonably maintained and the time taken was more in caution of their steepness! We stopped at various points to take in the glorious views as we climbed up and over the spine of hills running across the island, separating the N and S coasts. Once you get above 1500’, you have a noticeable change of vegetation with large fir trees predominant.
The various views seen here are all looking N. Note, Dad, your hat is still waiting for your return. H says she didn’t think you would mind her borrowing it for the day. I think that the windswept headland in the panoramic is a crazy place for a hen run but there seemed to be plenty of birds around!