Monday, July 14, 2008

Hiking to Hakahetau

We’ve spent several days in Hakehau, the largest village on Ua Pou. It is a small and shallow bay, tucked into a deep valley and rimmed by lava plugs forming a series of sharp spires. This is the 3rd largest town in the Marquesas, with 1000 inhabitants. We anchored and tied up to the wharf, stern to, to cut down on the rocking swell that's become a nuisance.

The next day we hired a guide, Jérôme, a former French Marine, to take us on a hike to Hakahetau, a small bay across the northern ridge to other side of the island. Along the way he spun local lore and stopped to explain the plants we saw and their traditional uses: for weaving, construction, food, perfumes and medicinal purposes. After some cardiovascular uphill climbing, we found relief on the way down the other side of the ridge at the base of a waterfall. We were not alone, accompanied by mosquitoes and chevreuils, freshwater shrimp. We hear they’re partial to coconut. No eels made their presence known, but we did learn about a recent run-in with one. There are two waterfalls near the village of Hakahetau, one used by men, and the other by women. The elders of the village have passed down the belief that men cannot swim in the women’s pool or they will be attacked by the white eel that lives there. The current mayor of the village decided to disprove this old-wives tale and went swimming in the forbidden pool, only to be bitten, naturally, by an eel.

We strolled through a replica traditional Marquesan village and then stopped for lunch with Pierrot and Rose, a Franco-Marquisan couple that have settled in Ua Pou and started a small restaurant there. Jerome’s wife, Elisa, drove their truck around to pick us up for the return to Hakehau. The return drive took us along the coast, past Shark Bay, where sharks congregate to feed on the poor unsuspecting baby octopuses born there. We didn’t go swimming.

The next day we lazed about, and ended up entertaining a gang of boys spending their Sunday afternoon at the beach. A couple boys paddled over; these were joined by their friends, and they used the boat as their diving platform. We struck a deal with the boys: whoever brings us the most fruit would earn a movie DVD (Ben had brought a few rip-offs from China).

Then we prepared to say our goodbyes to the Marquesas, bound for the Tuamotu Archipelago, a passage of a few days and ~ 500 miles. There we will be negotiating narrow passes, referencing current and tide tables, navigating around heads of coral and anchoring in tranquil lagoons. More to come…

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