Position: 9°22’S, 140°03’W – Ua Pou
Our route from Manihi to the Marquesas Islands covered 500 nautical miles. The trip should have taken us five days going east. However in this part of the world, the easterly wind is king and the first rule of sailing is that you can’t sail into the wind. So it took us 10 days to reach land, alternating tacks between north-east and south-east to travel 900 miles - in essence, we’ve sailed twice the distance to get here! We grumbled a bit when we found ourselves separated from fresh meat and beer for yet another few days but there was nothing for it, we just had to take what we could get, sometimes making just 75 miles of easting a day.
|First glimpse of Ua Pou|
Finally we arrived into Hakahau Harbour on the island of Ua Pou (pronounced wa-poo) at 0800 on Friday, accompanied on the final mile by a school of playful dolphins. Our initial impression of the island was that we were arriving into either Ireland or New Zealand – dramatic peaks towered over the island and lush, green hills sat between windswept cliffs. Some parts looked like the Cliffs of Moher, other were like a snapshot of Great Barrier Island.
However there was no mistaking where we were when we disembarked to find the France-meets-Pacific way of life that has now become familiar. People are friendly; the town is kept well with colourful flowers and clean streets, and includes your standard establishments of the town hall, post office, church, graveyard and schools. We have observed one distinctive difference though which makes Ua Pou different to any other island we’ve visited in French Polynesia to date - everyone seems to have a new Toyota Hilux! Either this is a testing ground for Toyota or someone has found a way to make lots of money from something here.
|Our local tour guides|
On Saturday we set off to explore the village of Hakahau and befriended a group of young girls who were spending their weekend climbing trees to pick fruit and using stones to crack open nuts that they found under trees. We asked them for directions to a white cross on a hill above the harbour and with nothing better to do for the afternoon, they took it upon themselves to give us a personal guided tour to the top.
Along the way, their many questions gave us an interesting insight into the life of your average 10 year old Marquesan girl – “Are you married? Do you have children? Why don’t you have children? Do you know how to make children? Tell us how.” While the First Mate swallowed a smile and wondered how to answer this last one, the ringleader of the group tried to be of assistance - “It’s ok, you can tell us in English if you don’t know the words in French”.
One of the girls was particularly keen to try out our digital camera and take photos of us along the way. We showed her the basics and she snapped away all afternoon, before reluctantly returning it to us at the end of our walk. We flicked through the photos over dinner and found that she was quite the photographer, helped no doubt by her three willing models.