Hapatoni and Ua Pou

Thursday, May 8, 2003, 6:00 p.m.

Hakamaii Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands

Part I

(click here for Part II)


Hapatoni girls mugging for the camera

Dear Friends and Family: 

Currently we are anchored in Hakahetau Bay, on the northwest side of Ua Pou.  Most of the anchorages in the Marquesas are quite rolly (the boat moves around a lot in the incoming swells) and this one is no exception.  You can't leave anything round on the counter, or it will roll back and forth and drive you nuts. 

We haven't gone ashore today because reportedly everything is closed for a holiday commemorating the end of World War II.  It looks to me like French Polynesia has about one holiday per week (last week was May Day, May 1.  It will be interesting to see what next week will bring).

Ua Pou is a very volcanic-looking island.  There are numerous volcanic pillars on the top of the island; the tallest ones visible from all sides.  The north end of the island has extremely rugged-looking barren cliffs, with turquoise waves crashing on them.  Indentations in the cliffs lead to palm fringed bays, with lush looking valleys leading up to the volcanic pillars.

North side of Ua Pou Island

View from the anchorage at Hakahetau Bay

We stayed yesterday at a small village, Hakahau, which is the administrative center for the island. We visited the gendarmerie there, and performed the mandatory "check-in".  The gendarme, a young Frenchman who spoke excellent English, told us some about the economics of the island.  The chief source of income is payments from France, which includes free medical care, lots of public works, and imported civil servants.  No one pays taxes.  Everyone has a late model SUV or pickup truck, which was purchased on credit.  The gendarme said there was a debate about what exactly it is that France gets out of all this, aside from the prestige of being a colonial power.  But clearly the local people think that it's a good deal.  The French gendarme also thinks it's a pretty good deal for him personally, and he has applied to extend his three year term.  He has perhaps the only air-conditioned office in town, and his main job appears to be making paperwork for and about the boaters that pass through. 

We talked with one Marquesan gentleman in Atuona outside a grocery store.  He told us that he loved the United States, and he loved Americans, because if the United States hadn't entered World War II, and won the war, he and all his countrymen would be speaking German.  Then he pantomimed a military goosestep.  He filled us in on what he thought was the latest news from the Iraq war -- I have no idea whether it's accurate or not -- that Tarik Aziz is captured and has been brought to the United States, and that Saddam Hussein is probably dead, or if not, he's also a prisoner in the United States.

Ancient Hapatoni road with modern French phone booth When I last wrote, we were swimming off the boat at Tahuata Island.  We subsequently visited the small village of Hapatoni, near where we anchored.  We had our first, exciting surf landing.  Evidently there will be many of these as we cross the South Pacific.  The technique is that you allow the wave to carry you in, paddling madly so that the dinghy doesn't turn sideways.  Then, as soon as you're in relatively shallow water, everyone jumps out and you carry the dinghy up onto the beach.  Everyone gets wet up to the waist, at least. Relaunching is a reverse of the same process, except you get wet up the armpits.  Everything in the boat also gets wet. 
Hapatonia marae

Fortunately we had the important stuff (like the camera) in plastic bags.  And getting wet doesn't really matter, since the air temperature and water temperature are both about 90 degrees.

The visit to Hapatoni was really quite interesting.  The waterfront of the village is an elaborate road with substantial retaining walls, constructed two centuries ago out of local lava boulders.

Above the road, in the north part of the village, are ancient terraces, also made out of lava boulders.  Some restoration work has been done, and the grass was recently cut.  Our guidebook says they are marae; ancient temple platforms.  They seem to go on and on, further than we were willing to walk up the hill, and obviously on into the jungle, where they have not yet been restored.  We asked a local woman (in our halting French) why they were built, and she clearly had no idea.  She said they were built by "les anciens" and she shrugged her shoulders about why.

Hapatoni and Ua Pou, Part II

Back to the previous report