Sunday, August 1

The Aranui Experience: Ua Pou

Our second stop in the Marquesas (third on the journey) was Ua Pou, about 40km south of Nuku Hiva. It’s home to about two thousand people about half of whom live in Hakahau, a small town with the best anchorage on the island. There’s a concrete dock that the Aranui 3 tied up against; no waiting for whaleboats, passengers were able to walk ashore at will although once down the gangplank you had to dodge between forklift trucks, four wheel drive pickups, containers, crates and barrels as well as a large number of local inhabitants coming to collect cargo.
The arrival of the Aranui every three weeks or so is a big occasion.
On a hill overlooking Hakahau bay there is a large white cross. That’s not unusual – there are large white crosses scattered all over hillsides in the Marquesas. However this one is quite accessible, a thirty or forty minute walk first along a concrete road then a good track. Very nice view from the top over Hakahau and also the next door bay Anahoa, an uninhabited valley with a very nice beach but lots of nono (sandflies).
July is heiva (festival) time in Tahiti and many dance teams head to Papeete for the annual cultural competitions but some of the more remote islands hold their own mini-heiva, Ua Pou amongst them. A marquee set up at the Hakahau Community Centre housed stalls with wood and stone carvings (the island has a reputation for good carving), jewellery and straw weaving. The stalls surrounded an open space where children were performing dances and relay races involving food (coconut grating and breadfruit peeling). The older dancers would be performing later but we had to leave by mid-afternoon so didn’t get to see them.
But quite a few statues, masks and other souvenirs accompanied us back on board. It’s good to know that we tourists were contributing to the local economy as well as having fun!