Atuona on Hiva Oa is a reasonably good place to stop. There are most services a cruiser needs after a few weeks at sea: water, port of entry, bank, small markets (I'd say tiendas but it's the Marquesas so now we call them magazins), a place to purchase produce, and an Internet connection. On the other hand, the anchorage is small, rolly, and uncomfortably crowded with boats. After only two days, we were ready to get the heck out. Unfortunately, we had SO MUCH LAUNDRY that the very nice lady we hired to wash it, couldn't finish it. *sigh* We begged her to finish a bag of panties, and left anyway.
Around the corner a mere 8 miles away is the lovely island of Tahuata. It is useful to think of Tahuata not as a small island with 2,000 foot peaks, but rather as a very large mountain of 12,000 feet with the top portion sticking out of the water. The terrain is extremely rough, jagged peaks and steep valleys plunging into the ocean. The entire thing is covered with a thin veneer of vegetation, coconut trees dominant in the valleys with scrub and barely clinging bushes higher up. The peaks make for dramatic scenery and the open westward facing bays offer the counter point of stunning sunsets.
Tahuata is blessed with several anchorages on the leeward, the most beautiful of which is at the north end called Baie Hananoemoe. This bay features clear water, beautiful fish, giant manta rays, and a long white sand beach. In other words, this is Polynesian paradise. We enjoyed several days relaxing and swimming before DrC got the urge to see more, do more and we pulled the hook to explore the rest of the island. We visited the small town of Vaitahu and then the even smaller village of Hapatoni, anchoring in the shelter of a towering volcanic cliff.
There were two high points to our town visits: the church and the Frenchman, both in Vaitahu. The village supports a beautiful Catholic church built of a combination of local materials and the ballast stones from 17th century trading ships. The church is a lovely combination of local art, fine craftmanship, and Catholic symbology. DrC was particularly fond of the stained glass window which supports the first Polynesian Madonna either of us had ever seen. Baby Jesus, apparently, is an islander. Brown skin and Pacific Island features look good on him, by the way. We also saw the first of what is proving to be a series of Holy Clam Shells. These are large clam shelves carved with Jesus in some fashion and back lit to make it glow and are featured in every church we've visited to date.
The Frenchman owns a magazin in Vaitahu. My French isn't as good as I would like, but what I was able to tease out is that he was a Puddle Jumper himself, some two decades ago. Unfortunately, there was not a breath of wind between Panama and Galapagos. He motored out to that island chain, after which his engine died more or less permanently. With no wind in the forecast, he drift/sailed north to Costa Rico where he more or less abandoned his boat. He then caught another boat as crew to the Marquesas. He's never left. In addition to opening his magazin after hours so the girls could buy chocolate, he whacked us down a bread fruit and a few pamplemousse out of the trees in his yard before sending us on our way.
Pamplemousse. Don't let the name fool you. These are not really grapefruit, which is the strict translation of the word. First, they are much larger and basically stay green even when they are ready to eat. Second, the taste is similar to grapefruit in the way that tangerines are similar to oranges or nectarines taste sort of like peaches. You can tell it is in the same family, but pamplemousse in the Marquesas is different. It is sweeter and more floral than a white or yellow fleshed grapefruit. The pulp is larger, fitting the generally much larger size of the fruit. The skin and segment flesh is what tastes most "grapefruity". Jaime doesn't particularly care for it, but the rest of the family is very much enjoying it.
Hmm. Mom is probably right. (Moms are always right. Even when they are not right, right?) I am not writing often enough. I'll finish catching up on this narrative tomorrow.