24 – 30 September 2015: Hakahau, ‘Ua Pou, Marquesas, French Polynesia
We joined with Jeff & Katie from Mezzaluna and Frank & Sally an American couple staying ashore and went on a full day island tour of ‘Ua Pou with Jerome the owner of Hakahau’s Pension Pukue’e our driver and guide. Jerome told us quite early on that one of is hobbies when he spends time back in France is to go 4x4 off road driving, well he sure gets plenty of practice here in ‘Ua Pou.
Initially the road was paved as it wound steeply up into the rocky peaks, twisting and turning through barren landscape around one bend, lush jungle around the next. It was easy to imagine there were witches and goblins hiding on these inaccessible precipices, living in harmony with spirits of ancient warriors and tapu tikis, this is truly a landscape of fairytales.
The island was formed by two separate successive volcanic eruptions and the towering peak of Mount Oave (1,232m) is the highest in the Marquesas group. The phonolite peaks are the backbone of the island and the valleys gouge heavily down the sides, falling steeply to sea level. It is a spectacular landscape and the quality of the road was exceptional ..... until it ran out ~ time for some serious off roading!
After a very bumpy off road experience we arrived at a large ancient me’ae and pae pae site, tucked well away in absolutely the middle of nowhere on private land. The setting was inland and very remote which indicates that the island was highly populated before the onset of disease and destruction caused by the arrival of white men.
Jeromes knowledge of the history of the area was excellent and very comprehensive, no stone – or tiki was left unexplained! Many of the original tikis from all sites over French Polynesia have been taken to museums worldwide, new pieces have been crafted to replicate and replace them.
He also has endless knowledge of the art of the historical tattoos, and has himself become a tattoo artist, displaying his own work on his body – should have got some photos. Tattoos are still very popular here and most men are heavily tattooed, generally they are absolute works of art.
In Search of Flowery Pebbles
Our brains now overflowing with Marquesan history it was time to relax with a picnic which we enjoyed at Hohoi, one of two pebble beaches on ‘Ua Pou that you may still find increasingly rare garnet phonolite pebbles.
The only other place these are found in the world is Brazil so our hopes of actually finding any on the beach weren’t too high, especially when you see just how many regular pebbles are on the beach. But Jerome, with his expert eye for flowery pebble spotting did his best, not quite as many “flowers” as those in the brochure, but “flowers” none the less.
Off To The South Coast
We are not sure if we took a short cut to get to our next destination of Hakatao or if the actual road really was that “adventurous”. What is amazing however is that it goes from total offroad dirt tracks to almost new concrete road in the blink of an eye, in some very weird places for no particular reason, oh well, sure kept us entertained.
Enroute we discovered tikis tucked away in thick vegetation, petroglyphs carved onto rock faces and a million mosquitoes hungry for human blood. It seemed we had certainly ventured off the “beaten path”, going where very few tourists had been before!
We finally arrived in the seaside settlement of Hakatao. A local fisherman sat next to his colourful canoe filleting his catch, young lads paddled their outrigger in from a successful fishing expedition, opened coconuts lay on the waterfront road drying in the sun before being bagged for export. This was a tiny remote settlement, without even a store, road access was challenging, sea access was subject to the swell conditions ~ but the inhabitants were a friendly happy lot, just going about their day to day business.
We spent another week in Hakahau, we hiked to the neighbouring beach, managed another quick catch up with Hilary and Chris our friends cruising on the Aranui III when it returned briefly to collect more freight, explored more ashore, witnessed the full blood moon with the last fragments of its lunar eclipse and caught up on more boat jobs.
And We Never Did Tire Of This Magnificent Vista ......