Hiva Oa

On Location: A Surprise Guest on Hiva Oa

Zegrahm Contributor|October 27, 2009|Blog Post

Yesterday we visited the remote and isolated island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands. Fatu Hiva is the place where Thor Heyerdahl chose to spend a year in the late 1930s and later published the account of his experience in a now famous book entitled: Fatu Hiva; Back to Nature. Our visit was blessed with showers but everyone enjoyed the magnificent scenery of the Bay of Virgins. The welcome ceremony was actually performed towards the evening with Marquesan-style dancing and singing and, as is the custom, local delicacies for the tasting. Arts and crafts, including tapa and wood carvings, were on display and some of us even elected to get a Marquesan tattoo.

Early this morning the Clipper Odyssey approached the island of Hiva Oa and entered the bay in which the village of Atuona is located. Hiva Oa is the quiet location where both Paul Gauguin, at the end of the 19th century, and Jacques Brel, at the end of the 20th century, decided to spend their final years. Both are buried in the local cemetery and we stopped to pay our respects at their tombstones before heading down the road into the village itself for a visit. We had some time in town, enjoying a little bit of civilization, before heading back into the wilderness for the afternoon.

During lunch the Clipper Odyssey repositioned around to the eastern end of the island, where Zodiacs took us ashore to the village of Puamau. Our goal was to see the largest tiki in the island group located on an important Polynesian marae (sacred place). We were greeted with very energetic war dances performed in a clearing surrounded by lush and tangled vegetation. In the midst of the festivities, the President of French Polynesia arrived, unannounced, for a visit to this historical site. Our expedition leader said a few words in French and the President replied with greetings in English and the festivities continued with music servings of tropical fruit.