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Travel: Aranui Voyage, Fatu Hiva Marquesas, May 29/2022

This is the 16th post of a trip to Tahiti, which started on May 10/2022 (here)

Day 9 -(Sunday) - Aranui Cruise to the Marquesses

Fatu Hiva - The Southernmost and last of the 6 Marquesas Islands visited

Fatu Hiva is the furthest, as well as most authentic and dramatic,

Fatu Hiva is also the title of a book by explorer and archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl, in which he describes his stay on the island in the 1930s.

Aranui sailed from Tahuata all night

Approaching the island in Sun-Rise

The only access to the island is by sea, as there is no airport on the island,

Fatu Hiva - Omoa Bay

The locals already brought their merchandise at 6:00am to be on-loaded, as the Aranoui set an anchorage, off shore, at the well-protected harbor of Omoa Bay on the Southwestern- side of the Island .

Disembarking at Omoa Bay

The Cargo's and Passengers' Barges at the dock

Hana Vave (Bay of Virgins) is he other significant bay on the northwest side and is one of the most picturesque sites in the South Pacific. The French name originally given to the bay was Baie des Verges (Bay of Penes), because of the phallus-shaped basalt spires that rise on either side of its entrance.

The center of the island is a plateau which is covered largely by tall grasses and pandanus trees.palm-like, dioecious trees and shrubs.

The eastern coastline of Fatu-Hiva is characterized by striking outline, a number of narrow valleys, carved by streams that lead to the interior

Between these valleys are headlands which terminate in cliffs that plunge directly into the sea, making travel between them possible only by traveling over the high mountain ridges , or by boat.

Formed by the eastern half of two interlocking volcanoes. the first caldera, about eight km in diameter, has a sharply cut rim, formed by a hemicircular series of peaks rising to over 1000 m and composed mainly of basalt, picrite and hawaiite.

The second caldera, is located within the first, has a diameter of 3-4km. It was created by a powerful eruption, as evidenced by the impressive basalt columns, the "statues" of the Virgin, in Hana Vave Bay, caused by lahars.

The valleys of the two villages of the island are located at the extremes of the space between the two calderas.

It is also the most isolated of the inhabited islands. The 650 inhabitants who now live off mainly from fishing, coprah production, and growing nono - (a fruit with astonishing medicinal virtues) the majority are in Omoa

Unlike the other islands of the Marquesas, the dead of Fatu Hiva were occasionally mummified (smoked) and often buried in the dwellings.

Coming from California , it is begging a mention that In Jack London's short story collection "A Son of the Sun", ( "Feathers of the Sun,") the island appears under the name Fitu-Iva.

Omoa Village - Southwest side of the Island

As it was Sunday many school age children poured into the village’s center, handing out welcoming flowers, to the visiting passenger

Omoa , the largest of the 2 villages, of about 350 inhabitants, has a church, a nursery and elementary school, a small store, a post office and a satellite telephone.

The Domesticated Menu

The skulls' Tree


At the Art Market

Once again, in the center’s main Art Market, a small musical assemble welcomed the passengers with Polynesian music, while the visitors continued browsing and checking the local handiwork

Hand-painted “pareo” and “monoi” coconut oil infused with flowers from “Tahiti tiara”, vanilla or Sandal wood and "Umu Hei" - Flowers arrangement can be found there

Wood and bone carvings as well as black Perl assortments, all souvenirs from the Marquesas. were on display at the various stands

The island is known for its tattoo artists and wood carvers, using a vast array of materials including sandalwood, rose wood and coconut wood.

Tapa making

There are also a variety of vegetable fibers, at hand, from which the islanders continues to produce tapa or bark-cloth, decorated with traditional designs – it is a forgotten art on many other islands. “tapa” making - is the traditional fabric/ parchment production, on which the anthropomorphic symbols are painted/edged onto with black ink .

The raw material, which the bark is used for, as we learnt during the special class given by the local expert Emily with Mila's -our guide help, has to be from unblemished perfect smooth branches of Murier's Banyan's or Bread Fruit's trees

Emily - the local knowledgeable elderly, demonstrated a whole process of peeling the external bark of a Bread Fruit Tree, and then she pounded it on a log of stone to extract out the liquids.

Once the bark is dried, a smooth patch of workable cloth/canvas is ready for usage.

The patches can be combined to any needed size, and can be used, as parchment, on which traditional cultural symbols are being painted, or as hygiene pads, or as clothing fabric, that in the past dignitaries wore during ceremonial events.

Traditionally the work was done by women, but now also men take part in the production.

‘Umi Her” -Flower Arrangement Class

Made of the white sweetly scented local Tiare flowers -(Gardenia) and other island’s fragrant plants, the arrangements are placed on the head and chest of the women, and on the waist of men, during special occasions -wedding and festivals,

Between Omoa and Hana Vave

17 km separates between the Omoa Bay Southwest village and Hana Vave Bay - the northwest village, across the island which are linked by a very bumpy dirt road through the mountains , which is a hazard especially near Hanavave, when the rains often make the road sweeping and dangerous for traffic.

Between the 2 extra exploration activities options of : either getting there from one village to the other by 4 hours hiking the long steep high mountainous distance. or riding the 4x4 car, offered to the more challenged. we chose the car ride, which left an hour later, that early morning.

The cross-island road route (car or hike) presents spectacular views and passes through lush tropical vegetation, with its heavy mixture of exotic fragrances.

Towering pointy cliffs, deep steep walled canyons, most verdant tropical vegetation of palms and Acacia trees, as well as amazing carpet of flowers including a typical to the island pink orchid, were absolutely stunning.

A wonderful picnic assembled, at the top of the ridge was served, at the same meeting point, both to the huffing and puffing trickling hikers, and to the arriving riders, all using the same, one ruggedly access road.

Hana Vave Bay from top of the road

In Hana Vave Village

Some more time was spent at Hana Vave Bay, and the quint village, situated right by the mouth of the black rock pebbles bay,

More Flower Arrangement session and

Pani” - fragrant Oil extraction and “Aeu Pipi” -Towel making from Tapa - bark tree, all cultural traditions were shared at the Art Center in the Hana Vave Village, where more music and handicrafts shopping, were awaiting the visiting group.

Those who didn't joined the special activity and instead stayed on the ship, sailed to Hana Vave bay/village, and joined the rest of the hikers and riders at the Art Center. after which all passengers took a walk of about 15 minutes to the pick up dock.

Being loaded with unnecessary baggage, we hitch-hiked with the nicest local Marquesan villager, who was transporting Bannans to the ship, and was willingly to give us a ride to the dock - his destination as well..

At the Hana Vave Dock

Loading the local produce to the ship

Back to the Ship

By By Fatu Hiva on its stunning views and flower girls

Back on the ship

Partying at the ship pool's deck

To sweeten the departure from the Marquesas islands which were left behind, the

patisserie chef overdosed the passengers, with a sugar loaded devine dessert, at dinner using the Polynesian "Happy Mother Day" as an excuse...

To be continued....


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