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Travel: Aranui Voyage, Hiva Oa (1) Marquesas, Tahiti, May 27/2022

This is the 13th post of a trip to Tahiti, which started on May 10/2022 (here)

Day 7 -(Friday) - Aranui Cruise to the Marquesses

2 days were spent spent in Hiva Oa

This first day was spent in the south village of Atuna -where Paul Gauguin's and Jacques Brel's Graves are. (2nd day -next post in the north village of Puamu)

Hiva Oa - Atuona 

The Aranui maneuvered its way this early foggy drizzly morning, with the assistance of 2 small boats which were dispatched into the small quint harbor of Hiva Oa Island,

The island is the first, out of the 3 Southern Marquesas Islands, we visited, and the second largest island of the Marquesas.

Of volcanic origin. Hiva Oa belongs to the Marquesas Linear Volcanic Chain, which formed from a hot spot on the Pacific Plate and is moving west-northwest at a rate of 103 to 118 mm. per year.

Unloading at the Dock in the morning.

The island is referred to as the “Garden of the Marquesas” thanks to its fertile and lush land. dotted with many giant banyan and breadfruit trees, as well as towering coconut and papaya trees. There are also many archaeological sites that remain tucked away,

It features steep cliffs abruptly rising from the ocean to a rugged interior spine of volcanic mountains, ridges, and deep, isolated valleys.

The collapsed volcano, Temetiu, is Hiva Oa's highest point with 1,200 me.

No fringing coral reefs protect Hiva Oa from the pounding of the ocean and only a few sheltered anchorages and sandy beaches are scattered around the coast

Travel along the shoreline is by boat as most of the coastal terrain is too rugged. A few dirt roads traverse the interior and link seacoast villages and settlements

The island has recently become the second administrative center due to the Corona epidemic during which many Marquesas moved from the more impacted northern islands, to the southern one, as to be nearer to the hospital on the island.

In the 19th c the island used to have a much larger population, than the current number of around 2,200 people. Also more European mix of blond hair and blue eyes than in the other islands, can be noticed here

This island like the rest of Marquesas islands suffered a population decline with the arrival of Europeans.

The number went down from a total of about 80 k to only 10k in total, due to epidemics, syphilis and mistreatment, with 20K spread outside of the Marquesas, all over the word.

The commercial growth of the Banyan tree replaced the failed trial of once, growing coffee plantation. The main island’s economy is Tourism. A combination of fishing, pig and chicken farming, the cultivation of staple crops such as breadfruit, coconut, yam, taro, sweet potatoes and bananas, some copra and bone curving specialty. remains the basis of the island's economy


is the second largest village in the Marquesas, and has a fairly modern infrastructure, with a hospital, a medical and dental office, a post office (with satellite phone), a bank (with ATM), a national Gendarmerie station, a courthouse, schools with preschool (école maternelle et primaire) and a high school (Collège Sainte Anne), as well as a Catholic and a Protestant church. For tourist needs, there is a hotel and small private pensions, as well as restaurants and bars.

Walking up the hill to Atuona Village

At the Village

We were given plenty of time to explore, the small white church, convenient store, , Mango Bar offering also internet, as well as the Cemetery, Cultural Center and Art market.

I was bused on an antic school buss with half of the group to the village and had plenty of time to explore it .

However David and my friend Ina, chose to walk up the steep hill above the harbor to to the first visited site stop, of the day - the famous cemetery, from which stunning views of the Harbour were revealed. The cemetery is a much-visited lookout point, offering views of Taaoa Bay

Taaoa’s Bay

At the Calvaire Cemetery, facing Taaoa’s Bay

Where Paul Gauguin's and Jack Brel's graves are

Jacques Brel

The simple modest grave of the famous European - Belgian singer-songwriter

Jacques Brel,( 1929- 1978), who was also seduced by Hiva Oa and was very admired and loved by the local inhabitants, was the first encounter.d

Brel arrived with his partner Madeline on his yacht in 1979, being already sick and fell in love with the island and its people. He opened the first Cinema for the island’s children

and offered service rides in his his plane named "Jojo" to many in need.

At the hanger which stores the singer’s memorabilia , mainly posters and photos, the small 8 sitter airplane, is hanging off the ceiling. (see below)

Mila our Marquesan English speaking guide mentioned she once met Madeleine on a cruise ship in which Madeleine was the Guest speaker.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Above Brel’s grave, beneath a huge Frangipani tree is the tombstone with the simple wording “Paul Gauguin 1903”

The island is a well known spot where the French artist - Paul Gauguin , journeyed to t in the 1900s in search of solitude and inner peace, He lived here and created part of his work, which made his claim to fame.

Him and his memory are not that liked in the Marquises due to his infamous exploitation of underage girls. Furthermore, apparently he pretended to be a devout Catholic, by attending church mass regularly, as to persuade the Catholic church to sell him a plot for his own property. Once the Church sold him , he never set a foot in the church for the rest of his very un-churchy conducted life on the island.

At the Art Center

There is a colonial store where Gauguin bought his bread, as well as a replica of his infamous “house of pleasure” and the Museum, at the cultural center .

Non of his paintings on display at the museum, are original, only replicas , as all his worked was shipped back to France. Copies documents his life in the South Seas.

"JOJO" at the Brel's Hanger

In 2003 a hangar was built next to the museum especially for Brel's Beechcraft D 50 Twin-Bonanza plane, under the name "Jojo", which has been restored in the meantime. Photos and documents from Brel's stay in the South Seas over several years are also on display here.

The heavy torrential showers that soaked the group by surprise, while visiting the museum dedicated to the talented painter, seemed to have so timely cleansed the memories

of Gauguin - the infamous man.

And then... here comes the Sun again

Upon returning to the ship, later in the afternoon, the doc was empty and cleaned up, with no trace of the early morning commotion.

And the ship was ready to depart

After 3 days in a row of on -land Polynesian lunch, I was glad to return to the French cooking lunch on board.

Usually in the afternoon there are several fun activities/workshops offered on the ship like, Ukulele classes to music playing lovers, Hula Dancing to those who love movement, workshop on book Marks with Pandanus leaves,Bead jewelry making,

100 ways to tie pariahs class, jewelry and cloths fashion shows, Polynesian cooking and so can be busy all day long, sea-hooping from class to class...


That afternoon, we chose to listen to the very French accented 2nd lecture in English given by our most scholastic visitor lecturer - Olivier Potte which was was dedicated to e“Botany of the Marquesas, history of plant population Endemism and Particularity”

To be continued....


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