Views of Hiva Oa, Marqueasas, French Polynesia

My first impression of Hiva Oa arriving from Ua Huka (via Nuku Hiva desert airport) was of a green lush island paradise.

It's not quite that, although the French singer-songwriter Jacques Brell chose to make Atuona, Hiva Oa his home for his last years (lung cancer due to smoking) and as did Paul Gauguin. Brell took up flying and I saw his aircraft, now preserved in a small museum. I also visited the museum of copies of Paul Gauguin's paintings and a recreation of his "House of Pleasure" and a particularly obscene tiki, clearly female; chaqu'un à son Tiki!. Gauguin's retirerment in Atuona was not long either.

I was told the the shopkeeper at Puamau, from whom I bought a snack lunch, is a descendent of Gauguin. Puamau is as close to the end of the world as I have yet visited and returned: accessible on land by a precipitous 4wd track that clings to the crumbling cliffs after crossing the cloud forest highland interior of Hiva Oa.

There are a couple of large archaeological sites, each of which I saw at dawn when the light is most evocative and the birds still singing. Impressive in their different ways: Puamau has large Tikis (stone statues) including one which depicts the lower half torso of a vanquished tribal chief (on the right in my photo).

Taaoa, much closer to Atuona, seemed to be about using stone age architecture to portray power. The architecture is about power rather than meditation or peacefulness. You can't fail to think that these people were a big and impressive tribe. It's been extensively restored and there's a clear map /layout which suggests the houses for the warriors, the houses for the chief and his advisers and so on. And the pits for the fermentation of bread fruit and another (some way away) for the bones of the sacrifices.

The views of the bays and Mount Temtieu are also fantastic but overall I preferred Nuka Hiva because it's even more dramatic and I found the locals much more friendly. Nuka Hiva airport is due to be upgraded to receive international flights which will change things there.

Leaving Hiva Oa was not so easy either:: just as we got to the airport, some rain started. Feli, the patron, was very happy because they need rain. Not so happy when he found his incoming clients would not arrive so he would not sell the bungalows tonight. He may also have soem problems with the 4WDs he has rented out getting stuck in the mud.

Air Tahiti weren't too bad on information. The flight out was meant to be on a little plane, I think a Twin Otter. That circled overhead for 30mins whilst the rain and cloud didn't clear. Then it left back to Nuku Hiva. Our flight was supposed to be to Nuku Hiva and then on to Papeete: they cancelled the passengers to Nuku Hiva and gave a new time for the flight to Papeete. We're arrive late but without a stop at Nuku Hiva.

There was a German tourist travelling alone who was crying when she thought that she would miss her international flight tonight to Santiago via Easter island.

But not a disaster for me, the worst was hitting the rush hour out of Papeete, though I was cursing the extra day I stayed at Hiva Oa which wasn't really used very well for seeing things nor was it useful relaxation. If I'd left yesterday then no delay...