Ua Pou

Category: Ships Log


Time period: June 26th – June 29th

Exploring our last Marquesan island of Ua Pou before we head further west.


After leaving Daniel’s Bay on Nuku Hiva, we sailed 25 miles south to the island of Ua Pou and the village of Hakahau. This is the third largest island in the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa are the first two) and is known for its tall basalt spires.  We found out the island was actually named after the spires, since Ua Pou translates to “columns.”  The spires are indeed dramatic, rising up from the center of the island and appearing like a primordial fortress.  Interestingly, the outer edges of the island (at least on the northern side where we were anchored) are very dry and desert-like, and it is not until you travel inland that the familiar lush green jungle vegetation appears.


Approaching the island of Ua Pou.


The beach at Hakahau. See the tall basalt spires in the back.


Only one other sailboat was anchored in the bay when we arrived, it was Anke-Sophie owned by a German couple we had met in Taiohae.  We arrived late in the afternoon so decided to wait for morning for a shore excursion.  We arrived at the grocery store about 8:00am the next morning to find to our dismay all the baguettes were sold out. We’d been spoiled in Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva where you could get to the store as late as 10am and still find baguettes.  Here you have to get in before 7am. Yikes! Luckily you can also reserve baguettes at the store for the next morning, so that is what we did.  As we were making our way back down the beach to our dinghy, we made the acquaintance of a local Frenchman named Xavier.  He comes down to the beach almost every day to go for a swim and meet the new cruisers.  Besides French, he also speaks German and English which was quite nice. He told us where there was an outdoor shower, where there were potable and non-potable water spigots, and some places we should check out in town such as the church and the town hall for its lovely wood carvings. He also mentioned he’d be willing to take up to four people in his 4WD for an island tour for a very reasonable 8000 francs (about $92) total.  This was much cheaper than other tours, with the bonus that he spoke both English and German. After chatting with Tomas and Annette from Anke-Sophie, we agreed on splitting the cost of a tour the following day. 


We spent the rest of the day wandering around the village, viewing the beautiful wood carvings around town, and swimming in the bay. That is a nice perk about anchoring in Ua Pou; there is no river coming into the bay so it has a sandy bottom and the water is relatively clear and blue. Clear enough for us to go for a swim and scrub some of the algae off the waterline of our boat! 


One of the carvings on the door of the church. We weren't sure about this place after seeing this particular carving, but later found out it depicted the story of the first minister of this church; he never made it as he died in a shipwreck on Rapa Nui (Easter island) on his way to Ua Pou.


The pulpit in the church is a work of art; it is carved from a single piece of wood and depicts the bow of a ship. Below the ship is a fishing net full of fish and below that (not in the net) are an odd assortment of sea creatures.


I just love the detail of the carving - lots of fish in the net!


There's even two fish kissing! I think they must be celebrating since they escaped the fishing net. :)


One of several carvings in front of the town hall.


A really cool painting of a paddler on the wall of the boathouse.


Touring the island the next day was a lot of fun.  We drove into the mountains, checked out a restored marae (ceremonial site), and did a short hike up a ridge to a high point where we could see both the east and west sides of the island.  Later we drove down to the coast and explored some remote beaches. One of these beaches was made up only of small round rocks, from pebble to basketball size.  This was the beach where you could find flower stones – a rock completely unique to Ua Pou.  Apparently the volcano that created Ua Pou was different from the rest and created a rock with crystals imbedded in it that look like little flowers.  The locals carve the stone into figurines of turtles, tikis, and mortar and pestles.  We got to find our own flower stone which was much more meaningful to us.  We enjoyed a good 30 minutes or so of rock hunting on the beach before finally taking a break for lunch.  Later, at our request, Xavier took us to the homes of locals he knew that grew vegetables and fruits so we could stock up for our upcoming passage to the Tuomotus.  Xavier even did some bargaining for us and got great prices on the produce.  We were lucky to have such a great tour guide; Xavier was happy to answer all the questions we had about the island and took us to some excellent spots we would never have known to even look for.


The mountains up close.


Great views of the coastline.


Hiking back down there were more great views.


Exploring a marae restored for a dance festival several years ago.


A cute stone carving and a breadfruit pit (on the right).


Checking out the rugged and beautiful coast.


The rock beach where flower stones can be found.


The flower stone we found. A pretty awesome souvenir!


Getting fresh produce from a local vegetable garden.


Checking out the tikis carved by one of the local woodcarvers.


Concluding our tour with a drink at Xavier's house. From left: Christian, Alena, Annette, Tomas, and Xavier.


The next leg of our journey is to sail to the Tuomotus, a group of atolls between the Marquesas and the Society islands. Our target is Raroia, which is about 425 nm from Ua Pou.  Raroia’s claim to fame is that Thor Heyerdahl’s raft, Kon Tiki, washed up here after his epic voyage from Peru.  If we can make it to this atoll (wind and weather dependent), it should be a great place to continue our explorations of French Polynesia!

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0 #3 Mala and Dean 2014-07-14 22:50
I have corrected my email address.

0 #2 Mala and Dean 2014-07-14 22:49
What wonderful blogs. We have enjoyed reading them.
It is awesome that you are able to do it. Happy sailing to the next islands. Photos are sooo great!!

Good luck
0 #1 David & Michelle 2014-07-10 15:21
We still don't know what we are doing next year, but your posts make the Marquesas look great!


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