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Hiva Oa, Marquesas, April 2003

By doina — last modified Dec 21, 2004 10:38 AM

Published: 2004-12-21 10:38:46
Countries: French Polynesia

There are three Gendarmerie areas in the Marquesas: Hiva Oa, Ua Pou and Nuku Hiva, and boats arriving from overseas must go to one of these islands first. Although some boats stop at Fatu Hiva this is not permitted and skippers have had problems with the Gendarmerie in Hiva Oa for doing so. Initial clearance is completed at the Gendarmerie (normally open Monday to Friday). Final clearance formalities must be completed on arrival in Papeete. Non-EU citizens need not pay the bond but all non-EU citizens must do so if planning to spend longer than a few weeks in French Polynesia. In Atuona (Hiva Oa) the bond can be deposited at the Socredo bank. US citizens normally deposit around $800. Credit cards are accepted by the bank for the bond. The bank has two ATM machines inside, opening hours 0730-1130, 1330-1600 Monday to Friday. Bond deposits and exchange transactions only before 1530. The ATM will dispense maximum 25,000 PCF (Pacific Francs), approx. $200.

The small port of Atuona provides good shelter even if the swell rolls in, so it is necessary to use a stern anchor. Also, the anchorage for small boats is restricted to the northern part of the harbour. The area is shown by two yellow range markers, and boats are supposed to anchor close of this line. The depth varies from 2 to 3.5 metres so deep draughted boats may have to anchor outside the breakwater. The dinghy can be left at the steps by the main quay (it is best to lift the dinghy onto the quay as there is a lot of surge) or by the ramp in the SE corner of the harbour. The ramp is extremely slippery so it is best to try to land at high water. There is a public telephone in the harbour but none of the other facilities (showers, etc) mentioned in some publications.

The Mobil fuel station in the harbour (open Monday to Friday 0730-1200 and 1430-1800, Saturday 0730-1200) sells both diesel (105 Pacific Francs per litre and petrol/gas (130 PCF/litre). The fuel station has its own dock with a long enough hose for diesel supplies. However, because of the continuous surge and the shallow water, a yacht should not be brought to this jetty although a dinghy could be used to fill jerrycans. As this is the only station on island there are lots of cars going into Atuona, so this is a good place to get a lift, especially when the station opens for business. The fuel station has its own small store with a selection of food stuffs: frozen meats, eggs, some fresh produce, canned food, UHT milk and fresh bread every day.

There are several supermarkets in Atuona with a reasonably good selection of fresh food, some fruit and vegetables, wine and beer, frozen meats. Fresh bread (baguettes) as well as croissants and other pastries are on sale at various supermarkets every morning. The best stocked supermarket is the one on the right hand side of the road going north from the bank. It opens early (5 am, also open early on Sundays)) and has the best selection of frozen meats. In the small square opposite Magasin Gauguin, a local woman sells most mornings fresh produce from the back of her truck: tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers. Fresh fruit is available from the owner of a garden close to the port, at the T-junction of the road between Atuona, the port and the airport.

Next to Magasin Gauguin is a very well stocked tools and hardware store which also sells fishing gear, lures, etc.

There are public phones everywhere including the port. They accept local telephone cards (usually sold at various shops for 1000 Pacific francs = approx. $8). There is a local GSM network (Vini) but if your own server doesn’t have a roaming agreement with Vini, SIM cards can be bought at the Atuona post office, and are valid throughout French Polyensia. The post and telephone office, located in the centre of Atuona, has an internet/email terminal. I also accepts faxes (open 0700-1200, 1230-1500 Monday to Thursday, 0700-1200, 1230-1400 Friday). There is another internet outlet further along in the village but connections are not reliable as all phone calls go by satellite and there are only a limited number of circuits available.

There are two car rental companies in Atuona (Tel. 927 287 and 927 607) but cars are quite expensive (15,000 PCF/day). There is also a taxi service (Tel. 927 133) to the airport (1500 PCF per person) or for longer excursions inland.

The fuel station in the port also runs a surprisingly well stocked mini-market with some fresh produce, bread, eggs, frozen meats and tinned food.

On the cultural level, Paul Gauguin’s reconstructed Maison du Jouir has been demolished and is being replaced by a larger building to act as a souvenir market. Gauguin’s last above and atelier will be recreated in a nearby area and will show reproductions of the various canvasses created by the painter during his stay on Hiva Oa. Paul Gauguin’s grave, in the local cemetery, continues to be Atuona’s main attraction. It lies on a hill overlooking the village. Next to Gauguin’s is another grave of the famous Belgian singer Jacques Brel who chose who end his days here. The only thing that has survived him is his twin engines plane propped up on stilts in the village centre.

Dan Roman on S.Y. Danera