Friday, August 8, 2008

Shiriri Saga #40. Atiheu. A glimpse into the past.

                          Atiheu Bay.

The neighbouring bay has a village because it is connected by 4w drive road to Taiohae Bay and it also has an archeological reconstruction of an old Polynesian village. We sail around and anchor on a rocky bottom in a much more exposed bay. Getting ashore through the crashing waves at the concrete jetty is really exciting. Our technique is to drop a stern anchor, with a section of bungee cord set into a slack bight of the line, over the stern as we approach, nose up to the dock and take turns stepping off as the waves permit, and then slacking off on the bow line so Edith will back off and bob a few feet off the dock until we return.

                                Heather leaps for life.

The village looks like a series of paintings by Paul Gauguin: the church set on the hillside backed by the forested slopes, the children washing a horse in the surf on the black volcanic sand beach. I`ve always admired his Polynesian paintings and thought them patterned and imaginative. Now I see their reality with fresh eyes. The village is clean and neat with a free medical clinic. We climb the road inland to the old settlement. This feels like we are walking in the shoes of Herman Melville as we wander around the big old stone platforms and among the reconstructed palm thatched houses. Only when mosquitoes and blackfly (noe noes), introduced from ships water barrels, made living in the forest uncomfortable did the people move to the more exposed and windy coast.

It starts to rain and the bugs are fierce in the palm thatched houses so we cut banana leaves as umbrellas and skip back to the boats who are jinking uneasily in the strong offshore wind. We loose Edith`s stern anchor snagged on a rock, so next morning Anne and I borrow a grapnel off Moonlighter and go back to jig for it successfully in twenty feet of crystal clear agitated water, while Heather cans mangos back on bouncy Shiriri. We then leave our friends to continue to circumnavigate the island while we head back to Anaho Bay for the night in preparation for an early start going back around the north end. We do not intend to sail too far down-wind only to find that we will be unable to beat our way back up the south side of the island against the trade winds.

Shiriri sees two stone guardians as we struggle around the point.

We do make an early start but even so it is a touch and go as poor Shiriri inches around the north cape (C. Matauaoa) against the strong trade winds. Once around the point, the wind eases a little but we are still battling through the backwash close to the cliffs all the way to the southern point. Sails are trimmed tight and the engine labours for several hours until we swing back toward Taiohae Bay, past Typee Valley. Oh, we would have loved to stop there for a while, but we are being drawn forward by a timetable that must have us at the other end of the Pacific in a few months time. Also, Heather has a rash that needs medical attention at the hospital.

                         Moonlighter sails off to circle the island.

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