Above the little town of Hakahau, the island's dramatic volcanic spires point skywards, occasionally showing tempting glimpses in a dance of the seven veils with the clouds.
On the quay a group of lads cast their fishing lures out across the harbour while steady rain fell. As we ate breakfast there was a steady succession of elated yells from the quay as time after time they each pulled in six flapping silver fish the size of sardines. This went on all day as far as we could see and the shared elation was unstoppable. Into this arena paddled a girl on a stand up paddle board, with a bucket on the board and rod proceeding to catch her share.
It turned out that Alina came from a catamaran and, with her friend Julian, is doing a long term study of the people, customs and life of French Polynesia for a magazine, Geo. They do a repeat survey every five years to monitor and report on change in the region. They had lived for several years on Fakareva atoll, and were able to guide us with lots. Of local knowledge of the Tuamotus.
Ashore the village seemed sparser than others we'd found, but had a big yellow Postes & Telecoms building, a bank, an artisanal centre and a shop.
We found that the artisanal centre had a wide range of jewellery, bowls, tikis, and other items for sale from local craftspeople, at prices that mostly seemed unaffordable. However Anne and I chose some black pearl earrings as a memento. Meanwhile there was a sudden burst of music from the other end of the hall and there was Justin singing along with a long remembered Polynesian boating song whilst a Marquesan strummed the tune on a beautifully carved ukelele.
The rain had begun to fall very heavily, and we were invited to hurry across the courtyard to the cafe, where a buffet lunch was on offer, and being enjoyed by locals and visiting yachts folk alike. We soon had plates piled with rice, cooked bananas, poisson cru (raw tuna chunks in coconut milk and lime juice) in three styles, and a very tasty grilled fish and a yummy goat casserole. Outside the water level rose, drowning the road in orange muddy water.
Later when it all stopped, we waded out to find the post office shutting its doors at 2pm, so no stamps, and indeed no cash in the ATM.. We found the church, with its pulpit carved as a ship's prow, very peaceful inside with three people in silent prayer. Outside we met a goat on a car bonnet, found another general store and bought fishhook soft the type used on the pier. I also found a Chinese made rainbow coloured brolly, which should be useful here, plus a machete. The shop sold me a file to sharpen it, but the shop keeper also offered to take it home and sharpen it himself for me..so kind!
Our next mission was to track down some transport to see more of the island, and were directed to find Jerome (Que? Jerome?) ( sorry only Two Men in a Boat at present, so unfair literary joke) at a local Pension higher up the hill. En route of course we met two Swiss yacht crews; Jean-Claude and Françoise in Suditude, who had sailed from Panama down to Easter Island, Juan Fernandez, and the the Chilean fjords to visit Antarctica. The next couple, Tomas and Anya from Ribusta, had recently sailed back up from Patagonia. Very exciting to hear about that.
Here we found a terrace overlooking the bay, very welcome cold drinks and wifi. Jerome's wife turned out to be the Polynesian daughter of DouDou, the sole Frenchman on Tahuata.
Jerome eventually turned up, a compact wiry military looking man, liberally covered with superb geometric Marquesan tattoos. We arranged for him to give us a half day tour of the island and returned to the boat. Here we realised that we'd forgotten to take our rubbish into town, but a local man, Armand and his mother Yvonne, kindly told us to drop it in the back of their pick-up for disposal. Armand is a supervisor at the College Terre des Hommes, which has 200 boys boarding from all over Ua Pou. The youngest start at 6-7 years old but are driven home every weekend. For further education children go to Tahiti which is free, but costs parents the fees of host families, and occasionally to university in France when parents must pay.
We had a rolly night in the anchorage with no wind to hold us head to the swell.