This is going to be a great day,” smiled Diane as we loaded up into the dinghy to head to shore here in Hanavave Bay. We arrived yesterday afternoon, after leaving Hiva Oa at 6:30am and sailing at around 6.5 knots on a close reach. It took a few tries to anchor, with poor holding, other boats to avoid plus 30 knot gusts. We prevailed and enjoyed the sunset gleaming off the sculptural volcanic spires, one with a emotive face, as if we disturbed her peace.
Today we enjoyed the feeling of land under our feet for a few hours. We walked up through town, past the soccer field, church and school. Susan bought a dozen eggs at the corner store and I walked back to place them gently in the dinghy. We continued along the river flanked by modest one story homes, patterned fabric swaying in the windows and doorways, each with their freshly painted boats, copra (coconut meat) drying areas, crew of roosters, dogs and goats. Friendly folks invited us to lunch tomorrow at their home, we exchanged easy “bounjour” and “kaoha” salutations with people as we continued along the cement road up into the valley.
Did I mention up? UP. The hike was steep, especially for our boat bodies. I plodded, still recovering from fever aftermath, while Susan bounded on along. Greg disappeared out in front and Diane was more or less between me and Susan. The wind gusted more intensely as we climbed, dense misty clouds hugged the top of the cliffs surrounding the valley bowl. White smoke rose from a coconut grove tucked into a valley nook. It felt like a dreamscape with bright sunlight highlighting new plant growth in the foreground, while muted overcast light kept the steep valley and cliffs in the twilight zone beyond.
As we climbed and climbed, the vast windswept Pacific Ocean stretched out below us and beyond into the blue sky full of white, fast moving puffy clouds. When the cement road turned to red volcanic scrabbly dirt, Diane and I were pelted with gravel gone airborne with the 40 knot gusts. “Alright, it’s time to turn around,” she reasoned. I agreed. We hollered at Susan to join us and found our way back down to the cell tower overlook. Goats munched grass on the landing a steep drop below us. We munched our granola bars and fresh pamplemousse then headed back down the cliff.
Greg was waiting for us at the dinghy dock, wondering where we’d gone. We thought he was ahead of us but alas he turned back long ago and had already done another hike to a waterfall. Funny thing, our dinghy Velocirapture was tied up to a different post than where I’d left it in the morning. We climbed inside to check the eggs, they were partially crushed, oozing golden yolks inside the carton. Disintegrating wet bread covered the floor. Curious mysteries.
A proper afternoon of leisure beckoned. We swam, watched new boats come in to anchor, laughed at the goats climbing precarious volcanic spires, bleating to each other. Our catamaran neighbors S/V Loco came by in their dinghy to say hi and apologize. Their kids had made friends with local kids, who’d commandeered our dinghy for a joy ride. The Loco parents thought we’d allowed the local kids to borrow the dinghy, and realized later that wasn’t the case. Soggy bread and broken egg mysteries solved. Next time we will take the kill switch tether with us to reduce temptation.
Last night, after we’d sailed most of the day then anchored, I was feeling nostalgic, sentimental, perhaps lonely. I looked at the perfect stars blanketing a little fishing row boat bobbing on the black sea. Two fishermen methodically set hooks on handlines, their movements aglow from a lantern inside the hull, making the whole scene look like a theatre performance. Tears rolled down my cheeks, it was a beautiful sight, I felt lucky and also missed everyone. Today I felt the land under my feet recharge my body, I felt the sea current push against me giving me something to resist, something to strengthen me. I pretended I was with my sister, playing in the sea together, hanging on the boat’s toe rails and anchor chain.
Yes Diane, today was indeed, a great day.