All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
The first of two “double island” days began in the anchorage of Puamau on Hiva Oa, where Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel spent their final years.
We rode the barge ashore and waited as supplies were exchanged at the makeshift landing. Aside from a tractor that did some heavy lifting, everything was done manually.
A short 4×4 ride to the I’ipona archaeological site gave us a chance to interact with another friendly resident.
At I’ipona, the largest and best preserved ancient site in the Marquesas, thanks to a massive restoration by French archaeologists Pierre and Marie-Noëlle Garanger-Ottino in 1991, there are numerous stone tikis, including Tiki Takaii, the largest in the islands.
As with the site in Nuku Hiva two days prior, one could feel the mana or spiritual power.
In one spot that our guide indicated was a sacrificial altar for sacrificing enemy soldiers, there were “vibes” just from touching the stones. It was a 1.5 kilometer walk back to the ship but because of the heat, we opted to ride back to the landing with another friendly Hiva Oan.
As soon as we boarded, the chief engineer offered a quick tour of the engine room. It was very kind of him to grant my wish to visit, which began with a stop in the control room.
Accompanied by one of the engineers, I had about ten minutes or so to document the spotless machinery spaces before the ship began maneuvering. ARANUI 5 is powered by a pair of MAK and a pair of Caterpillar diesels that drive twin screws.
As we enjoyed a nice lunch, ARANUI 5 worked her way over to neighboring Tahuata, the smallest inhabited isle of the Marquesas, which is fringed with some spectacular but very remote beaches.
We would have a few hours to swim in the sparkling waters and as a bonus, I was happy to work in a nice little 20-lap run in the sand.
Once back aboard, another one of my “behind the scenes” requests was kindly granted by officer Acher, who took me out to the cargo deck.
Donning hard hats, we explored the forecastle and forepeak, where I was able to catch the “working half” of the fascinating little ARANUI 5.
That night, while anchored off Hiva Oa, ARANUI 5 hosted her first deck barbecue under the stars.
Monday, January 16, 2017
In the port of Atuona on Hiva Oa, a school bus transported us to Calvary Cemetery overlooking the town where Paul Gauguin spent his final years. Our guides shared that some of the blue-eyed, blondish locals may, indeed, be his descendants. This is also where terminally ill French chanteur, Jacques Brel, arrived in late 1975 aboard his sailing yacht Askoy. Brel was so captivated by the place that he rented a home there but when his condition deteriorated, he returned to France and died in 1978. He is now buried here alongside Paul Gauguin.
Brel may not be as well known outside of France as, say, Piaf but his influence is still very tangible. His songs have been covered by a roster of artists, from Nina Simone and Marc Almond to David Bowie. Next to his grave were stones with hand painted messages and several of our French fellow passengers were holding a graveside vigil when I arrived.
Gauguin’s resting place is slightly more imposing and yet rather modest for an artist of his renown.
I took a momentary break for some internet access at the local cafe, which not only had great coffee but a nicely chilled, water-filled coconut to sip from. The internet access was not quite as fulfilling.
The Gauguin Museum has prints of his works with descriptions in French.
The adjacent Brel Museum has posters and photos covering his career in a hangar-like space that contains his twin engine plane, JoJo, which he bought for easy transport to the Marquesas from Tahiti. It also helped transfer locals and their supplies between the islands.
As we lunched on board, ARANUI 5 sailed off to nearby Tahuata and dropped anchor off the village of Hapatoni, which is best known for its bone-carving.
After a brief visit, I took an early pontoon back to the ship for a refreshing work out, swim and a nap before dinner.
Meanwhile, a friend had become enchanted with Marquesan tattoos, a once lost art that is now back and strong. ARANUI 5 must be the only ship in the world with staff that can perform this service (at a fraction of the cost of land-based parlors) and actually bill it to a guest’s stateroom account.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."