The most beautiful place

May 2, 2012


Four days after making landfall on Hiva Oa we sailed into Baie Hanavave on Fatu Hiva, the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It is the most beautiful place I can even imagine. The hills are high and covered with a hundred colors of green. Palm trees lean toward the ocean cliffs. The grassy areas are dotted with mountain goats. The sky is a dark blue, heavy with mist, and threatens to explode into a squall or a rainbow. I wonder if rainbows are overlooked here. I can’t find a local person that can tell me what they’re called in French or Marquesan.

The people on shore are as generous as they are eager to trade. They have pamplemousse, limes, bananas, and coconuts and they ask for resin, sandals, perfume, tee shirts, bras, and cigarettes. We gather children’s clothes from our boat the next time we head to shore.

With hushed whispers two men ask us if we have guns. They instruct us not to tell but if we have them we should kill goats. Or perhaps they wanted to kill goats. We don’t have a gun, and we also avoid an offer a man named Stefan made to come to our boat to cook one for us. We hope to have a chance to eat chevre au coco (goat meat with coconut milk) or poissoin cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and covered in coconut milk) but with so few people visiting Fatu Hiva we feel like inviting someone aboard would expose us to uncomfortable begging for what we have. Our boat is the simplest, smallest, and oldest in the harbor, but the amount and variety of food we’ve stashed under our cushions is greater than the entire supply in town. One man looked closely at me and offered pamplemousse for my Oakleys. I wondered just how many pamplemousse I could eat before they spoiled and hung on tightly to my sunglasses.

With vague directions we hiked to the waterfall, plucked limes from trees, and found a petroglyph in the forest. We bought a machete at the Magasin and followed the store owner to his house for a half a dozen coconuts. He shucked them and shook them and cracked them open with our machete, tossing some to his pig and chickens and offering us the foamy cotton candy insides of a sprouted coconut. We carried our heavy load home to Convivia.

I baked bread, did sink loads of dishes, and hung clean laundry on the lifelines while staring at the most stunning view ever. I sailed to Fatu Hiva, one of the most isolated islands on the planet, and hiked to the waterfall with my children. I am so grateful these things will always be part of my history.

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