Hiva Oa – Puama’u and the Tikis

The Tiki at the me’ae or marae in Puama’u were in a wild setting. Here you find the largest tiki in French Polynesia. Called Takaii you see a tiki that was taller than most about 8 feet high; a monument to a great king perhaps. The tikis needed protection from the environment, so they are now under huts arranged by UNESCO.

There is also a large stage that was used to kill enemies on a sacrificial altar.

One of the tikis was of a well-loved queen, who died in childbirth and the tiki is a monument to tell her story and it became a place women could come and ask for help with their own pending births.

tiki of queen offering a sanctuary for soon-to-be Mothers


We returned to the ship, and were mesmerised yet again watching the Supercargo add the containers and reposition the barge, the fishing boat and the backhoes as if they were moving pencils and pens on a desk.

the barge on and off twice a day in Hiva Oa

We had lunch on board in a much calmer, Vaitahu Bay. Aranui often finds a lovely calm anchorage at meal times and even until the early morning hours so that we could get a good nights rest.

After lunch we went to a church built with an aesthetically pleasing reference  to the Hiva Oa’s crafts and its environment. Sadly in a storm, they had lost two panels of the stained glass windows and I hope they are able to replace them. Notice the beautiful carving.

Tomorrow we are up early to watch the spectacular manoeuvre to anchor in the narrow harbour of Vaipaee.

Hiva Oa – Following Paul Gauguin

Another dawn with the island of the Hiva Oa in the distance. The mornings are so magnificent; golden light on  billowing clouds.

Sunrise as we approach Hiva Oa

Aranui is ready to negotiate a small harbour, with a very small and restricted docking, and several yachts anchored right in the way. The ships captain blasted the horn three times and we could see the yacht crews springing to life much earlier than they would have expected. The barge and the life boats were unloaded and went to help the hapless yachties reposition themselves.

We were fully absorbed in watching the captain dock Aranui in this diminutive harbour. I was incredibly thankful that it wasn’t my yacht in the way of a ship in such close quarters. Here is a photo of Aranui, once she has docked.

Aranui surrounded by yachts in Atuona

Hiva Oa is where Paul Gauguin spent the last two years of his life. We did the walk up to see the graveyard, where he was buried and then walked into the city to visit his last home and the Gauguin museum. We hiked directly up hill from the dock to the cemetery.  Like so many cemeteries, it has the most beautiful view down the hill and over a harbour.

The cemetery at Hiva Oa.


Gauguin was in trouble with the church and he was in ill health. Hiva Oa was his last refuge. Didier Benatar gave us quite a wonderful talk about Gauguin’s life, his troubles with the Church and the politicians too. Even though the Church didn’t approve of Gauguin’s life style, they did bury him in the consecrated ground of Calvary Cemetery. More to better to keep an eye on him, than to grant him dispensation. The statue is not a Madonna but perhaps a copy of his ceramic, Oviri, a goddess of Wildness.

Gauguin had visited Melbourne, Sydney and then Auckland and he was very taken with the Maori’s way of building their houses and when he came to Hiva Oa and sent some money he did build a whare whakairo. Today that is part of the Gauguin Museum on Hiva Oa.

In this glorious setting, at sunset, we have a Tahitian dance class with the men learning a Haka and the women learning something more graceful. This isn’t your typical dance studio.

Tahitian Dancing lessons