Saturday, May 30, 2015

Walking in Gauguin’s Path

Life in the Marquesas is good. The islands are a “department” of France, similar to a US state. This means they receive all the benefits of a strong socialistic country.The people are friendly with none of the “attitude” you perceive in many Caribbean islands. They look you in the eye when passing on the street and pronounce a friendly “Bonjour.”

Our tour guide Jean was in the parking lot of the anchorage so we took him up on his offer of a lift into town. Since Atuona is one of two major towns in the Marquesas, we used the opportunity to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and fill the boat with both water and diesel. One of our daily activities was walking (or taking a cab) into town to visit the bank ATM, the grocery store, and find someplace for lunch. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the grocery store is well stocked with good French foods (and the French take great pride in the quality of their food). For the first time since Cartagena and Bonaire we can get quality cheeses, meats, yogurt, vegetables, and fruits. And those oh so good French baguettes, still warm if you time it right in the morning. The prices aren’t cheap, but no shocker after shopping in the Caribbean for the last three years.
Magasin Naiki, full of delicious French foods.
Meryl picking out fresh beans, cabbage, papayas, lettuce and eggs from the vegetable truck lady.
Just down the street from the grocery story is a large shade tree where several trucks are parked, packed full of fish and vegetables. Again, the quality was first rate for locally grown veggies and Meryl bought a selection of long string beans, cabbage, papayas, tomatoes, lettuce, and eggs.
While Fati on Tahuatu is the "famous tattoo artist," the tattoo guy on Atuona also does excellent work.
Tattoos have a long tradition in Polynesian culture.
We wandered over to a combination restaurant, internet cafe, and tattoo parlor and watched an Australian guy get a large tattoo on his chest. The Marquesans have been tattooing forever and produce some of the finest tattoo designs in the world. Friends of ours got tattoos from the famous artist Fati on Tahuatu, she a beautiful wrap-around design above her ankle and he a wrap-around on his wrist. The quality of the work and the original designs make these very different from the typical tattoos you see in the States.
You can imagine our delight at seeing this menu after 18 days at sea.
Lunch at Make Make was always a delight in so many ways.
We stopped at Make Make for lunch. A statuesque Marquesan discussed all the options with us and Meryl ordered a delicious octopus curry while Tryg and I had the mahi mahi.  In true French style we had a long, languid lunch and later hailed a cab for the 3 ½ mile trek back to the boat with all our grocery bags.
Gauguin's House of Pleasure in Atuona.
A recreation of the artist in his studio.
This painting pretty much tells the whole story.

The next day we walked into town and headed for the Cultural Center Paul Gauguin (museum), located on the site of his famous studio, House of Pleasure (mentioned in an earlier blog). Despite the artist’s rather sordid history on both Tahiti and the Marquesas, he painted some of his best works while resident in the House of Pleasure in Atuona. The Center features high quality reproductions of a broad selection of his work along with interesting photos of Atuona in the early 1900s. Gauguin was known to use a fishing pole to lower a cup into the well next to his 2nd story window to retrieve a glass of cool spring water while working on paintings in his studio. His work is truly awe inspiring and certainly the impetus for many a young man to dream about the pleasures of French Polynesia.

The view from the cemetery overlooking Atuona.

The grave of poet Jacques Brel with hundreds of rocks with memorial messages on them.
It was now 2:00 pm and the heat was simmering up from the payment, we elected to walk up a rather steep road behind the Gendarmery to the town cemetery.  Rounding the curve and stopping to catch your breath, you are assailed with such a spectacular view of the harbor and surrounding hills that it to takes your breath away -- again. Just through the cemetery entrance and to the right is the grave of Jacques Brel, the famous Belgium poet. Round river rocks painted with notes from Brel fans form a mound at the base of the grave in loving remembrance.
Paul Gauguin's grave. The statue at the left rear is called The Savage, a state to which Gauguin aspired.
A turn to the right and a short path up the hill leads to the eclectic grave of Gauguin. The grave and headstone are made of dark umber volcanic rock, and mounted to the top of the grave is Gauguin’s statue, The Savage, a state to which Gauguin strived to achieve. Some say he did.

Today we elected to walk the 3 ½ miles back to boat since we desperately needed the exercise. The road winds around the harbor and the views are spectacular, forcing us to stop every 10 minutes to admire this or that vista. It was reassuring to see Flying Cloud resting peacefully at anchorage.
The beach in front of Atuona with long lines of surf rolling in over the volcanic rocks.

Flying Cloud anchored next to our friends Roger and Sasha on the Australian boat, Ednabal.

Next to the showers is a tiled surface where cruisers do their weekly laundry. Here's our friend Lynn on the Belgian boat, Boxing Kangaroo.
Once back at the anchorage parking lot we took advantage of the free showers to refresh ourselves with the cool spring fed water.  We also filled our 5-gal water cubes and stayed an chatted with the usual assortment of yachties either coming or going from their boats.  Once back on board the boat we put the groceries away, filled the water tanks, and crashed into our berths for a late afternoon nap.

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