The bay of Hiva-Oa or, getting away with a black eye

Our first atoll

Atolls differ from islands primarily in that they have no mountains, but are flat as a board. Hao's highest elevation is three meters. From the deep ocean, it then rises relatively shortly before the atoll to a water depth of about 300 meters. Immediately before the atoll, the last 300 meters are bridged to zero meters and the outer reef appears. As a sailor you see these atolls very late. The land masses are mostly not wider than half a kilometer, often much narrower, and again and again interrupted by single overflows. The small islands that form between these overflows are called motus. There are inhabited motus and uninhabited ones. On the larger island sections there is usually a main town. Here in Hao it is called Otepa. Inside the atoll is the lagoon. Not all atolls have a pass. If an overflow is navigable, it is called, pass. Hao has one, which we described last time.

Anchorage Hao, French Polynesia

First, after our arrival, we visit the village of Otepa. On Hao live about 1000 people, most of them in Otepa. We find a small guesthouse which offers lunch and has wifi access. The owner is incredibly friendly and welcomes us warmly. Lunch, however, has to be ordered a day in advance because only as much fish is caught as needed. We order for the next day and get a mahi mahi on rice, a salad and a dessert. He can cook, it tastes great. 

Otepa, Hao French Polynesia

The next day we want to look at the airport. The French had developed Hao, as a base for their nuclear tests. In 2000, they gave up the base, but still have a small barracks here. The airport was also used as an emergency landing strip at the time of the Space Shuttle flights. Today it is used exclusively for civilian purposes. So we start walking and make it to the middle of the runway when someone stops next to us with a car and asks us where we want to go. When we told him the airport, he said that it was closed today. We just want to look around a bit. Ok, jump in, I'll give you a ride. Gaby doesn't have to be told twice and we are already sitting in the truck. 

Hao Airport, French Polynesia

At the airport we get out and thank them very much. We hike on towards the pass and fight our way through a green thicket. Nobody has walked here for a long time and Gaby already wants to turn back. But I am persistent and after half a kilometer we are back on the regular road. We look at the outer reef and search for shells. Small crabs run over the bare rock, which is furrowed by the surf. Again and again they stop and retreat into their colorful shells. We are amazed at how much life there is near the shore. Everywhere it scurries around us. Whenever I find a case, I pick it up gently and look inside first. Often a little guy comes out and complains with hands and feet. Then I put him down again and he trots away. But we also find abandoned housings and really beautiful ones. Many are destroyed by the surf and practically form the ground. Like in a forest, the needles and leaves, create the forest floor. 

Pearls in shell

Via the regular road we reach the airport again. There is a main building, the tower and one or two outbuildings, at the end of the tarmac. On one side is the open ocean, and on the other is the lagoon. A road just fits in between. The landing approach must be spectacular. We did not try it. Bravely we walk back and realize that we are rusty again. Our sea legs feel every meter. Especially since we are walking dead straight along the runway, 3.6 kilometers. We reach a beach section with a campfire site and rest for a while. Ah, in the backpack there is still an apple, which we share with ravenous appetite. A car stops and offers us a ride again. We are thrilled and are brought up to our dinghy. After all, we have walked, a little over ten kilometers and we think that is enough for today. Two days later we are back at the guesthouse. The day before we ordered lunch again. We are curious what there is today.  When we open the aluminum foil, there is a red snapper inside, steamed with vegetables in the oven. What we experience for the first time, the fish is not gutted. So we proceed very carefully. It still tastes great to us and with a salad and an ice cream ends today's lunch, which was delicious. Since there are almost no tourists here on the island, the people are very friendly and helpful. With us is another catamaran in the lagoon and a ketch, which is probably but longer here and in the small harbor at the pier. 

Outer Reef Hao, French Polynesia

So there is still a lot of space here and you can trade Hao as an insider tip. For the charter tourists from Tahiti, the atoll is too far south and for those who come from the Marquesas and want to Tahiti, it would also mean a detour. So only now and then sailors pass by, so Hao remains a dream atoll. 

Shadow is always welcome

Actually we wanted to continue our way to the next atoll, but unfortunately the wind doesn't fit. And one thing we have learned in the meantime: If the wind does not fit, wait until the wind fits. In this sense, we wish you always fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.