Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Atuona, Hiva Oa

For once, I didn't wake up frozen in place by the knowledge that 7 people were bustling about right where I had to perform acrobatic moves to descent from my bunk via a small ladder.

That's because we were due to have a wifi signal in the lounge this morning and it was only five a.m. I was determined to get online and send my outgoing mails before the signal rush.

I spider-shuffled my way down the berth—ouch, hell, what was that? Oh, so THAT's why the sprinkler head at forehead-level was duct-taped with padding—and flopped down the ladder. I pulled on my clothes in the one large bathroom, grabbed my laptop, and headed upstairs to the lounge.

Where the wifi signal was slow but reliable until too many people joined the network. It slowed down, but was still working until one couple came in and sat down.

I didn't notice it was off at first, but then Judy's MacBook Air wouldn't go online. It wasn't her. See if you can identify the culprits here.

Woman: "My video says it's going to take 17 hours to upload."

Her husband: "My antivirus is updating. It said I had a virus and had to download an update immediately."

Internet go boom.

After breakfast, I told the front desk that the internet-go-boom, and one of them came up and said "Did someone download an antivirus?" They re-set, and it worked fine for a while.

At nine, I caught the Aranui-sponsored bus to the Atuona town cemetery. We were on Hiva Oa, former home to Gauguin and burial site of both him and Jacques Brel, who was a famous Belgian singer. Not so famous that I know much about him, but quite famous during his time in Europe.

Huh. So that's Gauguin's grave, I thought. He seemed like a jerk to me, so I wasn't quite sure what I was doing here at his grave, nor was I sure what I was doing at the Gauguin Center a short time later after I walked down the hill to town (Aranui provided a bus for this for those who weren't into walking but it's a short distance).

Aranui sent a bus again to take us to what seemed to be the town's only large restaurant, where a buffet feast of fish products was provided. There was some pork and goat too, but I'm not really big on those, and didn't really even want the smoked chicken. I overdosed on carbs then bolted.

Back in town, I was the only Aranui passenger roaming the streets. Well, streets is a bit of an exaggeration. While this was a metropolis compared to Fakarava or Fatu Hiva, not a lot happens in Atuona. I'd already looked at the handicrafts—amazing bone carvings here for $700—and Gauguin stuff, so I walked along the road looking for the snack bar mentioned in my Lonely Planet.

And there it was, right across from the post office.

I noticed an espresso machine behind the counter. Gobsmacked, I asked the shopkeeper "Avez-vous espresso?" "Oui." "Avez-vous cappuccino?" "Non." "Okay, un espresso, por favor."

Shit. I was doing it again.

He answered me in English. "250 francs, please."

I sat down with my espresso, pulled out my laptop, hit my espresso with my laptop and promptly spilled half my espresso all over the table, cleaned it up and meekly sat grabbing the post office signal until my espresso ran down, then I bought more and sat in the snack bar until my battery ran down.

The buses roared by, taking the Aranui passengers back to the boat. Some of them walked. I walked too at 2:30 when I realized the bus didn't leave until 3 and that the walk would probably be pleasant.

The hike was easy, with only a gentle slope, and it took me three miles around the large bay and through the palm trees and foliage that lined the single road back to the port. The hills rose above me on the left, covered in trees. The sun beat down, but I was swathed in a scarf, having learned my lesson yesterday with the sunburned nose.

And best of all, I was completely by myself.

Alone at last.

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