Hiva Oa - An island of forgotten Polynesian ruins (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Hiva Oa
NOWADAYS, THE REMOTE Marquesas Islands feel like the proverbial last place on earth. But a thousand years ago, this archipelago was the major hub of Polynesian society. In addition to dispatching the first long-distance canoes and human inhabitants to Hawaii, the volcanic isles were the launching point for the settlement of the rest of French Polynesia and ultimately places as far afield as Easter Island.
Hiva Oa safeguards much of this ancient heritage, including some of the most important archaeological sites in the South Pacific. Foremost among these is a massive ceremonial complex in the Taaoa Valley. Scattered across the valley floor, some still obscured by jungle, are more than 1,000 paepaes—dark volcanic stone platforms once used in religious rites. Near the island’s eastern extreme looms the largest stone tiki in French Polynesia, part of a Me’ae Iipona temple complex restored in the 1990s and still a place where locals commune with ancient gods. In the nearby Tahauku Valley are the Tehueto petroglyphs, age-old rock art that depicts islanders.
French impressionist Paul Gauguin and legendary Belgian singer Jacques Brel spent their last days in Atuona, the island’s largest town. Both are buried in Calvary Cemetery.