Sunday, November 13, 2011

Polynesian Hospitality

Maupelia, French Polynesia

It's a tight squeeze getting through the narrow channel in the reef, & just beyond that the lagoon in mined with coral heads everywhere.  Tricky tricky, but we find a safe spot not too far from shore to anchor.

We've just arrived in Maupelia; a little atoll at the very end of the chain of Society Islands.  This is it for French Polynesia.  When we leave here we are underway - another passage heading west toward new islands, new currency, new boats, new anchorages, new winds, new immigration paperwork, new passport stamps.

Nusa Dua lead us here.  They haven't steered us wrong yet & it's on the way anyway.  They told us a story about two feuding families who lived on either side of the atoll.  One family was wiped out during a cyclone & afterwards only 2 people stayed.  Years later, 11 more people came out to join them so the population is approximately 13.

It is extremely peaceful.  We are the only sailboat here.  The sound of birds nesting on a nearby island & the pat-pat-pat of rain on the roof are the only sounds.  Exhale.

Walking down the beach.  Washed up/washed out coral & reinforced concrete foundations lying in ruin all the way along.  It is cool to wade out to where little foot long sharks are hunting & imagine them nibbling our toes between mouthfuls of fish.

An odd sound, the sound of a jeep coming down the beach.  Tire treads are hard to miss on a desert island.  A group of guys hanging out the sides stop next to us shouting 'Welcome my friends!'  These are the locals, 5 for the moment, while the others will be back from Maupiti in a couple days. 

They had seen us come in & had decided to catch us some fish for dinner.  Jamie's been waiting for an opportunity to go spearfishing since Panama.  They gladly hand him a speargun & take him along.

Instead of having a big barbeque on land, the party's at the boat tonight!  Hillond & Hono clean & fry the reef fish fresh from the kill.  Some of them Jamie was hesitant to shoot for -little green ones with yellow lips- because they're the pretty ones.  Now we're grilling 'em up!  They say eating the eyes of the red snapper will make you see & think like a fish.  Mmmm fish eyes.

Mike, Edgar & Ken arrive with a pot of stewed fish & rice, & the gift of a live coconut crab!  They tie it up & hang it off our canvas roof outside.  We lean into him too much, he takes a couple snaps at us & he has to be moved.  We kind of think of him as a pet, imagining what kind of damage he could possibly do if we let him out on deck.  Hmmm maybe climb the mast & rip the sails.  Imagine if he got up the mast what a pain in the ass it would be to get him down.  I think of him more as a hostage.

Eating fish & drinking wine.  They regale us with stories about the island.  We treat them as half-truths.  There may or may not be grey, tiger & hammerhead sharks in the pass & Hillond may or may not be military, a meteorologist, mechanic, electrician, kitesurfer & the Polynesian champion of coconut tree climbing (7m in 3seconds).  It's a raucous fun night anyway of speaking French & listening to Tahitian music onboard.

They were pretty well cut when we called it a night - Saturday night after all.  While we were already exhausted at 8:30, they went back to land, smoked the cigars Jamie gave them, went out & caught 20kg of lobster to bring over for breakfast in the morning.

My dad told me his vision of Polynesia is that of sailors being greeted by beautiful women in canoes with leis & fresh fruit.  Yeah, it's kinda like that.

They took us to a motu that's nesting grounds for shorebirds.  Thousands swarming around us.  I found the amount of black shadows more intimidating than the birds themselves.  Eggs scattered along the ground like Easter, always a little bit hidden but still in plain sight.

Paradise for the lonely shorebirds we meet at sea.  You & me both, pal.

Goodbye French Polynesia!

And all our friends who made it what it was:
Aquamante, Kaweskar, Bigfish, Santa Paz, Goody, Luna, Pegasus, SuRi, SeaWolf, Tiara, Cucu Belle, Odyssey, Tourmaline, Galena, le Cochon Noir, Chiquita, Bucephalus, Nusa Dua, Natural Mystic, Sarga├žo
See you downwind.

And to Baju, Hindu god of the wind, we drink every night.

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